NCAA Football News

Predicting the Winner of Each College Football Conference After Week 5

Well, September is officially behind us, and we’re through a month of the college football season.

Every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision has had multiple opportunities to impress us, or, in some cases, make their teams long for the beginning of basketball practice.

Two coaches (Kansas’ Charlie Weis and SMU’s June Jones) have already departed, and the heat has been turned up on others, like Michigan’s Brady Hoke.

We might not know everything about college football (and we’ll find out plenty more this weekend), but now we can evaluate teams at least a little better than we could before.

So this is an excellent opportunity to project the winners of every FBS conference. Projections are based on performance thus far, schedules and observations made over the course of September.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: Dawgs Offense Faces Huge Dilemma

No matter how you slice it, it's hard to be overwhelmed with the fruits of Georgia's labors in the passing game this season.  Though the prolonged absence of key playmaking receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley has hurt, it's still difficult for some to reconcile the general mediocrity of the Bulldogs' aerial assault.

Senior quarterback Hutson Mason is completing 69 percent of his passes—a perfectly respectable number—but through four games, he's thrown for a meager 566 yards.  And his two-interception performance against Tennessee has some calling for a change.

A change may in fact be necessary for the quarterback position in Athens, but it may not necessarily be regarding personnel.  As it stands, the huge dilemma the Dawgs offense now faces is more philosophical.

 

Recognizing Strengths

It should be noted, perhaps first and foremost, that Georgia's offense is not broken.  For every fan clamoring for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's head, there are a handful of defenses praising his unit's execution. 

The fact that Georgia is averaging over 45 points per game through four contests—all of which have come against FBS opposition and two of which came against ranked foes—is overlooked all too often.  And ironically, fans are quick to laud junior running back Todd Gurley as a Heisman Trophy candidate and demand that he be fed while failing to recognize that his workload will decrease efforts in the passing game.

And to both of those ends—Georgia's ability to score and run the ball effectively—it should be hard to question what Bobo is doing with his personnel.  After all, Georgia ranks eighth in the nation in scoring thanks to a ground attack that is also in the top 10.

To date, Georgia has recognized its strength, relied upon it and (for the most part) won football games.  Sure, the South Carolina loss was bitterly disappointing, and perhaps play-calling during that contest was situationally bizarre, but was that loss squarely on the shoulders of Bobo and Mason?  Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt didn't think so.

"They ought to be raking me over the coals," Pruitt told Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the loss to South Carolina.  "You score 35 points, you're supposed to win."

 

What Could Come

As long as Georgia does score at least 35 points—something the Bulldogs have done in every game this year—victory will be expected.  But at some point, Georgia's impressive ground attack is going to meet its match.  It's just not feasible for this team to average seven yards per carry throughout the entire season.

The question when that time comes will be, how will Georgia's offense respond?  The question right now is, how does Georgia prepare for that day?

On paper, Vanderbilt is a fairly innocuous opponent.  Sure, the Commodores upset an injury-riddled Georgia team last year, but there's no tangible reasoning that would suggest Vandy keeps this game too close. 

And that's where the dilemma sets in.  Against Vanderbilt, Georgia will have two options on offense—both of which will likely yield a lopsided victory for the Dawgs.  Bobo could continue to rely on Gurley and a host of capable running backs to wear the Commodores down into submission.  Or he could place an emphasis on developing the passing game.

On one hand, why would he dilute a winning formula?  On the other, shouldn't this team prepare for a scenario in which a passing game is necessary to garner victory?

Ultimately, the latter seems the more viable solution—at least for this game against an outmatched opponent.  Putting an emphasis on the passing attack may irk fans, but it will also give Mason and his receivers (potentially even Mitchell and Scott-Wesley) a chance to stretch the field in a relatively low-risk environment.  Further, such a game plan minimizes injury risk to the team's greatest asset, Gurley.

If things along these lines go well against Vanderbilt, fans and players alike will have more confidence heading into road showdowns with Missouri and Arkansas.  If the emphasis on moving the ball through the air doesn't pan out, then the team is back at square one—relying on a stable of running backs.

But don't forget that square one has been pretty impressive this season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Mississippi State Football Finally for Real in 2014?

Flash in the pan or staying power?

That will be what's on the line on Saturday afternoon in Starkville, Mississippi, for the No. 12 Mississippi State Bulldogs, who host the No. 6 Texas A&M Bulldogs in one of three enormous Week 6 SEC West games.

After a 34-29 upset of LSU two weeks ago, this is the game that can solidify the Bulldogs not only as a competitive team in the nation's toughest division but a contender for the division title.

They'll prove it on Saturday afternoon against the Aggies.

Cracks emerged last weekend for Texas A&M in the overtime win over Arkansas, particularly in its rush defense, which gave 285 yards on the ground to the potent Hogs rushing attack.

Sure, cornerback Deshazor Everett was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week with 16 tackles, but when a corner plays that much of a factor in the running game, it isn't a good thing. A&M's linebackers were caught out of position often and missed several tackles, which was a problem that plagued the Aggies last season.

While it looks much different, Mississippi State can exploit Texas A&M's defense in a similar way that Arkansas did. Even without center Dillon Day—who was suspended this week for stomping on two LSU players last week—the Bulldog offensive line is fast, physical and is a big reason why Mississippi State's multidimensional rushing attack is so successful.

Running back Josh Robinson is third in the SEC in rushing yards per game (121.25), and quarterback Dak Prescott leads all SEC quarterbacks with 94.5 rushing yards per game.

"You’ve got a completely different attack," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said in quotes emailed by the university. "Spread attacks get lumped into the same group and that’s not necessarily the case. There’s no doubt these guys like to run the ball from this attack. The quarterback is part of the run game."

That offense will replicate the success that Arkansas had last week and will force Texas A&M into a shootout.

This time, though, quarterback Kenny Hill won't be able to keep up.

Lighting up South Carolina is nice. Doing the same in a big win over Arkansas is, too. Neither of those defenses come anywhere close to comparing to the one Mississippi State will trot out at Davis-Wade Stadium on Saturday.

The defensive line rotates up to nine or 10 players for a full four quarters, generates relentless pressure and the back end of that defense, while statistically not up to par (it's skewed by one bad performance), is loaded with talented cornerbacks like Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun.

"Jamerson is a real speed player for us," Mullen said during last week's teleconference. "Where [former Bulldogs] Johnthan [Banks] and [Darius] Slay also had some size. I think he's up there with those guys as that type of player. He's still improving, and there are some things he can get better at, but he certainly has the talent to play at the next level."

Everything is coming together for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have a dynamic, veteran-laden offense combined with a defense that's loaded with depth and big-game experience.

This not only will help the Bulldogs top the Aggies in a game in which Mississippi State has gone from a slight home underdog to a 2.5-point favorite, according to OddsShark.com, but will help them stay in the mix for the SEC West title.

Does that mean the Bulldogs will win it?

It'll still be an uphill battle. A road trip to Alabama in mid-November will be a tall order, and they'll have to stay hot next week when the defending SEC champion Auburn Tigers roll into town.

They already have played a big role in who will win the division with their road win in Death Valley two weeks ago and will repeat the feat with a big win over Texas A&M on Saturday.

The LSU game was no fluke.

