NCAA Football News

Can Eddie Jackson's Return Be Shot in Arm Alabama's Secondary Needs?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  — It looks like Alabama will be getting a remedy for the secondary blues that crept up in the Crimson Tide’s opener against West Virginia.

Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who sustained a torn ACL in the spring, has made a faster recovery than most expected and will get his first bit of playing time since injuring his knee in a spring scrimmage.

“He has practiced and he has done well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “I feel like we'll play him some in this game, some kind of way, trying to ease him back into what he has to do to become a player at his position, which I think he's totally capable of and a very good player that we're anxious to get back in the lineup, but certainly not at the expense of putting him in any risk.

“From a medical standpoint, he's been cleared. So now we're sort of working him into it, and he's looked pretty good.”

His practice reps would seem to indicate that, too.

During Tuesday’s media viewing period, Jackson worked with the first-team at cornerback in nickel drills, taking Bradley Sylve’s spot opposite Cyrus Jones.

“I think Eddie has done a great job getting the rehab and working hard to get better,” Jones said on Monday. “I don’t really know too much about where he is physically, but if he says he’s ready, I guess he is.”

Jackson’s return to the Alabama defense is a shot in the arm for a Crimson Tide secondary that got beat up against the Mountaineers and got even more bad news this week.

Sylve was the main culprit on the back end for Alabama. He was frequently in coverage against West Virginia’s Kevin White, who caught nine balls for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Sylve actually had good positioning on White most of the time, but his errors were in technique, like not playing the ball on the fade route for a touchdown or missing open-field tackles.

“He's coached to play the ball, he's capable of playing the ball, he didn't play the ball,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “That's poise and confidence. He's supposed to look for the ball and play the ball.”

If Jackson does take Sylve’s place at corner, like his practice reps indicated, it will be a welcome upgrade in several departments.

Jackson wasn’t perfect by any stretch as a freshman in 2013. His high point came against Ole Miss, when he read a wide receiver pass and picked off Laquon Treadwell. But he struggled with consistency, and his playing time was limited.

In the spring, Saban praised Jackson, calling him “probably our best corner, most consistent” before his injury.

He also gives Alabama a big-bodied presence. At 6’0”, 188 pounds, he’s more equipped to handle big SEC receivers than the smaller Sylve. And he can pack a punch, as he also showed in that Ole Miss game.

Jackson’s return will also help, somewhat, to mask an injury that hurts Alabama’s secondary.

Safety Jarrick Williams, a glue guy and veteran for Alabama on the back end who plays in nickel and dime situations, will miss at least four weeks with a foot fracture, according to Saban. Geno Smith likely steps into his role at Star, with a number of younger options at Money when Alabama goes with six defensive backs.

Throwing more inexperience into the mix was the last thing Alabama needed in the secondary. But getting Eddie Jackson back will help to mask some of that and is another step toward getting the defense back on track.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Southern Cal Trojans vs. Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Both the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal are coming off impressive season-opening wins, but each will face a serious test in an early Pac-12 battle that could go a long way in determining who eventually wins the conference title.

Even though the Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins were preseason favorites to win their respective divisions, USC and Stanford are also right in the mix, making this matchup even more important early on.

 

Point spread: The Cardinal opened as four-point favorites; the total was 55 at Stanford Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 27.1-23.5 Cardinal

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

The Trojans could not have looked much better than they did in a 52-13 rout of Fresno State last week, with quarterback Cody Kessler completing 25-of-37 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns and running back Javorius Allen rushing for 133 yards on 22 carries with one score.

That offensive balance is exactly what new head coach Steve Sarkisian was hoping for, and his defense also played very well with four interceptions. All this in the aftermath of USC cornerback Josh Shaw’s indefinite suspension for lying about rescuing his nephew, showing the team was able to rally round the controversy and show team unity together on the football field.

That’s a great sign for Sarkisian, whose Trojans have now covered the spread in six of their last eight games dating back to last season with a 7-1 straight-up mark during that stretch.

 

Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

The Cardinal routed UC-Davis 45-0 in its season opener. It may not have played the same level of competition as USC, but Stanford still turned in an outstanding all-around effort.

Stanford led 38-0 at halftime with QB Kevin Hogan throwing for 204 yards in the first two quarters while RBs Kelsey Young and Barry Sanders Jr. combined for 80 rushing yards on 14 carries.

The Cardinal enter this game against the Trojans with a lot of confidence against them, knowing Stanford has won four of the last five meetings SU with a 5-2 ATS record in their past seven matchups. Stanford is also 18-1 SU in its last 19 home games and will be out for revenge after losing at USC 20-17 as a 3.5-point favorite last year.

The Cardinal finished a perfect 7-0 SU at home last season, including big wins against UCLA (24-10) and Oregon (26-20).

 

Smart Pick

Bettors will find out just how good these Pac-12 teams are when they face each other, as both were able to rest starters last week to get ready for this showdown in Palo Alto.

The Trojans have won four of the last six meetings there with only one bad game in their past eight overall, including that home victory last season vs. Stanford. Kessler is the better QB of the two and played like it in winning last year, throwing for 288 yards and one touchdown.

Hogan struggled with 127 yards and two interceptions, and former RB Tyler Gaffney (158 yards and two TDs) was the only reason Stanford was able to hang in there. With Gaffney gone, the Cardinal’s inexperience in the offensive backfield will be a concern and show in a rare home loss.

 

Trends:

  • Stanford is 18-1 SU in its last 19 games at home.
  • Southern Cal is 3-10 ATS in its last 13 games on the road.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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UCLA Football: Quiet Jim Mora Means Bruins Must Make Statement on Field

Apparently, UCLA head coach Jim Mora is opting to let his team's performance do the talking in Week 2. 

Coming off a 28-20 win at Virginia Saturday in which the 11th-ranked Bruins scored only one offensive touchdown, Mora's answers on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference call Tuesday were short and broad. 

On the team's attitude: "Great. Feeling good."

On changing anything in the offensive line's preparation: "No, just [practicing] our normal stuff." 

On concerns about the offensive line: "I'm concerned about everything. I'm concerned about every position on our team. We've just, as a team, got to get better every day." 

On defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa building off his Week 1 performance: "We take it one day at a time."  

