NCAA Football News

Kenny Hill Suspended: Latest Details, Reaction and Analysis

Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill has been suspended for two games after violating an unspecified team rule. The announcement comes a few days after it was reported Kyle Allen was set to take the reigns of the Aggies offense.

Joe Schad of ESPN broke the news:

Two days ago, CBSDFW reported the pending change at quarterback:

Hill got off to an extremely promising start. He led the team to a 5-0 record with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His play fell off in recent weeks, however, with six touchdowns and an equal number of interceptions during the team's three-game skid.

Hill's decision making broke down as the season progressed, frequently throwing passes into coverage, which made the burst of interceptions make much more sense. It's unclear whether it was a breakdown of mechanics that prompted the collapse, or if there's more to his struggles than that. 

Things got bad enough that Hill would ultimately cede the starting job to freshman Kyle Allen. While Allen has yet to make a start for the Aggies, it's become clear that the job is his for the time being, and perhaps for good. 

It's unclear whether the looming suspension led to the quarterback switch or if the coaching staff simply decided Allen was the better option. Either way, he's now got a chance to showcase his hyped potential for at least the next two weeks.

Texas A&M faces off with the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks on Saturday.

 

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Maryland vs. Penn State: Live Score and Highlights

Maryland 7, Penn State 3—Early 2nd Quarter

The Nittany Lions host the Terrapins to renew a series that ran nearly uninterrupted from 1960 to 1993 (the two teams missed only 1976, 1981 and 1983 during that span).  It's also one of the most lopsided series in college football with Penn State holding a 35-1-1 advantage.

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Oklahoma vs. Iowa State: Live Score and Highlights

Oklahoma 21, Iowa State 0—Late 1st Quarter

The Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) look to stay alive in the conference race against the Iowa State Cyclones (2-5, 0-4).

Fox Sports 1 is carrying the Big 12 meeting. Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Louisiana-Monroe vs. Texas A&M: Live Score and Highlights

Texas A&M will look to get back on track as it faces Louisiana-Monroe at Kyle Field. The game will kick off at noon EDT, and it will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Aggies have made some personnel changes, as Kyle Allen will get the start at quarterback instead of Kenny Hill. They are also looking to get the offense back on track, as it has struggled the last three weeks.

Fortunately, the Aggies are facing a Sun Belt Conference team that has already lost to LSU and Kentucky this season.  However, defensive lineman Lorenzo Jackson could be a problem for the Aggies. He has 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss through seven games this season.

Be sure to come back to the blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates, highlights and analysis.

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Playoff Projections Heading into Week 10

There were a lot of College Football Playoff contenders and fanbases hoping that Louisville could hold onto a 21-0 lead on Thursday against Florida State.

Alas, the Cardinals collapsed down the stretch and the Seminoles made the necessary plays to win—which is ultimately far more important than any style points as long as there is a zero in the loss column—and the defending champs still have the inside lane to a playoff position.

With that in mind, here is a look at some updated playoff projections as we head into Saturday’s Week 10 games.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Mississippi State

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Alabama

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal Winners)

Florida State will win out with the majority of its difficult games behind it. An undefeated defending national champion is absolutely getting into the playoffs.

Michigan State will also win out and get credit for a Big Ten championship. Pac-12 contenders, Big 12 contenders and Notre Dame will all pick up a second loss (look for the Fighting Irish to lose to Arizona State or USC), which will open up a spot for the Spartans. 

Alabama will win out and grab a spot as the SEC champion, and Mississippi State will sneak in as the fourth team with only a single loss to the Crimson Tide and noteworthy wins over LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss on its resume.

 

Game of the Week with Biggest Playoff Implications: No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss

While neither Auburn nor Ole Miss are in these playoff projections, there is no Week 10 game with bigger postseason implications than the SEC showdown between the Tigers and Rebels.

The winner will stay right in the thick of the daunting SEC West race, but the loser will pick up a crippling second loss and a difficult head-to-head defeat against one of the other contenders. It is not an official elimination game in the conference race, but it certainly feels like it with the Crimson Tide hitting their stride and Mississippi State winning every week.

A loss could also mean elimination from the College Football Playoff race.

Neither team was particularly impressive in its last game, although Auburn’s offense and Ole Miss’ defense both get a pass because they played very well.

The Rebels lost 10-7 at LSU but had a chance to tie the game with a field goal in the final seconds. Instead, they went for a deep pass that was intercepted, which ended any hopes of an undefeated season.

The Tigers managed to beat South Carolina 42-35, but the defense allowed five fourth-down conversions and a successful onside kick. While it was one of those defense-optional type of games most of the way, Jonathan Jones did tally two interceptions, including one of the final play, to help secure the win.

Incredibly, Auburn is 8-1 in games decided by eight points or less since the start of last season.

The Tigers beat Ole Miss in 2013, but something will have to give in this matchup. Ole Miss is the one team in the country that has not given up more than 20 points in a game, and LSU has scored at least 20 in every contest since 2013. The Rebels are also first in the country in scoring defense at 10.5 points a game, while the Tigers are 15th in scoring offense at 39.3 points a game.

The Tigers are also 10th nationally at 281 rushing yards per game, which will prove to be the ultimate difference. It certainly was last year when Auburn ran for 282 yards in a win over Ole Miss.

Ole Miss allowed 264 rushing yards against LSU, and Auburn put 395 rushing yards on the board against South Carolina. What’s more, the Rebels will be without linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche for the season after he broke an ankle in the last game, which is devastating for a squad that relies so heavily on its defense.

