NCAA Football News

Oregon Ducks' Big Win over South Dakota Marred by Mental Errors

The Oregon Ducks took care of business against South Dakota to the tune of 62-13. Despite the margin of victory, there is plenty of work to be done in Eugene this week, as the Ducks prepare to face eighth-ranked Michigan State.

The biggest issue for the Ducks tonight was mental errors. Simply put, the Ducks will not beat the Spartans if they make the mental mistakes they made tonight.

There’s no doubt that the Ducks offense looked as fast and potent as ever. Forty-one points in the first half, on seven possessions, is nothing to scoff at. On the night, the Ducks racked up 672 yards of total offense in a a balanced attack (380 passing yards, 292 rushing).

Marcus Mariota threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball six times for 43 yards and a touchdown. Royce Freeman, the freshman sensation, scored two touchdowns on his first three carries and finished the night with 86 yards on eleven touches. The young wide receivers looked poised, as did the offensive line. But the player who looked the most impressive also committed the most glaring mental lapse of the game.

Byron Marshall, the Pac-12’s leading returning rusher, had perhaps his best game as a Duck. Marshall caught eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing another 89 yards on eight carries.

However, late in the second quarter Marshall took a hand off from Mariota 52 yards and looked to have found the end zone, which would have been his second touchdown of the night. Instead, Marshall pulled a Leon Lett (or a DeSean Jackson depending on your age) and dropped the ball at the one-yard line thinking he had already scored. The play was reviewed and Marshall had indeed dropped the ball before crossing the goal line and the play resulted in a touchback instead of a touchdown.

While Marshall’s gaffe may have been the most memorable mental error of the night, it certainly wasn’t the only one.

Oregon committed five penalties in the first quarter alone, two of which were for unsportsmanlike conduct. All in all, the Ducks committed nine penalties for 67 yards. The Ducks also missed a PAT at the end of the first half, which was caused by a bad snap and a fumble on the hold.

Oregon’s defense also contributed significantly to the mental lapses. The Ducks defense gave up 13 first-half points, which isn’t terrible until you consider the opponent. Not only did the defense give up 13 first-half points, but they also missed an alarming number of tackles along the way.

In 2013 the Ducks defense was very solid but also had the reputation of missing open-field tackles. They once again played to that reputation against South Dakota. If the Ducks are going to take down a team like Michigan State next week, they'll have to do a better job of wrapping up ball-carriers. Michigan State has one of the strongest rushing attacks in the nation, and the Ducks gave up 172 yards on the ground tonight.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Oregon’s defense in general seemed to lack an attitude and swagger. The Ducks played a lot of young players, most of whom were making their first appearance as starters. Perhaps that’s the reason they were a little bit tentative. However, Michigan State’s offense isn’t going to care about how experienced the Ducks defense is.

Oregon needs to get their ducks in a row defensively before next week’s game. New defensive coordinator Don Pellum must make this a teaching moment for his young unit and ensure that the missed tackles aren't a trend going forward.

All in all the Ducks played a solid game against an inferior opponent. The offense played efficiently, Mariota threw the ball very well and the playmakers made big plays. The Ducks calmed down in the second half, and the backups played some solid football. However, there’s a lot of work to be done between now and next Saturday when the Spartans come marching into Autzen Stadium.

The Oregon coaches know that if they’re going to beat Michigan State there can’t be any of the mental errors committed by their team tonight. But that’s why they play tune-up games. The Ducks will put this big win behind them, clean up the errors, get their minds right and come ready to play Michigan State next weekend.

 

Follow Jason Gold on twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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College Football Playoff Projections After Week 1

Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is coming to a close with some of the top teams in the country showing why they are the best of the best. Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer breaks down who should be in the four-team playoff after their performances this week. Who do you think should be in the 2014 playoffs?

Watch the video and let us know.

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T.J. Yeldon's Heisman Campaign Still Has Long Way to Go Despite Strong Opener

T.J. Yeldon has plenty of reasons to be happy about his performance in Alabama's 33-23 win over West Virginia on Saturday. When it comes to his Heisman Trophy chances, on the other hand, the junior running back should remain cautiously optimistic.

Yeldon rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. On a day when the Crimson Tide were below their best, he was one of the few players to meet expectations. And of course, anything he does is viewed in part through the Heisman spectrum. In that regard, he did nothing to hurt his campaign.

Coming into the season, Yeldon is on the periphery in regard to the Heisman race. He sits eighth in ESPN.com's preseason Heisman Watch, getting a sole fifth-place vote. You could argue that the injury to Braxton Miller bumped him up at least a place or two.

After he ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, it's reasonable to expect Yeldon to be even better in his third year at the school. With that improvement, maybe he can follow in Mark Ingram's footsteps and win the Heisman.

In order to get there, though, he'll have to overcome both history and his own teammate.

In general, the Heisman Trophy has almost become the "Best Quarterback Award," considering how many have won in recent years.

In order for a running back to win today, he has to fall into one of three categories. There are the history-makers/history-approach-ers (Ricky Williams in 1998 and Ron Dayne in 1999), electrifying playmakers who do more than run the ball (Reggie Bush in 2005) and voters' only recourse (Ingram in 2009).

Ingram was very good in '09, but his 1,658 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns weren't exactly otherworldly. The yardage doesn't even crack the top 100 single-season rushing leaders of all time

What helped Ingram the most was the dearth of Heisman-caliber quarterbacks. Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow were the only QBs with any shot to win, and there wasn't any chance either of them were gonna lift the trophy.

Yeldon will have to outplay the incumbent Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty and Nick Marshall. Not to mention that Todd Gurley is arguably the most likely running back at this point to win the Heisman.

Another major road block is Derrick Henry. The sophomore went for 113 yards and a touchdown of his own. If anything, he was the more buzzworthy running back from the day.

If Alabama finds itself near the top of the polls by year's end, then you can count on at least one of the Tide's bigger offensive stars being mentioned as a possible Heisman candidate, as Ingram, Trent Richardson and AJ McCarron managed to do.

More than likely, that guy's gonna come out of the backfield. Head coach Nick Saban isn't all of a sudden going to radically alter his offense, especially with unproven quarterbacks like Blake Sims and Jacob Coker.

"We definitely we want to be physical running the ball, pass blocking and being effective as receivers," said Henry after the West Virginia game, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Anything we can help out Blake in any way, we're going to try to do."

