NCAA Football News

Marcus Mariota vs. Michigan State: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

With the Oregon Ducks' 46-27 win over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday, Marcus Mariota took a big step forward toward booking his place in New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

The junior quarterback finished 17-of-28 passing with 318 yards and three touchdowns. He added 42 yards on the ground.

Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com believes that Mariota has jumped to the top of the Heisman race after the victory:

Following the game, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich had one word to explain why Mariota did what he did on Saturday, per John Canzano of The Oregonian:

It wasn't the most impressive performance of his career, but rarely has the player's importance to the Oregon offense been more glaring. The Ducks offense didn't look itself on Saturday, especially in the first half.

Mariota's 70-yard touchdown pass to Devon Allen in the second quarter was one of the few big plays for the unit through the first two frames, via ESPN College Football:

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer was surprised at how poorly the home team was executing, especially with Mariota at 100 percent:

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde thought that Oregon was far too reliant on Mariota's play-making ability and resourcefulness:

One of the biggest reasons the Ducks were struggling was the constant pressure on Mariota from the Michigan State front seven. The obvious way to stop a mobile dual-threat quarterback is hitting him in the pocket before he can get going, and that's exactly what the Spartans were doing in the first half, per ESPN Stats and Info:

Making matters worse was Andre Yruretagoyena's exit with an injury, per Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated:

Michigan State led 24-18 going into halftime.

In the second half, Oregon was a completely different team. Smart Football's Chris B. Brown felt that the Ducks needed somebody to be the spark offensively, and Mariota answered the call:

Oregon punted on its first two possessions of the second half before reeling off four touchdowns on their final five drives. Mariota was responsible for two of those touchdowns, first hitting Allen for a 24-yard TD pass and then connecting with Keanon Lowe for six points, which gave the Ducks the lead back.

From there, Michigan State was unable to mount a comeback.

It's still very early in the season, but you have to agree with Huston that Mariota has vaulted to the top of the Heisman Trophy chase, if he wasn't already there. He might have had some trouble early on, but you expect your best players to respond when handed adversity, and that's exactly what Mariota did.

You can't discount the strength of the Michigan State defense, either. According to Forde, the Spartans hadn't surrendered 30 or more points since 2011:

Every Heisman winner in the past has had that one signature performance that voters can look at when they make their final selection. Saturday may well have been that game for Mariota.

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Jameis Winston vs. Citadel: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

If you're a player hoping to woo the Heisman voters, then you better be pretty close to perfect when you go up against the mighty Citadel Bulldogs (sorry, Citadel). 

Jameis Winston did just that on Saturday night. 

The polarizing sophomore quarterback, who is looking to repeat as Heisman, played a little less than three full quarters during FSU's easy 37-12 win, completing 22 of his 27 throws for 256 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

He was on the field for six offensive drives. The first four went for touchdowns, while the last two resulted in field goals. As College Football Talk noted, he had an unbelievable stat line at the half:

The one incompletion? An attempted shovel pass to Kermit Whitfield that was originally ruled as a fumble, which ESPN's Jared Shanker pointed out:

Part of the reason for Winston's success was his willingness to share the love. As the Orlando Sentinel's Dustin Tackett noted, he did well to move through his progressions and spread the ball around:

Winston finished with completions to eight different receivers. His longest went to star Rashad Greene for 46 yards. Winston and Greene, who had 11 receptions for 203 yards in last week's opener, have an unstoppable connection right now, and the QB recently talked about his WR's importance, via the Tallahassee Democrat's Natalie Pierre:

Tomahawk Nation put it simply after one of Winston's best throws of the night:

Of course, it wasn't a perfect night. 

According to Shanker and thetriangleoffense.net's Joshua Flanagan, the sophomore quarterback clashed with head coach Jimbo Fisher on multiple occasions: 

Don't overreact, though. Patrik Nohe of ChopChat.com explained why the shouting matches aren't a big deal:

Overall, it's about as much as you could ask for in limited action against an overmatched opponent. 

The stats probably won't drop anyone's jaw—especially those of Heisman voters—but don't expect Florida State fans to worry too much about that. Winston is being asked to win games, and he continues to do just that in Tallahassee. 

He'll get a stiffer test at home against No. 23 Clemson in two weeks, but judging by Saturday's "warm-up" (again, sorry Citadel), he looks prepared and in-sync with the offense. 

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Auburn Football: Nick Marshall Not Sharp, but Still the Man at QB

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall sat out the first half of the season, as Jeremy Johnson—his backup—lit up the stat sheet with 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Arkansas.