Mississippi State has staying power, and the team will prove it Saturday afternoon in Starkville.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State Football: 'Noles Unfazed by Latest Rankings Changes

The Florida State football team has opened 4-0 and has remained No. 1 in the AP poll but dropped to No. 2 in the coaches poll.

Still, coach Jimbo Fisher and the players have chosen to ignore the rankings and the changes.

"We can't control the polls," Fisher said. "All we have to do is keep winning. If we keep winning and doing what we do, we'll be fine."

One starter, tailback Karlos Williams, said Monday night that he didn't even know about the drop in the coaches poll until the topic was brought up by a reporter.

"It's about playing football," Williams said. "It's about wins and losses. We don't pay attention to it. It's called clutter."

Fisher loves to use the word "clutter" to describe what he considers unnecessary chatter about the program. He prefers to focus on improving his team and the program while preparing for Saturday's opponent.

FSU has been able to survive a challenging first month of the season, which has included "clutter" from the suspensions of wide receiver Jesus "Bobo" Wilson for the season opener and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston for the Clemson game.

The Seminoles' 4-0 start has extended FSU's winning streak to 20 games. But a year after winning 12 of 14 games by 30 or more points, FSU escaped with a six-point win over Oklahoma State at Arlington, Texas, held off Clemson for a six-point overtime win and trailed 24-7 at North Carolina State before rallying to win 56-41.

FSU has won all three of its games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams while short-handed. Along with the suspensions of Wilson and Winston, three key Seminoles—defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (concussion), defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample (torn pectoral) and tailback Mario Pender (concussion)—missed the NC State game with injuries. Lawrence-Stample is out for the season.

Players feel like their mettle should be rewarded. Instead, it's been met by doubt.

"I don't have no doubts about Florida State," Williams said.

Some voters, however, do have doubts. Voters like style points, and FSU hasn't been winning like the 2013 team. FSU's win over the Wolfpack required a second-half rally, and despite putting up 535 total offensive yards and eight touchdowns, voters have adjusted their ballots.

FSU received 26 first-place votes in the coaches poll, a drop from the 36 first-place votes from the Sept. 21 poll. The Seminoles are still winning, but they are lacking when it comes to style points, a measure that is intangible but also clearly essential to voters.

"People can put us at 25; I really don't care," safety Tyler Hunter said. "We're still undefeated. We have to go out this week and play the game."

The polls don't hold quite the weight they once did. The BCS standings are now a thing of the past, and the four teams that earn spots in the College Football Playoff will be picked by a selection committee following the conference championship games on Dec. 7. The committee's first picks will be released on Oct. 28.

Up next for FSU is a home game with Wake Forest and then a road trip to Syracuse on Oct. 11. A potential top-10 showdown with Notre Dame (4-0) on Oct. 18 in Tallahassee, Florida, looms—a game that could feature two unbeaten teams that will have a tremendous impact on the national championship picture.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 6 Schedule: TV and Live Stream Info for Every Game

With conference games starting in full swing, Week 6 of the college football season will be the first chance for many top teams to truly prove themselves.

Saturday features six games between ranked teams, including four between squads in the Top 15. Obviously, there will be a lot of shake-up in the polls Sunday no matter what happens.

Just as importantly, the top teams looking to show they deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff will have to come through with strong performances this weekend.

Here is a guide to help you watch every game either on television or online.

Schedule courtesy of ESPN.comFor games without national or regional coverage on a major network, check local listings. 

 

Live Stream Info

Many of the games are also available online at one of these locations, although some need subscriptions:

ESPN: WatchESPN

SEC: CBSSports.com

Fox: Fox Sports Go

BTN: BTN2Go.com

Pac-12: Pac-12.com

ABC: ABC Live

CBS: CBSSports.com

NBC:NBC Live Extra 

 

Top Games to Watch

No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss

Ole Miss has not fared well against Alabama in recent memory, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:

However, this time can be different. Safety Cody Prewitt explained it well, via Brandon Speck of FoxSports.com:

We understand that we haven't played a team that's going to be as good as Bama. But we don't really think Bama is as good as they have been. And we're better than we have been. We're looking forward to getting to the game plan and really nailing down all the tweaks and stuff that we're going to have to put into Bama.

This was not his way of taking a shot at Alabama or creating bulletin-board material, but it is true that this is Ole Miss' best chance at knocking off the Tide.

The Rebels have been great on defense this season, holding opponents to just 8.5 points per game to rank third in the nation. With senior quarterback Bo Wallace spreading the ball around, he has a chance to attack the Alabama defense in ways few others have done in the past.

The Tide allowed 21 points to a struggling Florida offense, so it's clear this unit can be beaten.

Still, the game will likely come down to turnovers. Wallace has already thrown six interceptions this year, something he has gotten away with so far but will not against an elite opponent. If he can take better care of the football, though, Ole Miss should be able to put points on the scoreboard.

With a relatively inexperienced offense trying to deal with the screaming fans in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, there is certainly potential for an upset. 

 

No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame

While there are a number of other big-time matchups, including various SEC battles and Oklahoma going on the road against TCU, the game between Stanford and Notre Dame could end up being the most important for the entire country.

It will be extremely difficult for the committee to decide which teams are the four best at the end of the season, mostly because it is tough to judge the conferences against one another. The good news is Notre Dame is here to bring everyone together.

With multiple opponents in the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the ACC on the schedule, the Irish can help judge how the conferences stack up against one another. For example, a dominant win over Stanford on Saturday followed by a blowout loss at the hands of Florida State in a few weeks could seriously hurt the Pac-12's standing, especially if the Cardinal play well in conference.

However, Stanford has a chance to carry its entire conference with a strong performance, and it can do that with the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. The unit was elite last season but lost many key players. Still, Dave Fleming of ESPN believes it is even better:

Everett Golson has played well this season, but he will face a serious challenge in the upcoming game. If he struggles, this could end up being an easy win for the Cardinal.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Football: What Ducks Must Do to Avoid Being Upset by Arizona, Again

42 -16.

The Oregon Ducks have had to live with that final score in their heads for the past 313 days.

In order to avoid another upset at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats, the Ducks must do a better job of protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota, containing Arizona’s potent offense and winning the turnover battle.

The Ducks lost to Arizona last year in Tuscon for a plethora of reasons. While it’s obvious that Oregon was still torn up about a loss against Stanford two weeks prior and it’s easy to blame Mariota’s sprained MCL, those issues still should have been easy enough to overcome against a less-talented Arizona team.

However, Oregon was simply manhandled on both sides of the ball by the Wildcats. The Ducks quit on the game and didn’t even bother competing in the second half.

Let’s examine what the Ducks need to do better against Arizona this time around in order to keep their undefeated season alive.

 

Protect Marcus Mariota

Despite the fact that Marcus Mariota passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats last year, it was one of the worst performances of his Oregon career. Through 10 games last season, Mariota had yet to throw an interception; however, against Arizona he threw two picks. In fact, up until last year’s matchup against Arizona, Mariota had only thrown six interceptions as Oregon’s quarterback.

"It hurts," Mariota said of the loss at the time, according to The Associated Press. "I haven't been blown out like this in my life."