Unless Alabama can run a joint Heisman campaign, you could easily see Yeldon and Henry taking away from one another's chances. As long as they're splitting carries, neither has a chance to truly shine.

Yeldon may well be one of the most talented running backs in the country. As things stand now, though, it's hard to see how he'll be able to build the momentum necessary to capture college football's most coveted individual award.

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Melvin Gordon Must Be Utilized More Often for Wisconsin to Find Success

Melvin Gordon is one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football. So it came as a huge surprise when the Wisconsin running back had just 16 carries in a season-opening 28-24 loss to LSU—including just two touches in the fourth quarter.

Following the game, head coach Gary Andersen spoke about the lack of carries for Gordon in the second half, per Zach Heilprin of ESPNWisconsin.com:

That's a pretty befuddling comment from the head coach—you know, the one who is in charge of the program.

Even with his limited touches in the second half, Gordon made the most of his opportunities. The junior led all running backs in the game with 140 yards, a touchdown and an 8.8 yards-per-carry average.

While Kenny Hilliard was asked to bring his team back for LSU, Gordon's team seemed to ask little of its All-Big Ten back. That led to plenty of questions from analysts like Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Meanwhile, Paul Myerberg of USA Today came to his own conclusion during the game:

Needless to say, the plans need to change moving forward. While any chance of a national championship is likely gone with a loss for the Badgers, a successful season is still on the table if Gordon is asked to lead.

As players such as Todd Gurley of Georgia exploded in Week 1, Gordon simply wasn't asked to do enough in order to make his case as one of the best players in the country. Though Gurley had one fewer handoff than Gordon, his team had a healthy lead late against Clemson.

Here's a look at the two players' statistics after their first games of the season.

Gurley clearly did more with fewer carries, but his team also relied him less. Even with LSU closing in and eventually winning, Gordon was not asked to carry his team—literally and figuratively.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report also added his take on the running back situation:

While it might not be fair to say that Gordon didn't "show up," getting called upon more might help his case.

Following the heartbreaking loss to LSU, Wisconsin still has plenty to play for the rest of the season. With two cupcakes on the schedule in Western Illinois and Bowling Green at home the next two weeks, Gordon will have a chance to thrust his name back near the top of the running back conversation.

Thanks to a favorable schedule that includes Nebraska and Iowa late in the season, Gordon has a chance to shine the rest of the way. And if the Badgers plan on getting back on track, they'll need to unleash their most talented player.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 1

The top players in college football are making a case for why they should be in the Heisman Trophy discussion. Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee makes his predictions on who he thinks deserves to be in the hunt. Who do you think will win the Heisman?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Kenny Hilliard, Not Leonard Fournette Looks Like LSU's No. 1 RB After Week 1

In the first half, carries between LSU Tigers senior running back Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette were split almost down the middle. 

And the Tigers found themselves trailing Wisconsin 17-7 at the break. A 75-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter for the Badgers swelled the lead to 24-7, and LSU looked all but out of the game. 

So, with Fournette, the nation's most highly touted recruit of the 2014 class, struggling to break himself into the college game, Les Miles went with the tried and true.

He called on Kenny Hilliard, who got most of the carries in the second half and was the driving force behind LSU's big second-half comeback. 

Hilliard finished the game with 110 yards on 18 carries—a 6.1 yards per carry average—and proved to the nation that he's the one Miles and Co. should lean on in the running game this season. He also had LSU's only rushing touchdown, a 28-yard fourth-quarter scamper that capped off a 21-point Tigers run, putting them up 28-24. 

Hilliard has always been in the shadows of other backs since arriving at LSU (Jeremy Hill and Michael Ford). But he's always had a knack for big plays. In his first two seasons in Baton Rouge, he averaged over five yards per carry, racked up 800 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

Last season, as Jeremy Hill took a firmer hold of the reins as the featured back, Hilliar was limited to just 68 carries and 310 yards. But even then, he still found pay dirt seven times. 

Out of high school, according to 247sports, Hilliard was a 4-star back and the eighth-rated ball-carrier in the nation. So he knows what it's like to have tons of hype laid on a player's shoulders coming out of high school, and that could prove very beneficial in Fournette's maturation process. 

It's not that the jury is still out on Fournette—the jury hasn't even been sent to deliberate yet. Fournette is just one game into his college career and has three years to realize his enormous potential. His highlights against the Badgers came on special teams, where he had three returns of 25 or more yards. 

That's undoubtedly something that Fournette can build on as he gets acclimated to the college game. And there's no doubt that he's the future of LSU football. 

But for now, the top of the SEC looks weak compared to seasons past with Alabama's scare against WVU, Auburn fighting to stave off Arkansas and LSU's flirt with danger against Wisconsin. So Miles knows now that he has to rely on his senior running back if he wants the Tigers to have a shot at making the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

 

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Which Teams Should Panic the Most After Week 1?

Opening weekend of the 2014 college football season is wrapping up with a few teams that played much worse than expected. Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss who should be worrying the most after Week 1. Who do you think had a shaky start to the 2014 season?

Watch the video and let us know.

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LSU vs. Wisconsin: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers, Badgers

In a true tale of two halves, the LSU Tigers came from behind and defeated the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 28-24. 

It was shocking early on as to how dominating the Badgers' rush attack truly was. Wisconsin finished the first half with nearly 200 yards on the ground. It was the first time in over a decade in which an LSU team has relinquished that many yards in one half. 

However, the tide turned on the fake punt call by Les Miles. LSU got the momentum and never looked back. Wisconsin curiously abandoned the run game in favor of Tanner McEvoy throwing the football. This didn't turn out to be such a good decision, as he finished 8-of-24 for 50 yards on the night. He also threw two bad interceptions. 

Final stats from the game can be found here at NCAA.com. 

Check out first-half and final grades for both the Tigers and Badgers. Additional analysis for different position units will also be addressed.

LSU Tigers Game Grades

Pass Offense: It was initially a slow start for Jennings and the Tigers' offense. He looked out of sync with his wide receiver corps. However, he flashed a big arm on multiple occasions. His ability to throw the ball down the field with accuracy helps to give LSU's offense an added dimension.

Huge plays to Dural and Diarse ultimately got the Tigers over the hump for the victory. Jennings hasn't done anything to lose his starting spot. As the game progressed, he settled down and looked comfortable. Although his accuracy wasn't great (9-of-21), he did throw for 239 yards and two touchdowns. 