That is a lot of momentum on Auburn's side going into this head-to-head showdown.

Cameron Artis-Payne leads the Auburn rushing attack with 831 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, but Nick Marshall is also threat with 581 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Joe Schad of ESPN highlighted the main storyline of the contest and the fact that Ole Miss has been winning by a different formula than other top-notch playoff contenders this season:

Auburn will win by controlling the clock and tempo with the ground game. That will be critical if and when the game comes down to the final minutes and is a major reason why the Tigers seem to win all those close contests. Artis-Payne suggested as much to STATS LLC, via ESPN.com:

“We found a way to win games late last year and we still feel that same way about this team. We feel like if it's tight in the fourth quarter we will find a way to win."

Artis-Payne is exactly right—this will come down to the final moments, and Auburn will once again find a way to win. 

Prediction: Auburn 27, Ole Miss 21

 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 10 Standings

It's almost hard to believe we're heading into the tail end of the 2014 college football season. However, when looking back at the preseason Top 25 rankings, it's easy to see how drastically things have changed through nine weeks.

Week 10 officially kicked off with No. 2 Florida State surviving a good Louisville team. The win will assure the Seminoles maintain their second-ranked standing for at least another week. Based on the roller-coaster season we've already experienced and looking ahead to some very intriguing Saturday matchups, we can assume the rankings will shift once again when the dust settles.

As we await the return of the nation's best squads to the gridiron, let's take a look at the current standings, followed by a preview and prediction for the week's marquee matchup.

 

Marquee Matchup

Auburn (4) at Ole Miss (7)

This matchup has huge College Football Playoff implications, as the loser of this game will record its second loss of the season and have little chance of finding its way back into the nation's Top Four.

After all, the year's first College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday, and both of these teams earned a spot, according to SportsCenter:

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn stressed the importance of focusing and playing well on the road to come away with an enormous win on Saturday during a press conference, via ESPN.com: "We've got to go there and we've got to play well to win. That's the only thing on our mind. We aren't looking ahead to this and that. We are going to Ole Miss and we are trying to win the game."

The Tigers' potent offense has been running like a well-oiled machine for the most part this season. Coming into Week 10, Auburn is ranked as the nation's 10th-best rushing offense after a huge performance against South Carolina in Week 9 helped boost that number.

Quarterback Nick Marshall hasn't been overly prolific through the air this season, but he's been efficient for the most part. He has done a nice job of managing games as a passer while the Tigers' running game eats up chunks of yardage.

Marshall completed 12 of his 14 passing attempts for 139 yards and one touchdown against the Gamecocks, while the running game racked up an impressive 395 yards and five touchdowns on 47 carries. Marshall is a great dual-threat quarterback, and he's complemented nicely by workhorse Cameron Artis-Payne.

College GameDay tweeted the team's gaudy numbers since Malzahn came aboard:

One thing Auburn must be concerned about heading into this matchup is its defense. Dylan Thompson and the Gamecocks offense racked up a total of 535 yards against the Tigers, giving the team a bit of a scare until late in the fourth quarter.

Ole Miss, on the other hand, continues to compete in games due to its stellar defense. The Rebels boast the nation's top-ranked scoring defense, allowing just 10.5 points per game. This unit certainly has the talent to slow down the Auburn attack. However, this game will rest on the efficiency of quarterback Bo Wallace.

Wallace has had an up-and-down season. He's looked fantastic at times, but he's grossly floundered at others. Against a good LSU defense in Week 9, Ole Miss suffered it first loss of the season, due in part to some very poor throws by the quarterback. He finished the game having only completed 14 of his 33 passing attempts for 176 yards, one touchdown and the interception that sealed the game.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports tweeted his take on the final plays of the team's loss to LSU:

Ole Miss will need to establish its running game against the Tigers in an effort to take some of the burden off Wallace's arm and keep the prolific Auburn offense off the field.

While the Rebels do have home-field advantage, which should play a huge factor in this one, Wallace's struggles and Hugh Freeze's questionable decisions are too concerning to back Ole Miss in this one.

Prediction: Auburn 24, Ole Miss 17

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Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Kansas State Wildcats: Complete Game Preview

The Oklahoma State Cowboys had their annual Homecoming festivities spoiled last week during a 34-10 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers. Unfortunately, the Pokes don't get a chance to regroup, as they follow up that tough loss with a trip to Manhattan to face the Kansas State Wildcats.

The Wildcats are one of two teams in the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff Top 10 (TCU is No. 7, while K-State is No. 9), and currently lead the Big 12 with a 4-0 record in conference play.

On paper, Kansas State has the clear advantage, but does Oklahoma State have the firepower to engineer a colossal upset? Read on to find out.

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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 10

Week 10 of the 2014 college football season is loaded with critical games that will decide conference titles, as well as national championship title hopes. 

No. 3 Auburn travels to No. 4 Ole Miss in what will determine who stays alive for the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship, as well as the SEC West division title. 

The Big 12 is more than likely in for a scoring spree when a dangerous seventh-ranked TCU team makes the trip to Morgantown to take on a West Virginia squad that many wouldn't have anticipated being in the Big 12 title discussion when the season started. 

While there are big games in both the SEC and Big 12 this week, it's a big week for the Pac-12. There are two Pac-12 South Division matchups consisting of ranked teams, along with Stanford at No. 5 Oregon. 

No. 12 Arizona is looking to go 7-1 for the first time since 2010 and get past a UCLA team that was originally supposed to run the table in the South Division this season.

