NCAA Football News
Being a referee in any sport, including college football, is a thankless job.
After all, most great officials don't receive the recognition they deserve because no one remembers the time when they made the right call. It seems that the only time a referee is remembered is when they make a terrible call, such as J.C. Louderback and the infamous fifth-down game that allowed Colorado to win against Missouri in 1990.
However, without great referees like the Big 12's Scott Novak, the game would quickly turn into chaos.
So, here are the top five officials in college football based on their invitations to BCS and national championship games over the last decade.
Last week’s results:
No. 3 Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC) beat NC State 26-14.
Wake Forest (2-2, 0-1 ACC) beat Army 25-11.
Most important storylines of the week:
Can Clemson’s offense find its groove?: A year ago, Clemson’s offense ranked sixth nationally in scoring offense (41 ppg) and ninth in total offense (512.9 ypg). The offense was expected to reach similar heights this season with fifth-year senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd at the controls, but it’s currently operating a notch below those levels.
Through three games, Clemson averaged 38.7 ppg (34th nationally) and 464.7 yards of total offense (45th nationally). Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said this week that Boyd was “pressing” in the offense and needed to relax and calm down. He said Boyd played much better later at N.C. State, leading a pair of late touchdown drives to put the game out of reach.
Boyd has struggled to find a game-breaking receiver with DeAndre Hopkins in the NFL; former All-American Sammy Watkins has 19 catches but averages only 12.7 yards per catch. Junior Charone Peake is done for the season with a torn ACL, and while fellow junior Martavis Bryant caught a pair of touchdowns last week, his playing time will be curtailed for what Dabo Swinney called an “inappropriate” gesture following a score.
“This week is about understanding what we’re trying to do, what they’re trying to do and taking advantage of opportunities when we have them,” Boyd said. “We have to keep working. We’re on the right path. It’s like a freight train. Once we get going, there isn’t going to be any stopping, any slowing down.”
Can the Tigers line find some continuity?: Entering this season, Clemson’s offensive line was projected as a strength; the only loss from a solid 2012 group was center Dalton Freeman, a two-time Rimington Award finalist. But while Freeman’s replacement, sophomore Ryan Norton, has been solid, the line has spent little time together. Following a season-opening win over then-No. 5 Georgia, the first string played only 22 snaps in a rout of South Carolina State.
Last week, junior right tackle Gifford Timothy was pulled with what was diagnosed as a concussion. He is questionable for this week. If he can’t go, sophomore Shaq Anthony would receive his third career start. The line needs all the time it can get together; Clemson averages 183 yards rushing per game, 62nd nationally.
Can Clemson contain Nikita Whitlock?: Wake Forest’s senior nose guard is one of the ACC’s best defensive linemen. He is coming off a standout performance at Army, where he made 14 tackles including three for loss. He shared ACC defensive lineman of the week honors with Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley.
Whitlock is an excellent run-stuffer and has a motor that never stops. Swinney won’t be sad to see him go.
“It all starts for them with Whitlock up front,” Swinney said. “I thought he was gone. I couldn’t believe he was still on the roster. I don’t think that guy will ever get out of this league.”
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
Place: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
Radio: Clemson and Wake Forest radio networks (regional); ESPN (national)
Spread: Clemson -28.5 via VegasInsider.com
To many, Cooper Manning is the "lost" Manning brother. He's the one without Super Bowl rings, Pro Bowl appearances and national television commercials.
The Book of Manning, an ESPN film produced by the same people who brought you the 30 for 30 series, goes out of its way to dispel that notion for good. Cooper Manning, and the pivotal role he played in Eli and Peyton's life, is one of the overarching themes in film, which premiered Tuesday night on ESPN.
The older brother of Eli and Peyton, Cooper was once a football star himself. Though the 6'4" big brother didn't have the arm of his two younger siblings, he became an All-State wide receiver and was headed to Ole Miss—with many thinking he was on an NFL journey.
Cooper Manning never caught a collegiate pass.