Quarterback controversy?

No. 

Marshall is the man at Auburn, but it's clear from his performance in the Tigers' 59-13 win over San Jose State on Saturday night that he still has some work to do through the air. The senior completed 10 of 19 passes for 101 yards, one touchdown and no picks.

He sailed several passes, lost accuracy when he needed to put more touch on throws and generally looked like the same raw quarterback he was last season, despite being the first second-year starting quarterback in head coach Gus Malzahn's career as either a college head coach or assistant.

Malzahn commented on Marshall's night in the postgame press conference, according to Ryan Black of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. 

Make no mistake, despite the inefficiency, Marshall is still the man for Malzahn.

He rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Spartans and is still what makes Auburn's offense tick. 

Sure, Auburn would like Marshall to be more consistent through the air. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said this spring that he would like Marshall to complete "between 65 and 70 percent" of his passes on the season, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com.

"It’s a goal. It should be a goal," Marshall told Marcello. "The expectations for us are high this year. I’m just going to do what they tell me and complete the passes like they want me to. I’ll go through all my progressions and not turn the ball over."

He isn't quite there on the season yet—he's at 56 percent (14-of-25) after two games—but Marshall routinely makes the right decision on zone reads, forces defenders to maintain eye discipline and takes advantage through the air when safeties creep up and peek in the backfield.

What more does he need to do?

Sure, the coaching staff would like him to progress as a passer, and if Marshall wants to make a career as a quarterback at the next level, it'd probably be a good idea. For this particular team, though, Marshall can follow the same script as last year and win a whole bunch of ballgames for Malzahn.

Isn't that the goal?

The offensive line has shown no signs of a letdown after losing first-round draft pick Greg Robinson at left tackle and left guard Alex Kozan to a season-ending injury. The running game is in good hands with Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne—who's gone over the century mark in both of Auburn's games—and speedster Corey Grant.

Sure, Auburn is one-dimensional by choice and necessity with Marshall in the game, but that one dimension clicks at an elite level, so there's no reason to mess with success.

"Marshall 2.0" would be a luxury for the Auburn coaching staff, but the original version isn't too shabby and has proven during his career as the starting quarterback that what he does works, even if it doesn't always look pretty through the air.

Isn't that the point?

 

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.

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Devon Allen Catches, Spins for 70-Yard TD

Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen made a great catch and spin move on his way to the end zone in the Ducks' 46-27 win over Michigan State.

Allen proving himself as a playmaker provides another weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota to target.

How well do you think the Ducks will do this year?

Watch the video to see Devon Allen's highlight touchdown catch.

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Michigan State vs. Oregon: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Oregon Ducks pulled out a a thrilling come-from-behind 46-27 victory over the Michigan State Spartans in a titanic early-season contest between two Top 10 college football squads.

The Spartans definitely put a scare into the Ducks, who look primed for a run at the national title, but they just couldn't keep up with their Nike-clad foes in the second half.

Here is the quarter-by-quarter score from the contest: 

SportsCenter posted a snapshot of the raucous fans preparing to take in the game:

Early, embarrassing miscues from the Ducks quickly quieted the crowd, per Scout.com's Mike Wilson:

The errors were minor and didn't prevent Oregon from jumping out to a quick lead. Thomas Tyner scored on a one-yard plunge toward the end of the first quarter and Oregon took an 8-0 lead after an easy two-point conversion.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio wasn't happy about the two-point conversion attempt, per SB Nation:

He should have expected the attempt, as his squad didn't cover the unorthodox formation and allowed the opposition to take the advantage. The play and Dantonio's reaction led to this quip from ESPN's Bomani Jones:

At this point, watching Oregon's offense at work might double as a remedy for claustrophobia. The high-powered offense led by quarterback Marcus Mariota routinely makes big plays, with wide receivers finding acres of lush green space between puzzled safeties and cornerbacks.

Wide receiver Devon Allen's 70-yard catch and run touchdown in the second quarter is a prime example of this.

However, the Ducks could have used a few more of those plays during the first half as the running game stalled and Michigan State did well to control the ball and time of possession.

The Spartans defense held about as tough as 11 men can against the vaunted Ducks attack. It gave their own offense, led by quarterback Connor Cook, the opportunities needed to catch fire in the first half.

The Spartans racked up 24 points in the second quarter alone. Jeremy Langford kicked off the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run and Cook tossed a pair of touchdowns after a Michael Geiger field goal to give his team a surprising 24-18 lead going into the halftime break.