Of course, Mariota was playing on a sprained MCL, limiting his ability to make plays outside of the pocket. In order to avoid another upset to Arizona, Mariota is going to have to be protected by Oregon’s offensive line, something that didn’t happen in Oregon’s last game against Washington State.

We know Oregon’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries. It appears as though the Ducks will start the same front five as they did against the Cougars 12 days ago, which is cause for concern. The Ducks allowed Mariota to be sacked seven times on the night and committed numerous penalties along the way.

The Ducks need for Mariota to be at his best against a hungry Arizona team that will be looking to pounce on Oregon’s supposed weakness. The goal for the offensive line shouldn’t be to prevent Arizona’s aggressiveness, it should be to keep Mariota upright and give him enough time to make plays with both his arm and his legs, something he was not able to do last year against the Wildcats.

As long as Mariota is able to escape the pocket and make plays down the field, the Ducks should be able to take down Arizona and make a statement along the way.

 

Contain Arizona’s Offense

While the Ducks actually out-gained Arizona last year 506-482, the Wildcats ran all over Oregon’s defense and controlled the time of possession. Yes, time of possession doesn’t matter to the Ducks; however, it was a factor as the Wildcats continually ran for first downs and didn’t give the Ducks an opportunity to launch a comeback.

Running back Ka’Deem Carey, now with the NFL’s Chicago Bears, gained 206 yards on 43 carries and scored four touchdowns. In total, the Wildcats ran for 308 yards against the Ducks. Oregon couldn’t contain the run game, and it cost them a shot at the Pac-12 conference title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl.

This year, the Wildcats offense has turned into an aerial attack akin to Washington State’s “Air Raid” offense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has already attempted 175 passes this season, converting 111 of them for 1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns. While the running game is still in good hands with freshman Nick Wilson, who has gained 482 yards on 77 carries and scored four touchdowns, Arizona’s offense has lived and died by the pass this season.

Arizona offense is ranked No. 6 in the NCAA in terms of total offense. The Wildcats have gained 2,375 yards in four games this season—1,463 passing and 912 on the ground.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense is ranked No. 95 in the NCAA in terms of total defense, having yielded 1,744 yards this season. The Ducks have given up 1,261 yards through the air, which ranks No. 119 in the NCAA.

In order for the Ducks to avoid another loss to Arizona, Oregon’s defense is going to need to limit Arizona’s passing yards and force the Wildcats to make big plays on third downs, something they did very well against the Ducks last season when they converted 11 of 16 on third down.

What’s the solution to containing Arizona’s wildly successful passing game? Get pressure on the freshman quarterback Solomon and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. Oregon’s secondary, though they’ve struggled as a unit so far this season, has two of the best playmakers in the Pac-12 in cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and safety Erick Dargan.

If Oregon is able to contain Arizona’s passing attack, the Ducks should be able to come away with a solid conference victory. Of course, it also would help to get the ball back to Marcus Mariota as much as possible. In other words, the Ducks defense needs to force some turnovers.

 

Win the Turnover Battle

Oregon rarely loses the turnover battle, especially with Marcus Mariota under center. However, against the Wildcats last season, the Ducks committed three turnovers, two of which were interceptions by Mariota, and the Ducks defense failed to force a turnover. You’re not going to win many college football games when you’re minus-three in the turnover battle. 

If the Ducks are to defeat the Wildcats on Thursday night, they’re going to need to have a positive turnover margin.

We know Mariota is going to protect the football. The Ducks junior quarterback has only thrown 10 interceptions on 818 pass attempt in his college career. Oregon’s offense has only committed one turnover so far this season, which ranks first in college football.

That means that, unless something out of the ordinary happens, it will be on the Ducks defense to force the issue and take the ball away from Arizona’s pass-happy offense.

If the Ducks can win the turnover battle, they will beat Arizona and avenge their loss to the Wildcats last season.

The Ducks will be ready to go come Thursday night. While they may not talk about the R-word (revenge), they’ll certainly be thinking about it before kickoff. This isn’t just about grabbing another conference win and moving on to next week’s game against UCLA. This game means something more. It is head coach Mark Helfrich’s first opportunity to avenge a loss. It’s bigger than just another Pac-12 game.

Plus, the Ducks will be styling in their new breast cancer awareness uniforms.

Is there a better way to exact revenge than to do it while wearing pink duds for a good cause?

 

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Wolverines vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Complete Game Preview

Michigan (2-3) desperately needs a victory to stop a slide that began last November. The team’s free fall has put coach Brady Hoke's future in doubt.

But problems on the field were dwarfed by a media firestorm that erupted regarding the handling of quarterback Shane Morris.

Morris was the target of a vicious hit versus Minnesota and had to lean on an offensive lineman to stay upright before returning to the huddle. The television commentators and many in the stadium thought that Morris suffered a concussion.

Hoke has faced numerous questions about whether he should have pulled Morris from the game. Michigan’s poor game performance and negative publicity in the wake of Morris' injury have put the program under intense national scrutiny.

From the University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes: "Michigan faces its first conference road game of the season this week at Rutgers. The game is the first meeting between the two oldest non-Ivy League football programs in the country. Rutgers fielded its first team in 1869, and Michigan first competed in 1879."


Date: Saturday, October 4, 2014

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Place: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454), Piscataway, New Jersey

Series vs. Rutgers: First meeting ever

Television: BTN

Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)

Spread: Rutgers by 3.5 via Odds Shark

Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker

Begin Slideshow

College Football Coaches Have Closed the Gap on Their NFL Counterparts

Not so long ago, conventional wisdom dictated that college football coaches couldn’t compare to those who guided teams in the NFL. Anyone with a coaching resume that was assembled in the pros, the thinking went, was way ahead of the guys who earned their living on college campuses.

But the dismissal of Charlie Weis this week at Kansas is a timely reminder that simply isn’t so.

Weis, despite being Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator for three Super Bowl-winning teams in New England, also failed at Notre Dame before getting his exit papers from the Jayhawks.

He joins a list of notable former NFL coaches who didn’t find winning easier at the college level, including Mike Sherman, Bill Callahan, Dave Wannstedt, Chan Gailey, Bobby Ross, Jerry Glanville and, of course, Lane Kiffin. But more on them later.

In the meantime, I’m a big believer that winning at the college level today takes every bit as much blood, sweat and tears as the NFL requires, even if the College Football Playoff doesn't have the same magical sound as Super Bowl.

Why? Well...

Recruiting for blue-chip talent against the entire nation is much tougher than getting exclusive rights to a player via exercising a draft pick.

Reducing scholarships has leveled the playing field some in college, but the goal of parity is a central part of the NFL business plan.

The NCAA, with all of its regulations, is a tougher watchdog than Roger Goodell will ever be.

The college game is more creative these days, as the exploding point totals demonstrate.

And an NFL team can usually reach the playoffs with a 10-6 record and have a shot at the Lombardi Trophy, but two losses in college sends national championship hopes straight to the graveyard.

College chancellors certainly have recognized the value of men who can take their football programs to the top, especially with some studies, as detailed by Elise Young of Inside Higher Ed, finding that gridiron victories translate to increased alumni donations and can even boost a school’s academic reputation.

That is part of why the money—and the accompanying pressure—is getting bigger every year in the college game. When USA Today compiled college football coaches’ salaries for the first time in 2006, it found 42 were earning $1 million or more, up from just five in 1999. In 2013, the total-compensation packages for nearly 90 had crossed the million-dollar threshold.

