NCAA Football News
Of the Top 25 teams on upset alert in the fourth week of the 2013 college football season, all of those in gravest danger of dropping in the rankings—or out of them entirely—have the benefit of playing home games.
There aren't any odd, short-week games, hostile environments or any other tricks here.
Two in particular are facing viable opponents within their respective conferences, while another rather prominent rivalry will be revived for another season. That should help make for yet another entertaining, rather unpredictable Saturday of action.
Here is a look at the complete rankings as they stand, followed by the teams most liable to have a losing slip-up.
No. 23 Arizona State vs. No. 5 Stanford
The Sun Devils confirmed their legitimacy by taking down Wisconsin last week, albeit in a rather controversial way, which can be seen in the video above.
Results are the bottom line, though, and Arizona State now enters a road trip to Stanford with a massive wave of confidence. The same can't really be said for the Cardinal, who are coming off an unimpressive 34-20 win at Army.
Stanford must play a physical brand of football and control the line of scrimmage, particularly in establishing a running game.
Otherwise, allowing the ball to be in the hands of Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly will make for a nail-biter.
Kelly triggers an offense that is eighth in the nation in passing yards, but senior running back Marion Grice can be physical and has a nose for the end zone as he proved in scoring four touchdowns against Wisconsin.
It will be up to junior signal-caller Kevin Hogan to keep the Cardinal offense on track as the defense is tested. He should do just enough to ensure Stanford remains near the top of the rankings, getting a quality win in the Pac-12 in the process.
Prediction: Stanford 27, Arizona State 20
Michigan State vs. No. 22 Notre Dame
The return to prominence for the Fighting Irish has coincided with a regaining of control on this rivalry, as they've won three of the past four meetings, including the most recent two.
True, Le'Veon Bell may have moved on to the NFL, but the Spartans are still relying on old-school, Big Ten-style football—stout defense and a strong rushing attack—to succeed.
What will be key is the play of Connor Cook, who started in place of incumbent Andrew Maxwell and threw four touchdowns in the Spartans' rout of Youngstown State last week.
Cook certainly doesn't lack confidence, as reported by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett.
"If you lack confidence, something's wrong with you as a quarterback," said Cook. "You've always got to believe in yourself and your ability to go out there and make plays."
Going up against a defensive front featuring Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt is no easy task and will likely prove too difficult for Cook to overcome against his first legitimate opponent.
The Irish should escape, thwarting the Spartans' bid to sneak into the AP Top 25 after making their 2013 debut in the USA Today poll at No. 24.
Prediction: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 14
Tennessee vs. No. 19 Florida
Even a bye week may not be enough for the Gators to correct the mistakes they made in a 21-16 loss to Miami (FL) nearly two weeks ago.
In that contest, Florida lost three fumbles and QB Jeff Driskel threw two costly interceptions, but this is an opportunity to get back on track in an all-important SEC showdown.
The Volunteers were lit up for 59 unanswered points by the Oregon Ducks last week, but the ineptitude of Florida's offense and the generally physical nature of this game should play in their favor.
An uncertain quarterback situation threatens to plague head coach Butch Jones in his inaugural campaign at the helm in Tennessee, though.
Between possible starters Justin Worley and inexperienced freshman Nathan Peterman, it will be difficult for the Vols to get any traction in The Swamp offensively.
The Gators should be able to run the ball well enough behind Matt Jones and Mack Brown to avoid a second consecutive upset.
Prediction: Florida 17, Tennessee 10
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They say timing is everything, and so it goes with sports writing where this article might have been a tad bit easier of a sell a few days ago.
Nonetheless, two weeks removed from perhaps the worst start by a Trojan quarterback in recent memory brings the notion that one strong game by Cody Kessler may not be enough to prevent me (and others) from speculating about next year and who will lead USC.
To that end, USC's future at the position is likely to see a redshirt this year, but when the calendar flips and USC is preparing for 2014, the guy who will lead them is none other than former 5-star prospect, Max Browne.
Browne was already contending—albeit unsuccessfully—for the 2013 starting gig when Lane Kiffin made the decision that the 6'5", 215-pound gunslinger just wasn't ready yet.
That won't be the case in 2014.