Cook was superb, but wasn't entirely error-free early on. He threw an ugly interception right after making a beautiful toss down the right sideline, but didn't let it affect his play during the contest. Chris Solari of The Lansing State Journal noted this was par for the course for the signal-caller:

Few expected the Spartans to take a lead into the second half. The defense's work against Oregon's rushing attack was particularly noteworthy, as ESPN Stats & Info points out:

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde liked the way the Spartans responded to the early 11-0 deficit: 

The unlikely advantage held well into the third quarter. Michigan State padded their slim lead with a 42 yard field goal from Geiger just over four minutes into the second half.

But Oregon's aerial attack wouldn't stay grounded for long, as Mariota found Allen in the back of the end zone for the wideout's second touchdown in as many catches, cutting the deficit to two points.

This play seemed to break a confident Spartan side, as the Ducks would score two more unanswered touchdowns to take a 39-27 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Mariota, who finished with 318 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions, did a fantastic job of waiting for the Spartans defense to break down, despite running few plays in the first half and having limited opportunities to establish a rhythm.

Forde noted Mariota did a fine job of taking advantage of busted coverage on his 37-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe, which put his team back in front in the third quarter:

 The pressure of keeping up with the Ducks offense regularly breaks teams down.

Down by 12 and with approximately eight minutes left to go in the game, Cook tried force a long pass down the middle. The ball got tipped into the air and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu made a sensational diving interception, which snuffed out the Spartans last solid opportunity to get back into the game.

The Oregonian's Andrew Grief recapped the play:

Oregon would eventually wind down the clock and put the game away on a Royce Freeman touchdown run with just over a minute to go, leaving the home team with a deserving 46-27 final scoreline.

The result of this game should have major implications for the College Football Playoff. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany believes these big-time matchups will be an important barometer for judging a team's success at the end of the year.

"Everyone is gonna have 10 more games to play, so if you don't continue to play well, it doesn't matter," said Delaney, via USA Today's George Schroeder. "But if you continue to play well and you're in a cluster of teams (under consideration for the playoff at the end of the season), it's something from which people will draw conclusions."

The Spartans played well enough, but they are in danger of missing out on the playoff if there are a smattering of undefeated teams from the major conferences hanging around at the end of the season. They will need to remain perfect from here on out and focus on capturing a Big Ten championship. If they can run the table against the remaining competition and a few other college football titans topple, this team could find it's way into the discussion.

Oregon is in fine position to continue its offensive assault on unfortunate college football defenses. With Mariota running the offense to near perfection at times, this team might be nearly impossible to keep up with as the season goes along. There is some budding NFL talent on this roster, and a run at the national title will do just fine for the standouts on this squad.

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Pac-12 to Investigate Pat Haden Sideline Incident in USC-Stanford Game

Pat Haden's trip to the sideline during USC's 13-10 win over Stanford may come at a steep cost. Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported that the Pac-12 will take a deeper look at an incident involving the Trojans athletic director and game officials:

The Pac-12 will review the incident in which USC athletic director Pat Haden engaged with officials on the sidelines during his program's 13-10 victory at Stanford on Saturday. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the league will be "reviewing the situation" in a text message to SI.com. 

A Pac-12 spokesman said the league will not comment further until it reviews the situation with officials, which is in accordance with league protocol.

You can see video of the incident here, via The Big Lead's Michael Shamburger.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian explained after the game that he had wanted Haden to come down to the field to discuss an issue with the referees because he was afraid of incurring further punishment. Sarkisian had already been penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"I didn't feel like I was in position to continue to discuss that with the officiating crew in risk of getting a second penalty," he said, via Thamel. "I felt I was better off getting Pat in between, talk it through to make sure everybody understood and moved on."

Many were surprised and appalled that Haden would actually cross what is the accepted line for ADs during game action—inserting himself or herself unprompted in the game itself. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk believes that both the NCAA and Pac-12 should bring the hammer down on Haden:

What adds another layer of intrigue to the situation is that Haden is a member of the panel that selects the four teams in the postseason playoff, per Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer:

USA Today's Dan Wolken argued that Haden should lose his place on the selection committee:

The 13 people selected to pick the participants in college football's first playoff were done so because of their integrity, their ability to be impartial and their level-headedness in a high-pressure job with tremendous public scrutiny.