NFL coaches still get paid more than their collegiate counterparts, but the gap appears to be narrowing. And two of the highest-paid NFL coaches are making hefty salaries in part because of the reputations they made at the collegiate level.

Former USC coach Pete Carroll, according to CoachesHotSeat.com, is tied for the highest NFL salary with $8 million in Seattle. Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is tied for fourth on the same list, earning $7 million in Philadelphia.

At the college level, Nick Saban leads the way with Alabama agreeing last June to pay him $6.9 million a year for the next eight seasons.

Texas, according to a book written by Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network, was willing to hand Saban a $100 million deal to jump to the Longhorns.

Unable to land Saban, Texas found another way to spend big. It gave Charlie Strong $5 million a year to coach plus another $4.375 million in 2014 to buy out his Louisville contract, for a whopping $9.375 million deal that USA Today says is the largest one-year amount ever paid to a coach at a public university.

With money like that to spend, Texas could have gone after the NFL’s biggest coaching names, but the Longhorns’ decision-makers didn’t. And if you believe that money talks, in this case it shouted that sticking with a coach who had proven ability with college-age players was the wisest course.

An overwhelming majority of colleges agree. Look through USA Today’s most recent salary survey of college coaches, from 2013, and there isn't one whose first head coaching job was in the NFL until No. 25, Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin was fired during the 2013 season, and the year before he became the first coach in 48 years to have a team voted No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll only to have it finish unranked, according to RealClearSports.com.

The belief that college coaches couldn’t handle the rigors of the NFL surged when Steve Spurrier resigned from the Washington Redskins with a 12-20 record in 2003. He had been the league’s highest-paid coach, with a five-year, $25 million deal. But owner Daniel Snyder’s team hasn’t exactly wowed the league since then.

Adding fuel to the fire later was Saban’s failure in Miami, where he was doomed when the Dolphins decided to trade for Daunte Culpepper instead of signing Drew Brees as a free agent.

But what about those former NFL coaches who were mentioned up top, the ones who found that big wins don’t come easily in the college ranks?

Mike Sherman once was at the helm of the Green Bay Packers but went only 25-25 at Texas A&M.

Bill Callahan, a former Oakland Raiders coach, got the axe at Nebraska in 2007 after going 0-7 against top-10 opponents.

Dave Wannstedt, who had 11 total years as an NFL coach in Chicago and Miami, resigned under pressure at Pitt in 2007, after failing to get the Panthers into a marquee bowl game in six seasons.

Chan Gailey, once the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was dumped at Georgia Tech in 2007 after losing six straight.

Bobby Ross took the San Diego Chargers to a Super Bowl appearance, but his final coaching job ended badly in 2007 after a 9-25 run at Army.

And what about Jerry Glanville, forever famous for telling an errant ref that NFL stands for “Not for long” while coaching the Houston Oilers? He too was not around for long at Portland State, where he went 9-24 before quitting in 2009.

Try telling one of those guys that the college game is easy.

 

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ted's Takes: The Pac-12's New Superstar QB, Arizona-Oregon Prediction and More

The producer's voice was strong: "We need to record billboards." Give me just a minute. Then came the next surge: "We need to rehearse." Hang on. Let me watch this play. "Come on. We have to go. Now."

Problem was, every time I looked at my iPad, Jared Goff was making a terrific throw, leading Cal down the stretch of a crazy, entertaining game against Colorado.

I was in Salt Lake City, and the Washington State-Utah game was an hour away. Goff delivered a perfect strike to Chris Harper with two minutes, 29 seconds remaining, staking Cal to a 49-42 lead. Defense is still very much a work in progress for the Bears, so before I could finish recording, Colorado had pushed the game into overtime.

My next glance at the tablet saw Goff rip a post throw to Bryce Treggs for a first overtime score. Here was Goff, passing with touch and accuracy and taking the deep shot. He was making all the throws required of a top-tier quarterback. And his passing was quality: 458 yards and seven touchdowns on just 24 completions. Any fan who remembers football when passes were routinely forward rather than sideways loves this Cal attack.

In the first half, Goff struggled to find a rhythm. He was intercepted on his first attempt and ended the half having completed just eight of 16 passes. But he turned his game, and the Bears' fortunes with it, around in the second half.

Cal's 59-56 win was significant. On the heels of a fourth-quarter meltdown in Arizona, the Bears snapped a 15-game conference losing streak. Cal fans will be teased by the temptation of saying, "If we could have defended a Hail Mary, we would be undefeated." After going 1-11 in 2013, that dreaming is allowed.

Sure, the Bears haven't been tested against a top-tier conference team. They haven't posted a signature win in the Sonny Dykes era. But they have a blossoming quarterback in a conference that demands quality play at that position. Jared Goff gives Cal what it most needs: hope.

 

Another Emerging QB

In a midweek conversation, I asked Washington State coach Mike Leach what trait he felt quarterback Connor Halliday had most improved over their three years together in Pullman. Drawing on the standard coach speak, Leach talked about finding checkdown receivers, reading progressions and avoiding negative plays. Then, as an afterthought, he talked about Halliday's maturation. He explained that Halliday no longer shows his frustration on the field, now playing with the composure needed by a team learning how to win.

Utah punched Washington State in the first quarter with a pick-six, a punt return for a score and a 76-yard touchdown run. Trailing 21-0 in rain and whipping wind on the road, the Cougars could hardly have been blamed if they had been looking toward next week.

Any thought of that ended early in the third quarter. I looked at the Cougars bench as they forced a Utes punt. Their players were engaged, boosting each other's efforts and exuding a belief they were still in the game. I believe in body language and mentioned thus on the Pac-12 Networks telecast.

Little did I think that scene would change what felt inevitable. Utah led 24-7, and Halliday's first half had been erratic. Ninety minutes later, the Cougars had rallied for a 28-27 win, as impressive a conference win as Leach has enjoyed in Pullman (yes, I include last year's USC victory.)

This was a great credit to Leach. He called a first-quarter timeout after Utah took the 21-0 lead. The coach gathered all the Cougars at midfield and delivered a talk he said was "intended to avoid" overreactions. Couple that with an obvious halftime regrouping, and the second half was a "big step forward" for Washington State.

Leach said that step was about his defense, a group that smothered Utah's Travis Wilson most of the night. But I felt this was as much about Halliday. He played a superb final 30 minutes, displaying the poise Leach had talked about three days earlier. Sophomore River Cracraft was the third-down target, Halliday finding him for six first-down conversions.

The turning point, though, was pure Leach. Down 27-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars faced 4th-and-14 from the Utah 20. This was Leach. No field goal. He went for it all. Halliday stood in the pocket and ripped a shot to Dom Williams in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. The next possession, Halliday threw a slant to Vince Mayle that, after a Utes defensive back slipped, became an 81-yard score. It gave the Cougars a win that could resonate all year.

Halliday was 22-27 in the second half for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Often, his passing seems to be more about quantity, but this was sheer quality. He could end his career as only the second Pac-12 quarterback to throw 100 touchdown passes, joining former USC signal-caller Matt Barkley.

But this night was about Leach. His persona clearly emerged through his team. It played without fear and was rewarded. Can it continue?

