NCAA Football News
We're two weeks into the Pac-12 football season and a pecking order has already been established, enough so that the preseason projected order of finish now looks different.
While each team's destiny isn't set in stone just yet, it's safe to say that both Oregon and USC are the class of the conference. Stanford may still have something to say about that, and despite an ugly-looking 2-0 start, the UCLA Bruins should not be counted out.
Other squads, like the Arizona schools and Utah, have yet to play challenging opponents, though we should learn a lot more before the end of September.
The following list is based mostly on how teams have played thus far, although you can't take overall talent out of the equation. UCLA has looked much worse than Cal, but it would be foolish to think that the Bruins will finish lower than the Bears after only two games.
Let's re-rank the Pac-12 order of finish after two weeks of play, knowing full well that the picture we see today will continue to be edited as the weeks go on.
All stats via cfbstats.com
Stop me if you've heard this before: The Tennessee Volunteers are 2-0 and appear improved over last year, but now they're about to square off with one of the best teams in the country with a roster full of question marks.
Just like the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons, Tennessee managed to take care of their two out of conference games to open the season.
Despite the strong start, a quick glance at the Vols' schedule shows that additional wins will be hard to come by—particularly if the team doesn't show improvement in a few key areas.
Although it's clear this Tennessee squad is one of the fastest in recent years, the team's deficiencies could cost the Vols yet another bowl game.
However, not all is lost. The youth and inexperience on the roster will grow up in a hurry, and head coach Butch Jones should see vast improvement in his team between now and a three-game stretch in November consisting of Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
All three of those games are must wins for Tennessee to have a chance to go bowling. Not only do Tennessee's talented freshmen need to be ready to make plays by then, but the team's veterans also must continue to play sound football.
This season may be the most interesting since 2009 for Tennessee, as there's enormous potential for the team to either overachieve or to fall flat on their face.
Here's what you should and shouldn't be concerned about for the remainder of the Vols' 2014 season if you hope to see the team play in December.
After a week off, the Bulldogs are gearing up to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia. With a strong win against Clemson, the Bulldogs are coming into the game with a lot of momentum.
They did a lot of things well in the first game of the season, and they will look to build on that when they face their first SEC opponent of the year. But there were also a few things the Bulldogs didn’t do well and will look to improve on this week.
Here are some things you should and shouldn’t be concerned about after Week 2.
Airing It Out
Hutson Mason had a solid game against Clemson. He went 18-of-26 passing for 131 yards. He did not have any interceptions, but he also did not throw any touchdowns.
It was clear that Mason was not the focal point of the offense because the rushing attack was more than enough to carry the Bulldogs to victory. But there will be a time where Mason will need to make plays with his arm. He was able to do some of that last year against Georgia Tech and Nebraska, but can he do it against SEC opponents?
Hutson Mason expects South Carolina and other defenses to stack the box. "I hope they do it. We're gonna throw it." http://t.co/366YbOqK7A— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) September 4, 2014
Keep on Defending
Another thing to be concerned about is the defense. It pitched a shutout in the second half of the Clemson game thanks to a dominating pass rush, but it did give up 21 points in the first half and had a hard time dealing with the two quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson.
The defense is a work in progress and will have to continue to improve moving forward. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has worked hard to get his players in the right position to make plays. It worked in the second half against Clemson, but can it work against SEC opponents?
Run, Run, Run
One of the things the Bulldogs and the fans don’t have to worry about is the run game. We all know what Todd Gurley can do, and if he stays healthy, he can be a legit Heisman finalist.
But the real concern for opponents is the other three running backs who played in Week 1. Keith Marshall is still recovering from a knee injury, but the more reps he gets during the season, the more confident he will be. Marshall will be back to 2012 form sooner than later.
Sony Michel made freshman mistakes, but he showed glimpses of what he can do, rushing for 33 yards on six carries. Michel also was effective in the passing game, catching three passes for 20 yards.
And then there’s Nick Chubb. If there was another player more impressive than Gurley in the Clemson game, it would be the freshman from Cedartown, Georgia. Chubb rushed for 70 yards on four carries, and he was running over defenders while doing it. He will see more carries as the Bulldogs get into the thick of the SEC schedule.
Protecting the Offense
And the reason the run game was effective was the play of the offensive line, which is another area fans should not be concerned about. There were some questions about the line after losing three starters last year, but Brandon Kublanow, John Theus, David Andrews, Greg Pyke and Kolton Houston worked well as a unit and should only get stronger each time they are on the field.
Even the reserves are guys who can come in and make plays. Isaiah Wynn, Watts Dantzler and Mark Beard all saw action against Clemson, and the offense did not miss a beat. It should only get better for the offensive line, which will make the offense more dangerous.
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The ride on the "struggle bus" will continue for Texas Longhorns quarterback David Ash.
Head coach Charlie Strong announced Monday that Ash is out indefinitely while the medical staff continues to evaluate him for concussion symptoms.
Unfortunately for the redshirt junior, this is all-too-familiar territory.
Ash sustained a concussion versus BYU in 2013, missed the following game, then returned in time to start conference play. But his return did not last long, as he suffered a second concussion in his first game back on the field.
He missed the remainder of the year.
Ash was cleared to play the 2014 season, but his playing time may be short-lived.
During fall camp, Ash joked that it felt good to be off the "struggle bus" and expressed how blessed he felt to be given another opportunity to play the game he loves.