 

Run Offense: LSU's rushing attack was stifled in the first half. It managed 16 yards on 15 carries. Much of the credit does go to Wisconsin's quick front, but LSU simply wasn't opening up any holes. 

In the second half, the loss of Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring helped the Tigers get on track. Kenny Hilliard led the charge with 112 yards on 18 carries. Leonard Fournette had a quiet start to his collegiate career, totaling only 17 yards on eight carries.

 

Pass Defense: LSU blanketed the Wisconsin wide receivers corps all night long. The Badgers wide outs weren't able to gain any separation. 

Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin both came away with interceptions. It was a dominating performance for a unit allowing only 50 yards through the air. 

 

Run Defense: This unit was absolutely gashed all night long. LSU allowed 268 yards on the ground. Wisconsin backs ran to the tune of 6.9 yards per carry. McEvoy's mobility neutralized the pass-rushing abilities somewhat, but it was a porous effort all the way around.

 

Special Teams: The Mad Hatter pulled out another trick with the fake punt in the third quarter. This call ultimately changed the momentum of the game. LSU ended up driving down the field and scoring after the genius call. 

Colby Delahoussaye also connected on both field goal attempts. It was a flawless effort by the special teams unit. 

 

Coaching: The defense definitely did not play up to the usual LSU standards. Wisconsin made its living on the ground, and there was little resistance. 

The call for the fake punt was paramount. As the game progressed, Jennings also became more comfortable. LSU started to roll him out and got him easy throws. This in turn helped him gain confidence. 

Wisconsin Badgers Game Grades

Pass Offense: The pass attack by Wisconsin was absolutely abysmal. McEvoy completed a third of his attempted passes on the night. He looked tentative on a majority of his throws, and also primarily threw the ball off of his back foot when pressured. 

If Wisconsin is to contend for a B1G title, play at the position has to get markedly better. 

 

Run Offense: This was a vintage Wisconsin performance tonight. The duo of Gordon and Corey Clement was phenomenal against a good SEC defense. The OL opened up holes all night for their backs. In total, the unit rushed for 268 yards on 39 carries. 

Reggie Love's 45-yard jet sweep score also helped to open the game up early. The Badgers were able to break off big chunks of yardage with the ground game (something that couldn't be said with the passing game).  

 

Pass Defense: The pass defense didn't play overly well. Aside from a few pass interference penalties, the unit was victimized by two long touchdown throws of 80 and 36 yards, respectively. A 44-yard completion from Jennings to Dural also led to a touchdown score by the Tigers. 

The secondary did allow only 239 yards through the air, but there were multiple big plays.  

 

Run Defense: Wisconsin's unit up front held stout for the majority of the game. In the first half, they held a strong LSU rushing attack to only 16 yards on 15 carries. 

Unfortunately for the Badgers, the loss of two starters on the defensive line hurt them in the second half. LSU did finish with 130 yards rushing, but it came on 47 carries. It was a valiant effort by the group. 

 

Special Teams: Freshman kicker Rafael Gaglianone connected impressively on a 51-yard kick. It was the first attempted kick of his collegiate career. LSU also did not break any huge returns, and thus the coverage team played well. 

The minor flub was defending against the fake punt. It was a 4th-and-2 attempt near midfield, and LSU managed to execute it effectively. The fake ultimately led to points, and helped to flip momentum over to the Tigers. 

 

Coaching: Gary Andersen will have to answer some tough questions this upcoming week...

Is Tanner McEvoy still the starting quarterback? Why did he virtually abandon the run game in favor of throwing the football in the second half? Why did Melvin Gordon play sporadically in the third and fourth quarters? 

This statistic truly says it all about the play-calling in the third and fourth quarters...

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Inconsistencies Bad for Jameis Winston's Heisman Run but Shouldn't Worry FSU

Florida State got off to the start we all expected Saturday night, racing to a 17-0 lead over a rebuilt Oklahoma State team.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston completed nine of his first 10 passes and even threw an interception toward the start of the second quarter. But once Mario Pender lunged into the end zone to put Florida State up by three scores, the start of the 2014 season looked like this year would be the same as last.

But then something happened, a reaction that was foreign to the Seminoles in 2013. The Cowboys not only didn't collapse after enduring a punch; they got up and started punching back.

The result was one of the most up-and-down games of Winston's career. He threw multiple interceptions for only the third time, and unlike the other two instances (against Miami and Duke), his defense wasn't in peak form to bail him out.

He turned the ball over in situations that really countedAnd according to Brandon Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinelhe was man enough to admit that his two turnovers cost his team momentum.

These inconsistencies will hurt Winston in his bid to win a second Heisman Trophy, because—fair or not—there are voters looking for a reason to vote against him. He's contentious off the field, and voter fatigue is a real thing. It's one of many reasons Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com wrote a whole piece this offseason entitled "Jameis Winston Will Not Win a Second Heisman."

Last year, Winston efficiency ensured that would not be denied college football's ultimate individual honor. His rating of 184.85 was more than ten points higher than the second-place quarterback. He averaged 10.6 yards per attempt and threw four touchdowns to every one interception.

So it hurts for him to start this season with two interceptions to one touchdown, a quarterback rating of 140.95. Is this one game to start the season a sign of regression. Most likely not, but this performance will be used against him—and eagerly—in the Heisman discussion.

But as far as Florida State is concerned: Who cares?

Who cares about the politicking and stat-mongering that goes into winning a Heisman Trophy? All the Seminoles care about is winning.

And on that front, as he has so many times before, Winston came up big when it mattered most.

Leading by three late in the third quarter, and struggling to find an offensive rhythm, head coach Jimbo Fisher dialed up a designed quarterback draw from the Oklahoma State 28-yard line. Winston came to FSU with a dual-threat reputation, but he had hitherto rarely been asked to run. It seemed incautious exposing him to unnecessary contact, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

They also call for career-defining plays:

The longest run of Winston's career was also the best, and it came in one of the biggest moments. It was a put-the-team-on-my-back moment on par with Marshawn Lynch in 2010. It was "Beast Mode" through and through.

Later, leading by six with less than five minutes remaining, when all Florida State needed was a first down or two to ice away the game, Winston took it one further, zipping perhaps his best pass of the night to Rashad Greene for a 50-yard touchdown and 37-24 lead:

It's very possible that Oklahoma State is good. More than good. No matter how much talent they lost, the Cowboys have been one of the seven or eight most consistent programs over the past five years. Mike Gundy's teams usually show up to play. Glenn Spencer's defenses always show up to play. That was a good team that FSU beat.