 

Stanford-Washington takeaway

Stanford won another Cardinal-type game. Lacking red-zone punch, the Cardinal survived their miscues to beat Washington. Kevin Hogan used his legs, as effective a threat as his arm this year, to engineer the game-winning drive.

But a bigger takeaway was Washington's offense being exposed. Much should be made of Chris Petersen's fake-punt call, but the Huskies' season will be defined by Cyler Miles, rather than a single ill-timed decision.

Washington averaged less than three yards per play. Its offensive line couldn't protect, and Miles didn't handle the pressure.

The Huskies totaled just 179 yards. Washington has to answer a fundamental question: Was this a result of its offense? If Stanford's defensive front seven is that good, then the Cardinal should still factor in the conference and national races.

 

Upset watch

Can Arizona repeat its stunning upset of Oregon from last November? The Wildcats' best hope would be to get Ka'deem Carey back from the Chicago Bears. Oregon's lack of resilience along the defensive front was never more exposed than by Carey on a wet and cool afternoon at Arizona Stadium.

Of his 206 rushing yards that day, 84 came after initial contact (my count after tape study of that game). Oregon could barely slow, let alone stop, Carey with the first defensive hit. So the Wildcats kept feeding him the ball, and the Ducks were thoroughly pounded into defeat.

Now, Carey is in the NFL, Marcus Mariota is healthy (a knee injury suffered two weeks earlier against Stanford hampered him), and Oregon has been stouter along the defensive line. The difference in those elements should lead to a different outcome this week.

 

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

The Tennessee Volunteers turned in an impressive performance in Athens against the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, and it's clear that the team is rapidly improving with each game. That progress will need to continue if head coach Butch Jones wants his team to escape the month of October with a 2-2 or better record.

Last year's contest against Georgia in Knoxville was close, but the Bulldogs were significantly banged up and missing several key players, including the best running back in the country in Todd Gurley.

This year, however, Tennessee went toe-to-toe with a relatively healthy Georgia team on the road, and were it not for a brief injury to Justin Worley and a few untimely fumbles, it may have pulled off a major upset victory.

Although the Vols didn't leave with a win, the team can build on the performance starting this Saturday at home against the Florida Gators. 

Here's a game-by-game analysis of how Tennessee will fare facing off against its next four opponents in October.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for Month of October

The month of October is a big one for Jim Mora and the No. 8 UCLA Bruins. 

A home matchup versus a stingy Utah team precedes a monumental clash against the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl. Should the Bruins and Ducks remain undefeated, it could be potentially the biggest game of the college football season to date.

UCLA will then take to the road—facing a suddenly dangerous Cal team and an improving Colorado squad.

This piece will attempt to make game-by-game predictions for the upcoming quartet of contests.

Begin Slideshow

Updated Rankings of the Top 10 2015 Quarterback Recruits

The 2015 quarterback class is packed with talented prospects and future college stars. A strong crop of California passers places this group among the strongest we've seen this decade.

Through one month of their senior seasons, we've been able to develop a stronger sense of how these playmakers are trending in terms of development. After extensive film review and previous discussions with many of the top recruits, here's how we rank the top 10 quarterbacks in this class.

We place a premium on potential and promise, favoring refined fundamentals over high school statistics.

Begin Slideshow

Why Tennessee Will Stop Its Nine-Year Losing Streak to Florida

Tennessee is going to beat Florida on Saturday.

Finally.

The last time that actually happened—not just boasted about by optimistic Volunteers fans—was in 2004. That season, UT kicker James Wilhoit booted a 50-yard field goal to beat UF 30-28 in Neyland Stadium after missing an extra point.

To put into perspective how long it's been, that was three years before the first iPhone hit the shelves. Facebook had been online for seven months. George W. Bush had not yet been re-elected for his second term as President. Ron Zook and Phillip Fulmer still roamed the sidelines.

It was a long time ago.

But all of that suffering for UT is about to end. Head coach Butch Jones' group of fresh-faced Vols are battle-tested, playing well, and after road games against Oklahoma and Georgia, are on the brink of pulling off something significant.

Even though the Gators aren't the powerhouse they traditionally are, this would definitely qualify.

Everything appears aligned for the Vols to end the streak. The Vols just have to go out and make it happen.

Here are the top reasons why they will.

 

The Vols Are Ready to Win Now

This is the best chance for UT to get a win over a marquee program this season.

The Vols may be young, having played 22 true freshmen already, but they are talented and certainly not timid. They expect to win and are no longer shackled by shock when they're actually in a game with the chance to win late.

Now, they've just got to learn to close the deal.

UT's renewed swagger was evident in a Georgia game where the Vols got ahead 10-0, fell behind and then fought back once quarterback Justin Worley returned from an injured elbow.

Just the way the Vols handled themselves on the field said so much about how far the program has come, such as freshman running back Jalen Hurd daring a Georgia defensive back to blitz in his direction.

They surged back into the game but made a pivotal mistake when Hurd's fourth-quarter fumble was recovered by Georgia defensive lineman Josh Dawson for a touchdown.

After that, UT simply ran out of time.

Moral victories stink, but the Vols' performance made a lasting impression on Georgia coach Mark Richt.

That word "time" is becoming an ugly one in Knoxville, especially for an impatient coach and a fanbase frustrated by close losses. But it's still true.

Jones told the media against on Monday, according to Knoxville's WVLT:

"We're going to be a good football program and we're going to win a lot of games around here. The only variable is time, but we're going to do it right and we're making progress. Now we have to make progress this week versus an extremely talented football team."

The time may not be right for UT to completely turn around its fortunes, but Saturday will be the start.

One of the advantages to being extremely young is that the historical hangover from continually losing to the Gators no longer exists. Florida has lost its psychological edge.

UT matches up very well against a struggling UF offense devoid of a superstar. While the Gators have playmakers on defense, the Vols already have faced two comparable front sevens in Georgia and Oklahoma and improved dramatically.

Despite the UT-UF game not getting a favorable television slot and taking a back seat to several higher-profile SEC games this weekend, this rivalry is still a huge deal to the Vols.

Only one game will matter inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

It's the biggest game of Tennessee's season and the biggest game of Jones' tenure so far, and UT is going to be ready—ready to win.

 

This Isn't Your Father's Florida

Back in 1990s and early 2000s, the cocky Gators routinely took to the newspapers to provide bulletin board material that fueled the rivalry.

Then, they went out and backed it up.

When struggling UF quarterback Jeff Driskel reportedly talked of "emptying the stadium" at Florida's press conference this week, according to Gainesville's 850 WRUF reporter Jeremy Rogers, it didn't ring the same way as the smack talk of old.

It felt kind of forced.

Florida may have prided itself on that once, but the stadium the Gators have been emptying most recently is their own.

Coach Will Muschamp's team is 10th in the league in total offense. Take away a season-opening 65-0 slaughter of Eastern Michigan, and they're even more average. The Gators amassed just 200 total yards in a loss to Alabama and needed overtime to beat Kentucky in Gainesville.

UF had five combined turnovers in those two games.

While new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's first season is going better than Brent Pease's last year, there are still numerous issues.

Star receiver Demarcus Robertson re-tweeted a tweet that was in favor of switching quarterbacks from Driskel, according to Alligator Army's Andy Hutchins.