That was until North Texas came to Austin.
The quarterback took a handful of hard hits—all of which he got up from. However, he started to experience concussion-like symptoms following the season opener and will not return to the field in the near future.
The Longhorns' quarterback woes have been an issue since 2010. Meanwhile, other in-state programs seem to have mastered the art of signing and developing solid quarterbacks, but that's a topic for a later date.
With Ash's future up in the air, the time has come for the Longhorns to put their trust in a new starting quarterback: sophomore Tyrone Swoopes.
Swoopes received his first career start against BYU in Week 2 of the season. He did as well as the game plan allowed him to, completing 20 of 31 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown in the 41-7 loss to the Cougars.
"(Swoopes) played unbelievable," Strong said following the loss to BYU. "I know he threw an interception there late, but for him to be a first-time starter and come out and compete the way he did was unbelievable."
A lot of people have compared Swoopes' talents to those of Vince Young, claiming the two have similar measurables and powerful arms to sling the ball down the field.
With that said, comparing Swoopes to Young is extremely premature.
The reason is simple: Swoopes has not shown the public anything other than running a vanilla game plan.
"I wasn't really sure of what to expect with it being my first start," Swoopes said. "This Saturday, I will be more confident and ready to go. It's my responsibility to stay ready for when the team needs me."
The 6'4", 243-pound sophomore was decent in his first start, but was restricted from making many big plays.
The offensive game plan was not successful against BYU and will need to change in order for Texas to move the chains and score more than one touchdown against upcoming opponents.
Swoopes is a very talented athlete, but until the public sees more from him than simply handing off the ball or completing short passes, the questions about his talent will continue.
Swoopes is from Whitewright, Texas—a small town of 1,607 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. He has never been on this high of a pedestal, nor has he been in a situation to receive the hefty amount of criticism that comes with being the starting quarterback for the Longhorns.
He also has very little time to adjust to the attention that will soon follow his career.
The Longhorns face No. 12 UCLA, No. 8 Baylor and No. 4 Oklahoma in three of the team's next four games. If Swoopes remains the quarterback for those contests, he has to grow up at a speedy pace and silence the critics.
Bleacher Report NFL analyst and former Texas quarterback Chris Simms understands the pressures that come with being the leader of the Longhorns.
His advice to Swoopes is simple: Take it slow.
"Don't listen to all of the outside noise, and realize that you don't have to do it yourself. You have a good coach, you have other people on the team who are capable of moving the ball, so don't try to overdo it or try to make tough plays. Those are some mistakes that I made early in my career," Simms said.
"You have to be a leader and work hard. When you work hard, and put in the time and effort, teammates will respect it and jump on the train with you."
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.
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Nebraska football fans got a huge scare in Week 2 against FCS opponent McNeese State. The Cornhuskers were tied with the Cowboys 24-24 with 20 seconds left, and the FCS squad had all the momentum before Ameer Abdullah took a checkdown pass from Tommy Armstrong, made five tacklers miss and ran 58 yards for the winning touchdown.
Predictably, Nebraska fans were in varying stages of panic after the near miss to a second-tier team.
Dear McNeese State Cowboys, Please go undefeated the rest of the year and win the FCS Championship. Love, Every Nebraska Fan— Shane Johnston (@shanetjohnston) September 7, 2014
WHAT IS YOUR POINT DARREN RT @darrenrovell: Athletic department budgets: Nebraska ($103 million) vs. McNeese State ($9.5 million)— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) September 6, 2014
But with the benefit of a little time to reflect, let’s think about what Nebraska fans should—and should not—worry about as a result of this “win.”
Don’t Be Concerned About Nebraska’s Physical Play
There’s no doubt Nebraska’s contest against McNeese State was a strange sight to behold. Nebraska dominated its FCS opponent in the first half, with the score remaining close only because of a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown. Some second-half adjustments and Nebraska’s superior talent and depth should win out, right?
Obviously that didn’t happen, and the second half was truly the more frightening. The Cowboys had 19:56 time of possession in the second half, as opposed to Nebraska’s 10:04. Nebraska was one of seven on third-down conversions. Prior to the “Ameeracle” play where Abdullah went 58 yards for the game-winning touchdown (yeah, I’m willing to go with the building meme), Nebraska had run 23 plays in the second half.
For 52 yards. Which is an average of 2.26 yards per carry. Against an FCS opponent.
As Brandon Vogel from Hail Varsity observed, it appeared that “Nebraska’s offensive line appeared to get handled by an FCS front.” And given the statistics above, it’s hard not to come to that conclusion.
So is that true? Was McNeese State’s line really physically stronger and able to push Nebraska’s line around?
Clearly not. If that was the case, then there’s no way Nebraska could have averaged 7.37 yards per play in the first half. Nor could Nebraska have averaged 8.52 yards per play against Florida Atlantic last week, an FBS program (although, admittedly, probably an inferior team to McNeese State).
So, if the problem isn’t physical, what is it?
Be Concerned About Nebraska’s Mental State
Sure, there were some X's and O's reasons as to why McNeese State was able to be successful against Nebraska. The Cowboys stuffed the box, daring Nebraska to throw, and Nebraska never challenged that single coverage. Abdullah only had 17 carries, meaning McNeese State was able to scheme Nebraska away from its best offensive weapon.