Mora does not need to make bold proclamations about his team in preparation—others have taken care of that.

Media at large did an about-face on UCLA after just one game. The trendy national championship pick plummeted four spots in the most recent Associated Press Top 25. For context, consider that UCLA fell as many places in a road win as Wisconsin dropped in a neutral field loss.

It isn't just media making superlative statements about UCLA's Week 1 showing, however.

After quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked five times and under constant duress at Virginia, Bruins offensive line coach Adrian Klemm told Everett Cook of the Los Angeles Times the front five's performance ranked among the worst he's ever experienced. 

Justin Fuente will be on the sideline opposite Mora and his staff this week in the Rose Bowl. The Memphis head coach had much more to say about UCLA's offense than the Bruins head coach.

"Offensively they provide plenty of problems and will continue to improve," Fuente said in his weekly press conference, via GoTigersGo.com. "I don't think they're over there freaking out or panicking about their offense.

"They'll score plenty of points over the season," he added.

Fuente would obviously prefer the Bruins offense not come to life Saturday. His team's talented defensive line, led by American Athletic All-Conference selection and NFL draft prospect Martin Ifedi, will do what it can against an injury-plagued offensive line.

UCLA was without starters Jake Brendel at center and Simon Goines at right tackle against Virginia. Their statuses are unclear.   

Mora told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News that last week was UCLA's first game in Mora's three-year tenure without Brendel starting at center. It showed, as Virginia exploited the matchup problem the Bruins faced lining up sophomore Scott Quessenberry at center with frequent blitzes up the middle. 

UCLA countered in the second half with Hundley taking off on designed runs. Running back Paul Perkins also injected some life into the ground game, getting 13 of his team-high 16 carries after intermission per UCLABruins.com.

At five yards per carry, Perkins was much more effective than Jordon James, who mustered just three yards on five rushes.

Establishing an effective run game early is critical if the Bruins are to alleviate some of the pressure on Hundley. 

In the first quarter last week, UCLA ran just five times for 25 yards. Take away Perkins' runs of four and 18 yards just before the end of the period, and the Bruins managed all of three yards on three carries. 

That ineffectiveness on the ground allowed Virginia to blitz more aggressively. Expect offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to turn to Perkins much earlier this week. 

Meanwhile, overshadowed in the critiques of the UCLA offense is the performance of its defense. 

One of the three Bruins defenders to get into the end zone was redshirt senior Eric Kendricks. Despite finishing as UCLA's leading tackler, Kendricks' 2013 was cut short by an ankle injury that required surgery.

In addition to his 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, Kendricks notched a career-high 16 tackles en route to earning both Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and the Football Writers Association of America Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors. 

Another Bruin making his first appearance since an injury, Odighizuwa, did not appear to miss a beat despite a 20-month layoff from game action. 

"Those guys you mentioned," Mora said when I asked him about Kendricks and Odighizuwa, "They're our two defensive captains. When your best players are playing well, that's a good thing for you." 

Myles Jack was also impressive, playing exclusively at linebacker and racking up 13 tackles and two pass breakups. 

Memphis hung 63 points on an overmatched Austin Peay in Week 1. How indicative that performance is of an offensive renaissance for the Tigers remains to be seen—the Governors ranked No. 113 among Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense at 39.7 points per game as season ago, via NCAA.org

The Bruins defense will test Memphis from the outset and give the UCLA offense a sizable cushion with which to operate. 

Capitalizing with a few early touchdowns on the other end will speak volumes for UCLA—even if its coach isn't saying much. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com unless otherwise noted. 

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Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Boston College Eagles Betting Odds, Analysis, Prediction

Former Big East conference rivals renew acquaintances when Boston College and Pitt meet for the first time as ACC rivals Friday night up in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

The Eagles are on a good home run, going 5-1 both straight-up and against the spread over their last six games at Alumni Stadium, and they've covered their last four games as home dogs. Can they continue that run against the Panthers?

Point spread: BC Eagles opened as one-point favorites but are now four-point underdogs; the total was 49 at Alumni Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Odds Shark computer prediction: 30.2-24.2 Panthers

 

Why the Pittsburgh Panthers can cover the spread

The Panthers opened their season with a 62-0 whitewash of Delaware, easily covering the spread as 24-point chalk. Pitt led 21-0 after one quarter and 42-0 at halftime, and it ended up outgaining the Blue Hens 501-57.

The Panthers have 13 starters back this season, including last year's top two rushers, leading receiver, four along the offensive line and three of last year's top four tacklers.

Pitt went just 2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS on the road last season, but those numbers are slightly misleading considering the Panthers missed the cover by two points at Duke, by four points at Virginia Tech and by two points at Georgia Tech.

 

Why the Boston College Eagles can cover the spread

The Eagles opened this season with a 30-7 victory at Massachusetts, covering the spread as 17-point favorites. BC started slowly, only leading 6-0 at the half, but pulled away in the second half for the win.

The Eagles outgained the Minutemen 511-202, ran 61 times for 338 yards, held the ball for over 42 minutes and would have pitched a shutout if not for a 77-yard UMass touchdown pass late in the third quarter.

Senior QB Tyler Murphy, a transfer from Florida, had a good debut for BC, hitting on 17 of 24 throws for 173 yards and a score and running for 118 yards and another score.

 

Smart Pick

This looks like it should be a very close game. BC might have an advantage at quarterback, but the Panthers have an edge up front. The Eagles only return nine starters, fewest in the ACC, but have been tough at home recently while Pitt has more returning talent but has struggled on the road.

In the end, this game might come down to a field goal and, if that's the case, the smart money would be with the home dog.

 

Trends:

  • Pittsburgh is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games
  • Boston College is 1-4 SU in its last five games when playing Pittsburgh

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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Ohio State Football: Unanswered Questions Heading into Virginia Tech Showdown

After quickly reviewing it for effort and basic execution, Urban Meyer did something with the defensive game tape from Ohio State's season opener against Navy that the Buckeyes' obsessive head coach doesn't typically do.

He threw it out.

Because while the Midshipmen may have rushed for 370 yards in the 34-17 Ohio State victory, the reality is that Navy's success with the triple-option raised a headache more than it did a red flag for Meyer and the Buckeyes. There will be no carryover defensively for Ohio State from last weekend to the next—or any other this season—making the game film exceptionally expendable for Meyer.