And we shouldn't kill a team for beating someone good.

But, of course, we will, because the Seminoles were three-touchdown favorites, and they're used to beating teams by more than three touchdowns. After 13 consecutive games of looking invulnerable, this was the second consecutive matchup where they looked vulnerable. 

Still, 15-0 in the Winston era is 15-0 in the Winston era. He still has never lost a game. Florida State has a few minor things to worry about—the nonexistent pass-rush; the not-as-dominant-as-expected offensive line; the lack of receiving options outside of Greene—but its quarterback is not one of them.

In fact, he's the main reason those worries are only minor.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Leonard Fournette Debuts for LSU: Final Stat Line, Analysis and Twitter Reaction

Maybe college football fans should tone down Leonard Fournette's expectations in 2014. The freshman running back made his long-awaited debut for LSU, running for 18 yards on eight carries in the Tigers' 28-24 win. He also returned five kicks for 117 yards.

Fournette is arguably the most eagerly anticipated recruit in the Class of 2014. He's the No. 1-ranked player in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The hype train wasted no time in running off the rails.

In his list of bold predictions for the 2014 season, Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman argued that the freshman phenom will win the Heisman Trophy.

"We will be talking about how LSU's freshman crop may be the best class in the past decade and the gem of it all, RB Leonard Fournette, will become the first true freshman to win the Heisman," wrote Feldman.

LSU head coach Les Miles was downright giddy when talking about Fournette in preseason, per ESPN.com's David Ching.

"That's kind of like having Tiger Woods on a golf course with a putter," said Miles. "You just want to see him tee off, don't you? Well, we have to put pads on before we can see him tee off."

Fournette's already being spoken of in the same breath as Adrian Peterson, which is the highest praise a running back can receive today.

How quickly is everyone gonna jump off the bandwagon now?

CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish made light of Fournette's sky-high expectations:

Bleacher Report's Jeff Risdon walked away less than impressed:

ESPN's Bomani Jones also felt that in Fournette's little time on the field, he looked nothing like a game-breaking running back:

Miles is under no obligation to put Fournette on the field, and that showed in the first half. NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan tracked five plays that featured the prized recruit:

Chris Singleton of BayouPreps.com thinks that riding Kenny Hilliard gives the Tigers the best option right now. The freshman's time will come later:

Obviously, Fournette shouldn't be judged by one bad game, especially his first game at the collegiate level. He didn't become the best running back recruit in the country by accident. His combination of speed, power, agility and elusiveness can't be ignored.

Over the course of the season, Fournette should see his role in the LSU offense grow.

With that said, fans likely won't see him fulfill his potential until at least next season, by which time Hilliard and Terrence Magee will have graduated.

Saturday night will merely be a bump in the road.

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Marcus Mariota vs. South Dakota: Final Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

First impressions are everything in college football, especially for Heisman hopefuls. While some failed to live up to the hype, Marcus Mariota did exactly what was expected of him against South Dakota—play consistent with flashes of brilliance he showed last season.

The Ducks quarterback passed for 14-of-20 for 267 yards and four total touchdowns in the season opener. He also tied a program record for passing touchdowns, as Andy McNamara, the Assistant AD for Communications, points out:

Despite losing to Jameis Winston in the Heisman race last season, Mariota has the clear upper hand after Week 1. While the performance came against a much weaker opponent, the Oregon signal-caller got started on a much better note.

Mariota dissected the South Dakota defense throughout the first half with just six incompletions. One of the best passes of the game came in the first quarter as he found Byron Marshall deep down field for a 41-yard touchdown.

ESPNU provides a look at the huge completion for Mariota:

But Mariota wouldn't stop with just showing off his arm, he also flashed his dual-threat ability.

The Oregon signal-caller notched an additional 43 yards on the ground with an average of 7.2 yards per rush. That number was slightly lower due to a one-yard score just before the end of the first half.

Oregon Football gives a breakdown of the drive that led to the touchdown for Mariota:

Granted, Oregon headed into the locker room with a 41-13 lead over an inferior opponent. But the precision and dynamic ability that Mariota possesses was on full display against South Dakota early on.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com passed along his analysis of the quarterback:

After his performance in the first half, Mariota would not return in the second half, per Jason Quick of The Oregonian:

Moving forward, Mariota will have much tougher defenses to contend with on his path to a potentially stellar season. That begins next week with a staunch Michigan State team coming into town.

The Spartans are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press and Amway Polls and expected to make noise this season. With both teams having aspirations of contending for a National Championship this season, Mariota will need to be on top of his game yet again.

As the season progresses, Oregon also has several tests along with the way in the Pac-12. If Mariota can continue to shine like he did in Week 1, a Heisman and National Championship might not be far out of reach.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Wisconsin vs. LSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

Wisconsin and LSU gave fans a star-studded treat for Week 1 of the 2014 NCAA football season. These two preseason Top 25 squads decided to forego a tune-up game against an FCS school and take each other to task from the get-go. It made for an entertaining back-and-forth game, with the Tigers pulling out a fantastic 28-24 come-from-behind victory.

This game was supposed to be the first chapter in LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette's legendary SEC story, but this contest may in fact be a footnote for the highly touted recruit. He finished with just 18 yards on eight carries.

Wisconsin sophomore running back Reggie Love kicked off the scoring with a 45-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Badger Football noted the unlikely hero had quite the career average after that play:

Love briefly upstaged featured Badger back Melvin Gordon, but his moment in the spotlight was short-lived as the latter back got to work carving up the Tigers defense for big gains.

LSU got their own highlight play toward the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Anthony Jennings found wide receiver Travin Dural streaking down the sideline for a spectacular 80-yard touchdown, a play highlighted by Bleacher Report's Twitter account:

Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune liked how Jennings bounced back from his early struggles:

Fournette struggled to gain traction throughout the game, but it wasn't just him. LSU struggled as a whole to gain any momentum on the ground in the first half. This fan noted toward the end of the game that the Tigers were missing a big talent in the backfield:

ESPN's Bomani Jones expected to see more from Fournette in his first game as a Tiger:

Wisconsin was forced to rely on defense and the rushing attack with quarterback Tanner McEvoy struggling to move the ball through the air. He certainly ran the ball well, carrying the pigskin six times for 40 yards. Unfortunately, he completed just eight of 24 passes for 50 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

As Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, he didn't meet the Saturday-night standards:

Despite his struggles, the Badgers remained in control of the game and went into the locker room at halftime with a 17-7 lead.