But that alone doesn’t explain the near upset. And given how Nebraska performed earlier, it’s almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that Nebraska wasn’t right mentally against the Cowboys.
Abdullah said it himself, as quoted on Huskers.com.
“I feel like our level of respect for the game this week was not good enough. It definitely showed. That's on me as a captain. I have to assist that as the week goes on, but I was reluctant to say something, and I promise that it is the last time that will happen."
So there’s your answer in black and white. Nebraska didn’t “respect the game” enough during the week, meaning that the Huskers' preparation for an FCS opponent wasn’t sufficient. Couple that with injuries to key contributors like Randy Gregory, Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner, as well as quarterback Tommy Armstrong getting tentative after the pick-six, and you get an anemic performance that almost led to the biggest upset in Nebraska’s modern history.
Does that mean Nebraska fans shouldn’t worry? In the short term, perhaps. Nebraska, under head coach Bo Pelini, has a history of bouncing back and performing well after a subpar showing. Even with the travel and the strange start time (9:30 p.m. CT), Fresno State is nowhere near the 11-2 BCS buster of a year ago. A committed performance from Nebraska should be more than enough to take care of business next week.
But for the rest of the season? When Nebraska yet again falls prey to mental lapses causing the team to underperform, as it has done throughout Pelini’s tenure? We got the answer to that question from senior cornerback Josh Mitchell, as reported by Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star.
“I see 9-4 all over again.”
For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.
Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.
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Fresh off what may be the program's most important victory in three seasons, the Oregon Ducks will host the Wyoming Cowboys at Autzen Stadium in their last tune-up before Pac-12 play begins.
Last Saturday in Eugene, the Ducks took down a very impressive Michigan State team by the score of 46-27. With the win, the Ducks simultaneously proved to themselves and the country that they are no longer the “soft” program that they had been previously labeled as.
The newly minted “tough” Ducks will have to quickly shift their focus to the Cowboys, who come in sporting a 2-0 record of their own.
Here’s what you need to know for this game:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 13th
Time: 11:00 AM Pacific Time
Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, OR)
TV: Pac-12 Network
Spread: Oregon -43 according to oddsshark.com.
Welcome back to national relevance, Virginia Tech. After last week's upset win at No. 8 Ohio State, the Hokies find themselves back in the Top 25, debuting at No. 17 this week.
Now, the Hokies head back to Blacksburg and play host to East Carolina. The Pirates, at 1-1, are coming off of a disappointing loss at South Carolina last week. ECU was in control of the game throughout the first half, but two second-half turnovers ruined any chance of the Pirates pulling off an upset win over the Gamecocks.
This has become an annual rivalry of sorts in recent years, as the teams have met six times over the past seven years, with the Hokies winning five of those matchups. ECU's lone win in that span was a 2008 season-opening win over the then-No. 15 Hokies in Charlotte.
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 22-5. The last two meetings were close, as Tech won 15-10 in 2013 and 17-10 in 2011.
- When: Saturday, September 13, 2014
- Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
- Spread: The Hokies are currently listed as 11-point favorites.
Two weeks into a college football season isn't enough to accurately project where a program is headed, but it does give a snapshot.
So, two weeks into the 2014 season, where do some of college football's premier programs stand? Some, like Alabama and Florida State, sit atop the totem pole.
Others, like Michigan and Texas, have a lot of work to do to climb up that pole.
The following slides contain 10 college football "blue bloods" and their current state. We take into account recent success (or failure), recent games, recruiting and what needs to change, if anything.
How are college football's top-tier programs performing? Click through to see the answers.
College football experienced a seismic shock Saturday night and the Pac-12 emerged as the big winner in the national playoff picture.
Big Ten prestige was battered by Michigan State and Ohio State losses leaving that conference in search of a national playoff contender. On the same day, three Pac-12 teams performed at playoff levels. By nightfall, one could envision a playoff with two teams each from the Pac-12 and SEC, and a Big Ten shutout.
Confirmed in the second half of a late Eugene afternoon was Marcus Mariota's place atop the QB ladder. Oregon seemingly won twice Saturday, as Stanford was a dealt a big conference loss. But the game in Palo Alto displayed a brand of football skeptics doubted the Pac-12 could play.
Stanford and USC fought their battle at the line of scrimmage. This was not about sideways passing, bubble screens or finding "space" for small fast men. This was retro football…to run and stop the run. It was reintroduced at Stanford by Jim Harbaugh and reinforced by David Shaw.
In the second quarter, Stanford twice aligned with no wide players and ran straight at the Trojans. Then USC adopted its no-huddle offense with yard splits between offensive linemen. Was this really USC?
Yet, the game was decided by USC winning that line of scrimmage battle on two plays: a Stanford 4th-and-1 from the USC 3 late in the third quarter, and the end-of-game strip sack of Kevin Hogan by J.P. Tavai.
A 13-10 game was Stanford's style, and USC beat Stanford at its own game. Nothing could be of greater help to the Pac-12's national perception.
Oregon's national stance was saved by four touchdowns in its final five possessions of a 46-27 victory over Michigan State. Mariota's Heisman hope was enhanced by one sparkling play. It came on a 3rd-and-10 midway through the third quarter with Oregon's offense stalled and the Ducks staring at a nine-point deficit.
Mariota was pressured and Spartans coach Mark Dantonio thought his team had a sack. But Mariota escaped to his left. There was open field ahead but he chose to flip a shovel pass to Royce Freeman. A 17-yard play resulted from Mariota's improvisation. Mere mortals would never have escaped the rush, let alone generate that result.