After three close wins, No. 17 Utah is hoping to get the best of Arizona State on the road and put itself in position to win the South Division. The Utes have yet to defeat the Sun Devils since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. 

In what will be an exciting week with teams seeing their conference and national title hopes potentially coming to an end, here are the top five games to watch in Week 10.  

 

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Projecting Matchups in Season's Biggest Postseason Games

Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles passed their last significant regular-season test with a 42-31 win over the Louisville Cardinals on Thursday. 

The Seminoles haven't looked great in any of their marquee matchups, but the bottom line is they are still undefeated. Their last three opponents have a combined record of 13-9 (Miami, FL, Boston College and Florida). Needless to say, these are all opponents the Noles should beat.

In the ACC title game, Florida State figures to take on the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils, barring a major upset. Duke has really established itself as a serious threat in the ACC, but it would be a surprise if it beat the Noles in the ACC finale.

Based on the schedule, Florida State has the smoothest path to the College Football Playoff. Because most of the other contenders—especially those in the SEC—figure to beat up on each other in the last four weeks of the regular season, and in conference championships, the Noles look like a good bet to grab the top seed in the CFP.

 

Repping the Big Ten

Another team with a pretty bump-less road to the CFP is the Michigan State Spartans. They have pretty much cleaned out their section of the Big Ten. The only major task left on the schedule for the Spartans comes up on Nov. 8 at home against the No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes.

The winner of that game would become the Big Ten conference's best hope of having a representative in the CFP. That's assuming the Buckeyes beat the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday as expected.

The winner of the Spartans-Buckeyes clash is on pace to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the conference championship, but the Spartans have already won that head-to-head battle.

The Spartans are awfully tough to beat at home. They haven't lost in East Lansing since 2012. Because of the home-field advantage, they get the edge over Ohio State on Nov. 8.

Quite honestly, the Spartans and Buckeyes would likely be the underdogs against just about any team they matched up with in the CFP, but anything can happen after kickoff.

 

The Oregon Ducks Will Rise

The Stanford Cardinal has been the bane of the Ducks' existence over the last two years. This year, the Ducks should come in confident and ready to get the Cardinal monkey off their back.

Stanford isn't ranked and at 5-3 and 3-2 in the Pac-12, this isn't the same type of team the Ducks have fallen to the last two years.

Oregon won't be out of the woods with a win over Stanford. Heisman Trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota will still have to lead his team past No. 17 Utah on the road and to a Pac-12 championship against a tough team from the conference's south division.

That could mean a rematch with the only team to beat them this season, the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats.

Even with those tough tests in front of them, Oregon finally has the leader in Mariota who is capable of helping the team avoid the disastrous, season-ruining loss.

The Ducks won't lose again before the CFP.

 

Mississippi State Will Make It in with One Loss

The schedule ahead of the Mississippi State Bulldogs is beyond brutal. Luckily for them, almost every other SEC team in contention has the same issue.

It's the product of a stacked SEC West division filled with legitimate national championship contenders.

The Bulldogs still have to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ole Miss Rebels in the season finale. Running the table would be awesome for the Bulldogs and it would make all of this easier to figure out, but it just doesn't seem likely.

Alabama is playing great over the last three weeks, and that's the team I see knocking off Mississippi State. I do, however, believe the Bulldogs will win the Battle of Mississippi. Assuming the Bulldogs avoid upsets from the likes of UT Martin and Vanderbilt, that would put them at 6-1 in the SEC.

Alabama still has the Auburn Tigers and LSU Tigers to contend with. It seems too much to ask for the Tide to go undefeated the rest of the way. Long story short, my prediction is for Alabama and Ole Miss to finish with two losses in the conference, and that would elevate the Bulldogs to the SEC title game.

Beating Georgia—their logical opponent—in the conference championship is no given, but Mississippi State's run defense, which is ranked 23rd in the nation, and its diverse offense led by Dak Prescott brings enough to the table to emerge from the SEC as champions.

That'll be good for the No. 2 seed in the CFP.

 

The Bulldogs Win It All

Many have asked, if Florida State were in the SEC, would it still be undefeated? The answer is probably no. We're going to see proof of that in the national championship game when the Bulldogs bring a defense superior to any Florida State has faced in the last two years.

The Seminoles deserve credit for showing enough toughness to battle through distractions and a slew of teams bent on ending their soon-to-be 27-game win streak, but they will not beat Mississippi State.

Winston has been a turnover machine this season with nine picks. He and his teammates have overcome the problems most of the year, but the SEC is unforgiving. The Noles will find that out soon enough.

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5 California University of Pennsylvania Football Players Arrested for Assault

Five members of the California University of Pennsylvania football team have reportedly been arrested on charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, harassment and conspiracy, according to Ralph Iannotti of KDKA in Pittsburgh:

Police say they beat and stomped a man outside an off-campus restaurant, then fled yelling 'Football strong!' The victim was in intensive care Friday with severe brain trauma.

A witness tells KDKA the players jumped another man outside the restaurant, and beat him up. KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti reports sources say the victim was stomped on until he lost consciousness.

The five players in question are James Williamson, Corey Ford, Jonathan Barlow, Rodney Gillin, and D’Andre Dunkley. They are all being held on $500,000 bond.

Witnesses at the scene said that Ford got into an argument with the victim's girlfriend. When the victim stepped in, he was attacked, per Karen Mansfield of the Observer-Reporter.

Jeff Shuman, who owns the restaurant where the assault took place, said members of the football team have caused problems in the area before.