"You don't take much from that," Meyer said. "I didn't see a lot of missed tackles. I saw a couple of execution errors on a new play they put in. First game of the season, those things happen. I'm not concerned about that."

The still virtually unknown status of the Buckeyes' revamped defense is just one of many reasons why this weekend's showdown with Virginia Tech will serve as Ohio State's de facto season opener. The Buckeyes left Baltimore with a win—but also several unanswered questions, chief among them being where Ohio State's pass defense stands at the start of the 2014 season.

What follows is the top three unanswered questions that the Buckeyes still face, heading into their prime-time matchup with the Hokies this weekend.

 

Unanswered Question 1: How improved will the Silver Bullets be?

Perhaps the largest question that loomed in Columbus in the long eight months following last season's Orange Bowl, Ohio State fans have been anxious to see how the Buckeyes will bounce back from a 2013 that saw them rank 118th (out of 125) teams in passing yards allowed per game.

In replacing Everett Withers as Ohio State's co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, Chris Ash has been tasked with overhauling what was a poor (and that may be kind) Buckeyes pass defense a year ago. Since arriving in January, Ash has implemented a quarters coverage system that places an emphasis on press coverage—a system that stifled Ohio State in 2012 when Ash was Wisconsin's defensive coordinator.

And while the Buckeyes' new defense drew rave reviews from Meyer in the offseason, its debut was put on delay against a Navy team that attempted just four passes in the season opener. That only left the Ohio State head coach even more anxious to see how his defense will play this Saturday, when it gets its first look at a conventional offense this season.

"[I'm] real curious. We have to shift gears," Meyer said of his defense on Monday. "Getting ready for that game is tough enough. It's just now you have to go back to pass defense that's brand new. So we actually started in earnest yesterday on the field. We usually we don't do much on Sunday. Yesterday we did, getting back to seeing if we improved our pass defense."

Meyer should get a pretty good answer on Saturday when his team goes up against a Hokies squad that attempted 31 passes in its season-opening win over William & Mary. VT starting quarterback Michael Brewer completed 23 of his 30 attempts for 251 yards and two touchdowns, a far cry from the 2-for-4, 20-yard performance to Midshipmen signal-caller Keenan Reynolds "enjoyed" against OSU on Saturday.

With the Hokies being one of the more talented teams that the Buckeyes will face this season, Saturday should be a good gauge of just how far Ohio State has come with its one glaring weakness from a season ago. The Buckeyes defense cost them a chance at playing for a national title a season ago and will only be relied on more heavily with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm of its counterpart.

 

Unanswered Question 2: What should we make of J.T. Barrett?

Speaking of J.T. Barrett, all eyes will once again be on the redshirt freshman quarterback this Saturday, as he makes the second start of his college career.

Earning Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week honors, Barrett performed admirably in his debut, connecting on 12 of 15 pass attempts for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while also rushing for a team-high 50 yards. But like the Ohio State defense, it was hard to tell what you could take away from Barrett's season opener, as his responsibilities were similarly limited.

The Buckeyes' game plan was admittedly conservative with Barrett starting in place of Braxton Miller on just two weeks notice, but that should change as Ohio State's new starter gets more comfortable with his new role. Like he did with Miller two years ago, Meyer has insisted that Barrett's role will grow with each passing week, which could mean new plays for the OSU offense to work with on Saturday.

"We went into a very vanilla last week," Meyer said. "We will keep giving him more and more."

But while Barrett may have new tools to work with, he'll also be facing a tougher test in the second start of his college career. The Midshipmen may have played hard, but the Hokies have much more talent on the defensive side of the ball, including a secondary that college football expert Phil Steele ranked as the best in all of college football heading into the season.

That's where Saturday could get tricky for Barrett and the Buckeyes, as they match up with a defense that Meyer says is one of the two best Ohio State will see all season. For each of the past three seasons, the Buckeyes have had Miller's legs to bail them out sticky situations, a luxury that Meyer knows OSU will no longer be able to enjoy.

"He's just not the dynamic guy," Meyer said of Barrett's running ability. "[I] wouldn't mind, when you go, go."

Given the talent mismatch that the Buckeyes enjoyed last week and Barrett's limited role, it was tough to take a lot away from his college debut. That shouldn't be the case this week, as Ohio State will need to rely on its quarterback to execute more than just a "vanilla" game plan in order to walk away with a win against one of the tougher teams on its schedule.

 

Unanswered Question 3: Which half was the real Ohio State offensive line?

Last Saturday was a tale of two halves for the Ohio State offensive line, a unit attempting to replace four multiyear starters from a season ago. After a bad start for the Buckeyes in the opening two quarters, the offensive line finished the game strong, helping pave the way for a 28-point second half.

The good news is that the OSU offensive line progressed and only got better as the game wore on.

The bad news? As good as the Buckeyes got, Meyer knows that the unit will have to get even better to beat Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster's aggressive front.

"We have to get much better fast on the offensive line," Meyer said. "The second half, we played pretty good. But pretty good is not what we expect. You play pretty good this week you won't win that game."

At the very least, Meyer has found some consistency on the line, eliminating two "ORs" from the opening depth chart and settling on a starting lineup that includes left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Pat Elflein, center Jacoby Boren, right guard Billy Price and right tackle Darryl Baldwin. Of that group, only Decker and Elflein had seen significant snaps in their college careers prior to last Saturday, indicative of the inexperience that the unit entered the 2014 season with.

But with one game under their collective belt, the OSU offensive line is hopeful that its second half progress from a week ago was not the result of a talent mismatch, but rather the start of a trend that will continue for the remainder of the season. The Hokies will certainly put that theory to the test on Saturday, and should serve as a true measuring stick for where the revamped Buckeyes offensive line truly stands.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Odds: Analysis, Pick

With Notre Dame moving to a part-time ACC schedule, a great Midwestern rivalry comes to a close when the Irish host Michigan on Saturday night in South Bend.

Notre Dame has lost six of their last eight meetings with the Wolverines, going 2-6 ATS over that span, and got mocked with the “chicken dance” after losing at the Big House last year. Might the revenge factor be in play for this one?

 

Point spread: The Fighting Irish opened as 6-point favorites; the total was 55.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 35.4-30.0 Wolverines

 

Why the Michigan Wolverines can cover the spread

The Wolverines opened their season with a 52-14 victory over Appalachian State, covering as 28-point chalk. In fact, Michigan had that line covered at halftime, leading 35-0.

They out-gained the Mountaineers 560-280, piling up 350 yards on the ground. Michigan returned 15 starters this year, seven on offense, led by senior quarterback Devin Gardner, who threw just one incompletion last week. There are three returning starters along the offensive line, and eight on defense.

Last year, Gardner had one of his best days as a collegian against Notre Dame, throwing for 294 yards and four scores and running for 82 yards and another touchdown. UM has covered just seven of 23 road games, but this is a number they can handle, and the computer is picking the upset.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

The Irish, with QB Everett Golson back behind center, dispatched of Rice last Saturday 48-17, covering the spread as 20-point favorites.

The Golden Domers scored twice in the last three minutes of the first half to take a 28-10 lead into the locker room and pulled away from there. Notre Dame piled up 576 yards of offense on the Owls, as Golson threw for 295 and two scores and ran for three more.

The Irish are now 11-1 SU and 7-4-1 ATS when Golson starts. Notre Dame, without Golson, lost at Ann Arbor last year 41-30, missing the cover as four-point dogs, but that game was up for grabs midway through the fourth quarter.

 

Smart Pick

Michigan has held the upper hand in this rivalry recently, and with 15 starters back they should not be intimidated by playing in front of a hostile crown at Notre Dame Stadium.

This rivalry has also featured several close games recently; from 2009-11 the Wolverines won three straight games by four points before the Irish won by a touchdown in 2012.

And as mentioned above, last year's game was a four-point affair until Michigan scored with four minutes to go to win by 11. So for what should be another close game, the smart pick is with the Wolverines and the points.

 

Trends:

  • Michigan is 4-1 ATS in its last five games
  • Michigan lost nine of 10 SU as an underdog since start of 2012 season
  • Notre Dame is 26-2 SU in its past 28 games as favorites

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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Auburn's Potential Dark-Horse Heisman Trophy Candidate

Move over Nick Marshall, there's a new Heisman Trophy candidate on the Plains.

Wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams.

While most of the focus for the stiff-arm trophy is centered on quarterbacks, Auburn sent a running back—Tre Mason—to New York last December as a Heisman finalist.

Judging from his Week 1 performance against Arkansas, Williams could be the second non-quarterback in as many years to throw his hat into the Heisman ring.

Williams caught nine passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in his debut for head coach Gus Malzahn's crew, showing off the big-play ability that followed him to Auburn as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the class of 2014.

"He’s very talented and we saw that in the spring and saw that in fall camp," Malzahn said in quotes emailed by Auburn. "I was happy for him that he was able to transition success in practice to the field. It’s like anything else—the more comfortable he feels in our offense, the better he will be."

Why might Williams jump into the Heisman fray?

 

Matchup Nightmare

At 6'2", 216 pounds with long arms and catlike agility, Williams presents a matchup problem for opposing defensive coordinators.

Should coaches line up their No. 1 corner on Williams or Sammie Coates—the 6'2", 201-pound junior who finished third in the nation in yards per catch last year at 21.48? Who should be double-teamed?

Even the best corners in the country would struggle with Coates on an island, which leaves a corner and/or a safety alone with Williams. Not an easy task.

In the opener against Arkansas, we saw Williams score on an 18-yard catch-and-run on a slant over the middle and gain 62 yards on a post route. On both plays, he was lined up in the slot, which allows Williams to use that big body and catch radius over the middle against players who simply can't cover him.

Tight end C.J. Uzomah knows how much this helps, via Ryan Black of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer.

Uzomah said having D'haquille Williams lining up in the slot creates an "awful matchup" for opposing defenses.

— WarEagleExtra (@wareagleextra) September 2, 2014

Malzahn agrees.

"He's one of those guys who's big and can also run. He gives you the best of both worlds," he said. "It takes a lot of versatility to play that inside receiver in our offense. We moved him around a little bit on Saturday, and you'll see us move all of our guys around more as the season goes on."

What should opposing defensive coordinators do? Double Williams and leave Sammie Coates one-on-one? Coates will win those matchups more often than not, and something like this might happen:

Having Coates outside coupled with Williams' versatility is a big problem for the opposition and a tremendous luxury for Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

 

Touchdown Machine

Williams' lone touchdown reception against the Hogs came on a quick slant and run over the middle, where he powered through a defender and reached the ball into the end zone. 

He's just scratching the surface.

Williams' ability to put his body in position to make a catch and then hit top speed in a hurry makes him a weapon to score from just about anywhere on the field. 

In the red zone, Williams' leaping ability and body control make him a prime option for Malzahn and Lashlee on corner routes and fade routes. He showed off these traits in the spring game, nabbing a perfectly placed fade from Marshall in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

Are 15 touchdowns out of reach? Not in the least. If that happens, those touchdowns could help Williams punch his ticket to New York City.

 

His Part of Nick Marshall's Progression

Fair or not, Marshall is viewed as a system quarterback by a large portion of the country. He's a runner first, and he takes advantage of secondaries that creep up to defend the multidimensional Auburn running game. The goal this year for Auburn's passing game was to be more balanced with Marshall.

"We led the country in rushing last year. When you do that, defenses have to take some chances," head coach Gus Malzahn said at Media Days in July. "We've got to do a better job this year of making them pay when they do take chances."

The staff worked with Marshall this offseason to be more consistent through the air. If he progresses, it's likely that Williams' presence as a versatile weapon will be a big reason for that in the minds of Heisman voters.

Will Marshall still be viewed as a system quarterback?

By some, yes, and for those who still hold that card against him, the obvious beneficiary will be Williams, who will get credited for Marshall's development.

It's going to take a lot for a wide receiver to become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Being a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate, however, isn't as difficult.

Williams has the skills, system and exposure to make a pretty strong case if Week 1 is any indication of what's in store for him and the Tigers in 2014.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

 


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Florida State Shirt Burns SEC for Losing 2014 BCS National Championship Game

The Southeastern Conference won seven straight BCS National Championships from 2006 to 2012, but as SEC haters like to point out, the conference also lost two of the final three championship games.

Florida State's 34-31 victory in the 2014 title game not only marked the end of the BCS, but it also put an end to the SEC's reign atop the college football world. The Seminoles' victory also gave one Florida State fan the perfect opportunity to troll the SEC.

[Twitter, h/t Sporting News

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Memphis Tigers vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

UCLA survived a cross-country trip and upset bid from Virginia last week but couldn't cover a big number on the point spread.

The Bruins now head home to entertain Memphis this Saturday at the Rose Bowl, where they will be favored by a big number once again.

UCLA has had good luck covering large spreads recently, but the Tigers haven't been too bad at covering big numbers themselves. Of course, these teams have been on opposite sides of those numbers, but it still makes for a tough pick.

 

Point spread: The Bruins opened as 24-point favorites; the total was 55 midweek, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 33.9-13.1 Bruins

 

Why the Memphis Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers began their season with a 63-0 romp over Austin Peay, covering the spread as 38-point favorites. Memphis had the line covered at halftime with a 42-0 lead and clamped down from there, out-gaining the Governors 545-146, racking up 303 yards on the ground and holding the ball for 34 minutes.

The Tigers also return 17 starters this year, including their starting quarterback, last year's leading rusher, the entire receiving corps, three along the offensive line and eight on defense.

Memphis has been dogged by 20 points or more six times over the last two seasons, going 4-2 ATS and nearly pulling off a couple of upsets.

 

Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread

The Bruins won at Virginia on Saturday, 28-20, and actually had the spread pushed late in the second quarter when they led 21-3.

Statistically, the game was about even, but the UCLA defense scored three touchdowns. This year, the Bruins return 17 starters, five more than last year when they went 10-3. Nine starters are back on offense, led by Heisman candidate QB Brett Hundley, as well as last year's top three rushers and four along the offensive line, and eight are back on defense.

UCLA is 10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS at home under head coach Jim Mora and 4-1 ATS when favored by three touchdowns or more. Their foes have lost 22 of 25 road games dating back several seasons.

 

Smart pick

If UCLA plays like it did last week, it will not cover this spread. However, after last week's lackluster performance offensively, the Bruins will be looking to break loose this week.

And Memphis is not Virginia, and the Rose Bowl is not in Charlottesville. Also, Hundley needs some good numbers to enhance his Heisman status.

So the smart money on this one should go with the favorite, minus the points.

 

Trends:

  • Memphis is 3-22 SU in its last 25 games on the road
  • UCLA is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted; check out Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Michigan Football: Wolverines QB Devin Gardner Leads by Doing Less

Devin Gardner has learned that being a leader doesn't mean that he needs to do everything himself. 

The last time Michigan played Notre Dame, Gardner had one of the best games of his career, leading the Wolverines in both passing and rushing yards. On last year’s squad Gardner had to be Superman for Michigan to win.

But under Doug Nussmeier’s new offensive scheme Gardner needs to be more Clark Kent—a mild-mannered part of the team, showing leadership by allowing his teammates to shine.

After a restless offseason, Michigan unveiled its new offense during a cathartic 52-14 bludgeoning of Appalachian State last week. Lost in the statistics was Gardner’s rushing totals, as he had five carries for nine yards.

Last season that stat line would have translated into a crushing defeat. But now, leading an offense built to feature his talented teammates, Gardner has been freed up to manage the game and has immersed himself in learning the team’s new streamlined offense.

His knowledge of the playbook allowed him to make a key adjustment that resulted in a huge play against Appalachian State.

"I think the one, biggest offensive play of the game was when Devin checked us out of a play," said Hoke. “On a 3rd-and-1, in the third quarter and then he checked us into a great play that goes for 60, and it was communicated all the way down the front, out to the Mike point and to the wide receivers and how that was going to block out. ... When you look at that communication, his awareness, that was big.”

Last season Gardner repeatedly put the team on his back, relying on his talent and playmaking ability to win games. For a while, it worked. But as Michigan’s offensive line deteriorated, the season took a toll on Gardner physically and emotionally. His season ended after being injured during a gutsy performance against Ohio State.

Gardner returned motivated to lead his teammates and humbled by the talent surrounding him.

Last week he grudgingly acknowledged that he was no longer the best athlete on the team when questioned about freshman defensive back Jabrill Peppers.

"Him and [Devin] Funchess are probably the top two athletes on the team,” said Gardner. “I kind of get pissed a little bit, because I used to always like to think I was the top athlete on the team. But these two guys…they’re pretty elite."

Last year Hoke admonished Gardner for trying to do too much and taking unnecessary risks in attempting to make big plays, “but Superman has to be smart too. He doesn't eat kryptonite.”

The new offense allows Gardner share the load with receiver Funchess, running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith and tight end Jake Butt, who will soon return from an ACL injury.

Surrounded by an arsenal of talented offensive weapons, Gardner’s key contribution is now leadership.

On Saturday against Notre Dame, we'll get an indication of how far that leadership can take the Wolverines this season.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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@PSCallihan

All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

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Nebraska Football: Players Who Must Step Up in Randy Gregory's Absence

It wasn't what Nebraska fans wanted to see. In the Huskers' first matchup of the season, defensive end Randy Gregory sat himself on the bench with an apparent knee injury.

Pelini later confirmed that an old injury resurfaced for the junior, per Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald. While Pelini believes Gregory could have finished playing against Florida Atlantic, further injury wasn't worth the risk. He's expected to return by the Fresno State game.

Until then, a couple of players will have to step up to fill the void left by Gregory. Who will those players be?

 

Jack Gangwish (DE, Junior)

In Gregory's absence against Florida Atlantic, walk-on junior Jack Gangwish was tasked with stepping up. The defensive end did a fine job, too.

Defensive coordinator John Papuchis was pleased with his performance against the Owls. As the Omaha World-Herald reported, he thought the junior handled the opportunity well:

Obviously I want Randy to play. He’s certainly one of our best players, but also there’s something to be said for having an opportunity to find out about some of your other guys, especially early in the year. And I think we found out a little bit about Jack. I thought Jack did a really nice job today.

Beyond just his performance, Gangwish's attitude was spectacular following the game. As Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel noted, he was exceptionally excited to talk with the media.

“They did a lot of work with me and put in a lot of extra time and molded me into a new football player,” Gangwish said, per Vogel. “I’m pretty happy about it.”

Gangwish only had one tackle against Florida Atlantic, but the experience is truly what matters. The mix of a positive attitude and some experience under his belt should allow another good game for Gangwish against McNeese State.

 

Greg McMullen (DE, Sophomore)

With Gregory out, Greg McMullen is going to have to step up as a leader. Gregory will still be able to lead from the sidelines, but when it comes to those moments on the field, it's going to fall on McMullen's shoulders.

The good news is that McMullen appears to have found some attitude in the offseason, as the Omaha World-Herald's McKewon noted. McKewon also when on to say that McMullen "was more physical and demonstrative Saturday than he was at any time last year."

As for his responsibility going forward, McMullen plans to remain calm, despite temporarily losing Gregory. He also plans to keep improving.

“When first-team, All-American Randy Gregory goes down, it is a big concern because that is a critical part of our defensive line and also one of our leaders,” McMullen said, per The Daily Nebraskan. “But when you’re a competitor in this sport, stuff is going to happen.”

Against Florida Atlantic, McMullen had four total tackles with one sack, per ESPN.com. The sophomore believes he and his teammates can get better.

“We beat Florida Atlantic, but let’s take it with a grain of salt,” McMullen said, per The Daily Nebraskan. “There’s a lot of things that need to be fixed. We start preparation for next week. The reality is on the film, so we will watch it and get better.”

 

Marcus Newby (LB, Redshirt Freshman)

The Florida Atlantic game was a big game for Marcus Newby. It was the redshirt freshman's big debut for Nebraska. It became even bigger when Gregory was injured.

As the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple noted, Newby's role as a pass-rushing specialist could be even more important now that Gregory is out. As for his first performance, Newby is already looking to improve.

"I feel it went alright. I think I could do a lot better," he said, per Sipple.

In Gregory's absence, Newby will play a crucial role as he will occasionally be used to give Gangwish a breather in potential pass-rush situations. Newby ultimately showed against Florida Atlantic that he can step in and help after losing a key defensive player in Gregory.

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Awful Fan Murders Innocent Beach Ball at Arizona vs. UNLV Game

We can’t have anything nice anymore.

For reasons we’ll never fully understand, a cross section of human beings are born on this planet without the capacity to enjoy anything.

They frown at birthday candles, despise dancing and smack pay phones off their receivers whenever the opportunity presents itself. They are Fun Suckers, and one from their ranks ruined a good time in progress at Friday’s college football season opener between the University of Arizona and UNLV.

The incident occurred when one Arizona fan intercepted a beach ball making its way around the stadium and crushed it underfoot.

Redditor @DannyMB87 (h/t NextImpulseSports.com’s Pete Blackburn) spotted footage of the man and his callous act. He is a no-good, cargo-short-wearing schlub, and he must be brought to justice.

The worst part of this entire exchange might be the perpetrator’s self-congratulation after popping the ball. He gives himself a hand and encourages others to do so, as if he did something novel or benefitting the community.

Let’s be clear: This man did nothing more than ruin a good time for the sake of being a contrarian. He’s the football equivalent of the jackwagon who deliberately ended a pay-it-forward line at a Starbucks and acted like he saved the public from a rising menace.

You did not save anyone from anything, Wildcats bro. You popped a child’s balloon. Just check out the kid giving you a thumbs down.

For shame. For shame.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

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Kansas State Wildcats vs. Iowa State Cyclones Betting Odds: Analysis, Prediction

The Kansas State Wildcats will open Big 12 conference play on the road against an Iowa State Cyclones team they have beaten six straight times and hope to extend their series winning streak.

However, only one of those six consecutive wins for Kansas State was decided by more than eight points, last year’s 41-7 home victory.

 

Point spread: The KSU Wildcats opened as 15.5-point favorites, but betting forced the number down to -12 by Wednesday; the total was 57 at Jack Trice Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 44-19 KSU Wildcats

 

Why the Kansas State Wildcats can cover the spread

The Wildcats have obviously enjoyed a lot of recent success against the Cyclones, but they have also been playing very well overall. Kansas State has won seven of its last eight games overall dating back to last season to go along with a 7-3 mark against the spread in the team’s past 10, including a failed cover last week in a 55-16 rout of Stephen F. Austin as a 42-point favorite.

The Wildcats barely missed the cover in their season opener and could not have played much better outside of an interception thrown by quarterback Jake Waters, who also completed 19 of 28 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to backup Joe Hubener.

They are riding a profitable 14-4 ATS run in Big 12 play.

 

Why the Iowa State Cyclones can cover the spread

All the trends seem to go against Iowa State here, so it’s hard to fathom how this team can pull off the upset against Kansas State. However, the Cyclones are coming off a 34-14 home loss to the same North Dakota State team that upset their opponent 24-21 on the road last year.

There’s no shame in losing to the Bison, who have won 25 straight games and three consecutive national championships at the FCS level. In fact, the Wildcats rebounded for a big win and cover the following week last season, proving that a loss like that can serve as motivation instead.

Iowa State will need plenty of that and will try to use the home field to its advantage. Kansas State dropped its first two road games a year ago and could have trouble covering double digits.

 

Smart Pick

The Wildcats have gone 12-4 against the spread in their last 16 road games, and head coach Bill Snyder will remind them that the Cyclones should not be overlooked in this spot.

Iowa State’s first four losses last year were all decided by eight points or less, but they collapsed in their next three games after that, falling by a combined 129 points.

The Cyclones have seen games get out of control early on them, and they trailed Kansas State 41-0 last year before finally scoring with 3:24 remaining. They hung in there last week against North Dakota State, down just 17-14 at halftime, but were blanked 17-0 after the intermission.

That inability to adjust gives Kansas State a major edge to not only win but also cover, especially with Snyder on the sidelines.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone UNDER in five of six recent meetings at Iowa State.
  • Kansas State is 14-4 ATS in its past 18 conference games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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Florida Atlantic vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Alabama Crimson Tide got a bit of a scare last week in their season opener and will look for a better performance when they host the Florida Atlantic Owls in their first home game.

Alabama failed to cover the spread as a 22-point favorite in a 33-23 win over West Virginia at the Georgia Dome last week, while Florida Atlantic saw its four-game winning streak end in a 55-7 loss to Nebraska.

 

Point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 39-point favorites; the total was 50.5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report). 

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 36.5-3.0 Crimson Tide

 

Why the Florida Atlantic Owls can cover the spread

The Owls finished last season strong, going 4-0 straight up and 3-1 against the spread. They have also been an outstanding road team over the last few seasons, with a 12-2 mark in their past 14 games away from home.

One of those losses against the number obviously came last week, and Florida Atlantic made it through the entire 2013 season without failing to cover consecutive games, with a 9-3 ATS mark overall in 2013.

The Crimson Tide are also breaking in a new quarterback, senior Blake Sims, who was solid but did not do anything special in the victory against the Mountaineers, throwing for 250 yards with one interception and no touchdowns.

Alabama has covered just three times in 10 recent games when favored by four TDs or more, according to the database at Odds Shark.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

Alabama does not need to count on the arm of Sims to win games. Instead, the Tide just need to run the ball like they did against the Mountaineers, totalling 288 rushing yards on 49 carries.

Junior running back T.J Yeldon is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate who is looking for his third straight 1,000-yard season, and he got off to a good start with 126 yards and two touchdowns versus West Virginia.

Sophomore running back Derrick Henry also had 113 yards and one TD on the ground, giving Alabama a solid one-two punch yet again that can steamroll opponents late in games.

The Owls surrendered 498 rushing yards to the Cornhuskers last week and will likely face a similar struggle in trying to contain Yeldon and Henry.

 

Smart Pick

Do not sleep on the Tide. Just because they failed to roll over the Mountaineers does not mean they are not capable of returning to form at any time.

Alabama is 4-1 ATS in its last five home games and remains a very dangerous team, probably best compared to a sleeping giant fully capable of destroying the opposition and making everybody forget what happened last week.

Sims will only become more comfortable running the offense, and running is exactly what his team needs to do in order to be successful.

It will also help him greatly to have the support of the home crowd backing him, giving him more confidence as he looks for a breakout performance.

 

Trends:

  • Florida Atlantic is 17-6 ATS in its last 23 games overall.
  • Alabama is only 3-7 ATS the last 10 times when favored by four touchdowns or more.

 

All point-spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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College Football Playoff Standings 2014: Week 2 Rankings & Bowl Game Projections

Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, but at Bleacher Report we're always looking ahead. That's why bowl projections are already up. 

Projections are based on an equal split between Week 1 results, what problems or questions those results answer and strength of schedule for the remaining season. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 1.

 

Associated Press Top 25

1. Florida State
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Georgia
7. Michigan State
8. Ohio State
9. Texas A&M
10. Baylor
11. UCLA
12. LSU
13. Stanford
14. USC
15. Ole Miss
16. Notre Dame
17. Arizona State
18. Wisconsin
19. Nebraska
20. Kansas State
21. South Carolina
21. North Carolina
23. Clemson
24. Missouri
25. Louisville

 

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll 

1. Florida State
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Oregon
5. Auburn
6. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
8. Georgia
9. Baylor
10. Stanford
11. UCLA
12. LSU
13. Texas A&M
14. USC
15. Notre Dame
16. Arizona State
17. Ole Miss
18. Nebraska
19. Wisconsin
20. Kansas State
21. South Carolina
22. Missouri
23. North Carolina
24. Clemson
25. Texas

Begin Slideshow

Which LSU RB Will Emerge as Tigers' Top Rusher in Week 2

The LSU Tigers are coming off of a huge win against the Wisconsin Badgers in Week 1 of the 2014 season. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss what to expect from the Tigers in their Week 2 matchup. What are your predictions for Les Miles and his program this week in Baton Rouge?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Notre Dame Fan's Yard Gets Transformed into Fighting Irish Football Field

One Notre Dame fan is extremely prepared for college football season.

Fighting Irish fan Bruce Straughan took to Facebook to show off pictures of a mini Notre Dame football field—complete with mini goal posts—in his yard. 

When you have that much space in your yard, you might as well put it to good use.

[Facebook, h/t College Spun]

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BYU Cougars vs. Texas Longhorns Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Texas Longhorns will be out for revenge when they host the BYU Cougars after suffering an embarrassing 40-21 road loss against them last year during Mack Brown’s last year as head coach.

The Longhorns are hoping to prove they are a new team this year under Brown’s replacement Charlie Strong. They got off to a good start with a 38-7 win over North Texas in their season opener.

 

Point spread: The Longhorns opened as 4.5-point favorites; the total was at sitting around 47 at Memorial Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 28.5-17.9 Longhorns

 

Why the BYU Cougars can cover the spread

If the Cougars run the ball like they did last year against Texas, they will not only cover the spread again but also pull off another upset. BYU had a school-record 550 rushing yards against the Longhorns, the most the proud school has ever allowed on the ground.

Quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams did most of the damage with 441 yards between them to lead the Cougars, and the junior Hill is an even better passer now than he was when he faced Texas last year. Hill completed just nine of 26 passes for 129 yards with one interception and no touchdowns in the last meeting, but he is coming off a 308-yard, three-TD performance in a 35-10 rout of UConn last week.

He also ran for 97 yards and scored two TDs on the ground against the Huskies, proving he is one of the best dual-threat signal-callers in the country.

 

Why the Texas Longhorns can cover the spread

The Longhorns can’t play any worse than they did last year against BYU, and even then they were able to stay close during the first half before the Cougars literally ran away with the game. Texas trailed the Cougars 17-14 at halftime and already looked a lot better defensively last week under Strong in the win over the Mean Green.

The Longhorns picked off four passes, limited North Texas to only three completions on 17 pass attempts and held the opposition to 94 yards of total offense in the 38-7 rout. The Cougars will be a much tougher test, but they are 1-4 against the spread in their last five road games, while Texas is 5-1 straight up in its last six at home with a 4-2 mark ATS.

 

Smart Pick

The loss to BYU last year was the beginning of the end for Brown in Austin even though his team did rebound with a six-game winning streak later in the season.

Surrendering 40 points or more in two of the Longhorns' first three games with the OVER cashing four times in the first five, including the loss to the Cougars, was enough to show the Texas faithful they needed a change.

The Longhorns have simply too much talent to play that poorly again defensively, and Strong looks to be the right man for the job so far.

Both teams like to run the ball, making for a low-scoring game, and the trends match that style perfectly. The UNDER is not only 5-0 in the last five games overall and at home for Texas but also 7-1 in the past eight road games for BYU.

 

Trends

  • The total has gone UNDER in six of BYU's last seven games.
  • Texas is 8-3 SU in its last 11 games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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How Auburn Can Use Nick Marshall, Jeremy Johnson at Same Time

AUBURN, Ala. — After his fantastic first-half performance against Arkansas last Saturday, it's going to be hard for Auburn to keep Jeremy Johnson off the field this season.

The sophomore handled the pressure of his first career start against an SEC opponent and threw for 246 yards against Arkansas. He showed poise and precision in the pocket by completing his first eight passes, including a 62-yard strike to new wide receiver D'haquille Williams.

Johnson then gave way to returning starter Nick Marshall, who did not start the season opener as part of his punishment for a marijuana citation earlier in the summer. Marshall will start this Saturday in Auburn's home game against Mountain West foe San Jose State.

And, despite his impressive half-hour of work against the Razorbacks, Johnson said he is completely fine with that.

"Nick is our starting quarterback, and that's it," Johnson said after Saturday's game. "He's the starter, and he's going to start the rest of this season. Whenever I'm called upon to come in, to do what I have to do, I'm going to make it happen."

So how can Auburn implement Johnson in its high-powered offense now that Marshall has served his suspension? Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have repeatedly said the Montgomery, Ala. native will have more responsibility this season.

"Nick is still the quarterback, but Jeremy will have a role," Malzahn said after the Arkansas win. "We talked in the offseason about giving him more of different situations and packages."

But what will that role look like?

More preset package plays? Entire drives for Johnson while Marshall waits on the sideline?

When Auburn ran Johnson in special package plays, the results were far from outstanding. Outside of the extended playing time against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic, Johnson was only 2-of-4 passing for 29 yards.

How about playing the two dynamic quarterbacks together?

While Auburn will most likely give Johnson more first-team snaps after his season-opening outing, there is enough room on the field and more than enough creativity in Gus Malzahn's mind for the Tigers to run some plays with both Johnson and Marshall.

Malzahn has tried plays featuring two quarterbacks—one starter and one former starter—on a few occasions during his time as the Tigers offensive coordinator.

In 2009, against Louisiana Tech, quarterback Chris Todd faked a handoff to running back Ben Tate on a zone read, then flipped the ball to former starting quarterback (and later Malzahn assistant coach) Kodi Burns, who overthrew a pass to tight end Tommy Trott.

A formation like this one, with Marshall lined up as a slot receiver, could give the Auburn offense a deadly new "quadruple option."

Johnson would run a normal zone read with any one of the Tigers running backs: Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Peyton Barber or Roc Thomas.

He would then have the option to flip it to the sprinting Marshall, who could take off for a long run or throw the ball late, like he did in this now-famous game-tying touchdown against Alabama last season.

That type of play off a read option, known as a "pop pass" (play-option pass), could also be tweaked with a two-quarterback backfield.

Of the examples in this column, this one might be the furthest stretch to see in a Malzahn offense. However, this type of look has had success at other schools, most notably Louisiana-Monroe.

Todd Berry's Warhawks came close to defeating Baylor in a ridiculously fun 45-41 shootout two seasons ago. In the clip below, starter Kolton Browning and backup Cody Wells throw off the Baylor defense by sharing the backfield for a couple of plays.

Wells first handed off to the left-handed Browning, who rolled to the left side to hit a wide-open receiver. On the next play, the roles were reversed, and Wells threw off a zone-read handoff for a bigger gain downfield.

Before the Warhawks could get their next play off with the two quarterbacks, Baylor called a timeout to straighten itself out, to the delight of the ULM sideline and fans.

With two players established at running and throwing off the read option—although Johnson didn't register a single run against Arkansas, he said his opening touchdown pass to Melvin Ray was off a designed run—defenses facing Auburn would have to face a ULM-like option that could either be:

  1. A fake to Marshall and a keeper for Johnson.
  2. A fake to Marshall and a pop pass from Johnson.
  3. A give to Marshall for a run.
  4. A give to Marshall and a pop pass from Marshall.

The third and final example would also be taken from a formation familiar to Malzahn's playbook: the Wildcat.

The Tigers rolled out the familiar, unbalanced set last Saturday against Arkansas with former high school quarterback and now-senior wide receiver Quan Bray taking the shotgun snaps. Auburn went with the "WildCAP" formation, ran by Artis-Payne, early in the 2013 season before Marshall's zone-read game took over.

Auburn has several weapons it can use in the Wildcat formation, as detailed by AL.com's Brandon Marcello in his Tuesday story on Bray:

Malzahn has shown a penchant for recruiting receivers and running backs who also handled some quarterback duties in high school. Five receivers and one tight end—C.J. Uzomah, Marcus Davis, Stanton Truitt, Quan Bray, Ricardo Louis and Bray—played some quarterback in high school.

If Malzahn lines up one of the quarterbacks on the outside, he could have another Wildcat candidate with the other, who would have more experience throwing the ball against collegiate defenses than the receivers.

Two quarterbacks in the Wildcat would open up the door for more standard passes to the other wideouts, double passes and maybe a throwback to Burns-to-Newton from the 2010 Ole Miss game.

Of course, none of these suggested sets would become the focus of Auburn's offense. When you have one of the most effective attacks in college football, the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" rings true. 

But with Malzahn's tendency to sometimes run out-of-the-box plays in order to keep the defense off-balance and dial up a quick touchdown, there is always a chance fans could see some two-quarterback formations this fall.

Last Saturday proved the Tigers have not one, but two signal-callers who will shine when given the chance.

Instead of keeping one dynamic quarterback on the field while the other goes to work, why not double the trouble for opposing defenses?

Call a few plays for both and keep everybody guessing. It's the Malzahn way.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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CFB Insider Buzz: Will Baylor Continue Success After Bryce Petty Spine Injury?

After an eventful first week of the 2014 college football season, Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee dives into the hottest topics heading into Week 2.

What are you looking forward to the most in the second week of college football?

Watch the video and let us know. 

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