An athletics director running down to argue penalties and making a spectacle of himself on national television does not exactly scream impartiality and level-headedness.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel took the opposite view, feeling that Haden's outburst doesn't speak to his ability to accurately judge a team's playoff credentials:

The outcome of the Pac-12's review will likely have a large say on whether Haden's place on the committee is truly under threat.

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Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Picks off Michigan State's Connor Cook to Help Seal Win

No. 3-ranked Oregon hosted No. 7 Michigan State Saturday in what most would call the marquee game of the weekend.

The contest was full of electrifying plays, but the play that sealed the win for the Ducks might have been the most spectacular.

Late in the fourth quarter, with Oregon up by 12, defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu laid out for a tipped pass and hauled in an amazing interception.

The Ducks went on to beat the Spartans 46-27.

[Vine]

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BYU Quarterback Taysom Hill Hurdles Texas Defender for 30-Yard Touchdown

We've already seen one impressive hurdle today, but this one might top it.

In the third quarter of the BYU-Texas game, Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill got loose for a long run.

Hill leaped over the final Longhorns defender to complete the 30-yard score.

Here's another look at the play:

[Vine]

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Barry Sanders Jr. Gets Absolutely Crushed by USC's Hayes Pullard

Stanford running back Barry Sanders Jr. is lit up during this Pac-12 showdown. How well do you think these two teams will do the rest of the year?

Watch the video to see a monster hit on Barry Sanders Jr.

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Ohio State's Dontre Wilson Makes Incredible Catch over VA Tech Defender

The Ohio State Buckeyes are in an early deficit against the Virginia Tech Hokies, but running back Dontre Wilson is trying to keep them in the game.

In the first half, the sophomore from Texas made this incredible catch over the back of a Virginia Tech defender.

[Vine, Twitter]

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Why Win over Stanford Puts USC in Driver's Seat for Pac-12 Title

The USC Trojans took down the Stanford Cardinal, 13-10, in a battle to the end. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss what this win means for the Trojans' future.

How far do you think they will go in 2014?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Michigan's Khalid Hill Levels Notre Dame's Andrew Trumbetti on Block

With this being the last time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Michigan Wolverines are schedule to play, both sides haven't been afraid to play aggressively.

During the first quarter, Michigan's Khalid Hill was extremely aggressive on this block, leveling Notre Dame defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti.

[Vine]

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USC vs. Stanford: Game Grades, Analysis for Trojans and Cardinal

The USC Trojans opened conference play with a hard-fought 13-10 victory on the road over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday.

Mental errors cost Stanford the victory, but the Trojans and head coach Steve Sarkisian will take their first conference win, no matter how ugly.

Pass Offense: Cody Kessler hardly attempted downfield throws but found his target on 15 of 22 attempts for 135 yards. The Trojans converted on 50 percent of their third downs, and Kessler was an important distributor. Top NFL prospect Nelson Agholor reeled in nine passes for 91 yards, while George Farmer chipped in 36 yards on four receptions.

Run Offense: USC's offensive line had a solid showing in the running game, leading the way for Javorius Allen to overcome a fumble on his first carry to finish with 154 yards and a 6.7 yards-per-carry average. Justin Davis scored the Trojans' lone touchdown, adding 20 more yards on the ground.

Pass Defense: J.R. Tavai hit Kevin Hogan during his windup, forcing a fumble that USC recovered with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal consistently moved downfield on the Trojans secondary, but the unit tightened up when Stanford entered scoring territory.

Run Defense: Despite Stanford's well-known prowess in the running game, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had his players ready. USC held the Cardinal to 3.4 yards per attempt and allowed just a single touchdown. The run defense also came up with a crucial stop on 4th-and-1, which was yet another of Stanford's red-zone blunders Saturday afternoon.

Special Teams: For the second straight year, Andre Heidari nailed the difference-making field goal to beat Stanford. This time, he drilled a career-long 53-yarder to go with another from 25 out. Punter Kris Albarado averaged 47.8 yards per kick.

Coaching: Whereas Wilcox had his run defense prepared, the opposing passing attack lifted the Cardinal to a 413-291 advantage in the total yards department. Sarkisian nearly cost his team dearly with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, but the defense bailed out its new head coach by recovering a fumble.

 

Pass Offense: Keith Hogan consistently moved the group through the air, completing 73 percent of his passes for 285 yards and zero interceptions. Ty Montgomery led the wideouts with nine catches for 83 yards. It's only been two games, but it's clear Austin Hooper is going to be a serious part of an effective Stanford offense. The sophomore tight end registered four receptions for 61 yards.