"The kids who play football, for the five years we've been here, have gotten off the hook for things I don’t think they should have gotten off the hook for," he said, per Mansfield. "I hope this sets an example to the school that maybe they shouldn’t be bringing in some of the kids they’re bringing in to play football."

Following the incident, the school announced that Cal U's game with Gannon on Saturday will be canceled:

Eric F. Epler of PennLive.com reported a statement from the school's interim president, Geraldine M. Jones:

The police investigation is continuing, and the rights of these accused students will be upheld. But in light of these allegations, I asked coach [Mike] Keller to cancel Saturday's game. Behavior has consequences, and all Cal U students, including student-athletes, must abide by our Student Code of Conduct if they wish to remain a pair of our campus community.

Cal U's next game is scheduled for Nov. 8 against Mercyhurst.

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6 CFB Recruits Who Dominated in October

October annually presents a pivotal stretch of the high school football season, providing a period for title contenders to separate themselves from the pack. It's also a month when we see premier players rise up to deliver clutch performances under pressure, as they push their teams to key victories.

Several college prospects provided impressive highlights in October on both sides of the ball. Here's a look at who thrived in the spotlight when it mattered most.

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Auburn Football: QB Nick Marshall's Blueprint to Beating Ole Miss

In the first ever meeting between two Top 10 teams in Oxford, Auburn will have to rely on quarterback Nick Marshall when it travels to battle Ole Miss on Saturday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Not only are SEC West title hopes on the line, but a shot at national title will also be up for grabs. Currently ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the Tigers and Rebels will play out what will most likely serve as an elimination match.

Here’s what Marshall has to do to lead Auburn to victory.

 

Overcome Road Woes

It’s no secret that most quarterbacks don’t enjoy playing on the road.

According to Bleacher Report's Seph Anderson, that’s especially true for Marshall:

His passer rating of 118.4 away from home is underwhelming compared to his 165.1 rating at Auburn.

But the struggles aren’t just for this season alone. The same woes rang true last year as well, when Marshall only threw four touchdowns, three interceptions and completed just 53.5 percent of his passes in four games away from home.

With Ole Miss chasing the school’s first national title in quite some time, it’s going to be obnoxiously loud in Oxford Saturday night. Marshall better be prepared to handle it better than he has in the past.

 

Limit the Mistakes

As mentioned earlier, all three of Marshall’s interceptions have come on the road.

Against the Rebels, the Tigers can’t afford those same lapses in judgment. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in interceptions (17)—returning three of those for touchdowns—and second in turnovers forced (24).

Although Auburn has been good with ball management, only losing 10 turnovers all season, the team has suffered some missteps in recent weeks. The Tigers have lost five turnovers over the last two games.

“What they’re doing this year is incredible,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee told AL.com’s Brandon Marcello about Ole Miss' defense. “They are generating turnovers at an unbelievable rate, they’re scoring touchdowns themselves. ... That’s pretty much unheard of.”

If Marshall wants to keep the Tigers' national title hopes alive, he will have to be extremely precise when making throws.

 

Get Involved in the Rushing Attack

Marshall should steal a page from LSU’s playbook in beating Ole Miss last weekend.

In a 10-7 victory last Saturday, LSU kept the ball on the ground continuously. When all was said and done, the team racked up 264 yards on 55 carries.

Auburn might need to run the ball just as many times this weekend.

Through eight games, the Rebels have been a very solid run defense. The unit ranks No. 23 against the run (118.0 YPG) while only conceding three rushing touchdowns on a meager 3.2 yards per carry.

During last year’s meeting with Ole Miss, Marshall had tremendous success on the ground. He set a then-career high for rushing yards with 140 on 14 carries while finding the end zone twice.

Thus far, the Pineview, Georgia, native has had a lot of success running the ball this season. He’s racked up 581 yards on 85 carries—his 6.8 yards-per-carry average is higher than last year—and has scored seven touchdowns.

In a battle of strengths, Marshall has to believe his is stronger than the Rebels’.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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How Will Notre Dame Deal with Navy's Option?

For the 88th consecutive season, Notre Dame takes on Navy in the longest running intersectional rivalry in college football. And for almost just as long, the Irish walk into a football game where there's little to gain yet much at stake. 

A win against Navy? Pretty underwhelming, particularly now that the College Football Playoff selection committee already turned their noses up at the Irish's current slate of opponents.

As the rest of the Power Five teams get into the meat of their conference schedules, the Irish look almost old-fashioned as they take on the service academy, even if there are noble intentions behind the rivalry. 

Of course, looking past Navy should be done at your own risk. Even if people have forgotten that Navy had Ohio State on the ropes until the fourth quarter of its season opener, the Midshipmen and their vaunted triple-option attack make for a difficult matchup, especially in the middle of the season's grind. 

Brian Kelly said on Tuesday:

I can tell you among the coaches throughout the country, if we were just polling coaches, they would tell you nobody wants to play Navy. But sometimes when you talk about the average fan, they hear about an academy, and they don't think in terms of how difficult of an opponent it is.

Don't expect any fans to be playing the violin for the Irish this week, coach. But with Keenan Reynolds entering Saturday night's contest healthy after a monster game against San Jose State, Notre Dame will have to find a way to slow down the triple option and one of college football's most dangerous playmakers. 

Here's how they can do it. 

 

Take Away the Fullback

While Reynolds hasn't put up numbers like he did last season, the Navy fullbacks have been doing serious damage this year. The duo of Noah Copeland and Chris Swain are eating opponents alive with the fullback dive, running for a collective 1,057 yards on just 136 carries, a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry on one of the most basic plays in all of football. 