Before his freshman season, Cooper began suffering from numbness in his hands and fingers, and had some "atrophy" in his right bicep. Archie and Cooper then flew to the Mayo Clinic, where he underwent extensive testing. The results would shape the Manning family trajectory—not only then, but serve as a fundamental event in each brother's life, particularly Peyton's.
Cooper was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. According to the Mayo Clinic, the injury places pressure on a person's spinal cord and the nerves that control movement throughout the spine. It's usually caused by what most ailments are—simple aging. The median age for the condition is 64.
Cooper was 18 at the time of his diagnosis.
His career was over before it even began. Because of the spinal stenosis, the wrong hit could have left Cooper paralyzed or even worse. He and Archie subsequently flew back to Ole Miss, where Cooper met with teammates, who offered their undying support.
It was at that point in the film, describing the reaction of teammates, where over two decades' worth of emotion starts bubbling out. He speaks of how the support made Archie, his former NFL-playing quarterback of a father, "proud." And, in one of director Rory Karpf's best moments in the film, Cooper opens up about what he still misses about the game.
"I think what I miss most about football is...the guys," Cooper said. "Not winning, or losing or catching touchdowns. It was like, the locker room and the bus rides home."
Hearing Cooper break down about the injury is particularly affecting, mainly because he's been so unabashedly supportive of his brothers and seemingly happy with his lot in life.
A part owner of an energy investment firm with holdings in oil and gas companies, Cooper has a net worth of $15 million, according to Celebrity Networth, for his off-the-field exploits. He has, in many ways, the All-American life that so many dream of—wife, three kids, wealth beyond our wildest dreams.
Credit in that moment goes to Karpf, who did an outstanding job of touching on the Manning family dynamic through the 90-minute documentary. ESPN's 30 for 30 Twitter feed was covering the film as it aired live, and they revealed that Archie and Olivia Manning both openly wept upon seeing their son get so emotional:
“Historically I haven’t really talked about that a lot,” Cooper told USA Today, according to Chris Strauss, of breaking down in the film. “Rory caught me on a weak day. We had talked for a long time during that interview session and he got to me a little bit. I’ve always tried to downplay the whole surgery and injury and just wanted to get back to normal. This was the one time I guess you got the full scoop.”
Of course, Cooper's diagnosis didn't just affect him. Peyton, who shared multiple scenes with his older brother via old home movies in Book of Manning, was particularly heartbroken. The Denver Broncos quarterback was Cooper's signal-caller in high school, tossing him touchdowns as, undoubtedly, Mississippi's best brother-to-brother tandem.
When the diagnosis came down, Cooper gave Peyton a letter, which stated he wanted to live the football career he couldn't have through his younger brother. He provided the full letter on his Twitter account Tuesday night:
I would like to live my dream of playing football through you. Although I cannot play anymore, I know I can still get the same feeling out of watching my little brother do what he does best. I know now that we are good for each other, because I need you to be serious and look at things from a different perspective.
I am good for you, as well, to take things light. I love you, Peyt, and only great things lay ahead for you. Thanks for everything on and off the field.
Suffice it to say, Cooper picked a pretty good surrogate NFL career. Peyton, unquestionably a future Hall of Famer, saw this film air just one day after he broke the record for most touchdown passes through three weeks with 12.
But more than on the field, Cooper Manning has provided Peyton with inspiration. Just two years ago, Peyton's own career was in jeopardy after multiple neck surgeries cost him the 2011 season and his starting job with the Indianapolis Colts. During that time, Cooper sometimes worked as a consigliere for Peyton and the media, offering supportive words about his brother's comeback.
Cooper could never make a comeback, but Peyton did. He nearly won an MVP award last season in his first with Denver and is the unquestioned favorite to win it through the first three weeks this year.
Two weeks ago, Peyton's aerial assault on the NFL rampaged through Eli's New York Giants. Although Eli threw for 362 yards, it was Peyton's Broncos who dropped 41 points en route to a blowout win.
Cooper wasn't in the audience. He attended the first Manning Bowl and decided that was enough. But the spirit of Cooper Manning—and the two brothers who always play in his honor—was there. It always is. Because if you learn anything from The Book of Manning, it's that no matter how dire things get, family will always be there to make it just a little bit better.