They continued to pound the ball with Gordon in the third quarter. The junior back repaid his team's faith, punching the ball into the end zone to cap off a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive early in the third quarter.

Bucky's 5th Quarter noted the Badger backs have quite the touchdown celebration in store for this season:

The Tigers did well to refocus after that demoralizing drive. They strung together two nine-play drives that ended in Colby Delahoussaye field goals to cut the Badgers lead to 11.

McEvoy and Wisconsin struggled to move the ball efficiently, allowing LSU to maintain its momentum. Jennings finally put the Tigers within striking distance early in the fourth quarter, completing a 35-yard pass to John Diarse for the critical touchdown.

McEvoy then made a critical error early in the fourth quarter, throwing a costly interception that gave the Tigers excellent field position.

The Tigers eventually found their workhorse back in the form of Kenny Hilliard. He gave the Tigers their first lead of the game with a gut-busting 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. ESPN SEC noted just how well Hilliard carried the rock on that drive:

Hilliard finished the game with 18 carries for 110 yards and one touchdown.

Observers were perplexed as to why Gordon didn't see more of the ball down the stretch. Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel thought he was clearly what the Badgers needed:

Gordon finished the game with just three carries in the second half, a perplexing development considering how dynamic he looked in the first half. As SportsCenter noted prior to the contest, Gordon gave up a chance at the NFL to return to the Badgers this season:

LSU will be happy to pull out the victory, despite not getting the expected production from Fournette. Hilliard can continue to carry the load in the early going, but the Tigers will need to find ways to work in their young back who has so much potential.

The Badgers clearly have a potent rushing attack, but head coach Gary Andersen will face questions about the team's balance on offense and the disappearance of Gordon's touches.

Wisconsin should still be a Top 20 team and showed that it has a strong enough defense to carry it through tougher contests, but McEvoy remains a work in progress and could struggle to deliver high-profile victories in the future.

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Florida State vs. Oklahoma State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Seminoles

Final Stats: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31

It wasn't pretty but it still resulted in a familiar outcome for No. 1 Florida State; the Seminoles were once again victorious Saturday night, knocking off Oklahoma State, 37-31.

The triumph extended the Seminoles winning streak to 17 games. FSU was tested in just two games a season ago (at Boston College and in the national championship game against Auburn), but in the 2014 opener, the Cowboys and adversity proved to be worthy foes, as the defending national champs had to sweat one out at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

How FSU responds moving forward will be critical. The 'Noles could not establish a running game against the Cowboys, and that vaunted all-senior offensive line struggled mightily. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had a couple brilliant moments, but Rashad Greene, who had 11 catches for 203 yards and touchdown, was the only receiver he appeared confident in targeting.

The Seminoles have to improve across the board if they want to go wire to wire as No. 1 and finish the season on the same field they started it on Saturday night.

 

Florida State Seminoles Game Analysis

Passing Offense

Winston forced some throws for sure (he had two interceptions on ill-advised passes), but the Seminoles signal-caller still made plays through the air when he had to.

After losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw in the off-season, it's understandable Winston's timing and confidence is still a work in progress with every receiver not named Greene, who accounted for 203 of Winston's 370 passing yards and key fourth-quarter score.

Christian Green showed some flashes early in the game but his 73 yards on two grabs all occurred in the opening half, and he was a non-factor in the final two quarters. Can Kermit Whitfield build off his three catches for 30 yards moving forward?

 

Running Game

The Seminoles were supposed to dominate teams on the ground in 2014 behind an all-senior offensive line and a home-run hitting tailback depth chart. But Saturday night Oklahoma State ate up that offensive line and bottled up running back Karlos Williams, who was held to just 2.9 yards per carry.

Outside of Mario Pender's 11-yard dash to the end zone and Winston's career-long 28-yard highlight-reel run to pay dirt, FSU's running game was a disappointment. 

 

Pass Defense

FSU led the nation in interceptions a season ago and nabbed one Saturday night when Nate Andrews took pick back for an early score. FSU held Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh to 15-of-27 passing for 203 yards and one long score on a busted coverage. Cornerback P.J. Williams made the play of the game when he forced Walsh into a fumble late in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory.

 

Run Defense

The Seminoles are clearly still looking for a quality replacement in the heart of the defensive line for Timmy Jernigan, who moved on to the NFL. The absence of the All-American tackle was evident at times against the Cowboys, who had some success running up the middle. Walsh reeled off 51 yards rushing with two scores, though Oklahoma State did manage just 3.8 yards per carry.

FSU got some great play from linebackers Terrance Smith, E.J. Levenberry and Reggie Northrup, its secondary and ends Mario Edwards Jr. and DeMarcus Walker but needs its defensive tackles to step up and replace Jernigan.

 

Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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SEC Headed for Season of Chaos in 2014

Remember when Alabama (154 votes) and Auburn (75 votes) were the picked as the odds-on favorites to win the SEC title by the assembled members of the media in Hoover, Alabama, in July?

Yeah, about that.

Week 1 in the SEC taught us one thing: We're in for a wild season.

SEC East favorite South Carolina was upended at home in the opener 52-28 by a Texas A&M team led by first-year starter Kenny Hill that was picked to finish next-to-last in the SEC West.

Alabama was pushed to the limit in a 33-23 win over a West Virginia team that committed a litany of unforced errors in the second half, including dropped passes by receivers, bone-headed penalties and a snap over quarterback Clint Trickett's head in the red zone.

Defending SEC champ Auburn's defense looked like it was playing without a defensive line in the first half, as Arkansas' running game sliced and diced the Tigers before head coach Gus Malzahn's crew pulled away to win 45-21.

Not many people predicted any of those things happening.

The most impressive team of the week was No. 12 Georgia, which topped No. 16 Clemson 45-21 between the hedges in Athens. Yeah, running back Todd Gurley scored four touchdowns and generally looked like a freak. But what was more impressive was the Georgia defense, which shut down Clemson in the second half.

Georgia scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. Clemson gained 15 yards in the second half.

— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) August 31, 2014

Not bad for new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Those Aggies weren't so bad either.

Hill established himself as a true Heisman candidate, setting Texas A&M records for passing yards (511) and attempts (60) in his first career start. What's more important is that the defense gave up "only" 433 yards—which isn't great, but certainly enough to keep the Aggies competitive if the offense plays the way it did against the Gamecocks.

"That team is so much better than us, it wasn't funny," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said, according to Texas A&M's official website.

The SEC will bring the weird this year because, while many teams are talented, they all have pretty glaring holes that will lead to inconsistency, uncertainty and a lot of fun.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore, just enough defense does.

What we learned in Week 1 is that Texas A&M and Auburn probably have "enough."

LSU's passing game and offensive line were both hit-or-miss in the 28-24 win over Wisconsin, which will put a ton of pressure on that defense as the season progresses. Sure, quarterback Anthony Jennings displayed big play ability and helped guide the team off the deck, but 9-of-21 passing won't cut it on a week-in, week-out basis.

Ole Miss' defense was all over the place in its season-opening 35-13 win over Boise State, but will it show up to overcome quarterback Bo Wallace's inconsistencies on a regular basis? Probably not, at least at that level.

Alabama's defense is spotty at best, which isn't a good situation for the Tide, considering the offense—while effective—was conservative under Sims.

That wasn't a surprise to head coach Nick Saban.

"Are we as talented as some of [Alabama's] previous teams at critical positions? We don't have the experience," he said. "So we're going to grow into those things. I knew going in. You knew going in, but you just ignored it. I couldn't."

Does that mean the SEC won't make the College Football Playoff?

It's unlikely, because one team is bound to get hot and produce a strong resume for the selection committee.

If Week 1 is any indication, though, it's going to be a wild ride getting there with favorites having just as many holes as the midlevel teams.

Buckle up your chin strap. It's about to get fun.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.  

 

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Florida State Has a Long Way to Go If It Wants to Be a Playoff Team in 2014

Jimbo Fisher still gets fired up and gives motivational speeches. But he's big on the short mantras that more often stick with teenagers and 20- and 21-year-olds that prefer Twitter-like bursts of conversation.

Last year, the Florida State coach embraced "find me a crumb," a saying meant to emphasize making the little plays, fighting for extra yards and forcing turnovers. He used "play don't care who makes it" to encourage freshmen and sophomores to not just learn on the fly but deliver results on the field.

This year, it's "don't eat the cheese." Fisher doesn't want FSU to buy into the hype, the No. 1 ranking, the repeat talk. He wants FSU to focus on the next play, not look past an opponent and stack up wins on Saturdays. It's fancier (and less boring) than saying "take care of business" or "play one game at a time."

In an offseason in which Fisher preached focus and did whatever he could to warn the Seminoles against complacency, FSU was sluggish and clearly took Oklahoma State for granted.

This was a wake-up call. The Seminoles never trailed on Saturday night and eventually escaped with a 37-31 win over Oklahoma State.

But FSU nibbled at the cheese before realizing what it had done.

The lesson to be learned needs to be this: Games like these, against better, deeper, more experienced teams, will be losses. FSU won't win anything in 2014 based on its 2013 resume. It's just one game into the season, but the Seminoles still clearly have a long way to go if they want to earn a spot in the four-team playoff.

FSU's 2013 team was one that systematically dominated teams, winning 12 of 14 games by 30 or more points. Will the 2014 team be one that fights to win games? Or does this game cause the Seminoles to rededicate themselves and focus on playing up to their potential each Saturday?

Fisher said this week that he hates season openers, then softened that comment before explaining. There are too many concerns, not enough game film, especially of a team like the Cowboys that lost so many starters. He said season openers are like "chasing ghosts."

FSU spent much of Saturday night chasing Tyreek Hill, who ran for 44 yards and caught six passes for 62 yards and had 140 yards in kickoff returns. Those numbers may not seem like a lot, but he kept extending drives and breaking the FSU defense's back. Often, shaky play at defensive tackle, a concern the coaches knew could be an issue following the early departure of junior Timmy Jernigan to the NFL, hurt Florida State. That's something FSU will need to shore up in the weeks ahead.

The defense certainly made plays. Safety Nate Andrews' nine-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter gave FSU the early momentum. Cornerback P.J. Williams forced a crucial fourth-quarter fumble of Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh, and defensive end Mario Edwards was disruptive against the pass.

But there was inconsistent play at receiver, where Jameis Winston seemed to drop back and look for Rashad Greene as often as possible. While Winston threw for 370 yards, and had a critical, leaping 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, there were two head-scratching interceptions. Winston and Greene have always had great chemistry, and on Saturday, last year's Heisman winner completed 11 passes to Greene for 203 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Karlos Williams, the starting tailback, was the second-leading receiver with five receptions. Christian Green had two catches early. Tight end Nick O'Leary had three receptions. Winston needs to establish more chemistry with FSU's young receivers and spread the ball around better.

Perhaps the most stunning development was that the Seminoles offensive line was pushed around. Five seniors, four of them veteran starters and FSU struggled to protect Winston. And the running game was ineffective as FSU had just 106 rushing yards on 31 carries.

Last year, Winston won a Heisman, but FSU won games with a balanced attack. There was no balance on offense on Saturday. Williams ran for 66 yards but averaged just 2.9 yards per carry.

FSU was just too flat on Saturday. Too many penalties (eight for 71 yards), and the offense was awful on third down (4-of-14). By contrast, Oklahoma State was able to sustain drives and convert on 8-of-16 third-down plays.

The Dallas-to-Dallas mantra that FSU embraced in the offseason was all well and good. But Fisher rightly has asked the Seminoles to let that chatter go in August. 

FSU is 1-0. Forget "Dallas to Dallas." The Seminoles need to remember not to eat the cheese.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.

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Winners and Losers from Week 1 of College Football

College football is back, and it looks better than ever.

You know what they say: 2014 is the new 2013. 

While our beloved sport's return is a cherished moment, it also means everyone is no longer undefeated. Sometimes, in fact, optimism can be brutally crushed in a single game. 

That's why, with the start of the new season, we're starting a weekly "Winners and Losers" recap to capture all that was good—and all that was painful—during the first week of action. 

As you have probably noticed, Winners and Losers is live before all the games have ended. Fear not, as this post will be updated as events warrant. 