Navy fullbacks have worked their way into Irish nightmares in recent years. In 2009, Vince Murray ran for 158 yards on just 14 carries as he essentially ended the Charlie Weis era in Navy's 23-21 victory.

A year later, it was Kelly and Bob Diaco who got pantsed, this time by fullback Alexander Teich. Teich ran into the record books as he went for 210 yards on 26 carries, carving up the Irish defense from the inside.

The Irish coaching staff has made some adjustments since that fateful 35-17 beating, switching to a four-man front instead of their base three-down under Diaco. But that hasn't necessarily made stopping the fullback any easier, with Swain running for 5.3 yards a carry in last season's 38-34 escape.

 

Try to Dictate Terms Defensively

If we've seen any major change this season, it's been Brian VanGorder's hyper-aggressive mentality with the Irish's young defense.

While Diaco preferred to have his defense try its best to be "creaseless," making the Irish's defensive linemen hold the point of attack while reading the option, don't expect VanGorder to throttle back the aggressiveness. 

Part of what's made VanGorder so successful early in his time in South Bend is his ability to see what an opponent does and try to neutralize that facet of their game plan. That's a little bit tougher with a system like Navy's, where the Midshipmen have specialized at something so specific that it's become a bit scheme-proof. 

But with Navy's offensive line struggling with injuries and not as good as some of Niumatalolo's better fronts, Notre Dame's strength on the defensive line could take the Midshipmen out of their game plan through aggression alone. 

Personnel-wise, we've gotten clues that Notre Dame will make some tweaks. Isaac Rochell will slide inside to defensive tackle, putting Sheldon Day at defensive end.

Kelly also talked about seldom-used fifth-year lineman Justin Utupo getting opportunities to contribute, a year after he played well against both Navy and Air Force. 

The youth on Notre Dame's front means there'll be growing pains. But perhaps they can be negated by setting the tone, forcing Navy to make choices as opposed to having the defense read and react. 

 

Win the Turnover Battle

Few things will matter more on Saturday night than the turnover battle. With Navy sitting at 106th in the nation in turnover margin, the Midshipmen can't afford to give the ball away to the Irish offense, a unit that should be incredibly proficient against an undersized defense.

If you're looking for one of the key ingredients in Navy's best performances against Notre Dame since they broke the Irish's 43-game winning streak in 2007, turnovers tell the story. In Notre Dame's humbling 2010 loss, the Irish were minus-2. In the 2009 loss, Charlie Weis' squad was minus-3.

In games that Navy's managed to keep close—2013 and 2008 specifically—the Irish have won tight games even while being a collective minus-6 in turnover margin.

Niumatalolo was candid earlier in the week when he talked about the perfect recipe for a victory over Notre Dame. It required some help from the Irish.

"We played about as good as we can play and we still lost," Niumatalolo told Bill Wagner of The Capital earlier this week, when talking about last season’s 38-34 finish. "To even have a chance, we have to play perfect and they have to help us a little bit."

 

Score Early on Offense and Run Away from the Option

Just as Niumatalolo acknowledged, the Irish can win simply by coming out of the gate quickly. While winning the turnover battle is crucial, the best way to beat Navy's triple option is a quick offensive start by Notre Dame.

Converting in the red zone and putting points on the board early and often gives the Irish a rare opportunity for a first-round TKO. With a Navy option attack unable to play catchup on the ground, turning to their passing game would spell near-certain disaster, regardless of how competent Keenan Reynolds is as a passer.

Navy's offensive line has already given up 15 sacks this season. The Midshipmen have only thrown 86 passes all year. Forced to drop back and beat someone through the air, Reynolds won't survive, especially if VanGorder dials up a blitz package and Navy gets away from their bread and butter.

We saw that happen in 2011 and 2012, with efficient offense eliminating any threat from Navy before the first quarter was over. If the Irish can take a step forward behind Everett Golson (a game after nearly putting up 500 yards against Florida State), there's little Navy's option offense can do to stop it. 

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Notre Dame Football: Why the Irish Offense Needs to Be Extra Efficient vs. Navy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Navy’s triple-option offense has been well-documented heading into Saturday’s game, but it will be Everett Golson and Notre Dame football’s offense that must sharpen to go head-to-head with the Midshipmen.

With Navy running the option and continually gnawing off large chunks of time from the clock, Golson and the Irish must be crisp and efficient with potentially fewer possessions and less time with which to work.

“Each possession you just have to score,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “If that takes a little bit longer, you're still going to get your possessions, the way the game plays out.”

Navy ranks in the bottom portion of the FBS in offensive plays per game, averaging 70.9 offensive snaps this season, according to TeamRankings.com. And with a run-based attack, the Midshipmen also rank near the top third of college football in average time of possession, per TeamRankings.com.

Kelly, though, doesn’t want there to be an over-the-top sense of urgency when Golson does get the ball in his hands.

“It's not rushing. It's the difference between being quick and being in a hurry,” Kelly said. “I think when you're in a hurry, you get sloppy, but you can be quick as long as you're sharp.”

Notre Dame will need a sharp Golson on Saturday against the disciplined Midshipmen, who nearly put together the perfect game against the Irish last season before falling, 38-34. With 10 turnovers in his last four games, Golson has sapped the momentum from his share of drives. The emphasis on care becomes even more important against the Midshipmen.

“You can't have turnovers,” Kelly said. “You can't give them extra possessions. We have to score points. There is no question about that.”