"We had to stop the momentum and we had him dead to right and he got out. We had him. I even said, 'He's sacked.'" Dantonio told reporters. "You have to credit him, that's why he's the player he is."
On the next drive, Mariota ran for a first down on 3rd-and-9. He does not often show his speed, but when he does, Mariota's stride and acceleration evoke an image of a younger Colin Kaepernick.
Mariota had a quality passing day…17-of-28 for 318 yards and three touchdowns. The Ducks had a national credibility win. And Mariota landed squarely atop the Heisman ladder in mid-September.
Why So Early for USC-Stanford?
Stanford could not afford a home loss facing a road gauntlet (Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA).
Why did Stanford and USC play in Week 2? The catalyst was not TV, but Notre Dame. Both schools play the Irish during the conference season. Thus, both must play a conference game in September. The Pac-12, with its schedule disrupted, decided USC and Stanford, creators of the issue, would simply play each other.
UCLA was out of the spotlight for one week, although their home opener Saturday was surprisingly tight. Memphis ran a diverse offense that had 14 plays of 10 or more yards. Defensive problems kept UCLA from securing the 42-35 win until the final minute.
Better news for the Bruins was the return of center Jake Brendel. His presence stabilized the offensive line. Afforded better protection, Brett Hundley completed 33 passes for 396 yards. It was the performance Hundley needed to restore his Heisman presence.
I left the Rose Bowl believing UCLA to be a very good team. National contender? That takes us back to retro football: Can UCLA run the ball? Leading by seven with seven minutes to play, the Bruins could not summon a ground game to run out the remaining time. As an NFL GM said to me over the weekend, "You can win games throwing the ball all over the field, but you can't win championships without a run game."
UCLA Scene Thrives with Mora
The Rose Bowl was electric Saturday night, with an announced crowd of 72,098 providing a lively buzz.
The pre-game sideline was jammed. Jim Mora has created a vibe around UCLA football. Strange perhaps in that Mora was born and bred in the NFL at the feet of his father.
Jim Mora Sr. was on the sidelines Saturday night, and offered his son's recruiting success as the big surprise of his successful adjustment to college. His son's living room connection with parents, the lifeblood to recruiting, has impressed Mora the Elder. And dad confirmed what his son told me last week: "I am a college coach. I love it."
Ted Robinson has been around the Pac-10 and Pac-12 for 30 years as the voice of Stanford football and now the Pac-12 Networks. He also is the San Francisco 49ers' radio play-by-play man, as part of his wide-ranging broadcast work on national and international sports.
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There was no reason to feel sorry for Penn State football. No reason to feel that the punishment was too much. No reason to reward Penn State for doing the things it should have been doing all along.
So it's hard to find any reason, actually, that the NCAA decided to let Penn State out on good behavior or, in this case, on a change from monstrous behavior to decent human behavior.
The NCAA announced Monday that it will lift Penn State's bowl ban and recruiting restrictions immediately, two years earlier than the original punishment for the Penn State scandal.
Meanwhile, the dozens of boys who were sexually assaulted will live with it for the rest of their lives.
The message supposedly is that Penn State is doing all the right things now. Jerry Sandusky is in prison forever where he can't hurt anyone else. Coaching staffs have changed twice. Joe Paterno is gone too. So why punish the players and coaches on this year's team when they had nothing to do with what happened?
The thing is everyone there now could have left or didn't have to come at all. They knew what the punishments were.
The real message here is that football is still society's king. That's exactly what caused the problem in the first place. It didn't turn Sandusky into a sexual predator, but it did create a culture—or actually a cult—that allowed Paterno and the university to turn into the great enablers.
Can we just all say this together? In Penn State's case, football doesn't matter. It shouldn't anyway.
Those men who were sexually assaulted as children are more important than football. The punishments placed not only on Sandusky, but also on the school were meant to send that message.
It was a good message. A just message. And the NCAA just cut it in half.
The mission of a university is to take care of our kids, to help them to grow. It is not to play bowl games. Penn State didn't do what it was supposed to do.
If it has fixed itself up and is now representing some form of virtue, then good for Penn State. Serve your time, and then go about your future, knowing that everyone will be watching.
The key words: Serve your time.
The school still has to pay a $60 million fine. And 112 of Paterno's wins are still forfeited.
The NCAA acted after Sen. George Mitchell's second annual report on Penn State, which said the school was fostering an "ethical culture" and a system that placed oversight of the football team outside the athletic department.
Meanwhile, Paterno's son, Scott, issued a statement saying (via Pennlive.com) that "this is one more step in correcting the unjust and irresponsible penalties imposed on the university."
Scott Paterno also said this about his father:
See, this is the problem. It's not just Paterno's family either. It's the cult that still can't grasp what has happened.
That in itself is evidence that it's not time for this team to be celebrating bowl games.
The Paterno family's desire to try to clear Joe's name is understandable. It was a name that stood for all the right things for decades and then turned to mud just before he died. But how cold is it that anyone is talking about Paterno's vacated victories today?
Sandusky's victims aren't getting their sentences reduced. Imagine what they must think seeing Penn State's punishments reduced, momentum turning and the Paterno family already calling, on this day, for the victories to be reinstated.
It just seems the actions in this case are always only a response to public pressure, not about what was right for the victims.