So let's get the conversation going. Which teams, players, coaches and/or moments were the best from Week 1? Which ones were the worst?

The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

FSU vs. Oklahoma State: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 1 Florida State Seminoles learned quickly on Saturday night that being the reigning national champion comes with a few drawbacks, namely that every opponent is extra motivated to knock you off your perch.

FSU struggled to put away Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, after going ahead early, eventually downing the Cowboys 37-31.

Going into Saturday night, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher preached humility to his team, per Tim Linafelt of the Miami Herald:

And to make that point clear, he's adopted a new phrase: "Don't eat the cheese."

He picked this one up from one of FSU's guest speakers. It roughly translates to, "Don’t believe the hype."

"It means don't buy into everything everybody's telling you," Fisher said. "How great you are, how this, how that. Don't eat the cheese.

"Don't be the rat that eats the cheese."

His players didn't appear to heed that advice.

This game was supposed to be easy for Florida State. Oklahoma State lost a ton of talent from last year's team, while the 'Noles lost only a few key pieces from the group that beat Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.

Add to that OK State's history against No. 1-ranked teams, and everything pointed to a comfortable 'Noles triumph, per ESPN Stats and Info:

However, the game went down to the wire.

Rashad Greene's 50-yard touchdown reception with a little under four minutes remaining in the game gave Florida State enough breathing room to seal the win. Jameis Winston threaded the ball through the tiniest of windows, and no Cowboys defender could track down Greene from there, as the strike put FSU up 37-24, per ESPN College Football:

Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh scored on a three-yard run with 1:55 to go, making it a one-score game at 37-31. Oklahoma State couldn't recover the onside kick, however, and the Seminoles killed off the clock.

Many eyes were on the incumbent Heisman Trophy winner, Winston. The Seminoles quarterback played somewhat poorly compared to the sky-high standards he set for himself in 2013, which was one of Florida State's biggest problems.

He completed 25 of his 40 passes for 370 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Greene was huge all game, recording 11 receptions for 203 yards and a touchdown.

Early on, the game looked like it would turn into a rout.

Roberto Aguayo broke the scoreless deadlock with a field goal a little less than six minutes into the game, putting Florida State up 3-0. On the very next play from scrimmage, Walsh was intercepted by Nate Andrews, who ran back the pick nine yards to the end zone, as illustrated by College GameDay:

The Seminoles defense, Andrews included, wasn't a stranger to scoring last year:

Things looked dire for Oklahoma State when Mario Pender scampered 11 yards for a touchdown, putting Florida State ahead 17-0 with 8:19 left in the first half. Overcoming a 17-point lead against the reigning champion is no small feat. Not to mention that FSU gave up 17 or more points on only three occasions during 2013.

The Cowboys slowly chipped away the lead, scoring on the very next drive. Desmond Roland punched it in from a yard out to make it a 17-7 game with 3:58 to go in the half.

The two teams exchanged possession on the next two drives, giving Florida State a great opportunity to build upon its 10-point lead, but then it shot itself in the foot with a turnover.

On a 1st-and-10 at his own 29-yard line, Winston threw an interception to OK State's Ashton Lampkin, who was brought down for no gain on the FSU 49-yard line.

Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman felt that play accurately encapsulated how Oklahoma State's defense has often looked suspect in the past but then came up with a few big plays that completely swung momentum:

The Cowboys had 29 seconds to either go 49 yards for the touchdown or at the very least get inside field-goal range.

A 14-yard pass to Jhajuan Seales and a subsequent unsportsmanlike penalty on Florida State moved the ball to the FSU 20-yard line, which allowed Ben Grogan to nail a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds of the second quarter.

Getting to within a touchdown going into the half was a major momentum boost for OK State. As Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde pointed out, what looked like a blowout earlier all of a sudden became a close, competitive game:

Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben thought the early pick-six also made things look worse than they were for the Cowboys:

As CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd tweeted out, the Seminoles looked listless in the first half, which allowed Oklahoma State to claw its way back into the game:

Florida State got the ball to start the second half, and Aguayo added a 27-yard field goal to give the 'Noles a little breathing room, 20-10.

Their tranquility was short-lived, though, as a major breakdown in the Florida State secondary left Dan Glidden wide open, and he went 55 yards to the end zone a little over four minutes into the third quarter:

Florida State had an answer, though.

Up until the third quarter, Winston had been largely silent. The lack of a steady running game in turn hampered Winston and the Seminoles passing game quite a bit. So Winston simply took things into his own hands, tucking the ball and running 28 yards to the end zone, giving the 'Noles a 10-point lead once again, 27-17, with 5:26 left in the third frame:

Sports on Earth's Matt Brown felt it was the first time all game that the Heisman winner truly lived up to his name:

One QB touchdown run begets another, as Walsh answered back with a 24-yard TD run of his own in the fourth quarter, bringing Oklahoma State to within three points, 27-24, with 11:51 to play in the game.

Another Aguayo field goal put Florida State up 30-24 with a little over five minutes left.

The next drive essentially decided the game. On a 2nd-and-5 on his own 49-yard line, Walsh fumbled after being upended by P.J. Williams. Two plays later, Winston hit Greene for the touchdown that all but sealed the victory.

Closing a double-digit gap in such a short amount of time was too big of a task for Oklahoma State.

Florida State will look to take full advantage of what should be a much easier game against The Citadel next week. The Seminoles will need to get themselves mentally prepared for the Clemson Tigers, whom they meet on Sept. 20.

Oklahoma State welcomes in Missouri State next week and takes on UT-San Antonio two weeks from tonight. With the way the Cowboys played on Saturday, they could be serious contenders in the Big 12.

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Jameis Winston Scrambles for Sensational Career-Long TD vs. Oklahoma State

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston faced off against Oklahoma State in Week 1 of the 2014 college football season. After a disappointing first half, Winston got the crowd going with one of the best runs of the weekend, hurdling and sidestepping his way for 28 yards and the score. After a close call with the Cowboys, does Florida State still have what it takes to run the table?

Watch the video to see Winston make a highlight-reel touchdown run.

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Despite Loss to Auburn, Bret Bielema Has Arkansas on Right Path in the SEC

Saturday's loss at Auburn wasn't exactly what Arkansas bargained for when it hired Bret Bielema. At Wisconsin, Bielema's teams didn't just hang tough for two quarters; they hung tough for four quarters, then won.

Regardless, even in a 45-21 defeat, Arkansas played the defending SEC champion and national runner-up to a draw after 30 minutes, and in the process it showed something it didn't in Bielema's first season with the team: a genuine pulse.

The Razorbacks did not crumble to the pavement after Auburn's first haymaker, a 49-yard touchdown strike from Jeremy Johnson to Melvin Ray. They didn't fold after falling back 21-7 early in the second quarter. They scrapped and they clawed and they fought back into the game, and even though it didn't hold, it spoke volumes.

The biggest reason for that improvement? It has to be the play of quarterback Brandon Allen. As a sophomore last season, Allen was up and ddown (but mostly down), in large part because of injuries. But he came back looking stronger and more confident than ever, finishing with 175 yards and two touchdowns on 31 passes.

He did throw a pick-six that essentially sealed the game in the fourth quarter. But before that, Allen was even better than his numbers. If not for an ugly drop by Keon Hatcher on a should-have-been-70-yard-touchdown in the first quarter, his final line would have read even finer (and the score might have been much different).

Greg McElroy of the SEC Network came away impressed with Allen's performance—regardless of the final outcome:

Bielema never had (or needed) a dominant quarterback at Wisconsin. What he had (and needed) were efficient ones.

Russell Wilson broke the NCAA's single-season passing efficiency record (191.8) under Bielema in 2011, and he did it in a season in which the Badgers rushed almost twice as many times as they passed. The ideal Bielema offense leans on running the ball, then running the ball and running the ball some more—then making you pay for expecting the run.

That system broke down a little bit in the second half, and it's hard to tell exactly why. It might have been fatigue, and it might have been a schematic adjustment made by Auburn. It might have been a little bit of both. The lightning delay in the fourth quarter definitely did not help (although the game had slipped away long before that).

Still, for at least 30 minutes, Arkansas did to the SEC Champion what Wisconsin did for so many years to teams in the Big Ten. The offensive line had its way with Auburn's front seven, and Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall ran with grit. When Auburn came up to cheat on the run, Allen hit it over the top.

The defensive line looked very good, also. Against what might be the best offensive line in college football, Arkansas held its own. The defense as a whole looked overmatched, but Auburn's offense will make a lot of defenses look that way this season. Whether it's Johnson or Nick Marshall at quarterback—it doesn't matter either way.

With such a difficult schedule this season, it is still unlikely that Arkansas makes a bowl game. But that's not how it should measure its success. Going 6-6 will be difficult, but finishing below .500 would not mean Bielema has made no progress.

This team is slowly starting to mold in his image, and the results down on the Plains—at least for 30 minutes—were assuring. This team can't beat any opponent in the country, but it can hang with them.

"We had two quarters we can live with and two quarters that we can't," said Bielema after the game, per Phil Buck of KTHV in Little Rock. And that seems like a pretty fair assessment.

But on the heels of a season in which less than 50 percent of the quarters were good ones…well, two out of four ain't bad.

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Arkansas vs. Auburn: Game Grades and Analysis for Razorbacks and Tigers

Arkansas and Auburn did battle at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and both offenses were able to put on a show in the first half. But the Tigers were able to use their depth and talent to overpower the Razorbacks in the second half and come away with an important conference win 45-21 (the final box score can be found on NCAA.com).

Both teams will have a lot of things they will need to work on as they move forward in the 2014 season. But both teams also showed they have the firepower to compete with any team they face in their division. Here are some grades to hand out for the Razorbacks and the Tigers.

Pass Offense: Arkansas’ passing attack was not able to blow past the Auburn secondary. Brandon Allen started off strong, throwing two touchdown passes in the first half, but he was not able to get anything going in the second half. AJ Derby led the Razorbacks with four receptions for 40 yards and one touchdown.

Run Offense: The three-headed monster of Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall got things going in the first half, but was shut down in second half. The Razorbacks rushed for only 153 yards per game after rushing for 208 yards per game last year. Collins was the leading rusher with 68 yards on 10 carries.

Pass Defense: It was not a good first half for the secondary as it let Jeremy Johnson throw for 243 yards and two touchdowns. But it was able to pick it up in the second half because Nick Marshall only threw for 50 yards. Alan Turner was the top player in the secondary, tallying 10 tackles in the loss.

Run Defense: It was a difficult afternoon for the Razorbacks in terms of stopping Auburn's rushing attack. The Tigers rushed for 302 yards, and the majority of the yards came in the second half. The front seven looked worn down, and the lighting delay did not help.

Special Teams: Even with Marshall and D.J. Dean, Arkansas was not able to make any impact plays on special teams. Kicker John Henderson was a non-factor, and the coverage units were solid but could have played better. Sam Irwin-Hill averaged 43 yards per punt, which was the only highlight.

Coaching: Bret Bielema did a good job getting his players ready in the first half as they were able to run and throw all over the Tigers. But he did not make the proper adjustments, which was why the Razorbacks were blown out in the second half.

 

 

Pass Offense: Johnson lit up the Razorbacks in the first half. He made good decisions and looked poised in the pocket. Marshall only threw for 50 yards, but he was 4-of-6, and his yards came in the second half when Auburn took over the game with the running attack. 

Run Offense: And speaking of the run offense, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant ran all over the Razorbacks. Artis-Payne tallied 177 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown, while Grant rushed for 87 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown. Marshall got in the mix with a rushing touchdown as well.

Pass Defense: The Tigers' pass defense was on point as it limited Allen to only 175 yards. But the play of the game came when Jermaine Whitehead retuned a 33-yard interception for a touchdown. He also added seven tackles in the win as did Jonathon Mincy.

Run Defense: The Tigers' front seven did a strong job containing Arkansas' rushing attack. With the efforts of Cassanova McKinzy and Montravius Adams, the Tigers did not let Williams, Collins or Marshall run wild in the second half. The Razorbacks did get most of their rushing yards in the first half, but the Auburn's defense was able to make adjustments afterward.

Special Teams: Daniel Carlson did miss a field-goal attempt, but he was able to nail a 45-yarder in the second half, racking up six extra points. Grant had a kick return for 32 yards, and both kick- and punt-coverage teams never let the Razorbacks go for any explosive plays.

Coaching: Gus Malzahn never had a hard time getting his playmakers in the right position to make plays on offense. The defense was unstable in the first half, but defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson tightened things up in the second half, which led to the defense pitching a shutout in the third and fourth quarters.

 

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