Of course, Kelly and the Irish know the dangers of facing Navy all too well. The narrow win last season coupled with Notre Dame’s 2010 loss to the Midshipmen serve as reminders that this matchup is a potential upset waiting to happen.

Last year, Irish quarterback Tommy Rees threw two interceptions, and the Midshipmen charged down the field immediately after the first miscue to claim a second-quarter lead. Navy had a massive edge in time of possession (37:36-22:24), and the Irish only ran 56 offensive plays. (They averaged 73.2 offensive plays per game last season, per TeamRankings.com.)

“From an offensive standpoint, Everett knows what the charge is there running the offense. He's got to be accurate. He's got to be clean in terms of taking care of the football, and we've got to be on top of things offensively,” Kelly said.

“If we're not, it's going to be a dogfight.”

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Miami Football: North Carolina Game a Perfect Chance for True Freshmen to Shine

Even under the threat of sanctions throughout an NCAA investigation, the Miami Hurricanes recruited well under Al Golden.

Four classes into Golden's tenure, the current freshman group has established itself as the best immediate-impact unit, earning starting roles and contributing in the box score.

A meeting with the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, Oct. 31 will be the biggest opportunity yet for the young Hurricanes to shine.

"All of these freshmen work. I can't take that away from any of them. All of them work," Denzel Perryman told Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Although Darrion Owens is well behind Perryman as a backup linebacker, he'll likely see additional time Saturday. Since UNC moves at a deliberate pace, Owens should register a decent number of meaningful reps at outside linebacker as a spot sub.

But it's not necessarily the amount of playing time that counts.

"It comes down to knowledge of the playbook and when you get your opportunity, are you making the best of it or not?" Perryman said. "Those guys are really making the best of their opportunities."

Chad Thomas and Trent Harris, a pair of defensive ends, have started to become stalwarts in the rotation. The duo's speed off the edge will be paramount in stopping the speed of Marquise Williams every single time the respective freshmen line up.

While the defensive youngsters will attempt to contain UNC's high-powered attack, the Hurricanes will feature even more freshmen on their own offense.

Braxton Berrios registered a catch in seven consecutive games, reeling in 18 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns. The only time he didn't record a reception, Virginia Tech couldn't stop the running game, so Miami didn't need to throw.

Nevertheless, the shifty slot receiver has a perfect chance to rebound, matching up against the nation's No. 119 pass defense. Plus, it won't hurt to have Brad Kaaya tossing him the pigskin.

Kaaya needed a few outings to adjust and settle in, but the 6'4" gunslinger is markedly improving on a weekly basis. He's already among the best shot-callers in the ACC and is creeping up national rankings, too.

Though Kaaya has thrown nine interceptions to date, he's only been picked twice during the last four contests. The maturation process of a young quarterback certainly contributes to that, but efficient passing is also a direct product of satisfactory pass protection.

One lineman contributing to that cause is left guard Nick Linder, who entered the starting unit following season-ending injuries to Taylor Gadbois and Kc McDermott.

Whether he's been asked to neutralize a weak-side defender or open the immediate running lane, Linder has been surprisingly good throughout two games.

Starting Saturday, Linder won't be the lone freshman on the O-line. After an injury to left tackle Ereck Flowers, Trevor Darling will be pressed into his first career collegiate start. Consequent to senior Jon Feliciano sliding over to replace Flowers, Darling should take over the right edge.

Darling was a talented prospect, heralded as a 4-star offensive tackle and top-100 overall recruit, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Potential is great, but the Hurricanes need the 6'5", 310-pounder to execute despite his inexperience.

If Darling handles his first start well, Miami is likely to light up the scoreboard.

However, the conference battle might be decided by a game-winning field goal, since the Tar Heels have corrected myriad offensive issues in recent weeks.

Of course, this could result in walk-on place-kicker Michael Badgley lining up to give the 'Canes a victory.

Saturday afternoon, Miami will be relying on its talented handful of freshmen to make those chances count, no matter if they are a starter or reserve.

The difference between a win or loss will absolutely be affected by the youngsters, and the ACC tilt might even be decided by one.

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Dave Brandon Resigning as Michigan AD Spells Bad News for Brady Hoke

Michigan's long national nightmare—on Halloween, of all days—is finally over. Well, half over. 

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced that embattled athletic director Dave Brandon had resigned. "This morning I accepted resignation of AD David Brandon," Schlissel said. "I agree with this decision." 

The second shoe to drop in this mess—or "Domino," if you will—would be the termination/resignation of Michigan football coach Brady Hoke.

News of Brandon's resignation was first reported by ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Former Wolverines player James Hackett will take over as the interim AD, as The Detroit News first reported. 

Though Michigan did not elaborate on Brandon's resignation—details are reportedly going to be released later—Adam Rittenberg of ESPN tweeted that recent scathing emails from Brandon to Wolverine fans unearthed by mgoblog.com may have been the nail in the proverbial coffin. 

Brandon was loathed by the Michigan fanbase long before that for his incompetence and attitude. As David Jesse and Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press wrote, the Brandon hire was initially lauded. However, marketing and tradition blunders over the years led to growing resentment. 

In the end, though, Brandon's worst decision was his biggest hire: Hoke. That's all it really came down to. 

If Hoke's days weren't numbered before, they probably are now. Whomever Michigan hires to replace Brandon—Schlissel didn't make it sound like having Michigan ties is a prerequisite—Hoke will have to prove he's capable of getting things turned around. Michigan needs a house cleaning, and Hoke's job performance will be under review. 