The program, the cult, the system let them down in the first place, and Penn State was rightly penalized. Now that the public pressure is off, that doesn't mean it's time to let Penn State off the hook.
Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and The Chicago Sun-Times.
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Fresh off their first victory of the 2014 college football season, the Miami Hurricanes welcome the Arkansas State Red Wolves to South Florida for an afternoon tilt on Saturday, Sept. 14.
Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett propelled Miami (1-1) to a 34-point win over Florida A&M, and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya looked much better in his second career start.
Arkansas State (1-1), the three-time defending Sun Belt champions, dropped a hard-fought game to Tennessee last weekend, falling 34-19 at Volunteer Stadium.
Kickoff between the 'Canes and Red Wolves is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, and ESPNU will carry the nonconference matchup. In 1997, Miami defeated Arkansas State 42-10 in the series' only meeting.
This season started picture-perfect for the Wisconsin football team as they carried a 17-7 lead into halftime against LSU in Houston. The next four quarters of football were just about as bad as they get for the Badgers, as they managed 16 points over the next 60 minutes and found themselves up only 9-3 against FCS Western Illinois.
Despite their second-half struggles against LSU and their first-half deficiencies against the FCS opponent Western Illinois—they led just 9-3 at intermission—the Badgers came out firing in the second half against the Leathernecks. By the midway point of the third quarter, the Badgers looked like the Big Ten contender they were projected to be in the preseason.
While Melvin Gordon's hip could be a concern as he was able to notch only 38 yards on 17 carries, I'll chalk that up partially to the Leathernecks' game plan to totally sell out against the run, forcing the Badgers to beat them through the air.
In this slideshow, I outline two areas about which Badgers fans should be concerned and two they shouldn't be, as the team heads into its early bye week.
Let's start with what you should be concerned about.
Two games into the 2014 college football season, SMU head coach June Jones has resigned.
Jones' agent, Leigh Steinberg, revealed that the veteran coach believed that the timing was right after he had helped return the Mustangs to respectability:
Defensive coordinator Tom Mason will serve as interim coach, per College Football Talk:
Some fans will almost certainly wonder why Jones chose to resign two games into the season if he felt that he had accomplished what he set out to do when he first took the job. He also agreed to a three-year extension with the school in December 2013.
SMU's awful start to 2013 may have played a role in Jones' decision. The Mustangs lost 45-0 to Baylor and then 43-6 to North Texas. As ESPN's Arash Markazi pointed out, things don't look to be getting better anytime soon:
USA Today's Dan Wolken listed the Mustangs as second in his weekly "Misery Index," presciently noting in retrospect that Jones may not have long left at SMU:
There is far too much back story here for the Misery Index to address all of it, but the simmering tension between Jones and SMU's fan base/administration has been front and center ever since it looked like he was headed Arizona State following the 2011 season, only to have that school decide at the 11th hour to hire Todd Graham instead.
Wolken mentioned that Jones' effort on the recruiting trail and the amount of time he spent at home in Hawaii were bones of contention. He also believed that the 61-year-old simply lost the fire he had previously shown at Hawaii:
With that said, Jones did very well at SMU when viewed through the spectrum of the school's recent history.
Before he arrived, the football program was still reeling from the death penalty handed down by the NCAA in 1987. The success of the "Pony Express" was only a distant memory until Jones led the team to four straight bowl games from 2009 to 2012.
Even those who feel disappointed and dissatisfied with Jones' time at SMU would likely agree that he laid the groundwork for the program going forward.
The Mustangs have a long way to go to become a national powerhouse once again, but that task has become slightly easier following Jones' tenure.
It's hard to tell where Jones will go from here. He's not so old that taking another job is out of the question, but given how burnt out he looked to be at SMU, you wouldn't be surprised to see him walk away from coaching altogether.
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One week after suffering its first loss of the season—a 35-21 home defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech—the Ohio State football team will return to the field for an in-state matchup with Kent State. Despite the Buckeyes entering Saturday's showdown as heavy favorites, the Golden Flashes will look to play the role of spoiler as an off-week looms for Ohio State.
The playoffs may no longer be in the picture for the Buckeyes, but they still have plenty of work to do as they look to make the most of the 2014 season. Ohio State's loss to Hokies admittedly exploited many of its deficiencies, and this Saturday could present the perfect opportunity to improve on those weaknesses with a higher-profile Buckeye State battle around the corner.
But before Cincinnati gets its shot at the Buckeyes on Sept. 27, Ohio State will first have to deal with a Kent State squad still searching for its first win of the season. Despite the mismatch in talent, many will have their eyes on this Saturday's Big Ten-Mid-American Conference clash, which could help provide answers for an Ohio State team that remains full of questions.
Until then, here's everything you need to know about this weekend's battle between the Buckeyes and Golden Flashes:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 13
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Place: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC, ESPN 2
Spread: Ohio State (-26.5), via Odds Shark
In 2013 Urban Meyer went into the the Lone Star State and plucked his first two Ohio State signees—quarterback JT Barrett and all-purpose back Dontre Wilson—right from the heart of Texas. Much to Charlie Strong's chagrin, Meyer is returning to that well of talent as we speak.
Last week, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman went back into Texas to tender an offer to 2016 dual-threat quarterback Tristen Wallace—who hails from the same DeSoto High School program that produced Wilson.