Run Offense: This isn't 2013 anymore. Sure, Remound Wright and Kelsey Young managed 60 and 39 yards, respectively, but Stanford didn't dominate like the nation has come to expect. The Cardinal need to find that crucial part of their offense; otherwise, there will be a few more conference losses on the way.

Pass Defense: Last week against Fresno State, the USC offense ran more than 100 plays. Stanford's secondary would not let that happen, however, making Agholor and Farmer stay underneath for any effectiveness. Kessler averaged a mere 6.1 yards per pass.

Run Defense: The Cardinal did a decent job of containing Allen, but they couldn't quite stop him. Allowing 4.2 yards per attempt is far from terrible, and the defense was ultimately let down by the offense.

Special Teams: Jordan Williamson missed a pair of field goals, and the 26-yard chip shot he didn't even give a chance will linger in the senior's mind for a while. Montgomery ripped off a 44-yard punt return, setting up the team for a chance to extend the lead.

Coaching: David Shaw elected to punt from the 29- and 31-yard line. It really just didn't make sense, considering Williamson had proved capable of attempting a kick from that range. In his first big game since replacing now-Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, Lance Anderson called a fantastic game for Stanford.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Scores First Career TD, Does Heisman Pose to Celebrate

LSU Tigers freshman running back Leonard Fournette is expecting to do some big things during his college career, and he finally got his legacy started on Saturday.

During the Tigers' game against the Sam Houston State Bearkats, Fournette scored his first career touchdown. To celebrate, Fournette went ahead and struck a Heisman pose.

[Instagram]

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Stanford Can't Contend for Pac-12 Title Until It Fixes Mental Errors

Stanford lost to USC by three points for the second consecutive season—this time falling 13-10 instead of 20-17—and the final margin was not the only similarity.

For the second consecutive season, the Cardinal floundered at finishing drives, failing to score points when they got near the USC end zone. It was an area the team highlighted before the game, knowing it would have to improve there to win, maximizing its chances.

Unfortunately, it couldn't have been more right.

The specifics? I warn you, they’re pretty ugly.

In 2013, Stanford scored 10 points on four trips inside the Trojans’ 25-yard line, which was thought to be a definite nadir. There was nowhere to go but up—or so it seemed. But then, on Saturday, the Cardinal scored 10 points on nine trips inside the Trojans’ 25, an average that comes up barely above one point per attempt.

That makes for seven empty trips down near the end zone:

Its hard to say which near-miss was the most egregious.

The shanked 26-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson was a clinic in #CollegeKickers, and the miscommunicated fumble on a pitch from Kevin Hogan to Remound Wright was ugly, too.

Ultimately, though, the coup de grace was a blindside sack by J.R. Tavai on what should have been (at least) the game-tying drive, a hit that dislodged the ball from Hogan's right hand and sealed the game in poetically apropos fashion:

Stanford outgained USC by more than 100 yards, 413-291, but still lost as a favorite on its home field. That's the sort of thing that does not happen to a mentally adept team.

Stanford is young along the offensive line, which is a fair-enough excuse, but it is also ranked in the national top 15. It cannot be so unsound with mental mistakes near the end zone.

"Bottom line, if you don't take advantage of opportunities, you're going to lose to a good football team," said head coach David Shaw—who also refused to admit that his play-calling was conservative—per DavidLombardiSports.com's David Lombardi.

Shaw did, however, accept his share of the blame:

There's a discord between how Stanford plays and how it finishes drives, and it's existed for more than a season.

The Cardinal win by running the ball, controlling the clock and disrupting opponents' offensive efficiency, which is usually the mark of a team that does well near the end zone. Playing downhill and wearing out an opponent's defensive line are supposed to fashion success at the end of drives, and in many cases they do.

But Stanford couldn't get out of its way against USC, just like it couldn't get out of its own way for most of 2013. Here is how Bill Connelly of SB Nation described Stanford in his season preview:

As much as we want to fit teams into a neat little box, it doesn't always work that way.

[...]

In 2013, the Cardinal were a bit surprising from a statistical perspective, and not necessarily in a good way. For one thing, they were wholly mediocre at closing out drives. Rushing teams have the reputation for being good near the goal line, but they averaged only 4.3 points per trip inside the opponent's 40-yard line.

Despite these manifest deficiencies, Shaw and his staff have a lot to feel good about after Saturday's game.

After a 12-play, 68-yard touchdown drive on their first possession, USC's offense was held to 41 yards and zero points on its next 21 plays. It didn't score a touchdown in the final 49 minutes of the game.