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We're about a third of the way through the 2013 college football season, and that means conference play in the Big 12 is underway.
Some of the marquee matchups within the league include the Red River Rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners as well as Bedlam between the Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys.
However, with the league being wide open this year, there are certainly some underrated conference games to look out for this year.
Checkout some of this year's Big 12 games that are flying under the radar.
The unblemished LSU Tigers will play the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs in the most heavily anticipated game of the week on Saturday.
Uncle Verne and Gary Danielson will be on the call for a game packed with BCS bowl implications. There will be no shortage of storylines for CBS to follow.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was once at Georgia. Mettenberger was kicked off the team in 2010, eventually landing in Baton Rouge. He was in a quarterback battle with current Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray at the time.
But the main attraction will be the play on the field. Both teams boast explosive offenses and athletic defenses.
Here are a few important notes for Saturday.
Time: 3:30 ET, 2:30 CT
Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Spread: Georgia by 3, via ScoresandOdds.com
USC leaves the safety of the Coliseum this week and travels to Tempe, Ariz., to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Trojans are 3-1 as they enter their second tilt with a conference opponent and have looked impressive in spurts.
Both USC and the Sun Devils are looking to notch their first conference win this season: USC, having been embarrassed at home by the Washington State Cougars, and ASU, having just lost 42-28 to Stanford.
For Arizona State, the football gods look down favorably on them: USC has dropped six of its 10 losses to Sparky in Tempe, including its most recent loss in 2011. Then again, history finds itself aligned with the Trojans as well: USC leads the series all time 18-10 (not including a win vacated with the sanctions) and sustained an 11-game win streak against ASU until 2011.
Both teams need a win, but alas, only one can do so.
But first, here are the vitals for game day:
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PT
Radio: 710 ESPN
Spread: ASU (-6), per Vegas Insider
South Carolina running back Mike Davis is turning heads in the SEC and throughout the country.
With the departure of fan favorite Marcus Lattimore to the NFL, Davis had the opportunity to become the team's feature back as just a sophomore. For many players, this would have been a difficult transition and a steep hill to climb. But for Davis, it has been easy as pie.
Davis emerged in the spring as the starter and has not looked back. By churning his legs, reading the gaps and breaking free for big runs, Davis is looking like a beast in the Gamecocks' run game and more.
Davis's rise to prominence has him positioned to capture all-SEC honors in 2013.
Here are three things that Mike Davis must do to secure all-SEC honors.
1. Maintain a yards per carry average of 5.0-plus
Through three games, Davis is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, a staggeringly high number. Some of the credit for his high yards per carry average is due to his pair of 75-yard runs with one being for a touchdown.
Against Georgia, South Carolina's toughest opponent so far and only loss, Davis averaged 9.3 yards per rush. If he can put up statistics like that over an elite SEC team, he can do just about anything.
As the season progresses, Davis has some big games against the Mississippi State and Clemson defenses.
A big performance against Clemson paired with the already strong showing in the Georgia game will go a long way for Davis.
Davis will need to continue to shred defenses and maintain that high yards per carry average if he wants to keep his distance from other SEC running backs who are vying for all-SEC honors.
2. Finish the season with 35 receptions
Davis is not only a great running back, but he is also a highly skilled receiving back.
His balance as a rusher and receiver makes him such a deadly offensive weapon.
This season, Davis has seven catches for 116 yards.
His start to the season as a receiver shows he is worth paying attention to. Though, Davis needs to increase his body of work in the passing game.
By catching 35 balls, Davis proves that he is a true force and a player that cannot be left alone on any play.
A running back who shows he is a multi-dimensional, versatile back separates himself from the field.
Davis is that type of player.
Also, with that many receptions, a few are bound to go for touchdowns which can't hurt his campaign for all-SEC honors.
3. 10-plus rushing touchdowns
Right now, Davis has a rushing touchdown per game.
He absolutely needs to reach double digits in touchdowns to assert his place as the SEC's best back. Normally, 10 or more rushing touchdowns can be a daunting task for an SEC running back. Yet, this year is different.