While dual-threat freshman backup quarterback Treon Harris may eventually get the call, Roper backs his incumbent for now, according to a tweet from Inside The Gators reporter Landon Watnick:

UF may get things back on track this week, but it's been another rocky start to the season. The last time Driskel played in Neyland Stadium, he finished with a career day, so he will try to resurrect his career in a place that has been good to him before.

But neither of these teams is remotely close to the one it was in 2012, either.

Driskel's words were about as close to trash talk as it has gotten between the two teams this week. Despite the quiet, UT linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said you don't have to look too hard to know who the Vols are playing.

 

Worley Emerging as a Star

The importance of senior quarterback Worley to the Vols is now undeniable following last Saturday's heroic performance against Georgia.

Last year, Jones was searching for a spark when he made the poor decision to start Nathan Peterman in Worley's stead at Tennessee. What followed was one of the worst halves of football you'll ever see from a quarterback.

This year, UT hopes Peterman doesn't see the field unless it's mop-up duty.

Worley is the unequivocal leader of Tennessee, and the Vols' success is directly tied to his health. In the face of almost constant pressure, Worley has still thrived, completing 60 percent of his passes for 985 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

While several league quarterbacks have put up better numbers than Worley, nobody is a bigger catalyst for his team. He received a "game ball" from 247Sports' JC Shurburtt (subscription required) for his gutsy performance in the loss to Georgia.

That loss was frustrating, but it proved that Worley and the Vols could hang with high-scoring teams and score quickly if necessary. It marked another step forward for a program to go into a hostile environment as a 19-point underdog and take a top-15 team to the brink.

The next step for this young team is finishing a big victory, something that is attainable and even expected this weekend.

Then nine years of frustration can be put in the history books along with Florida's recent reign over the Vols.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics gathered from CFBStats.com.

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Shirt Company Creates T-Shirts to Lure One of the Harbaughs

Michigan shirt company Alternative Hero has had enough of Michigan Wolverines coach Brady Hoke. Not only do they want him fired, but they have already come up with his replacement.

Alternative Hero created a shirt that turned the Michigan logo into an endorsement of Harbaugh. Although San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is who many Michigan fans want to see leading the Wolverines, most fans would take his brother, John, on the sideline over Hoke, too.

The Wolverines are 2-3 on the season, so if things don't turn around quickly, this shirt could become very popular in Ann Arbor.

[Alternative Hero, h/t Darren Rovell]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can TCU End Oklahoma's National Championship Run?

The Oklahoma Sooners take on the TCU Horned Frogs, looking to keep pace in the ever competitive College Football Playoff conversation. The Horned Frogs will do all they can to not only spoil the Sooners party but build on their impressive 3-0 start. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the big game in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Will Oklahoma be able to hold off the explosive TCU Horned Frogs?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What's Wrong with Florida State's Defense?

ATHENS, GA. — You may have noticed that Florida State looks vulnerable on defense. You may have also noticed that the Seminoles switched bald-headed guys as defensive coordinators before this season. Charles Kelly replaced Jeremy Pruitt, who is a Nick Saban guy, which might explain why Pruitt doesn't have any hair left.    

The first four games of this season would explain why Kelly doesn't have any hair left. Pulled it all out watching a defense cripple itself with bad reads and bad plays.

Florida State was a bunch of marauders in 2013, allowing just 12.1 points per game, which was first in the nation. The Seminoles were a bunch of malingerers in the first half against North Carolina State on Saturday in a 56-41 escape. They lost edge discipline and missed tackles and botched assignments.

FSU is 66th nationally in points allowed (25.3 per game) after four games.

One plus one equals two, right? Pruitt is no longer there, thus the defense stinks, right?

I'm not so sure this is all about Pruitt leaving for Georgia. I'm not so sure this can be tied neatly around Kelly's neck as blame.

Pruitt was a significant loss for Florida State, no doubt. He did not allow the Seminoles to play with the light switch in their heads, turning off their considerable talent, then turning it on when threatened. He was a motivator.

Pruitt is a schemer, too. He could win the down prior to the ball being snapped. He could get hybrid defensive back Lamarcus Joyner loose on a blitz against just the right protection scheme and get a sack. Pruitt could sniff a rub route coming from the offense and have his nickel back pass off the slot receiver to the cornerback outside so the nickel does not get picked leaving a receiver open.

When Pruitt left for UGa in January, Kelly and Jimbo Fisher kept the same adjustment-heavy defense for 2014. The principles are the same: affect the quarterback, take away the middle of the field and be complex on the back end. The FSU defense, which is a simplified version of the adjustment-heavy scheme at Alabama, has an answer for every formation, every motion.

It does not seem to be working as well with a new maestro. The Seminoles gave up 31 to Oklahoma State and 41 to North Carolina State.

On the second play of the North Carolina State game, the Wolfpack had a freshman receiver run a route right at the FSU safety, fake right, then go deep for an easy touchdown toss. It was simply being asleep.

On a pass play from the FSU 8-yard line in the second quarter, State quarterback Jacoby Brissett slipped out of one tackle, then another, and threw a ridiculous touchdown pass. The ball went over the heads of three FSU defenders in the end zone.

North Carolina State beat up the 'Noles with pace and passion. FSU lost contain and allowed Brissett acres of opportunity to make plays.

Don't be so quick to blame it on Kelly. For now, blame it on the personnel upheaval at FSU. If it doesn't get better, then paint an X on top of Kelly's noggin.

 

Subtracting stars

Florida State really misses linebacker Telvin Smith. The NFL viewed him as merely a fifth-round draft pick, but he was so much more valuable than that to the Seminoles. Smith made sure the Noles were lined up in the right spots. He made sure there was edge discipline. Smith could see the offense's formation and not have to look to the sidelines; he knew what the defense needed to be in. He slid players into position; he played with fire.

Smith's replacement is Terrance Smith, who started 10 games in 2013, but the 'Noles are also working in a new guy, inside linebacker Reggie Northrup. Watch the tape of the North Carolina State game. The Seminoles linebackers were not nearly as productive as Telvin Smith was in 2013.

Think about Alabama when you think about the Mike linebacker Trey DePriest. He is only a so-so player, nothing like the inside backer before him, C.J. Mosley. DePriest does not change direction well, he does not play well in space, he does not run well. He is a thumper, and only OK at that.

But, man, does he know the Alabama scheme and the adjustments and how to get his guys lined up. DePriest did not play against West Virginia, and the Mountaineers went for 393 yards of offense. The Crimson Tide used newbie Reuben Foster at that spot to call signals and there were issues in passing off routes and who had what responsibilities against different formations. Alabama is a different defense with a veteran Mike linebacker.

"Florida State really misses the experience of Telvin Smith," said an NFC scout, who is not permitted to talk on the record to the media. "It is a complex system, and it takes time to learn when you are new to running it. They have played four games—one game against a nobody. If there are still problems after six games, then maybe you can criticize.

"But I am expecting them to play better. Charles Kelly is a good coach. This is not just about Jeremy leaving."

He's right. This is not all about Pruitt calling Georgia two days after the Seminoles won the title and him going to the SEC for the $850,000 salary, which was about a $350,000 pay increase according to ESPN.

Here are some things to consider before you bludgeon Kelly.