With a year in the system under his belt and girth added to his pro-size frame, Browne's natural ability will force Lane Kiffin—if he survives this year—to rethink his starter, and this is likely to happen regardless of how Kessler or anyone else performs this year.
Because Browne possesses all of the attributes one looks for in a pro-style quarterback, including a very good arm and even better instincts, Kiffin will be forced to make a change after only one year of the Kessler experiment.
Further, Browne is Kiffin's type of quarterback, as he has always been known to favor the prototypical pocket passer, something that Kessler will never be.
And there is one other consideration to ponder.
Max Browne is looking to start, not ride the pine behind Kessler or anyone else for the next two years. If that opportunity is not offered, Browne might look for greener pastures elsewhere, and there are about 100 programs that would love to accommodate him.
Of course, Trojan fans will correctly point out that Kessler may turn out to be the second coming of Tim Tebow (the college champion, not the pro laughingstock).
If so, then Kiffin will stay with Kessler and roll the dice on Browne staying, but this, unfortunately, is not likely.
While young Cody played very well against Boston College, duplication of that effort will not come easy, and USC is just now starting to get into the teeth of their schedule.
How he fares from this point forward will tell the tale for Kessler, but don't be surprised to see his backup, Max Wittek, relieving an ineffective Kessler against any one of the future good defenses the Trojans will face later this year.
If that is the case, Trojan fans will be calling for a new quarterback sooner rather than later, and while that guy probably won't be Browne in 2013, it will signal a change for next year.
And that change's name will be Max Browne.
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Week 4 isn't a time for epic showdowns between top-ranked teams. It's a week in which we could see a rather large amount of upsets.
There is one game between two Top 25 teams, as Arizona State will be taking on the Stanford Cardinal. But looking past that game, a number of Top 25 teams could be on upset alert, even against some rather small programs.
Here all full predictions for the Top 25 teams, followed by a breakdown of this week's top games.
Week 4 Top 25 Predictions
Top Games to Watch
No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford
This is the game to watch Saturday if you are only going to watch one.
After dominating Sacramento State in their opener 55-0, the Sun Devils pulled off the upset over the Wisconsin Badgers, holding them off in the final minutes with the help of one of the strangest plays you'll ever see to end a game. Marion Grice played a huge part in the win, racking up 134 total yards of offense and scoring four touchdowns on the ground.
The run defense was not good against the Badgers, but that's to be expected against the backfield duo of James White and Melvin Gordon. Still, it could have been much better, as the Badgers ran for 231 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per rush.
Stanford didn't look much like a Top Five team against the Army Black Knights last week. It didn't seem very prepared for the triple-option offense, as Army put up 284 yards and a touchdown on the ground while averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
On the other hand, Tyler Gaffney is looking great in the backfield so far, running for over 100 yards in his first two games and averaging 5.9 yards per touch.
I really think Grice is going to be too much for Stanford this week. He's one of the best NFL running back prospects this season, and that's going to be highlighted on a big stage Saturday night.
Prediction: Arizona State 38, Stanford 35
Auburn at No. 6 LSU
The Auburn Tigers team that struggled so much last season looks to have possibly turned it around this year, kicking things off with an impressive 3-0 start.
The offense has looked efficient so far, putting up around 440 yards of offense per game. The combination of Corey Grant and Tre Mason in the backfield seems to be incredibly productive, and that could be big heading into this game.
LSU has a shot to make a national championship run, but it will have to get through teams like Georgia and Alabama. Zach Mettenberger is looking like a completely different quarterback thanks to the change at offensive coordinator. He's thrown nine touchdowns and zero interceptions to start the season with a passer rating of 205.3.
As improved as Auburn looks this year, LSU looks better. If Mettenberger keeps up this level of play, he should be seriously considered as an All-SEC quarterback by the end of the season. The Tigers playing at home should grab the win.
Prediction: LSU 35, Auburn 28
Tennessee at No. 19 Florida Gators
The SEC is going to have two really fun games to watch Saturday, but this one might be a little more exciting.