South Carolina has a favorable schedule through the middle part of the season and that opens up the door for Davis to run through.
He can easily put up a handful of multiple touchdown games.
Davis's trifecta of a high yards per carry average, receiving stats and scoring ability should put him into position to win all-SEC honors in 2013.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Two programs that battled through much of the 2000s for the right to join USC at the top of the then-PAC-10 will face off on Saturday for the first time under their new head coaches.
Cal and Oregon have been on a roller coaster ride since the year 2002, when Jeff Tedford left his job as Oregon's offensive coordinator to become Cal's head coach. Tedford led the Bears to four wins in five years against the Ducks from 2004-2008 before the Bears took a dive.
The Bears were never able to capitalize on their momentum against the Ducks and quickly gave way to Oregon as the league's premier program outside of Los Angeles. The Ducks quickly took control of the rivalry and surpassed the Bears and USC to own the PAC-10/12.
After smashing the sixth-ranked Bears 42-3 in 2009, the Ducks rose to new heights while Cal faltered. For different reasons, both programs have new head coaches in 2013, but things look as if they are much the same as Oregon enters Saturday as a heavy favorite.
Here's what you need to know as Sonny Dykes and his high-powered Bears travel to Eugene to take on Mark Helfrich and the Ducks in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 at 10:30 EST.
Where: Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Oregon Sports Network
The two teams that hold at least a share of every Big Ten championship since 2005 will meet in Columbus Saturday night, as No. 4 Ohio State is set to host No. 23 Wisconsin.
While the Buckeyes (4-0) are on the shortlist of national-title contenders, Urban Meyer sees the Badgers (3-1), who have made three consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl, as the Big Ten's premier team.
“We have a lot of respect for Wisconsin,” Meyer said, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors. “In my opinion, they are the king of the Big Ten.”
"We've got the trophy, but I'm sure we are considered the underdog," Borland said, "We're fine with that. We're fine with it either way."
One certainty going into Saturday's clash, though, is that it will be one of the hardest-hitting games for either team all season.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Head Coach Brady Hoke isn’t concerned about fans panicking after two near-losses to inferior teams.
“I don’t really worry about it,” said Hoke during his weekly press conference. “We have great fans; they are entitled to their opinions.”
The Wolverines are 4-0 entering their bye week and looking forward to the start of Big Ten play against Minnesota at the Michigan Stadium.
Two weeks ago, few would have expected the Wolverines to struggle against Akron and UConn, two teams with only a single victory between them.
The Wolverines face numerous questions on offense, and the bye week is the perfect opportunity to work on aspects of the game without needing to implement a game plan until the following week.
Hoke has said the team is getting back to basics and evaluating players position by position. Part of this evaluation needs to be on special teams, which have been exacerbated by problems on offense.
Catch the ball
Kick returner Dennis Norfleet has shown spark returning kicks. But, he has also bobbled some and nearly turned the ball over a few times. Drew Dileo has shown sure hands but doesn’t have the explosive burst of Norfleet.
Norfleet remains the best option here, but he needs to catch the ball without drama. Long returns are great, but if he starts turning the ball over, Dileo might need to be the primary option.
Punter Matt Wile is averaging 36.5 yards a punt and hasn’t averaged enough punts per game (more about that later) to be listed in the official NCAA punting statistics.
But if he did have enough punts, he’d be ranked No. 82 in the country.
The poor blocking up front has also added to the problems as Wile is being rushed to get rid of the ball.
With the Wolverines ranked No. 102 nationally in net punting, it may be time to give Kenny Allen a shot.
Why mention Devin Gardner in a discussion about special teams?
Because he's the main reason Wile doesn’t have more punts.
Fans may cringe at the statement that a punt is a great offensive play, but compared to Gardner’s mistakes this season (eight interceptions and two fumbles), it’s a preferable option.
Drastic improvements, and perhaps some personnel changes, are needed for the Wolverines to regain the mojo they had after beating Notre Dame.