Think about the Seminoles this season playing without the best hybrid player in all of college football in 2013, Lamarcus Joyner. He was a corner, he was a safety, he was a nickel, he was a blitzer. He was the everywhere man.

The Seminoles have a player just like Joyner, just not quite as seasoned. Jalen Ramsey is going to be a better version of Joyner and he is bigger (6'1", 204 pounds). When he learns to regularly time up those blitzes like Joyner, look out. Last Saturday against North Carolina State, he came steaming around the corner, grabbed Brissett's elbow and forced a fumble and turnover.

The Seminoles were missing defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. and nose guard Nile Lawrence-Stample against the Wolfpack. Edwards was out for the game with a concussion. Stample is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

The 'Noles lost Smith, Joyner (second round), safety Terrence Brooks (third round) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (second round) to the draft.

 

No alibis for a powerhouse

But….Florida State is supposed to be the mirror of Alabama. Reload and dominate. The Seminoles, if they are a true national powerhouse, should be able to backfill with All-Americans when two players are out. Look at Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost three first-round picks off the 2011 national championship team's defense and came back and won the title the next season.

The 'Noles have plugged holes in the back end of the secondary. They may be better this year than 2013. They are deeper.

"There might not be a better back end in the country," said the NFC scout.

But what about the other players, the linebackers Smith and Northrup, the defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, linebacker Chris Casher? When do they arrive? I talked to Georgia players Monday night about Pruitt and asked if he was schemer or teacher. They had to pause because Pruitt can draw up plays, but he can also teach the game.

"He shows how he wants it done, gets right down in there with you," said Georgia nose tackle Mike Thornton. "He's a teacher all right, but then he can come in at halftime and without looking at notes can diagram the play they were hurting us with and make an adjustment. I guess he's a schemer, too."

So, are the next wave of Seminoles being coached up sufficiently? Are they in the right spots?

"After about six games, they begin to define themselves as players and you see more of what they are going to be this season," the scout said. "Even if you're recruiting well, it takes time."

Florida State's defense has behaved like those October thermometers in Florida. Hot then cold, then hot then cold. You saw it against Oklahoma State. You saw it against North Carolina State.

Florida State's showing on defense has made some so nervous they have dropped the 'Noles down to No. 4 in their Final Four, or dropped them altogether out of the playoffs. Jameis Winston can fix things against North Carolina State, but can he carry the load against Oklahoma or Oregon? He is going to need some help.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report. He has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Football: How Greg Mattison's Wolverines Defense Can Rebound

Greg Mattison doesn’t always “believe in stats a lot."

But the Michigan defensive coordinator has to believe that his Wolverines defense has to be better than it was during Saturday's 30-14 loss to Minnesota, when it was torn by running back David Cobb. 

While there may have been a few positive moments for the defense, namely a handful of second- and third-down stops, it’s difficult to overlook the 5'11", 229-pound Gophers senior who quietly destroyed Team 135 with 111 rushing yards in the first half, the most surrendered to any individual or team all season.

He finished with 183 (net), just 17 shy of his third 200-yard game in 2014. He did what he wanted to, when he wanted to do it. But Mattison disagrees with the notion that the Wolverines were “ran over.”

“I don’t think he ran over us, but he did better against us than we want anybody to do,” Mattison said. “He’s a very good running back. We already addressed that [“Lack of execution,” per LB Joe Bolden on Saturday] with our linebackers and our defense. We’ve got to play a lot more physical."

“That was the first time that I felt that we weren’t the leaders in being physical against that offense—it was guys not getting off blocks, it was guys punching…the things that we worked very hard on all camp. You know, just not being physical. I just didn’t feel we were as physical as we should be and have to be. We’re working on correcting that right now.”

Mattison’s high-powered defense was supposed to be one of the strengths of this year’s Wolverines. But hiccups continue to impede progress.

The secondary’s had woeful outings, but it somewhat rebounded Saturday versus Minnesota. Quarterback Mitch Leidner threw for a modest 167 yards and a touchdown, not an air show by any means, due in part to coverage from Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess, who each had probable touchdown-saving pass deflections in the first half.

Their efforts could have influenced the Gophers to run the ball more often, which shouldn’t have been an issue for a defense that had allowed just 1.83 yards per carry in the three previous games. Mattison admitted that things didn’t go as planned in that regard.

The D-line has shown glimpses of promise—particularly sophomore Willie Henry, a 6’3”, 293-pound defensive tackle who had a pick-six versus Utah—but overall, the defense has just 10 sacks on the year, good for No. 53 overall, per ESPN’s count.

Where, exactly, is the problem? Why’d the defense look so lethargic in its Big Ten opener?

“Total defense. Not just one position,” Mattison said firmly. “It was total defense…we take pride, and have all year, [we] take pride on ourselves being a very physical team on defense. I just don’t think we did as well as we should have there in that game.”

Despite the catastrophic loss, Mattison stands behind his players. He doesn’t feel as if they were “exposed” by the Gophers, who essentially did as they pleased over the weekend at The Big House.

“My confidence in our guys is as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “I haven’t lost one bit of confidence in this defense,” later adding that “Minnesota’s a good football team. You’ll see as they go forward. But we have to play at our very best each and every week. Not doing that doesn’t [make me] lose my confidence in these guys at all. Because I know they want to [improve] and they’ll work to do it.”

Can Michigan put Rutgers in a Rut?

Paul James, Rutgers’ leading rusher (363 yards, five touchdowns), suffered a season-ending ACL injury two weeks ago against Navy; it’s a major blow, of course, but the Scarlet Knights have Desmon Peoples ready to take over in the backfield.

At just 5’8” and 175 pounds, the sophomore running back is doing a respectable job of filling in for his predecessor, evidenced by his tuning up of Tulane this past weekend. His 21 carries for 83 yards and two catches for 50 yards helped his team cruise to a 31-6 victory.

Mattison said that he spent five hours Sunday night watching film of Rutgers. He realizes that Peoples, an emerging dual-threat, could be trouble this weekend in Piscataway.

“He’s quick,” Mattison said. “He’s a very good football player; he’s not as big, but he’s a very quick, hard-playing football player and very adequate…very good football player.”

 

How to stop Peoples:

Linebackers must contain, and Michigan can’t lose sight of him. He’s Rutgers’ Dennis Norfleet, minus a fraction of the speed. Peoples’ durability is a concern. He’s not very big, as Mattison mentioned, so it’s possible that the Wolverines may want to send an early message: Run, we dare you.

As a defensive coordinator, ruling the trenches is the name of the game. Players can’t get to the quarterback or make tackles for losses if they can’t penetrate the opposing O-line. Mattison said that Rutgers has a “very good offense” with a “seasoned” O-line, plus a “winner” at quarterback “who doesn’t get sacked” and “gets out of trouble.”

That quarterback is Gary Nova, a 6’2”, 220-pound senior who’s thrown for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns thus far.

 

How to stop Nova:

He’s not the most mobile guy, but he has a decent arm, evidenced by his nearly 11-yard average per attempt. Forcing him to throw the ball wouldn’t be a bad idea, but the defensive backs have to be in position. Backs turned to quarterbacks, and to the ball, has been a constant thorn in the secondary’s side.