Like injured Buckeyes star signal-caller Braxton Miller, a season that began with promise was derailed due to injury when Wallace went down with a broken ankle last Friday, according to WFAA. DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis estimates that Wallace could potentially return before the Texas state playoffs begin.
Still, there’s a reason the Buckeyes joined Nebraska, SMU and Indiana in offering Wallace—who Mathis said has been timed at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Even with his injury status, if his stunning debut to the 2014 season was any indicator, he figures to become a hot commodity for recruiters entering the Lone Star State after he gets back onto the field.
Wallace went 10-of-17 for 287 yards passing with four touchdowns while adding 231 yards rushing and another three scores on the ground. Prior to going down in the first half of DeSoto’s 54-34 win over Eastern Christian Academy (Maryland), Wallace had completed all eight of his pass attempts for 118 yards and a score.
Still, it was his debut performance that sent shock waves through the metro Dallas area and earned him Player of the Week honors from The Dallas Morning News, according to Michael Florek. It’s not a coincidence that the Buckeyes came calling just a few days later.
“In our dealings with Ohio State and Coach Meyer, he doesn’t just throw out scholarships,” Mathis said. “If you are offered a scholarship by Urban Meyer, that means you are a special player and you can help the Ohio State program out in the future.”
Due to the presence of the electric Desmon White at quarterback, the 6’3”, 225-pound Wallace operated at receiver and running back in his first two years with the Eagles. Those multidimensional traits are part of what makes Wallace an intriguing talent in an offense such as Ohio State’s.
Prior to the injury, Mathis noted that Wallace was putting all of his effort and focus on leading the Eagles to an elusive state title. While the offer is a landmark moment in Wallace’s recruitment, he’s simply taking it in stride.
“It just means that I have to work harder and continue to win games and just keep doing what I do with my teammates,” Wallace said about his newest college interest. “I don’t want to get too big on recruiting and the outside stuff. That’s not really what we are focused on during the season. I’m just focusing on getting better each day, and the recruiting stuff will take care of itself.”
However, he did note that Wilson reached out to him to congratulate him for landing the offer.
“We talked on Twitter,” Wallace said. “He was just telling me about the offense, and that’s basically it.”
Mathis noted that people around the program and in the area were paying close attention to Wallace to see if he was capable of filling the sizable void left by White. His subsequent performance in the season-opener went a long way toward establishing himself as a dynamic talent with a bright future. Recruiting, for now, is on the back burner for the emerging junior.
“Of course, for him, his main goal is to stay focused on trying to set the tone for this football team,” Mathis said. “I think he’s going to continue to do that, and if he does, he still has a chance to be very successful this season and beyond.”
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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Nebraska hits the road for its first away game of the 2014 season. The Huskers will face the Fresno State Bulldogs in a very late (primarily if you're on the East Coast) matchup.
After barely beating McNeese State 31-24, this will be a big game for Nebraska. Looking to get the season back on track, the Huskers are hoping for a much more definitive victory over the Bulldogs.
The two programs have only met once before in 2011. Nebraska won at home 42-29. An impressive moment from that previous matchup was when running back Ameer Abdullah made a 100-yard kickoff return to secure the victory. Three years later, Abdullah and his team are hoping for another win over Fresno State.
Can Nebraska bounce back after the disappointing performance against McNeese State?
Where: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, California
When: Saturday, September 13, at 10:30 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS Sports Network
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 108, XM 199
Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (-10)
Most of America is now underway with regular-season high school football action after a cluster of southern and western states kicked things off in late August. The nation's top college prospects have a chance to showcase their talent on a weekly basis, validating immense hype and long lists of scholarship offers in the process.
The first week of September annually revives community spirit in towns across the country, giving fans the opportunity to finally witness the phenomenal athletes they spent an entire offseason hearing about. It also puts the pressure on collegiate coaching staffs to reassess specific recruitments, potentially opening the door for late offers.
Here's our weekly examination of some of the sensational performances that took place this past weekend, with an eye on top-tier defensive and offensive playmakers.
5-star DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, St. Peter's Prep High School (Jersey City, New Jersey)
The Alabama pledge put his athletic prowess on full display in a season-opening victory over Wise High School (Maryland). Minkah Fitzpatrick made the most of a weather-shortened contest, compiling 204 total offensive yards in a 35-9 win, per Braulio Perez of NJ.com.
The 6'1", 198-pound prospect sprinted 81 yards for a rushing touchdown and caught a pair of scoring passes from Penn State quarterback commit Brandon Wimbush. Those receptions came on distances of 17 and 49 yards as Fitzpatrick flashed game-changing skills that also stand out in the defensive secondary.
The contest didn't last three full quarters, but Fitzpatrick still managed to make a strong impression for one of the Northeast region's most respected programs. He is rated fifth nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings.
"I have the length that a lot of teams look for at cornerback," Fitzpatrick said this summer. "I don't have a problem being asked to cover all kinds of receivers, and I can make things happen with the ball in my hands."
4-star RB Soso Jamabo, Plano West High School (Plano, Texas)
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more dominant rushing performance this fall than the one Soso Jamabo put together Friday evening during a shootout victory over Sachse High School. The 6'3", 210-pound playmaker erupted for 484 yards and six scores on 31 carries in a 49-31 win, per Michael Florek of The Dallas Morning News.
The most remarkable aspect of his effort isn't necessarily how Jamabo finished, but rather how he started the game. The uncommitted prospect gained just six yards on six first-quarter rushing attempts.