They are still 4-0, but with numerous problems on offense, special teams might be the key to remaining unbeaten as they sort things out.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
After a less-than-stellar performance against Colorado State last week, the Alabama Crimson Tide will host the Ole Miss Rebels in their SEC home opener on Saturday.
The Rebels have proven to be a dangerous team offensively in their first three games and will face an Alabama defense that has looked suspect at times.
Can the Crimson Tide put it all together this week and get their national title hopes back on track? Or will Ole Miss send shock waves through the SEC and the rest of the country?
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 5:30 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Ole Miss Network
Spread: Alabama by 16 points, according to Vegas Insider
The Alabama Crimson Tide have been historically known for having some of the best defenses in college football. Back in the late 1980s, linebacker Derrick Thomas was the star in Tuscaloosa.
From 1985-88, Thomas was one of the most dominant defensive players in all of college football. When he left Alabama for the 1989 NFL draft, where he was selected fourth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs, he had racked up 52 career sacks, including 27 his senior season. Both of those marks are still NCAA records.
Twenty-seven sacks in one season. Think about that. The NCAA didn't officially record sacks until 2000. Since then, Terrell Suggs has the most single-season and career sacks with 24 and 44 respectively. Neither of those numbers come that close to Thomas' marks.
Thomas was also the 1988 Dick Butkus Award winner as well as a unanimous All-American.
And he's not in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Rob Gill, the co-producer of A Football Life: Derrick Thomas, which debuted on Tuesday on the NFL Network, said in a report by Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser that he couldn't hardly believe Thomas wasn't in the CFB Hall of Fame.
“That seems like a glaring omission,” Gill said. “Twenty-seven sacks? If that was the only thing he ever did on the football field. You would think that would merit serious consideration.”
It's no secret that Thomas was one of the best linebackers in NFL history. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, he ranks 12th all-time in sacks with 126.5 despite playing fewer seasons than all but one player in the top 20 of that same list. He also holds the single-game record for sacks with seven.
Thomas was also the 1989 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, the 1993 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and a 2009 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame prior to his death in 2000 from a pulmonary embolism just 17 days after a car crash that left him paralyzed.
With Thomas' accomplishments professionally being so vast, that could be a reason why his college career has been overlooked.
But for D.T. to be overlooked by the voting members of the College Football Hall of Fame is just wrong at this point.
Thomas was most recently denied by the hall for the third straight year this past May.
But on Tuesday, with the airing of the NFL Network's documentary on Thomas, his name began making rounds. "Derrick Thomas" trended nationally on Twitter as highlight reels and interviews about one of the SEC's greatest linebackers of all time played.
One of the hottest topics of discussion on Twitter about Thomas was his lack of induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. The case for him seems to be worthy of entry, without a doubt.
Let's put some of Thomas' career numbers into perspective.
Thomas' 27 sacks his senior season were just one-half less than what Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Jones had combined last season.
It's almost unimaginable to think that both Jones and Clowney won't someday enter the CFB Hall of Fame. And Thomas nearly outdid them both in one season.
Thomas also holds Alabama school records for blocked kicks in a career (5), tackles for loss in a career (68) and forced fumbles in a career (10).
Ultimately, Thomas was one of the best linebackers that not just Alabama or the SEC, but all of college football has ever witnessed. The NFL Network put his career on display with its documentary on Tuesday night, which showed that for over a decade he did nothing but strike fear in the hearts of quarterbacks.
It's time to put him in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
A new show unveils itself each Saturday when Michigan takes the field—up and down, back and forth, Team 134 has yet to find consistency this fall.
Ranked No. 18 by the Associated Press, the Wolverines (4-0) have this weekend to regroup and refresh after a humbling, 24-21 victory in Week 4 over UConn. Turnovers, mistakes and communication errors contributed to a second straight close call for coach Brady Hoke, whose team hosts Minnesota on Oct. 5 during its Big Ten opener at The Big House.
Michigan set a benchmark when it clipped the Irish 41-30 in Week 2, proving that when all the parts move together, Team 134 is capable of hanging with high-profile opponents. Nonetheless, Hoke's team has played well enough to earn a C- for September, although its ceiling is much higher.