How many defenses in the Pac-12—much less the country—can suffocate an offense this talented?

The Cardinal proved Saturday that they're good enough to contend for a Pac-12 title, and although their chances of doing that (and of making the College Football Playoff) took a major hit with an 0-1 start in conference play, they are not crazy for keeping that as a goal.

They are crazy, however, if they keep that as a goal without fixing their mental issues. Whether it's Shaw doing his best (pre-2013) Ron Rivera impression by punting on the 29-yard line or Hogan and Wright colliding for an ill-timed fumble, there were too many lapses Saturday that a legitimate contender wouldn't make.

A legitimate contender would head into Sunday 2-0.

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USC Defense Proves It Is Championship-Worthy Against Stanford

The USC defense showed off a championship-level clutch factor Saturday in the No. 14-ranked Trojans' 13-10 defeat of No. 13 Stanford at Stanford Stadium.

USC (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference) allowed Stanford (1-1, 0-1) just two scores despite six red-zone opportunities, overwhelming the Cardinal with a combination of physicality and athletic playmaking.

Time will tell if that championship is a Pac-12 South crown or a Pac-12 title and berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But the Trojans proved anything is possible on Saturday.

The old "defense wins championships" adage was true for Stanford when it rode that philosophy to back-to-back conference crowns, and the Trojans beat the Cardinal at their own game. That, combined with preseason favorite Oregon's struggles against Michigan State, should vault USC near the top of anyone's Pac-12 forecast.

USC overcame the numbers game that promises to plague the Trojans all season, as they had fewer than 60 scholarship players available Saturday, per Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times.

The USC defense also faced a time-of-possession disparity that had it on the field seven minutes and 31 seconds longer than the Stanford defense.

Stanford failed to score at all in a second half that USC played much of without its linebacker and co-captain, Hayes Pullard, who was ejected for "targeting" Ty Montgomery.

One of the challenges that USC faces in its pursuit of a championship this season is how it responds when it loses one of its leaders. The answer Saturday was rather resounding.  

In addition to Pullard's ejection, the USC defense also had to deal with its star, lineman Leonard Williams, playing less than 100 percent due to an ankle injury.

Don't worry about Williams too much going forward, however. All he did Saturday was tie Anthony Sarao with a team-high 11 tackles and record a sack.  

As Pete Fiutak of College Football News noted, the ceiling for a full-strength Williams is high:

When he's back to 100 percent, Williams will set the tone for USC's championship aspirations.  

Another bedrock for the USC defense in its season-long title pursuit will be the big play, as demonstrated Saturday.

The Trojans responded to Stanford's red-zone opportunities with big plays such as safety Su'a Cravens' deflection of a Kevin Hogan pass on a slant route. Had it been completed, the Cardinal were looking at nothing but end zone ahead.

Cravens was everywhere throughout the day, causing havoc in pass coverage, against the rush and on the blitz. He had another potential game-saving moment late in the fourth with a reach-out tackle on a 3rd-and-long screen play that, had Cravens missed, might have resulted in a Cardinal first-down conversion.

The sophomore's versatility will have him playing a key role in USC's title chances throughout the season.

Fittingly, another big play punctuated the USC defense's day. Linebacker J.R. Tavai blitzed off the edge and caught Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan on his blind side, forcing a fumble to seal the win.

Behind running back Javorius "Buck" Allen's 154-yard rushing performance and wide receiver Nelson Agholor's 91-yard, nine-reception effort, the Trojans mustered just enough offense to capitalize on the defense's stellar effort.  

USC managed just one touchdown, which came in the first quarter on running back Justin Davis' goal-line carry. Just about everything came at a premium for the Trojans offense, as Scout.com's David Lombardi noted:

However, that can be seen as a positive for USC's title hopes going forward.

The Trojans will face few defenses the caliber of Stanford's for the remainder of the regular season. In fact, the Cardinal rode the prowess of their defensive side to each of the last two Pac-12 championships.

Should the Trojans' new hurry-up offense face a similar speed bump as that which Stanford presented, they have seen that the defense is equipped to carry the load.  

On Saturday, that load was ending a 17-game home-win streak for the Cardinal. For the season, it could mean carrying USC back to championship glory.

 

Statistics compiled via GoStanford.com.

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College Football Scores 2014: Week 2 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

Last week's college football action got our feet wet. This week's has thrust us full bore into the journey leading to the first-ever College Football Playoff.