Jamabo took over the rest of the way, gaining 478 yards on his next 25 carries. He shifted momentum with a 92-yard scoring burst in the second quarter, as Texas A&M recruiting analyst Brice Jones pointed out:
His night changed once he started seeing the game move slower.
“[The difference was] just staying patient,” Jamabo told Florek. “My teammates kept preaching it to me. I was a little frustrated but I stayed patient and it finally came it to me. … After that it was just swagger for me.”
He continued an eventful weekend with an official visit to Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are a top contender for his commitment, along with Oklahoma and Baylor.
4-star 2016 WR Ahmir Mitchell, Cedar Creek High School (Egg Harbor City, New Jersey)
The 6'2", 190-pound junior picked apart opposing defenses throughout the 2013 season and started this campaign off in similar fashion. Ahmir Mitchell, rated 10th nationally among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings, caught five passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns in an opening win against Cedar Grove High School, per Phil Anastasia of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
He hauled in a 29-yard scoring pass in the first half and punctuated the Pirates' 41-0 romp with an 84-yard touchdown reception. Mitchell, the younger brother of Arkansas redshirt freshman Damon Mitchell, is predominately being recruited as a wide receiver, though defensive back remains a possibility at the next level.
"I feel as though I'm an all-around athlete, so I really don't mind playing any position on the field," Mitchell said in May.
His offer sheet includes Ole Miss, Florida State, Boston College, Rutgers and Michigan.
4-star RB Jacques Patrick, Timber Creek High School (Orlando, Florida)
The heavily recruited running back burst through defenders at every level during his second game of the season, surging ahead for 305 yards and five touchdowns, per Jake Lamb of the Orlando Sentinel. Jacques Patrick did his damage on just 22 carries and scored three times from at least 60 yards out.
The 6'1.5", 230-pound standout shredded Boone High School in a 50-20 victory, delivering his squad to its first win. Patrick, rated second nationally among running backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, is now less than 150 yards shy of surpassing 6,000 career yards.
More than just a straight-line rusher, he also shows off capable receiving abilities.
"I want to be the kind of running back that can beat teams in different ways," Patrick said this summer.
His top collegiate options include Alabama, Ohio State, Florida and Florida State.
4-star 2016 QB KJ Costello, Santa Margarita Catholic High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, California)
The 6'4", 213-pound passer starred in a high-profile matchup against Santiago High School quarterback Blake Barnett, who is committed to Alabama. KJ Costello gained the upper hand early and led his team to a 56-27 win.
He completed 25 of 34 pass attempts for 411 yards and four touchdowns, per Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times. Costello connected on every score before halftime, making an impressive opening statement.
His success was aided by a strong overall offensive attack.
"You can see our offensive line dominated the whole game," Costello told Sondheimer. "When you can run the ball, it opens the passing game."
It didn't take him long to emerge as a premier prospect after taking over starting duties at the Orange County powerhouse. Costello collected several offers this summer, including Alabama, Oregon State, Florida and Stanford.
3-star 2016 WR Michael Irvin Jr., Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas)
Michael Irvin Jr., the son of Dallas Cowboys legend and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, is creating his own legacy in the Lone Star State. He reportedly tied a Texas single-game receptions record with 22 catches, per MaxPreps.com.
Irvin accomplished the feat in a losing effort, as his team came up short in a 69-36 defeat to IMG Academy (Florida). His collection of grabs resulted in 229 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6'2", 200-pound junior holds an offer from Miami, his father's alma mater. He is rated 59th nationally among 2016 receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings.
5-star 2016 QB Shea Patterson, Calvary Baptist Academy (Shreveport, Louisiana)
Shea Patterson, the 6'2", 190-pound passer, continues to state his case for top quarterback honors in the 2016 class. He's rated third nationally among pro-style players at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings and showed off dual-threat capabilities Friday night in a 46-27 clobbering of Parkway High School.
He completed 14 of 20 attempts for 210 yards and four touchdowns, per Matt Vines of The Shreveport Times. His evening also included 95 rushing yards, setting the stage for crucial scores against a quality opponent.
Patterson, who decommitted from Arizona this summer, transferred in from Hidalgo High School (Texas) following his freshman year. He visited Notre Dame Saturday and is expected to spend time at USC and Oklahoma later this month.
LSU is considered a slight favorite in this recruitment. His older brother is a member of the Tigers staff.
4-star DT Joseph Wicker, Long Beach Poly High School (Long Beach, California)
The disruptive defender slid inside to tackle for his senior season, and the position switch has quickly paid off in a big way. A week after Joseph Wicker racked up six sacks, he compiled nine tackles, forced a pair of fumbles and took down the quarterback twice in a 34-21 win over Narbonne High School, per MaxPreps.com.
The 6'4", 265-pound prospect made five tackles for loss. He anchors a defensive attack that also features top-ranked cornerback recruit Iman Marshall.
Wicker received an offer from UCLA and Texas Tech this past weekend. An official visit to Arizona State is planned.
Recruit ratings and offer information courtesy of 247Sports.
Quotes obtained firsthand by Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
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Connecticut Huskies redshirt sophomore quarterback Casey Cochran is hanging up his cleats and pursuing a coaching career due to several concussions suffered over the course of his playing career.