This slideshow will also hand out individual marks for key starters and other key contributors. From Devin Gardner to Brendan Gibbons, it's report card time for the Maize and Blue.
Who would have thought that just four weeks into this college football season and we would already be seeing prospects entering first-round discussion in the 2014 NFL draft, despite being only first-year eligible players?
Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon is one of them, and for good reason.
Gordon has displayed speed, vision, balance, power and patience on his way to leading the NCAA in rushing yards this season with 624 yards on a mere 53 carries. And the crazy part is, he's not the only redshirt sophomore making noise.
Plenty of other young players are making their cases too. Seeing how well Giovanni Bernard has adapted to life in the NFL should make Gordon and other underclassmen consider making a similar jump early next year.
Nonetheless, getting past just the first-year eligible players—and Gordon in particular—which other college athletes are making similar cases for their right to be first-round NFL selections?
The season is young, but here are three players generating plenty of buzz early for the next NFL draft.
Kyle Berger is a 4-star linebacker prospect who committed to Ohio State in April. He is one of the top players in the Buckeyes' class, as his skills and potential are impressive.
The Ohio native is a solid player, and with head coach Urban Meyer looking to build a stingy defense, Berger fits right in. He has an interesting skill set, good size and solid work ethic.
Ohio State is excited for his arrival, but before that happens, Berger warrants a closer look.
It's only Week 5, but this is arguably the biggest game on the schedule, not only for No. 4 Ohio State and No. 23 Wisconsin, but for the entire Big Ten as well.
While the implications have been downplayed by both teams' head coaches, there are high stakes on the line. The winner essentially jumps out to a two-game advantage in the Big Ten Leaders Division, going one-up in the loss column and owning the tiebreaker for the division crown.
There's obviously a long way to go in Big Ten conference play, so such an important matchup this early in the season is almost a travesty. But it also means both teams may have time to recover from a defeat with seven games remaining on their schedules.
The Badgers (3-1) have actually already begun conference play, defeating Purdue, 41-10, in Madison, Wisc. The Buckeyes (4-0) finished off non-conference play with the 76-point slaughtering of Florida A&M.
Recent history in this rivalry has not been kind to the Badgers. Ever since Wisconsin knocked off No. 1 Ohio State in 2010, it has lost two hotly contested games to the Buckeyes—one on a Hail Mary pass in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011, and the other in overtime at Camp Randall last season.
Ohio State is postseason-eligible, so the Badgers will be hard-pressed to get away with a loss this time around.
We break down the players to watch, keys to victory and offer a prediction for the showdown at The Shoe.
Day, Time: Saturday at 7 p.m. CT
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Spread: Ohio State -7 (via Bovada.lv)
For more than a quarter of a century, Florida has had the upper hand on Kentucky in their college football rivalry.
Although the Gators come into Lexington, Ky., with a 26-game winning streak against the Wildcats, both teams enter the 64th game of their series under new leadership.
Kentucky is in its first season under new head coach Mark Stoops. Stoops' run as the defensive coordinator at Florida State from 2010-12 has familiarized him quite well with the Gators.
Kentucky opens its SEC season against No. 20 Florida on Saturday and is 1-2 on the season. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week after a 27-13 loss to the top-10 Louisville Cardinals.
Florida entered the 2013 season by coming off its own loss to Louisville, stemming from January's 33-23 Sugar Bowl setback. The Gators sit at 2-1 after opening conference play with a sloppy win against Tennessee at home last weekend.
The victory signaled the end of quarterback Jeff Driskel's season, as Driskel broke his leg to turn the starting reins over to redshirt backup Tyler Murphy. While Murphy rose to the occasion, this weekend's night game against the Wildcats will mark his first college start at quarterback.
When: Saturday, Sept. 28; 7 p.m. ET
Where: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.
Radio: Sirius 94, XM 200
Spread: Florida (-13); via TeamRankings.com
The AP Top 25 Poll is one of the most influential ranking formats in college football. Being ranked is always a good thing, but if a team wants to stay ranked in future seasons, it needs to bring in a great recruiting class.
Some Top 25 teams are acing the recruiting test for 2014, while other programs may want to repeat the course. With October rapidly approaching, many recruiting classes have taken shape, so it's time for a recruiting progress report.
The No. 1 team in the country is on track to pass "Recruiting 101" with flying colors, but the No. 2 team needs a tutor. Also, several programs in the Top 25 are doing the work to earn high grades.
With seven touchdown receptions, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks leads the nation. With 208.5 yards receiving per game, Colorado's Paul Richardson leads the nation. Saturday's matchup of the Buffaloes and Beavers may fly under the national radar, but the two star wide receivers should light it up.
Both can wreak havoc on opposing defenses, particularly for those unprepared to address their individual skill sets.
Practicing against a similar playmaker every day isn't the worst preparation for Saturday's Pac-12 clash.
"It's always good to practice against Paul," Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said on Tuesday's coaches' teleconference call. "We go against each other at the speed of the game...in passing situations."
MacIntyre compared Richardson's quickness to that of Cooks, a facet of the Buffalo junior's game that has produced four touchdowns in Colorado's first two wins.
Few wideouts exhibit the same big-play abilities as Cooks, who has three games with over 100 yards and 639 total through four games.
But if there's anyone in the Pac-12 able to match his breakaway speed, it's Richardson.
His return from an ACL injury that sidelined him throughout 2012 has been outstanding. Passing offense appeared to be one of the myriad challenges facing MacIntyre and his new staff in their first year at Colorado, but Richardson's steady presence has helped quarterback Connor Wood get to six touchdowns and well over 700 yards.
Richardson's work in recent weeks has been limited to workouts with his Buffalo teammates. Colorado is back in action for the first time in three weeks after its bye last Saturday and a postponement of its Week 3 date against Fresno State.
Efforts to find a new date with Fresno State are not progressing currently. In the interim, the Buffaloes must try to reestablish the momentum they built in the program's first win streak since Nov. 2010.
"It seems like three years ago since we last played," MacIntyre said. "We've done [all] we can to keep [up to] the speed of the game. This is like another opening game for us."
Saturday is indeed an opening game for the Buffs in that Oregon State is Colorado's first Pac-12 opponent. The Beavers have been through the conference wringer once so far this season, outlasting Utah in a thrilling 51-48 overtime shootout in Week 3.
Never was Cooks' presence more evident than on that night, when the junior hauled in three touchdown receptions.
Last week's win over San Diego State was Cooks' first appearance this season without a touchdown catch, but he proved how much of a game-changer he can still be without reaching the end zone. His line: 14 catches for 141 yards.
Cooks is able to accelerate beyond defensive backs for the deep ball, but it's his play closer to the line that MacInyre said makes him especially dangerous.
"Run after catch," MacIntyre said. "A lot of his passes that he makes big plays on are screen catches that he makes two or three people miss."
Cooks' skill along the edges and in space made him an invaluable asset to the Beaver aerial attack a season ago, but even with over 1,100 yards receiving he lived in the shadow of teammate Markus Wheaton.
Now, he takes up top billing for the 3-1 Beavers alongside quarterback Sean Mannion.
"Brandin has always been a talented, fun, hardworking kid," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said on Tuesday's call. "Markus got a lot of attention, and well-deserved...But Brandin just had a really big-time offseason. He's improved his strength. He's harder to tackle."
Both Cooks and Richardson should have yet another big game in front of them Saturday. Each team has had its struggles defensively without seeing a playmaker in the opposite receiving corps of their caliber.
The lofty benchmark each has set the nation's No. 1 and 2 overall receivers is likely to rise.
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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Think life was always easy for Archie Manning and his family through their college and professional careers? Think again, as ESPN's The Book of Manning outlines how they overcame life's toughest tests to become one of the legendary families in sports.
The documentary began by outlining the early life of Archie Manning, growing up on cotton farms and indulging a two-pronged love for baseball and football. That path led him to Ole Miss, where he beat the odds to start at quarterback as a sophomore in 1969.