The game of the week was played in the pacific northwest. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks defended their turf against a tough and determined No. 7 Michigan State Spartans. 

The Spartans used a 24-point second quarter to take a 24-18 lead into the half. Oregon's defense and Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota's surgical passing took over in the second half. The Ducks outscored the Spartans 28-3 in the second half to win it 46-27.

Mariota threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter to spark his team.

In the biggest conference game on the weekend's schedule, the No. 14 USC Trojans gutted out a tough 13-10 win over archrival No. 13 Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto, California.

Despite being outgained and seemingly outplayed in several facets of the game, the Trojans defense came up with big plays when it needed to. With under two minutes remaining, Andre Heidari made the decisive field goal to beat Stanford for the second year in a row.

Senior outside linebacker J.R. Tavai sacked Stanford's Kevin Hogan and forced a fumble, which the Trojans recovered, with 19 seconds remaining. 

The win snapped Stanford's 17-game win streak at home.

The teams near and ahead of the Ducks and Spartans in the rankings took care of business against less-threatening opponents. The top-ranked Florida State Seminoles defeated Citadel 37-12.

The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners throttled in-state rival Tulsa 52-7, and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide rebounded from a shaky win over the West Virginia Mountaineers in Week 1.

The Tide rolled to a 41-0 rout over Florida Atlantic in a game called because of weather.

Two ranked teams narrowly avoided upsets on Saturday. The No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats and No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers had to rally late to win.

The Wildcats trailed 28-13 at one point in the second quarter before reeling off the final 19 points of the game to get the win. Quarterback Jake Waters' eight-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left gave the Wildcats the win.

Nebraska's victory had its own share of drama.

Tied at 24 with the McNeese State Cowboys with just 4:21 remaining, the Cornhuskers' dark-horse Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. with just 20 seconds remaining to secure the win.

Here's a look at all of the scores of the completed games involving teams in the Top 25. Just below the results is a closer look at the players whose performances really stood out on Saturday.

 

  • No. 20 Kansas State 32, Iowa St. 28
  • No. 24 Missouri 49, Toledo 24
  • No. 4 Oklahoma 52, Tulsa 7
  • Western Illinois 3, No. 18 Wisconsin 37
  • McNeese State 24, No. 19 Nebraska 31
  • Florida Atlantic 0, No. 2 Alabama 41
  • South Carolina State 7, No. 23 Clemson 73
  • No. 14 USC 13, No. 13 Stanford 10
  • No. 15 Mississippi 41, Vanderbilt 3
  • No. 7 Michigan State 27, No. 3 Oregon 46
  • San Jose State 13, No. 5 Auburn 59
  • No. 17 Arizona State 58, New Mexico 23
  • East Carolina 23, No. 21 South Carolina 33
  • Murray St. 21, No. 25 Louisville 66
  • Michigan 0, No. 16 Notre Dame 31
  • Citadel 12, No. 1 Florida State 37
  • Northwestern St. 6, No. 10 Baylor 70
  • Sam Houston St. 0, No. 12 LSU 56
  • Lamar vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
  • Virginia Tech vs. No. 8 Ohio St.
  • San Diego St. 27, No. 21 North Carolina 31
  • Memphis vs. No. 11 UCLA

 

Amari Cooper, Alabama, 13 Rec., 189 Yards, TD

Only lightning could stop Amari Cooper and the Alabama offense on Saturday.

When an Alabama football record is equaled or broken, it's a big deal. On Saturday, Cooper matched DJ Hall's school record of 13 receptions. Cooper's 189 receiving yards marked the junior's fourth straight 100-plus-yard game. That's just one short of Hall's school record.

Obviously, Bama wasn't facing a premier opponent, but Cooper's production still deserves recognition.

 

Tanner McEvoy, Wisconsin, 338 Total Yards and Four TDs

The Western Illinois Leathernecks had no answer for Tanner McEvoy and the Wisconsin Badgers offense in the second half. After being held to just nine points through the first 30 minutes, the Badgers broke out, and McEvoy was a one-man wrecking crew in the second half.

McEvoy threw all three of his touchdown passes after halftime, and the defense clamped down to make this one a blowout.

This performance was a far cry from his two-interception struggle in Week 1 against LSU. Wisconsin fans can only hope McEvoy has saved some of this production for the remainder of the season.

 

Javorius "Buck" Allen, USC, 154 rushing yards

Though he didn't find the end zone, Javorius "Buck" Allen's day shouldn't be dismissed. Rushing for 154 yards against the Cardinal on the road is no small feat.