ESPN's Brett McMurphy revealed the news on Twitter Monday following a statement from the school:
Cochran, who was named the starter over senior Chandler Whitmer by head coach Bob Diaco back in August, completed 63.4 percent of his passes last season for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Against BYU to start the year, Cochran threw for 171 yards and an interception and left with an injury before the eventual 35-10 loss. Whitmer will take over the reins full time for the 1-1 Huskies moving forward.
Cochran's decision to place an emphasis on his health was applauded by many, including Huskies play-by-play announcer Joe D'Ambrosio:
Now, Cochran can move forward with what many figured he would do after his collegiate football career concluded—coach the game to others, as his father Jack does at the high school level in Connecticut.
"A silver lining in this matter is that Casey has an interest in pursuing a career in coaching," said Diaco, per the press release on the team's website. "We can now accelerate his development in that area as he transitions from a player role to a mentor role as he continues to serve the team."
As Sean Patrick Bowley of GameTimeCT muses, the role is something that seems to suit Casey well moving forward:
As well as pursue the next step in his football career, Cochran will also surely continue his stellar academic record one season removed from being named to the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic team.
After making one of the most difficult decisions a player inevitably experiences, Cochran gets to continue working around the sport he loves in a nurturing environment. Really, this premature end seems to be just the beginning for Cochran and his future pursuits.
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The AAC’s East Carolina Pirates will try to cool down the red-hot Virginia Tech Hokies out of the ACC this Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. This game is set to kick off at noon ET, and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Pirates started the season with a routine 52-7 victory over NC Central as 39.5-point home favorites, and last week, they hung tough in a 33-23 loss to South Carolina as 14-point road underdogs. They are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games, and the total has gone “over” in six of their last eight contests.
Virginia Tech closed out the 2013 season with a straight-up record of 2-4 in its last six games, and it was 1-5 ATS. This season, the Hokies have burst out of the gates with a 2-0 start both SU and ATS, including a huge 35-21 victory over then-No. 8 Ohio State as 10-point underdogs on the road this past Saturday. The total went over the 46-point closing line in that game.
East Carolina at Virginia Tech Betting Storylines
This is the Pirates' first season in the AAC after coming over from Conference USA. They opened up a 13-7 lead on the Gamecocks in this past Saturday’s loss, but in the end, they turned the ball over twice and could not get their defense off the field in an 11-minute, fourth-quarter drive, which led directly to the 10-point loss. Those kinds of things prove to be costly when you step up your level of competition as a mid-major program.
Give credit to East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy for solid performances in the loss. Carden threw for 321 yards while completing 70 percent of his 46 passes, but he was picked off twice. Hardy was on the receiving end of 11 balls for 133 yards, which averaged out to be a healthy 12.1 yards per catch.
Virginia Tech was near the top of the list in regard to futures odds to win the ACC this season, but that small group of teams that the Hokies were a part of was well behind No. 1-ranked Florida State.
The win over the Buckeyes has to make the football experts across the country take notice, even if Braxton Miller is out of Ohio State’s lineup at quarterback. The Hokies defense held the Big Ten power to 327 total yards, and Virginia Tech had a seven-minute edge in time of possession.
Known for its shutdown defense, Virginia Tech got a big day from Kyshoen Jarrett with two interceptions, and Donovan Riley returned another pick 63 yards for a score with less than a minute to play to seal the win. Hokies quarterback Michael Brewer put the ball up 36 times and completed 23 passes for 199 yards and two scores, but he was intercepted two times on the day.
East Carolina at Virginia Tech Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports
Point Spread: Virginia Tech -10
Total Line: OFF
According to Covers’ betting trends, the Pirates are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a SU loss, and they are 6-1 ATS in their last seven nonconference games. The total has gone over in six of their last eight games against a team with a winning record.
The Hokies are 8-19 ATS in their last 27 games following a SU win, and they are 4-11-2 ATS in their last 17 games played outside the ACC. The total has stayed under in six of their last nine home games.
Head-to-head in this matchup, Virginia Tech is 4-0 SU in the last four meetings, but the series is tied 2-2 ATS. The total has stayed under in three of the four games.
College Football Picks: East Carolina at Virginia Tech Betting Predictions
This is a dangerous situation for the Hokies, who have gained a reputation for crushing letdowns following a big win, but I believe that things will be different this Saturday against the Pirates. Virginia Tech will not take this game lightly given the recent tight battles between these two programs, and this will be reflected in a final score that covers the 10-point spread.
Take: No. 126 Virginia Tech (-10) over East Carolina
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In the middle of a two-week stretch of less-than-stellar competition, Alabama coach Nick Saban is preaching “focus stamina” to his No. 3 Crimson Tide.
“To get better one thing at a time, one day at a time, one play at a time,” Saban said. “If each individual improves, then we have a chance to improve collectively as a team.”
After a 41-0 lightning-shortened drubbing of Florida Atlantic, Alabama will take the field against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
The competition isn’t exactly getting steeper either. Southern Miss is 2-24 dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, with its only wins coming against UAB in 2013 and FCS Alcorn State on Saturday.
So for Alabama it’s another week to fine-tune some things, get younger players more reps and of course watch the quarterbacks again before Florida comes to Tuscaloosa next weekend to open SEC play.
But hey, last time these two teams played, this happened.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 13
Time: 5 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Southern Miss IMG Sports Network
Spread: Alabama by 47-48, according to OddsShark.com.