Nova also has “very explosive wide receivers,” says Mattison, who is absolutely correct. Leonte Carroo, a 6’1”, 205-pound junior, is quickly becoming one of the most talked about wideouts in the country. His 475 yards have him at No. 14 in FBS, and his five touchdowns have him in the top 10.

If there’s one receiver capable of putting the Wolverines’ weaknesses on display, it’s Carroo, who gouged Tulane for 140 yard and three scores.

 

How to stop Carroo:

Carroo has the ideal frame to battle Michigan’s physical secondary. Jourdan Lewis, a sophomore corner, has shown the ability to run down plays from across the field. He may want to pack a pair of track spikes for the trip to Jersey.

Michigan probably won’t completely cap Carroo, but it’ll have to double- and triple-team him in order to avoid looking like Tulane.

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas vs. Baylor Complete Game Preview

The difficult road continues for the Texas Longhorns as they prepare to take on No. 7 Baylor Saturday afternoon.

Texas head coach Charlie Strong knew his team would not be favored against Baylor, but he seemed a little shocked to hear how large the spread was in favor of the Bears.

"What's the spread? A couple of touchdowns? Wow. They're something," Strong laughed. "But they deserve every bit of it."

The Longhorns are coming off a game where the defense shut out their opponent, but the team knows a shutout will not happen Saturday.

The pressure will be on the defense to limit the number of points Baylor puts up in order to keep the Longhorns in the game.

 

When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas

TV: ABC

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Last meeting: Dec. 7, 2013; Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Baylor 30, Texas 10

Opening spread: Baylor (-13), per OddsShark.com

Begin Slideshow

Steve Sarkisian Using More Trojans to Jump-Start the USC Offense

A bye week between No. 16 USC's loss at Boston College and win over Oregon State gave head coach Steve Sarkisian additional time to tinker with the Trojans offense.

More preparation time meant more Trojans involved in the game plan, which translated to more yards and more points.

Sarkisian said in the week leading up to USC's 35-10 rout of Oregon State that diversifying the offense was crucial after the Trojans' Week 2 and Week 3 struggles.

USC scored just 13 points with quarterback Cody Kessler completing passes to just four targets at Stanford, while Boston College limited the Trojans' rushing attack to 20 yards the following week. 

Sarkisian's plan to incorporate more players paid off. Nine different receivers caught passes from Kessler Saturday, while sophomore running back Justin Davis helped rejuvenate the run game with 82 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. 

"I love the fact we got Justin Davis more involved," Sarkisian said on his conference call Sunday. "I think that helped [redshirt junior running back Javorious "Buck" Allen]."

Indeed, with his backfield partner sharing carries, Allen shook off the frustration of a 31-yard effort at Boston College to gain 115 yards against Oregon State. 

"I've just got to be patient—it's going to come sometime," Davis described as his approach to breaking out despite a slow start to the 2014 season. 

As a freshman in 2013, Davis had games of 74, 96 and 122 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns before an ankle injury cut his season short. He was slow to get going through USC's first three games of this campaign, averaging 2.5 yards per carry against Fresno State and Stanford and just 1.67 yards per carry at Boston College. 

But after Saturday's breakthrough performance—which also included a receiving touchdown of 16 yards—Davis said he feels more comfortable.  

"Hopefully I never look back from here," he said. 

This week, Davis faces an Arizona State team against which he had a career night a year ago, rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He's regaining his stride at the right time. 

Sarkisian hopes Davis won't look back either. The head coach said his aim is for the two-pronged run game to remain a bedrock of the USC offense going forward. 

 

Tight Ends, Harris Factor into Passing Game   

As crucial as a multifaceted run game is to the USC offense, so too is a multidimensional look via the pass. 

"When the ball's getting spread around, we're much more difficult to defend," Sarkisian said. 

Kessler didn't just find nine different targets on Saturday night—he connected with eight the previous game and nine in Week 1. 

Different this time was that eight of the nine caught multiple passes, including a few Trojans whose role in the passing game was previously limited. 

Tight ends Bryce Dixon and Randall Telfer both had a pair of catches. Dixon's first was a diving grab of 31 yards on third down, vital to USC's first offensive scoring drive of the night. 

Sarkisian said calls for Dixon and Telfer were made in previous weeks, but "the coverage told us the ball shouldn't go there.

"We called similar stuff [against Oregon State] and the ball went their way, and they were able to make plays," he added.  

Freshman Ajene Harris also made some plays for the first time on the year, catching three passes for 30 yards. 

Harris was given his first real look at slot receiver, a position junior Nelson Agholor manned previously this season. Sarkisian made the decision to move Agholor to the outside, which opened the door for Harris. 

"Ajene showed up. What a huge third-down catch that was over the middle," Sarkisian said, adding with a laugh: "I wish he would have thrown that double-pass better." 

Harris took the ball on a reverse and heaved a pass to the end zone that just missed. But it was one of the few misfires on the night for a wide receiver who figures to have a growing role as the season develops. 

 

Walker Bolsters Offensive Line 

Both the run and pass games benefited from more Trojans working into the offensive line rotation as well. Senior Aundrey Walker made his presence known for the first time on the season, playing 28 snaps.

"Outlook for him is to continue on a positive path," Sarkisian said. "Aundrey's done that. He's healthy from his [ankle] injury."

Walker was slow to reintegrate in preseason camp. Sarkisian told Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News in August that Walker "[was] not bouncing back the way we hoped." 

His return gives the USC front much-needed depth. Sarkisian mentioned that Walker's 28 snaps meant redshirt sophomore Zach Banner's load was lightened to 50 plays. 

Walker is also a rare veteran on a line leaning heavily on three true freshmen in Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao. He was a starter for much of the 2013 campaign.

 

Starting Early  

The focus for the offense now is parlaying the strong finish of the more balanced USC offense a week ago into a faster start this week against Arizona State. 

Kessler said there was an initial feeling-out period the Trojans had to adjust to in Saturday's win.  

"The first couple of drives we were getting used to what they were going to give us the whole game," he said. "They've been playing teams different." 

However, scoreless spells have plagued USC in each of the last three contests: After a first-quarter touchdown against Stanford, the Trojans didn't reach the end zone again; they went 40 minutes between scores at Boston College; and against Oregon State, USC went the entire first and third quarters without offensive scoring drives. 

Continuing to spread the ball throughout the roster will be key to USC keeping pace with the many explosive offenses the Trojans will see in the upcoming Pac-12 schedule. Five of USC's remaining opponents currently rank No. 36 or better nationally in points per game.

Sarkisian said following Saturday's win that having everyone ready in practice is key to that end.

"As a staff, we're going to look to how we can tweak things, and we're going to look to how we can improve each individual player," he said. "We have to raise our level of play as the season goes on."  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch FSU Commit De'Andre Johnson Break Tim Tebow's Record with 7-TD Performance

The name Tim Tebow still resonates in the state of Florida. His high school records are almost mythic. That's why when monster dual-threat QB De'Andre Johnson broke Tebow's high school career touchdown record with seven scores, people took notice.

Florida State Seminole fans will be in for a treat when Johnson is taking snaps from under center in Tallahassee come 2015. Watch the video above where he breaks down his epic performance. 

Do you think Johnson will make a direct impact at Florida State?

Watch the video and let us know! 

 

Highlights courtesy of Hudl

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages