NCAA Football News
The GameDay crew will be in Seattle this weekend ahead of the Top 25 Pac-12 showdown between Oregon and Washington. Per Simers, Kiffin "texted to say he’s not talking to anyone now on the advice of his agent," but we have to assume the recently fired offensive mind will be asked to dissect a little Pac-12 football.
It's not like Kiffin has anything else going on at the moment. The 38-year-old was relieved of his duties late last month following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. The 3-2 start was the program's worst since 2002, and Kiffin's tenure in Los Angeles had been a major disappointment overall since taking over for Pete Carroll in 2010.
In an effort to limit the awkwardness on set, it's likely that Chris Fowler and crew will keep the focus on Saturday's action and matchup when Kiffin pays them a visit. Believe it or not, he led USC to a win over the Huskies in Seattle a year ago, and will likely have some words of advice for Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich.
T.J. Simers facetiously suggests that Kiffin will come dressed as the Oregon Duck mascot when it comes time for Lee Corso to make his pick. But given that his agent wants him to keep quiet, it shouldn't be ruled out as a possibility.
Kiffin, who was a head coach for two years in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and spent one year at Tennessee before making an untimely exit for Southern Cal, went just 28-15 in Los Angeles and now has a 35-21 career head coaching record in college football (including two bowl game defeats).
Meanwhile, coming off a bye week, USC will begin the post-Lane Kiffin era on Thursday night, when they host the Arizona Wildcats at the Coliseum.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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Week 7 has yet to kick off in the Pac-12, but the bar was set high with the back-and-forth between Stanford head coach David Shaw and Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian.
If the fireworks on the field match the those off it, we're in for a wild set of games.
Sarkisian and Co. turn their attention from Stanford to rival Oregon in the game of the week. The Huskies haven't beaten the Ducks since 2003, and doing so this year means spoiling Oregon's BCS championship aspirations.
USC takes another step in its life after Lane Kiffin in the Thursday-night showcase. Both the Trojans and Wildcats are searching for consistency from their quarterbacks, which could make for a low-scoring affair on this weekend's slate.
Record Last Week: 4-1 (Against the spread: 4-1)
Record on the Season: 41-4 (ATS: 29-16)
Never one to withhold his opinion, Washington State's head coach Mike Leach offered his take on the government shutdown, which has reached its ninth day. Leach gave his opinion during an interview with John Canzano on 750 AM The Game in Portland for Saturday's game against Oregon State as Washington State aims for its first bowl berth in almost a decade.
"Part of it is, along with a lot of other Americans, there's a sense of helplessness," Leach said. "The government has proven to be so incompetent that there's a sense of helplessness like, 'Oh well, they're going to screw it up anyway..."
Tracing back to his final days at Texas Tech, Leach has never shied away from making his opinions known. As Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian's book The System documents, one of Leach's strongest qualities is his straight-forward, blunt attitude.
"The government shutdown, we all know that's a sham," Leach said. "I mean, are they really going to just go to the entire Army and Navy and say, 'You're fired,"? And then, all these government buildings... and then of course, Obama's going to say, 'Government's shutdown, I'm just going to go home to Chicago and play basketball.' I don't think that's going to happen and I don't think anybody really buying that. Both parties are posturing. It's hard to say any one party is more guilty than the other."
A former resident of Wyoming who graduated from Brigham Young University, Leach stresses adherence to a set of core beliefs and delivers talks for groups like Lubbock Area Republican Women at their second annual membership drive.
Nitra Barnes, the president of the organization, characterized Leach as a "conservative Republican."
"Obama is trying to protect Obamacare, and then obviously even in his own party a bunch of people are against it. I mean, you know, everybody knows the issues. The Democrats haven't balanced the budget, and the Republicans don't believe they can so then they want to aggressively pursue it because they want to make the Democrats look as bad as they can at the expense of the American people."
Leach will probably have no effect on ending the government shutdown, but it's always nice to listen to a prominent figure be honest. However, Leach will always be a much better football coach than politician.
Hopefully Leach's politically-charged talks don't conflict with his football responsibilities as Washington State is attempting to improve its football program.
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Among the many big revelations from USC football in the last week, senior running back Silas Redd made his long-awaited return to action in Week 7 against Arizona.
"[Redd] had an excellent practice [Monday]," interim head coach Ed Orgeron said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call. "Can't wait to watch him play."
Redd's return from a torn meniscus gives USC a backfield with three productive rushers, all of whom are capable of taking some pressure off of sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler.
"We've gotten a little out-of-whack in our passing game. We're not what USC used to be," Orgeron said. "We need to make it quarterback-friendly."
A more quarterback-friendly approach from offensive coordinator and new play-caller Clay Helton means a methodical and multidimensional run game. Redd brings depth, but he doesn’t need to shoulder too much of the load in the coming weeks.
The senior has been out of action since March, and the Trojans found two breakout performers in his absence.
Behind sophomore Tre Madden and true freshman Justin Davis, USC is averaging more than 190 rushing yards per game.
Davis is coming off the best game of his young career, going for 122 yards and three touchdowns in Week 5 against Arizona State.
Madden's 583 rushing yards rank second in the conference behind Washington's Bishop Sankey. With the two youngsters buoying the USC offense, running the ball is not one of the more challenging issues facing Helton.
“If you’ve seen the running game in the last couple games, we’re really making some strides,” Orgeron said. "Our strength is our running backs.”
Certainly Redd adds to that strength, and Helton has options.
There’s no reason for the Trojans to deviate from Madden as the feature back. His outstanding play has been the one consistency for the offense throughout the season.
Redd won't take over the every-down responsibilities, but he could play a more important role in one of the more troubling areas for the USC offense.
The Trojans enter Week 7 with a 27.7 percent conversion rate on third downs. That ranks No. 117 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Helton can insert Redd on third downs either as a pass-blocker or a receiving option out of the backfield. He started to come into his own in the passing game late last season, catching seven of his nine passes in his final six games.
Davis provides a change-of-pace look with his explosive speed.
The backfield may be a little crowded as Redd is reintegrated, but the trio provides the new coaching staff its best option for defining the offense's identity.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.
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The Arizona State Sun Devils are coming off a disappointing performance in Arlington but have a chance to rebound against a struggling Colorado Buffaloes team.
The theme of the Sun Devils season thus far has been inconsistency.
Every time ASU has worked their way into the Top 25, they have lost and found themselves on the outside looking in. That's exactly the case this week.
Unfortunately for Sun Devil fans, a win against Colorado won't be enough to put them back into the national spotlight, but it would give the team a nice confidence boost before they take on a high-powered Washington Huskies squad the following week.
Colorado comes into Tempe looking for its first conference win and hopes to pull off the upset to show it can compete in the Pac-12. Dating back to last year, the Buffaloes have only won one conference game.
Here is all the information you need to know about Saturday's matchup.
Time: 10 p.m. ET
Place: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Sun Devil IMG Sports Network, 850 KOA
Spread: The Sun Devils are favored by 25-26 points (courtesy of Vegas Insider).
All stats from ESPN.com unless otherwise indicated.
Inside the Cotton Bowl, the Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma is a full-fledged grudge match 364 days in the making. Outside, it's a party.
Nowhere in college football is the backdrop for a game more unique than it is in Dallas for one weekend in October when the two sides meet at the State Fair of Texas. A pulsing crowd of thousands upon thousands dress in either burnt orange or crimson and cream. Chants of "Hook 'em Horns!" are met with "Boomer Sooner!"
Florida and Georgia may have the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, as it was previously known, but the cocktails aren't deep fried.
Most rivalries may divide households, but they don't divide an entire stadium right down the middle.
"With the atmosphere with the stadium split in half, it's special," says Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "It's like a bowl game in the middle of the year."
Oklahoma and Texas have played at the Texas State Fair on a consistent basis since 1929, though the stadium wasn't named the Cotton Bowl until 1936. Since the State Fair literally sits at the halfway point between Austin, Texas, and Norman, Oklahoma, it's an ideal location for fans, alumni and recruits.
Texas holds a 59-43-5 edge over OU in the all-time series, but it has lost the last three games.
Texas senior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins has one more shot at Oklahoma on Saturday. He doesn't want to end his career without a win in Dallas.
"It runs through my mind often actually," Hopkins said, via TexasSports.com. "It's been three tough years."
Going winless against a Red River rival doesn't happen often. The longest win streak by either program in the game's long history is eight. Texas did it twice, once from 1940 to 1947 and again from 1958 to 1965 under legendary coach Darrell Royal.
The 108th meeting between the two teams on Saturday will be one of the most important games of Texas coach Mack Brown's career as well.
Beating the Sooners is crucial for quieting the critics calling for Brown to resign or be fired, but the odds already aren't in Brown's favor. VegasInsider.com has OU as a two-touchdown favorite, and with a rash of injuries, the 'Horns could be shorthanded.
The intensity and subsequent anxiety will be high, at least for one side.
It's just another year in the Red River Rivalry.
"There's literally something here for everyone."
For one month out of the year, Fair Park, a sprawling 277-acre entertainment complex located just to the East of downtown Dallas, becomes Times Square on New Year's Eve.
The first State Fair of Texas took place in 1886 and has grown into a colossal gathering of locals and tourists alike. There are rides, cultural and art shows, and livestock displays. Standing at the center of it all is Big Tex, a 55-foot cowboy mascot that has become the iconic symbol of the event.
And, of course, there's food. A Lone Star state-sized smorgasbord of it, from Mexican to German and everything in between.
The fare ranges from the classics, corn dogs and funnel cakes, to the novel, like a deep-fried banana split. In 2005, the State Fair began handing out Big Tex choice awards for these fried culinary creations: one for "Best Taste" and one for "Most Creative."
The best-tasting award winners sound exquisite: a deep-fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich (2005), or Texas-fried cookie dough (2007). The most creative winners are palate puzzlers. Fried bubblegum (2007) and deep-fried latte (2007) highlight the list of the most bizarre.
The 2013 winner for most creative? Fried Thanksgiving dinner.
"There's literally something here for everyone," says Elaine Yniguez, who works in public relations for the State Fair.
Mark Zable understands that better than anyone. In 2010, He won a Big Tex Choice Award for Most Creative for his fried beer.
That's a State Fair of Texas first.
In 2006, fried Coke won a Big Tex Choice Award for Most Creative, but really, it's Coke-flavored batter covered in Coke syrup. But Zable's fried beer? It's actual liquid. He has a trademark on the name and a patent on the process.
He came up with the idea in 2008, but it took him two years to figure out how to successfully deep-fry something in liquid form. When he presents it in a small food tray sponsored by Shiner Bock with a side of nacho cheese sauce, it looks like a ravioli.
And it tastes, well, different.
"I've never had a product as charged as this one," Zable said. "People either love it or they can't stand it. There's no in-between."
Jack Pyland probably wouldn't like fried beer. His tent, Jack's French Frys, serves up the originals with no gimmicks: hamburgers and hot dogs, french fries and funnel cakes. The business has been in his family since 1945. Pyland has worked every State Fair of Texas for the past 65 years.
Pyland's first job for the family-owned business was in advertising, so to speak, when his father needed sound effects to draw customers into the tent.
"Six months old. That's the first time I started working for him," Pyland said.
Pyland works every day from 5 a.m. to past midnight, a shift totaling between 20 and 22 hours, running his business during the month of October. He naps when he can and is constantly moving even while nursing a broken foot.
"The fair doesn't stop for me," he says matter-of-factly.
On average, Pyland orders and sells 80 100-pound sacks of potatoes a day and 30 20-pound boxes of hamburgers with 80 patties to a box. Those numbers go up significantly on the day of the OU-Texas game.
The potatoes are sliced, washed and seasoned before being cooked. The process isn't fancy, but it makes for some seriously good food. The fries are fresh, hot and crispy. When topped with iodized salt and vinegar, by Pyland's recommendation, it's a satisfying snack.
"I tell people if they don't like the salt and vinegar, we'll give them another cup of fries and they can put ketchup on it or whatever they want," Pyland said. "So far, no one's taken me up on that offer."
"You are the greatest college football fan I've ever seen."
For Scott Harmon, the Red River Rivalry has been a game of business and pleasure at separate points in his life.
For about 10 years, Harmon and a group of friends were season-ticket holders for the Texas Longhorns. That included the annual game against the Sooners.
Then, life happened. Scott got married and had kids. The days of pilgrimages to the Cotton Bowl came to an end, replaced by days where he worked to put his daughters through college. Now 63 years old, he works as a business development manager at Alliance Fiber Optic Products, Inc. in Dallas.
But 40 years ago, his role in the Red River Rivalry was different. He was the drum major for the Texas Longhorns' marching band.
"When you're in the band, it's a much more intense situation," Harmon says. "You have a job to do on the field and the band takes its role as a main cheerleader. You're cheering all the time, ringing those stupid cowbells. That's probably the reason I've lost half my hearing."
Harmon first arrived at UT as a freshman in 1968, but he was immediately introduced to the passion of what was then known as the Red River Shootout. An ensemble 500 members strong at the time, according to Harmon, the marching band wouldn't take everyone; freshmen had to take turns performing on game days. And Harmon's turn came on, of all dates, Oct. 12.
UT won that year, 26-20.
Five years later, in 1973, Harmon was leading the Longhorn marching band out of the Cotton Bowl following a decisively less favorable outcome for Texas: a 52-13 drubbing that marked the beginning of the Barry Switzer era.
The 50-50 split between fanbases can create a volatile environment, and when mixed with liquid courage, some fans look to keep the fight going after the final whistle has blown.
"It's after the game. OU had beaten us that year, and beat us pretty good," Harmon says. "Here comes this giant OU fan. He's about 6'4" or 6'5" and weighs about 250 pounds. He is wearing a leisure suit made out of OU Crimson and Cream polyester, and he's raving and cursing."
When the Longhorn band lines up and begins to march, it can be dangerous if anyone tries to cut through. But people attempt to anyway.
Sometimes it's because they're impatient; sometimes it's to raise hell.
In this case, Harmon said, he knew the OU fan was “going to go through the band—and I'm the drum major so I'm at the front—I can see him making eyes with the twirler. I know what's going to happen. And I'm only about 6'0" and 180 pounds back then.
"So I stepped in front of him and said, 'Sir, I'm sorry, but you can't go through the band for your own safety.' And he starts cursing at me."
Only then does Harmon notice it.
"I say 'Excuse me, but is that really a red enamel of 'OU' on your two front teeth?"
"Yeah. What of it?" the fan fired back.
"So I tell him 'You are the greatest college football fan I've ever seen. I've seen some rabid Longhorn fans and rabid Arkansas fans, but you take the cake.'"
The situation dissolved quickly. What could have been a disaster instead morphed into a moment of comic relief.
Today, Harmon is still a fan of the 'Horns and an active member of the Longhorn alumni band. Though he hasn't been to an OU-Texas game since 1987, he still returns to Austin to perform as part of a yearly tradition.
His time as a member of the band remains a cherished memory. His only regret?
“I wish I had gotten a picture of that guy’s teeth.”
"She stood there for a second with her 'Horns down' before she realized...I was down on my knee."
Once a year, college football rivalries can divide houses. The Red River Rivalry brought one together.
Clayton Kelley moved to Austin, Texas, in October 2010—the same weekend as the OU-Texas game. A recent graduate from the University of Oklahoma, the capital of Texas was as much unknown territory as it was enemy territory.
"I went to the game with my dad, and then I kept driving to Austin," Kelley said. "I knew no one."
Four months later, Clayton met Lydia on a blind date. It didn't take long for the pair to figure out they had pledged their allegiance to opposite sides of the Red River.
But the love for sports, and eventually, each other, trumped the rivalry. By that summer, Clayton knew he wanted Lydia to be his wife. He went through the traditional steps. He asked Lydia's father for permission and got the perfect ring.
Then, he added his own spin.
Clayton, a lifelong Sooners fan, hadn't missed a Red River game since 1998. He would take Lydia to the 2011 edition of the game with the intention of proposing to her on the field after the game.
Everyone was in on it. The plan called for Clayton and Lydia to meet their friends on the field at the 50-yard line for pictures. It would be easier, Clayton explained, than trying to meet at Big Tex "like the rest of the world."
The problem was that the game was a nightmare for Texas that year. Oklahoma surged to a 34-10 halftime lead and never let up. The Sooners would go on to win 55-17.
By the third quarter, Lydia had seen enough. She wanted to return to the fairgrounds for a beer and a corn dog. Clayton, enjoying the thrashing his team was delivering, then went into crisis control mode.
He begged her to stay out of the fear the plan would be ruined. "I tried to tell her if she leaves we'll never find each other after the game."
Somehow, it worked, and Clayton and Lydia made their way to the field to meet their friends.
"We had already taken some pictures, so she was getting kind of upset with me. But she agreed to one more picture," Clayton explains. "So she pouts and makes her hand into a 'Horns down' sign like you do after Texas loses and I get down on one knee.
"She stood there for a second before she realized that everyone was taking a photo and I was down on my knee."
What did Lydia do? She cried. A lot.
She also said yes.
Clayton and Lydia were married seven months later in May 2012, with their story getting the attention of the Daily Oklahoman. Their wedding cake, a replica of the Cotton Bowl, was a tribute to their engagement.
Not much has changed for the couple now that their relationship has been publicized. They still attend the Red River Rivalry and will be in the stands on Saturday.
"I get asked all the time if I was surprised," Lydia remarked. "Of course, I was surprised. We had been dating eight months."
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. Fair Park information courtesy of the State Fair of Texas. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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Rashaan Evans is a 4-star outside linebacker from Alabama who has a quartet of programs among his top schools. At 6'3" and 220 pounds, Evans can also play defensive end, as he is a terror on the edges, which is why he is a coveted prospect.
The athletic defender has good speed, range and shows a solid burst to finish plays. Evans also has the potential to buzz into coverage and factor in the underneath and intermediate passing game.
He has a trio of SEC powers on his list, but a Pac-12 school is also thick in the mix, according to Chad Simmons of Scout.com. The race is so tight that it warrants a look at the positives and negatives of each school.
The No. 11 UCLA Bruins (4-0) will look to stay undefeated in 2013 as the team welcomes the struggling Cal Golden Bears (1-4) to the Rose Bowl.
UCLA surely has the thought of revenge on its mind. Last year, Jim Mora's team was embarrassed in Berkeley by a score of 43-17. Brett Hundley had perhaps his worst game of his young career, throwing four interceptions in the loss.
Cal has been absolutely besieged by injury thus far in the season. The majority of the projected starting defense has not been able to play. Additionally, the Golden Bears are facing injuries on the offensive line.
Here's everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 12
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV: ESPN 2
Radio: Sirius XM Radio
Spread: UCLA -25 per VegasInsider.com.
The most balanced teams in college football aren't necessarily the best, though there are a lot of great teams on this list. It starts on offense. A balanced attack hits defenses where they are weakest.
Sometimes that's a rushing play, and sometimes it's an aerial strike. The most balanced offenses in the nation strike equally from either direction. However, there's still something missing: defense.
A balanced team doesn't yield 40 points per game and score 60, though that wouldn't stop one from winning a national title. A well-rounded squad lights up the opponent's scoreboard while saving all the electricity on the other side. (See? Balance.)
So, with that in mind, here are the 10 most balanced teams in college football's 2013 season so far.
Subtracted the passing yards per game and rushing yards per game for all college football teams. Ranked all teams based on the difference (smallest difference was No. 1). Took the top-20 teams and ranked them by scoring defense. The top-10 defenses out of the top 20 most balanced teams made the list.
Overall record broke any ties.
*All links go to the specific pages at CFBStats.com
The 2014 recruiting class has a good crop of explosive running backs, as these runners have the ability to go from 0-60 in a flash. Having the quickness, explosiveness and burst to accelerate upfield with the ball are important traits to possess at the position.
A one-gear running back can be effective, but he will not make many big plays. However, give an explosive running back the ball, and chances are fireworks are going to pop off. Long speed is nice to have, as running away from defenders in the open field is a sight to see. Yet pure explosiveness to surge to the end zone is more lethal.
A pair of running backs from Miami are on this list, as they are the most explosive tandem in high school football. Plus, a big back from North Carolina runs with good power, but also has a great burst.
Robenson Therezie saw an opportunity, and he jumped at it.
It was a second-down play from Auburn's 21-yard line. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had driven the Rebels deep into Tigers territory, putting them in position to tie the game or take the lead early in the contest.
"We were in man coverage," Therezie said Sunday, setting the scene. "My eyes were on my man."
That's when Therezie's eyes shifted to something else—an opportunity.
"He kind of loafed off the ball and ran two yards back," Therezie said. "It was a screen and I was trying to spike the gap I ended up looking at the ball. Bo Wallace threw it right in front of the receiver to the point where I could just reach out my hand and grab it. That's what I did.
"I tipped it up and just grabbed it and went for six."
Therezie picked off Wallace's pass, and returned it 78 yards for an Auburn touchdown, to give the Tigers a 13-3 lead with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter.
With the Rebels already in field goal range at the time of the snap, the play marked at the very least a 10-point swing. In what turned out to be an 8-point game Saturday night—a 30-22 victory for Auburn—that single play just might have been the difference.
Seizing the opportunity is nothing new for Therezie.
The junior has made an entire season out of a single, seized opportunity at the 'Star' position—the extra defensive back and linebacker-safety hybrid in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme.
Going into the season, Therezie was slated to serve as backup and 'double-Star' in the Tigers' dime package, behind junior Justin Garrett. But when Garrett went down with a knee injury during fall camp, Therezie was called to action against Washington State.
Therezie made the most of it, pulling down two interceptions in the Tigers' season-opener.
"I feel like it's the most perfect position for a guy like me, an undersized safety/corner," Therezie said. "I'm a guy that can fit in the box and fit the run and still cover. I feel like it's the perfect position for a player like me."
It certainly seems to be the right fit for Therezie—and his 5-9, 204-pound frame.
In five games this season, Therezie has used his range to pull down three interceptions—more than the entire Auburn secondary came down with in all of 2012—and his strength to wrestle down a team-high 28 tackles that year.
"I don't know if I would have thought that he was going to lead the team in tackles, but I thought he could be a really good player at that position," Johnson said. "We watched him at corner, he struggled at some of the things, turning your hips and doing the things you got to do out there on those real good wide outs in deep zone.
"But he had some explosiveness, and some speed, and some physical strength and I just thought he was a natural when we moved him."
Those traits have Therezie set to start at the 'Star' and continue to be a main cog in the Johnson defense moving forward.
And it's another trait—an inherent ability to seize the moment—that started it all back in fall camp.
"I was just worrying about being prepared for whatever situation that happens," Therezie said. "As a backup and on the second-team, that's what players should think, just be prepared. How much preparation you put into it will affect the next man."
"Just be prepared"—whether it's in camp or in jumping a screen pass in the middle of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
So far, he's been the perfect fit, at all the perfect times.
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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Athletics officials from Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee have officially agreed to play a non-conference football game in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway, ending a years-long negotiation between the two schools.
According to CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman, officials expect between 150,000 and 160,000 fans at the game—a number which would break all American sports attendance records:
A Tennessee spokesperson declined to comment, but told Wes Rucker of 247Sports to not expect an announcement before Monday:
The current attendance record for a college football game is 115,109, which happened this September in a game between Michigan and Notre Dame in Ann Arbor.
Bristol Motor Speedway has a capacity of 160,000. A half-mile oval, the speedway is considered one of the most storied tracks in NASCAR history and hosts five races annually between the sport's three different circuits.
The city of Bristol, Tenn., itself rests right on the Tennessee-Virginia border. Although there are technically two different Bristols (also one in Virginia), its most noticeable dividing line is that separating Volunteers and Hokies fans. The speedway is nearly equidistant from Blacksburg and Knoxville—both can get there in roughly a two-hour drive—and has long been a target site for the two schools to renew their once-heated rivalry.
Bruton Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports, Inc. owns Bristol Motor Speedway, first posited the idea in 2005. He offered $20 million to each school, but the excitement soon fizzled and the idea was put on the backburner. The teams did wind up meeting at the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome, but the idea of meeting in Bristol had seemingly been put to rest.
The logistics of hosting a game at a major motor speedway have not been worked out. Bristol's midfield area consists almost entirely of concrete and asphalt, two surfaces obviously impossible to play football on. The grass would have to be artificially placed, and there would have to be unprecedented safety precautions for the players.
Although Bristol Motor Speedway hosting a football game would certainly be unorthodox, it would not be unprecedented. In its inaugural year (1961), the track played host to a preseason game between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
The Daytona International Speedway in Florida has also expressed interest in hosting football games after its $400 million renovation is completed in January 2016, namely for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gators. While no word has been cast down upon that possibility—Daytona is a much larger track, rendering the logistics for fans even more difficult—this game between Virginia Tech and Tennessee could mark a test run for similar future endeavors.
Virginia Tech and Tennessee last played a regular-season game in 1937.
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Virginia Tech football fans haven’t gotten to watch an effective passing attack since 2011, but Logan Thomas and Scot Loeffler have changed all that this season.
Although the passing game suffered through some rough games against the Alabama Crimson Tide and East Carolina Pirates, it has rebounded in a big way over the course of the last two games.
Through a combination of Thomas’ development and Loeffler’s creativity, the Hokies have put together a solid system that’s been quite effective recently.
The running game may still need some work, but, for once, the air attack is carrying the team.
Thomas’ Progressions and Protection
While Thomas may have NFL size, he hasn’t had NFL vision. Until now.
Loeffler’s offense places paramount importance on the quarterback going through a series of established progressions, which seemed like it could’ve been a problem for Thomas coming into the year.
The redshirt senior has plenty of arm strength, but he didn’t show much of an ability to effectively read the defense.
Now, thanks to a combination of Loeffler’s play design and Thomas’ growing competence, the quarterback has frequently been able to find holes in opposing defenses.
It’s all perfectly on display in this clip of a big gain by Josh Stanford against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Thomas expertly sells the play action and immediately looks down the field. Then, he’s able to step up in the pocket, all while keeping his eyes on his receivers. He finishes the play off with a strike to Stanford, who had several long seconds to get open.
In 2012, Thomas likely would’ve tried to take off running at the first sign of pressure, or even worse, he would’ve tried to force the ball into a small window using his arm strength.
This time around, he calmly took what the defense gave him, and that’s been a huge factor in his early success.
However, for all of his skill, none of this is possible without solid blocking from the offensive line. While the line did allow two sacks in the game, for the most part, it did an admirable job of giving Thomas time in the pocket.
Even the best passers can’t read the defense with defensive linemen dragging them down, and the Hokies line has been much-improved this season at keeping Thomas upright.
This synthesis of Thomas’ vision and the line’s talent had the passing game accrue 514 yards in the last two games alone. It’s clear that things are improving rapidly, but the players aren’t the only element of this change.
Former offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring had many poor qualities, but his worst might’ve been the way he designed plays.
Route combinations rarely made any sense, and the offense was left hamstrung due to his illogical decisions. However, Loeffler has been a breath of fresh air for the way he’s avoided those same pratfalls.
While Thomas has been much better, he owes a lot of that to the way Loeffler constructs his plays.
This video of a deep out throw to Willie Byrn demonstrates how the play’s design made a big gain possible.
Demitri Knowles is slated to run a go route, with Byrn attacking the same area of the field with the deep out route.
The Tar Heels weren’t prepared for this and committed to stopping Knowles, leaving Byrn open near the sideline.
Thomas uses his arm strength to nail the receiver for a 17-yard gain, and while the quarterback deserves credit for the throw, there’s no way Byrn is an option without Loeffler.
The offensive coordinator isn’t perfect, but he seems to have a plan for what he’s doing, even if it doesn’t always work.
That may seem simple, but it never seemed like Stinespring had any sort of cohesive philosophy, so it’s refreshing to watch a coordinator who does.
But it’s not just Loeffler’s play design that’s made the difference.
Fortune Favors the Bold
One of Stinespring’s other infuriating qualities was his tendency to be conservative in big moments. Loeffler has not demonstrated that same kind of timidity at all.
This was directly evident early in the second quarter against UNC.
The Tar Heels downed the ball on Tech’s 2-yard line, and things looked grim for the offense.
In Stinespring’s time as coordinator, the team would’ve almost surely run the ball on first down to try and get a little breathing room.
In fact, of the nine times the Hokies faced a first or second down inside their 5-yard line last season, they ran the ball eight times.
While it may be the safe call, it’s hardly an innovative one, as defenses almost always gear up to stop the run in these situations.
Loeffler took the complete opposite approach. The coordinator called for a deep ball to Byrn that even shocked the receiver himself.
But the big risk paid off. Loeffler caught the Heels stacking the box, and it resulted in the 83-yard catch and run this video depicts.
It’s a move that could’ve easily ended in failure, but the simple fact that Loeffler is willing to think outside of the box on occasion is a promising sign for the offense.
That’s not to say that the offense is perfect; the unit is only averaging 330.7 yards per game, good for 109th in the country.
The defense is still carrying the team, but the passing game is finally in capable hands at both coordinator and quarterback.
The running game might still have a long way to go, but the passing attack has gotten markedly better in recent weeks. If that positive trend can continue, the Hokies should soon have an elite offense to match their dominant defense.
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So, any big games this weekend?
Not really, just a Red River Rivalry that will be one of the most important games of coach Mack Brown's career at Texas.
The Longhorns are two-touchdown underdogs, according to VegasInsider.com. That number could climb as Texas deals with key injuries, including ongoing concussion symptoms with starting quarterback David Ash.
A win for Brown against OU would silence critics calling for his retirement. A loss, especially another blowout, will only make those cries deafening.
Meanwhile, Baylor looks to keep scoring a bazillion points a game against Kansas State after coming off a 73-42 win over West Virginia in Week 6.
TCU and Kansas are both desperate for wins, and Iowa State will try to pull its yearly upset over a Top 25 team in Texas Tech.
Who comes out on top in Week 7? Let's get to the picks.
(All rankings reflect the latest Associated Press poll.)
Elijah Holyfield is the son of boxing royalty, but the Woodward Academy (Atlanta, Ga.) sophomore standout is set to make a name for himself as a national college football prospect.
The 5'11", 190-pound running back and linebacker revealed Michigan and Georgia has his favorite programs during a discussion with Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Michael Carvell. The son of Evander Holyfield, the only four-time World Heavyweight Champion, admits he was ingrained with Bulldog pride during his childhood.
"I love Georgia," Holyfield told Carvell. "My whole family has always liked Georgia since I was real young and they always put out good running backs."
Although he is in the early stages of his recruitment process and still searching for a scholarship offer, Holyfield has the size and skill set to earn considerable collegiate interest.
"He's going to be a big power back," Woodward assistant coach Matt Brennan told Carvell. "I definitely think all the SEC schools are going to come take a look him. He'll be an excellent recruit for sure."
Holyfield took on a substantial role as a freshman last season at Riverside Military Academy. He rushed for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns on 66 carries, according to MaxPreps.
As a first-year high school linebacker, Holyfield tallied 78 total tackles and four sacks.
He transferred to Woodard prior to his sophomore season and has already settled in as a key component of the War Eagles' offensive backfield. Through six games, Holyfield is second on the team with 53 carries for 328 yards and two touchdowns, per MaxPreps.
He opened his sophomore season with a sensational effort in a 21-14 loss to Lovett. Holyfield carried the ball 17 times for 176 yards and a score.
The running back spent some time on an SEC campus in July. He took an unofficial visit to Ole Miss, according to 247Sports.
Sure, we're more than 27 months away from national signing day 2016, but it's still fun to speculate about where the son of "The Real Deal" could make his mark at the next level.
Michigan is certainly a program on the rise under the direction of head coach Brady Hoke. The Wolverines will pull in one of the nation's premier 2014 recruiting classes with a group defined by skilled playmakers.
Georgia, a perennial SEC power under head coach Mark Richt, is up to its old tricks in the recruiting spectrum. The Bulldogs currently have the nation's No. 3 recruiting class, according to 247Sports composite rankings.
Holyfield clearly understands the team's history when he says Georgia produces top-tier running back talent on a consistent basis. From Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker to current Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno, the team has a rich history at the position.
Although it's primarily speculation since Holyfield has yet to receive an offer from either program, Georgia is the ideal landing spot. He grew up rooting for the Bulldogs and, given his genes, there's reason to think he could wear the uniform someday.
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When you turn on Jadeveon Clowney's games from this season it is clear the defensive end has not changed in 2013.
When healthy, he is capable of being the nation's most dominating pass-rushing presence. After Clowney sat out last weekend's contest against Kentucky, and following coach Steve Spurrier's resulting comments, national critics have come swooping in to take a bite out of the defensive end.
A big point of contention with Clowney is that All-American loafs and takes off snaps during the course of the game. Such instances of Clowney dialing it back appear to be very real, and there have been a handful since he stepped onto the South Carolina campus.
The two-play sequence (beginning at 2:00 mark) shows exactly what Clowney has always been as a college defensive end. He is a guy who works to get to the quarterback, but when the play is away from him he doesn't fly to the ball. That pattern isn't new this year. That's how he plays, and the sack on the play following the screen explains why coaches are alright with his playing style.
Clowney is not, nor has he ever been, a motor guy. Rather, he is an explosive ball player. Players who give maximum effort on every snap are nice, solid foundational players, but explosive, dynamic players like Clowney are difference-makers. Last year's game against Tennessee was a testament to what many critics are now downplaying when evaluating No. 7.
Prior to this point in the game, Clowney had done nothing against the Volunteers. Antonio Richardson blocked him well, the offense ran plays to effectively neutralize defensive end. But, the takeaway from this game is that a team can handle Clowney for 59 minutes yet he can still come up with a huge, game-changing play.
Where Clowney is concerned, it is about the level of scrutiny as the national pundits tear him down as quickly as they anointed him as a college football god. Talk of Clowney being selfish and a quitter are merely poorly veiled statements in which the Gamecocks' stud player a liar.
Clowney is still bringing a very real impact to the game. No, the statistics are not there, but to tie his performance to statistics is doing a disservice to defensive football and defensive linemen, in particular.
In 2011 and 2012, Clowney's impact was at a direct, more micro level. His stats were his impact—his quarterback hurries, his sacks, his tackles for loss and his highlight plays. Then, in 2013—starting out of the gate with North Carolina—football witnessed a more macro-level impact from Jadeveon Clowney.
The game has become less about identifying Clowney and sliding protection toward the defensive end, and more about locating Clowney and making sure to direct the action away from him. It's a schematic approach not unlike having a quarterback avoid throwing toward whatever side of the field a shutdown cornerback is playing.
In the run game teams abandon Clowney's side of the field. On passing plays, offenses are making quick throws and avoiding five- and seven-step drops that give Clowney the time to get into the backfield.
Such offensive adjustments to neutralize a great defensive player are often lost on observers who focus so much on statistics. Playing defensive end is not like playing quarterback or running back, in which the box score can reveal a lot about how effective a player was.
This is especially true where Clowney is concerned. It's a reason analysts like B/R's Matt Miller do not knock Clowney in the way many pundits and casual fans have.
Clowney is for the most part the same football player that the Gamecocks have had since he arrived in 2011. He is an explosive player who shows up in a big way when he gets a chance to make plays. Teams are game-planning to stop the defensive end and not just scheming to protect against him. That has created a dip in his numbers.
As Clowney pushes to get healthy from the rib strain and a lingering bone-spur issue, and hopefully plays against Arkansas this weekend, the world should get another glimpse of what the All-American can do.
If the Razorbacks decide to run the ball to his side of the line, that is.
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It's not quite Rivalry Week, but all across the nation, Week 7 features matchups between schools who know each other well and don't quite care for their opponent.
From the Red River Rivalry in Dallas to a trio of SEC showdowns, the football should be sound and the tailgate should be raucous.
Most teams only get seven or eight home football games per season, and half of those are reserved for cupcake opponents or stat-padding blowouts.
So when a good team finally comes trucking into town, and a close game is finally expected, you know the fans will put on a show.
The USC faithful have been celebrating the firing of Lane Kiffin, but few realize how many people are affected when the head ball coach gets his walking papers.
In my FIRST position meeting in Jacksonville, my tight end coach Alfredo Roberts introduced me to the NFL. He said, "When teams don't win in sports, two things happen, coaches get fired or players get fired. The coaches just got fired, so guess who is next if we don't play well?"
In the world of college and professional sports, everything boils down to two things: track record and money.
Good players are released or traded because they make too much. The NCAA continues to find additional revenue streams to make money from athletes' likeness. Coaches aren't fired because they have too many years and too much money left on their contracts.
Ever wonder why coaches win and continue to ask for additional years to their contract? Head coaches typically have guaranteed contracts, unless they get fired for "cause." FYI, losing is not "cause." You have to pull a Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) or Mike Rice (Rutgers) to get fired without pay.
The head coach gets all the praise in victory and all the blame in loss. It is nice to be the head man because when you get fired with years left on your contract, you have a golden parachute. If I were a head coach, sign me through the 2025-26 season.
When coaches like Lane Kiffin, Norv Turner, Rick Neuheisel or Lovie Smith don't live up to expectations and are fired, they leave with some financial security. They often have assistant coaches who are doing a great job, but they typically get thrown out with the head coach.
You could be the best tight end coach in the world, but when the head man goes, so do you.
Assistant coaches and their families are affected the most. Most assistants make peanuts compared to the head coach's salary. Even when the head coach doesn't get fired, they often change assistants through the years (for various reasons).
There is no job security. Assistant coaches are journeymen until they get the security of being the head coach. Most never achieve their dream and are tied to finding jobs with the guys they have worked with in the past.
Their families are dragged across country searching for stability and for their dreams to come true. As much as assistant coaches love the game, they are no different than any other husband/father. They are using their particular set of skills to provide a comfortable, and stable, life for their families.
Since 1999 Alfredo has had a job every year because he is a great tight end coach, but he has made stops at Florida Atlantic, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cleveland Browns, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and now the Indianapolis Colts.
He has a wife and kids, but the only roots he can put down are the roots on his coaching tree. Imagine every year, win or lose, not knowing if you will have a job. Imagine the stress it puts on your wife, children, friendships and families to move from place to place for years, just hoping for the day you land the big job.
According to USA Today, "The average major-college football assistant coach now earns roughly $200,000." The list of the top 124 college coaches 2012 salaries and their assistants' totals are very interesting.
Next time you wonder why there is very little loyalty in sports, here is the answer: If you were a coach, would you be loyal to a program or team that will throw you out without notice? Or would you continue to look for the best available opportunities until you optimize your personal goals and maximize your family's happiness?
A pro coach's dream career should look like this: Get a position as a quality control coach for an NFL team, do well. A position coach job opens up on that staff, and someone recognizes you as a young talent and you land a coordinator job.
Your offense/defense is tops in the league for two years, an owner takes a huge leap of faith and hires you for an NFL coaching job with no head coaching experience. Win a bunch of games, win a Super Bowl, get a long term contract, get fired with three years left on your deal, ride off into the sunset.
Have fun being a grandpa, hold seminars and mentor new young coaches.
A college coach's dream: Get a position coach job in college. Someone recognizes you as a young talent and takes a huge risk on you as a coordinator. You have great success and land a head coaching job at a mid-level Division I, beat some big teams and go to bowl games.
Get a job at a big school that has been struggling, build the school into a powerhouse, get an NFL coaching job, win a Super Bowl, get a long-term contract, get fired with three years left on your deal.
Ride off into the sunset and have fun being a grandpa, and hold seminars and mentor new young coaches.
Coaches have to look out for themselves and do what is best for their families. That type of system trickles down to the players.
So when your favorite player changes teams, just realize it is part of the cycle. Loyalty in sports is bought, and it usually only lasts until someone else has a bigger, better deal for you. Is your loyalty for sale?
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Week 7 of the 2013 college football season doesn't deliver us any matchups with two teams in the Top 10, but we do have three games involving two Top 25 teams to highlight the week.
All of those are compelling matchups, too.
The one with the most potential to shake up the rankings comes as the No. 2 Oregon Ducks travel to take on the No. 16 Washington Huskies at 4 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
The Huskies (4-1) have been playing excellent all season, and they proved they can hang with the nation's best by taking Stanford to the wire last week—and on the road, no less—in a 31-28 defeat.
At the end of that game, the Huskies defense made some key stops against a mauling Cardinals offense. That bodes well for Washington, as it must now take on the high-octane and energy-depleting attack of Oregon (5-0). The Ducks are second in the nation in scoring.
Also, Washington's well-balanced offense, led by quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey, should be able to find some success despite Oregon possessing the nation's second-best scoring defense.
We also have No. 10 LSU hosting No. 17 Florida for an SEC showdown.
This is an interesting matchup. The Tigers will have to try to win with their offense, while Florida's hopes rest in its defense.
In each of its six games, LSU has posted more than 400 yards of offense while scoring at least 35 points. Meanwhile, Florida is second in the nation by allowing just 217 yards per game, and the 12.2 points Florida is allowing is the fourth-best mark.
Both of these teams have struggled on the other side of the ball, and ultimately, that is where this game is going to be decided. Whichever team can exploit the other's weakness with the most effectiveness will come out on top.
Our third matchup of ranked teams comes as the No. 25 Missouri Tigers travel to take on the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia's high-powered offense is putting up 39.8 points per game. That is good for 24th in the nation and it is even more impressive considering that Georgia has already played three games against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the game.
Meanwhile, the Tigers are off to a perfect 5-0 start, and it's won each game by at least 15 points. However, the Tigers have yet to play a ranked team.
At 46.6 per game, the Tigers are outscoring Georgia, but they also haven't faced the same level of competition.
That doesn't mean they can't compete with Georgia, simply that there are definite question marks.
No matter what happens, it is safe to expect plenty of points in that one.
Now, have a look at this comprehensive viewing schedule to help satisfy the insatiable need for football.
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Although ranked No. 8 in the SEC recruiting rankings, Auburn has the No. 15 class in the country, according to 247Sports. Head coach Gus Malzahn is now in charge on The Plains, and a top-5 recruiting class could be on the horizon.
The Tigers have maintained their position as one of the top recruiting programs in the country, evidenced by a strong class of 15 commitments. Yet Malzahn and his staff still have many remaining targets they wish to land before February, which would cement an elite class for 2014.
For Auburn to make a big move up the recruiting rankings, it will have to secure pledges from several key uncommitted prospects. Beating out a trio of SEC rivals for a defensive lineman, plus landing commitments from a certain offensive lineman and outside linebacker, would be a great start.