"I don’t have a particular time frame," Schlissel said about hiring his next AD. "I have excellence in mind."

Hoke was Brandon's guy, but it won't matter going forward. That may not count for everything in terms of job security, but it counts for something. 

Unlike Brandon, Hoke has been classified as a great guy who is merely in over his head. Even in the national fury of the Shane Morris concussion situation, the general vibe was that Hoke was more negligent than malicious

What the Morris outrage came down to was that a faction—probably large—of Wolverine fans wanted Hoke gone anyway, and player safety was a topic through which they could vent their frustrations.

But what Hoke's tenure at Michigan comes down to is wins, something he hasn't had nearly enough of lately. Hoke is 18-16 since going 11-2 in his first season in 2011, with win totals declining every year. The Wolverines are 3-5 this year heading into November.

The decision to remove Al Borges as offensive coordinator and bring in Doug Nussmeier hasn't paid off, but only because there are far too many problems for Nussmeier to fix in one season. The offensive line remains a mess, and there are no answers at quarterback. 

In that vein, there's been nothing to indicate that Michigan is close to turning a corner. The Wolverines need to win three of their final four games—against Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Ohio State—just to make a bowl game. 

All are certainly winnable if you are of the "throw out the record book in rivalry games" persuasion. However, one can realistically see Michigan losing two more games, which would effectively keep this team home for bowl season. 

The question is still whether Hoke makes it to the end of the season at all. Hackett definitely has the power to make a decision on his own at the end of the season, so the lack of a permanent AD might not be a factor in Hoke's job security. All the same, the outlook isn't promising. 

Will Hoke keep his job? Just know that if he's re-applying for the position, his resume isn't shining. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Mark Stoops, Kentucky Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Reaction, Analysis

Mark Stoops' tenure as the head football coach at the University of Kentucky is as solid as it's ever been. The school has reportedly agreed to a long-term contract extension with the coach. 

According to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, Stoops' new agreement with the Wildcats goes through the 2019 season:

Per Aaron Smith, Stoops' new deal includes a hefty pay raise starting in 2015:

Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio notes that the Wildcats are taking a gamble with Stoops' deal:

According to Kyle Tucker of The Courier Journal, Stoops will get a lot more money if he can turn Kentucky into a bowl contender each year:

Tucker provided a full transcript of the press conference to announce the deal. 

Kentucky is off to a 5-3 start this season, though a 2-3 mark in the SEC does show there's still a lot of work to be done. Athletic director Mitch Barnhart said that he believes Stoops is the right coach for this university, via Smith:

Barnhart also issued a tweet of his own, noting that Stoops' extension is a sign of faith about where the program is headed even more than about its current progress:

Despite the mediocre conference record this season, the Wildcats have improved dramatically in two years under Stoops. They were winless in the SEC last year (0-8) and 2-10 overall, so needing just one more win to become bowl-eligible is a huge step in the right direction. 

This program has been a laughingstock in the SEC since making its last bowl appearance in 2010. Kentucky won four conference games in three seasons under Joker Phillips from 2010-12. Stoops came into a disastrous situation and turned it around quicker than anyone could have expected. 

Playing in the SEC doesn't do Kentucky any favors, but the progress shown under Stoops provides a legitimate reason for optimism. Credit the school for recognizing it and showing the faith in the second-year head coach to give him a huge raise.  

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

 

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Top SEC Football Storylines Heading into November

With every passing week of the college football season, the SEC storylines continue to heat up.

Will the state of Mississippi overpower the state of Alabama in the SEC West? Can Missouri earn an unlikely repeat as SEC East champions? Will Todd Gurley’s return be just in time or a little too late?

These are the kind of questions fans of the SEC want to know. 

Join B/R as we take a closer look at these and other storylines around the conference.

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Auburn's Lack of Pass Rush Could Doom the Tigers' Playoff Hopes

AUBURN, Ala. — Before "The Kick Six" and "A Miracle at Jordan-Hare" sealed two incredible home SEC wins for Auburn last season, there was "The Skip."

On Auburn's final defensive play in a 30-22 victory against Ole Miss, freshman defensive end Carl Lawson fought through the offensive line and sacked Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace.

To celebrate his second sack of the game, Lawson bounced off the ground and promptly skipped to the sidelines, becoming an Internet sensation for a couple of days:

Auburn's defense, led by Lawson and senior defensive end Dee Ford, sacked Wallace six times last season to record one of the program's best single-game performances in that area.

A lot has changed for Auburn since Lawson skipped off the field in the win against Ole Miss last year—and not a lot of it has been positive for the Tigers' pass rush.

With Ford now playing for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL and Lawson presumably out for the entire 2014 season with a knee injury, Auburn's pass-rushing numbers have taken a considerable hit.

Through the first seven games of 2014, the Tigers are well off the pace set last year by the likes of Ford, Lawson and the rest of the defensive linemen—several of whom are still playing this season: 

The lack of a solid pass rush was a concern for Auburn's coaching staff in the offseason after Lawson's injury, and the tune has not changed seven games into the 2014 campaign.

"We definitely need to improve in that," head coach Gus Malzahn said earlier this week. "Our coaches are still working on that. At times this year, we’ve had a good pass rush and other times we haven’t. That’s going to be a big factor with these next five games."

Without a true star off the edge in pass-rushing situations, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has relied on blitzes in his 4-2-5 system to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

In some games, the gambles have worked, and Auburn's defense has been able to improve statistically in many areas while getting to the quarterback.