Last season, Stanford had the third-best rushing defense in the country. For Allen to have given USC such a steady performance on the ground, in a tight and sloppily played game, was invaluable.

If the Trojans' defense can continue to make the big plays it made today, and Allen can keep grinding out yards, USC could be the team to beat in the Pac-12.

 

Marcus Mariota, Oregon, 318 passing yards and Three TDs

Mariota did nothing but boost his Heisman Trophy chances on Saturday night. He stared down a Spartans defense that had begun to get to him late in the first half.

He used his weapons properly, hitting seven different receivers over the course of the game.

Mariota should have three weeks in a row to pad his stats against the likes of Wyoming, Washington State and Arizona before the Ducks meet UCLA on October 11.

 

Jake Waters, Kansas State, 377 Total Yards and Two TDs

Jake Waters simply wouldn't let his team lose. The Wildcats defense deserves credit for pitching a shutout in the second half, but Waters hurt the Cyclones with his arm and legs. Waters did most of his damage in the second half when the Wildcats turned the game around, but just before halftime, Waters led his team on a 10-play, 84-yard drive to grab momentum heading into the locker room.

Waters scored to culminate that drive.

His clutch run with less than two minutes was the play that most will remember from this very memorable game.

He now has six total touchdowns in two games this season.

 

Follow Brian Mazique, aka FranchisePlay, the Sports Video Game Journalist.

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Oregon's Marcus Mariota Finds Devon Allen for 70-Yard TD vs. Michigan State

The Oregon Ducks are taking on a tough Michigan State Spartans defense on Saturday night, but that hasn't kept them from continuing to make big plays.

In the second quarter, Heisman contender Marcus Mariota found Devon Allen for a 70-yard touchdown to go up 18-7 over the Spartans. You can see another angle of the play below.

[VineFanSided]

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Insider Film Breakdown: Kurt Roper's New Offense Works to Perfection for Gators

The Florida Gators are looking great in their first official game of the 2014 season. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how good this SEC program can be with its new offense.

Where do you see the Gators going in 2014?

Check out the video and let us know.

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USC vs. Stanford: How Trojans' Win Shakes Up CFB Rankings

No. 14 USC went on the road to take on in-state rival No. 13 Stanford on Saturday, and a 13-10 victory was the end result of an exciting, drama-filled, mishap-heavy, defensive battle. Rest assured, the CFB rankings will be shaken up in a big way following this clash of California juggernauts.

The Trojans move to 2-0 on the year, and earning a big road win in Stanford should weigh heavily with the voters—especially taking this statistic from SportsCenter into consideration:

Not only did USC prove it can win in a hostile environment, but it also proved it can win in multiple fashions. During the team's 52-13 victory against Fresno State in Week 1, it used offensive firepower to bulldoze its way to a win with 701 yards of offense.

On Saturday, against a stout Stanford defense, the Trojans only amassed 291 yards of offense, but their defense stepped up in a big way. Despite allowing 413 yards to Kevin Hogan and Co., the team gave up a total of just 10 points.

Bleacher Report tweeted the defense's biggest play of the game:

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted an impressive stat line and his take:

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted yet another telling statistic:

If USC's defense wasn't enough to admire, kicker Andre Heidari appeared to have ice water flowing through his veins, nailing a 53-yard field goal with just 2:30 remaining to give USC the lead for good.

This is a very well-rounded team.

The strength of victory should propel the Trojans up the standings prior to Week 3 should a top-12 team falter on Saturday evening. UCLA didn't look very impressive in Week 1, and if the Bruins don't fare better against Memphis, they could slide below USC—even with a win.

Assuming UCLA doesn't earn a decisive victory, the Trojans will at least move up to No. 11.

As for the Cardinal, it was a three-point home defeat. While the loss is a tough one to swallow, the team remained in contention until the bitter end against a strong opponent. Expect Stanford to slide in the standings—but just slightly. Due to the struggles of No. 19 Nebraska and No. 20 Kansas State on Saturday, there's no way Stanford drops out of the top 20.

On Saturday, the Trojans proved they are for real. With only three ranked teams remaining on their schedule—No. 17 Arizona State, No. 11 UCLA and No. 16 Notre Dame—it would not come as a surprise to see USC finish the season with an undefeated record. If that's the case, the team will warrant a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

USC's win over Stanford applies plenty of pressure on the nation's top teams. The Trojans proved they can compete with the FBS elite—now everyone else must prove the same.

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