Archie Manning's dual-threat quarterback ability was dissected. Unlike Peyton and Eli today, Archie was actually known for his running. He led his Rebels in passing and rushing later on in his college career.
As the big man on campus entering his junior year, and with the homecoming queen on his arm, Archie was on top of the world and bringing Ole Miss football back to the top.
Then, tragedy struck. Coming home from a wedding over the summer, Archie found his father dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Unsurprisingly, the death of Archie's father was a big turning point in his life. He contemplated giving up football entirely to help his family, but he made the tough decision to return back to Oxford, as ESPN's 30 for 30 showed:
Archie's legend grew to epic proportions, becoming a beacon of light for the state of Mississippi in a time where segregation and poor education stifled the state. He became larger than life and an icon for the region—much like Peyton eventually became in Tennessee.
Archie entered his senior season as the obvious Heisman Trophy favorite, with his Rebels having championship aspirations. And again, just as things looked better than ever for the quarterback and folk hero, he suffered another setback.
He broke his left arm against Houston, which inevitably derailed his season. But he battled his way back to play late in his Ole Miss career as his sights were set toward the NFL.
As the second overall pick in the 1971 draft, Archie never garnered a winning season in 11 years with the New Orleans Saints. Their struggles were more a byproduct of his team's instability and lack of talent than his own play (he had seven head coaches in 11 seasons).
Despite his struggles on the professional gridiron, the film depicts a caring father who never brought his work home. As Archie himself states in the documentary, losing his father at such a young age impacted the way he looked at his young sons:
As the film transitions to early life for Cooper, Peyton and Eli, we unsurprisingly see sports-crazed kids who yearned to follow in their father's footsteps.
But Archie, as Cooper and Eli outlined, set limitations on his sons playing football—they weren't allowed to play organized, contact football until the seventh grade.
When they were finally unleashed, Cooper (the receiver) and Peyton (the quarterback) created a formidable duo in high school. As Cooper headed to his father's alma mater, the unavoidable notion among Rebels fans was that Peyton would soon follow.
But as Cooper stated, "something just wasn't right" physically, inspiring him to see a doctor. He was soon diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which in non-medical talk means he played his entire career one hit away from being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
His playing days quickly ended with the news, and after a serious surgery, he had to learn how to walk again.
Peyton had little trouble emerging as a star without his older brother catching passes, as he became a larger-than-life recruit. But instead of following Cooper and Archie, he chose to go to Rocky Top and join the Tennessee Volunteers.
As expected, a backlash came from the Ole Miss fanbase as Rebels diehards called treason and directed much of the blame on Archie.
It probably didn't help that Peyton played one of his best games as a college quarterback against Ole Miss in a 41-3 drubbing.
The film goes on to dissect Peyton's legendary success at UT, where he set a slew of all-time records and created a folk-hero status larger than his own father's in Oxford.
But even for the golden boy who saw nothing but success through college, Peyton had his own struggles. The documentary outlines his Heisman Trophy snubbing to Michigan's Charles Woodson.
As Peyton's success propelled him to the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft, Eli was just leaving high school and entered Ole Miss as the supposed savior that both of his brothers couldn't be:
However, he didn't get off to a favorable start—he was arrested for public intoxication as a freshman, something that he admitted set off an alarm in his head that he had to get things together.
And get things together he did. He set 47 school records, more than half of which were his father's. He led the Rebels to their first 10-win season in more than 30 years. In doing so, he created his own legend at Ole Miss and became a household name:
After all of it, Archie can look back and see the men each of his three sons became and know that he succeeded as a father, making a positive impact on the lives of Cooper, Peyton and Eli:
The Mannings may very well be the first family of college football and perhaps sports in general, but as the documentary showcased front and center, it wasn't always easy for Archie and crew.
The Book of Manning outlined the many struggles each member of the Manning family had to go through at times in their respective lives, showing that even the most famous and legendary sports icons can get a reality check.
Through the untimely death of Archie's father, his NFL struggles, Cooper's unfortunate injury and more, the inner strength of the Manning family was tested many a time. And as Mannings typically do, they rose above it and became even better.
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