But the reliance on blitzes turned on Johnson and the Tigers last weekend against South Carolina, when the Gamecocks gained a large amount of yardage on passes down the middle of the field and to their running backs.

This caused Auburn to move toward just a four-man rush with its line, and South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson thrived with little pressure. Auburn's defense only hit Thompson once the entire game.

"Guys still ain't getting there," Johnson said. "We did not play well in a lot of areas, but if you can get the ball out of the guy's hand or get him on the ground a few times and get him tired, it would sure help."

Of Auburn's 12 sacks this season, a little more than half of them have come from the defensive linemen. Junior college transfer DaVonte Lambert leads the team with 3.5 sacks, but his production has trailed off from a hot start to the season.

"We need to go back to practice and start working on pass-rushing moves and line blocks," sophomore defensive tackle Montravius Adams said after the win against South Carolina. "We have to get to the quarterback."

The defensive line's inability to get to the quarterback was part of Auburn's downfall against Mississippi State, when Bulldog quarterback and Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott found a lot of time to throw the ball against a scrambling Tiger secondary.

"The one thing that continues to be an issue right now is we're not getting any pressure on the quarterback with four people," Johnson said after the loss. "It looks like pass skeleton back there, frankly. Until we started bringing some people and getting in his face, [Prescott] was making good throws."

If Auburn is going to stay alive in the race for the SEC championship and the College Football Playoff, the defense will need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback—and that starts this Saturday against Ole Miss.

Even with all of his problems under pressure, Wallace has done a remarkable job for most of this season at getting the ball out of his hand quickly and carving up defenses:

"[Ole Miss'] timing on [pass plays] is just unbelievable," Johnson said. "I don't mean to say pass rush is not important, it always is. But it won't be the same type of game in that you have a guy dropping back in the pocket, throwing the ball downfield on combination routes, and you've got to generate some pass rush on the quarterback."

Auburn has tried out several new faces off the edge during practice and in certain game sets, from an undersized, yet effective veteran in Brandon King to a speedy and lengthy true freshman in Raashed Kennion.

But with just five games left in the regular season, Auburn's coaches know they won't magically find the pass-rusher it has been looking for since Lawson underwent surgery.

Production, Johnson said, needs to improve from the current cast, or else this year's game against the Rebels "will be completely different."

"Guys have to step up," Johnson said. "We don't have a waiver wire, and we can't trade any of them. But we've got to get some guys to put in some production on the field."

 

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

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

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Where Georgia and LSU Turn After Missing on 5-Star CB Tarvarus McFadden

Tarvarus McFadden committed to Florida State during a Friday morning announcement ceremony, capping off a frenzied nationwide recruitment process. The prized defensive back prospect picked the Seminoles from an offer sheet that featured dozens of teams:

The American Heritage High School standout is the second blue-chip recruit to join the Seminoles' 2015 recruiting class this week. Fellow in-state star Jacques Patrick, a running back who ranks seventh all-time among Florida rushers, pledged Monday.

McFadden, a 6'3", 198-pound playmaker, is rated fifth nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings. He trimmed his list of potential landing spots in recent months, with LSU and Georgia emerging as the top threats to challenge Florida State, a longtime favorite in this pursuit. 

The Tigers and Bulldogs miss out on a rangy defender with rare size and smoothness. Both programs have already assembled impressive classes but must now search elsewhere for additional help in the defensive secondary.

LSU already holds a pledge from one of the country's top cornerbacks in Kevin Toliver, though the 5-star commit continues to explore other options. He visited Virginia Tech, Florida State and Ohio State.

The potential tandem of Toliver and McFadden would have given Tigers fans plenty to be excited about in coming years. However, there's still a chance head coach Les Miles matches Toliver with another 5-star prospect at the position. 

Coveted California cornerback Iman Marshall plans to use an official visit in Baton Rouge before signing day, presenting an opportunity for LSU to pull in another premier player in pass coverage.

"Toliver is a great athlete, and he's very competitive like me," Marshall told me earlier this season. "We could make some serious noise down there. LSU is known as 'DBU' for a reason. They send a lot of defensive backs to the league, which is important to me. It's a place where I feel like I could really develop and polish my skills." 

It may be difficult to lure Marshall away from the West Coast, but nearby defensive backs also offer potential.

Deshawn Raymond, a 4-star in-state target, has spent significant time on campus. The Tigers could quickly turn to him after missing on McFadden, though TCU, Nebraska and Mississippi State are also in the mix.

Georgia was actually viewed as a stronger contender than LSU for McFadden's commitment during the final stretch. Cornerback is a key area of need for this 2015 Bulldogs class, especially after losing 4-star Tennessee prospect Rico McGraw to Alabama in July.

Rashad Roundtree, a Peach State product, is widely viewed as a collegiate safety but could fill a variety of roles at the next level. He is expected to visit Ohio State this weekend, but the Bulldogs have been a strong competitor for his commitment throughout and hold 97 percent of pledge predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

The team is also targeting Nashville cornerback Justin Martin, a junior college player who competes at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Georgia extended an offer to the 4-star recruit in early October, but scholarships from the likes of Oklahoma, Miami and Oklahoma State have since followed.

It's imperative for Mark Richt and his staff to claim at least one top-tier cornerback in the coming months as available options continue to dwindle. Georgia could also end up landing a prospect who is currently committed elsewhere. 

Players like McFadden don't come in bunches, and now that he's headed to Tallahassee, it's time for LSU and Georgia to seek out Plan B.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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