The Volunteers got off to a 7-0 start and held the lead against the No. 2 Oregon Ducks until 3:34 in the first quarter. The Ducks may have steamrolled the Vols for the rest of the game, but things were looking really promising to start. They're still 2-1 thanks to the rushing attack—Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane have combined for over 450 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Jeff Driskel did not look good for the Gators against in-state rival Miami. In the 21-16 loss to the Hurricanes, Driskel went 22 for 33 with 291 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two costly interceptions. The Gators defense has looked good, but it has struggled to consistently bail out the starting quarterback.
I don't know if Driskel is the guy Florida fans want him to be this season, and I think the Tennessee rushing attack will get through the Gators defense enough times to put up some points. If the Volunteers can hold on to the ball and capitalize on the Gators' offensive mistakes, this will be a big win for Tennessee and a good upset.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Florida 17
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There are no down weeks in college football, and Week 4 is sure to provide memorable moments that could impact the national title picture.
Last week, Alabama let everyone know that it is still the team to beat this fall. Oregon has been making statements all season, so it looks like the the Crimson Tide and the Ducks control their own destinies.
Stanford will get a chance to establish itself as a contender this week when the Cardinals host No. 23 Arizona State. The Sun Devils beat Wisconsin, which had been ranked No. 20, in one of the craziest endings ever last weekend.
The Cardinal defense is one of the best in the nation, but it will be tested against junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has led the Sun Devils to the eighth-ranked passing attack in the country.
Arizona State ranks 20th in points scored and allowed, as it is averaging 43.5 points on offense while surrendering only 15 points per game on defense.
A loss will make it tough for Stanford to stay in contention for a championship. A win will keep its dreams alive and put pressure on Oregon to keep winning with the Pac-12 race heating up.
No. 3 Clemson will open ACC play with a road game at Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday night. It will be the first time that the Tigers will play away from home this season, so the pressure will be on them to come out strong.
Auburn will travel to Tiger Stadium to take on No. 6 LSU Saturday night.
No. 15 Michigan is looking to rebound after a close call against Akron last week. The Wolverines will play at Connecticut on Saturday night and they need to show that last week was a fluke.
Tennessee is coming off a blowout loss to Oregon, and now the Volunteers have to take on No. 19 Florida in Gainesville, Fla..
No. 22 Notre Dame is coming off a tough win over Purdue and will host Michigan State. The Spartans are sitting just outside of the Top 25. This would be a win that would move them into the polls.
Here's a look at schedule for the Top 25 in Week 4:
*Click here for WatchESPN and ESPN3
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This weekend's college football action will feature a final tune-up game for most contenders, and Alabama will be one team that will blow out a lesser opponent in Week 4.
No. 5 Stanford will host No. 23 Arizona State in a showdown that could affect the national championship picture. Other than that matchup, there aren't many contenders that will be tested against tough opponents.
Week 4 is when most teams play their final tune-up games before conference play begins. Teams like Ohio State and Louisville have taken advantage of the schedule, so look for a lot of blowouts this week.
Below is a full schedule of games featuring Top 25 teams along with teams that are locks to cruise this week.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (vs. Colorado State)
The Crimson Tide haven't had a typical schedule. Most powerhouses schedule weak opponents in the first two weeks, but the Crimson Tide have taken on Virginia Tech and Texas A&M in its first two games.
After winning two consecutive championships, Alabama was tested right out of the gate. It survived two early tests, and now it will be able to get an easier opponent.
Alabama is coming off a very big game. Beating the Aggies cleared up the championship race, and the week after a huge showdown can sometimes be a dangerous game for top teams. However, the Crimson Tide are experienced enough to keep the intensity up against Colorado State.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron has won two championships. He doesn't lose many games, and he doesn't overlook opponents.
The offensive line looked fine against Texas A&M. Alabama is averaging 42 points per game and will continue to score. The Rams will be no match for the top-ranked team in the country.
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (vs. Florida A&M)
Guiton made beautiful passes against Cal on Saturday as the Buckeyes routed the Golden Bears. The senior has completed 67.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns to only one interception. He has added 181 yards and a score on the ground. In the road game at Cal, he threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns.
The dual-threat quarterback has led the Buckeyes to improvements in scoring every week. Ohio State has averaged 44.7 points per game, including a season-high 52 last week.
Jordan Hall has run for 402 yards and six touchdowns. The Buckeyes have incredible depth at running back, and it will only get better this week. Carlos Hyde is expected to return after being suspended for the first three games of the season.
Ohio State is finally getting back to its full squad. Corner Bradley Roby has made his return for the defense, so now it's all about making sure the team continues to play well together.
When Florida A&M visits the Horseshoe on Saturday, it doesn't matter who is at quarterback for the Buckeyes. Their running attack is good enough to beat anyone, and the Rattlers won't stand a chance.
No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (vs. Florida International)
The Cardinals have one final game against Florida International before conference play begins. They are balanced on both sides of the ball, and they are looking to continue to work their way up the polls.
Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater leads the offense. The quarterback has thrown for 1,002 yards and completed 70.5 percent of his passes. He has an impressive 10 touchdowns to only one interception through three games.
The passing attack ranks ninth in the country with 354.3 yards per game, which has helped lead to 40 points per game.
On defense, Louisville has been just as dominant. The defense has allowed only nine points per game, and that mark ranks fourth in the nation.
Florida International has allowed at least 34 points each week, but it has yet to face an offense like Louisville. The Cardinals are going to have a huge week, and Bridgewater will pad his stats against the Golden Panthers.
*All information is courtesy of ESPN.com
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There are 57 college football games involving FBS teams this weekend, and there is just one pitting teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. Meanwhile, there are five ranked teams playing FCS teams in an effort to dispense some fast cash and get a cheap win.
Here's the Hall of Shame: Miami (vs. Savannah State), Washington (vs. Idaho State), Ohio State (vs. Florida A&M), Florida State (vs. Bethune-Cookman) and Northwestern (vs. Maine). Wouldn't you rather see Miami play Washington and Florida State face Ohio State?
But that's the reality of the BCS world. Title contenders want to play as few non-conference heavyweights as possible, and with that, we have a September full of games that make NFL preseason exhibitions seem meaningful.
With all that said, we still have to pick out a few games for you to watch. So after scraping the bottom of the barrel until it almost splintered, here are our Top 5 BCS Impact Games of the Week (rankings according to simulated BCS standings):
The AP No. 3 Clemson Tigers march to Raleigh to take on North Carolina State in the annual Textile Bowl between the two founders of the ACC.
Clemson holds a 52-28-1 all-time advantage in the series, but both teams enter the matchup on a roll with undefeated marks.
The Tigers are obviously the favored team, especially after a marquee victory over the Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC in Week 1 followed by a trampling of South Carolina State. The N.C. State Wolfpack dominated Louisiana Tech before struggling to a victory over FCS Richmond.
Here's everything fans need to know about the classic rivalry matchup.
When: Thursday, September 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC
Live Stream: ESPN3
Betting Lines (via Vegas Insider)
- Over/Under: 66 pts
- Spread: Clemson (-13.5)
Clemson Injury Report (via USA Today)Mackensie Alexander CB 09/16/2013 is expected to miss Thursday's game against NC State Out groin Tyshon Dye RB 09/16/2013 is out indefinitely Out back B.J. Goodson LB 09/15/2013 is questionable for Thursday's game against NC State Questionable concussion Joe Gore OL 09/16/2013 is questionable for Thursday's game against NC State Questionable knee Roderick McDowell WR 09/16/2013 is probable for Thursday's game against NC State Probable head Scott Pagano DT 08/29/2013 is out indefinitely Out knee Charone Peake WR 09/11/2013 will miss the remainder of the season Out knee Korrin Wiggins CB 09/15/2013 is questionable for Thursday's game against NC State Questionable hamstring
North Carolina State Injury Report (via USA Today)A.J. Ferguson DT 09/15/2013 is probable for Thursday's game against Clemson Probable two-game suspension served K'Hadree Hooker WR 08/26/2013 has decided to transfer Out personal Brandon Mitchell QB 09/01/2013 is expected to miss 4-6 weeks Out ankle Logan Winkles FB 08/13/2013 will miss the entire season Out knee
Can Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins Bounce Back?
Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins are the dynamic duo for Clemson as the team continues its chase for a championship.
Boyd was electric in the Tigers' win over Georgia with 270 passing yards and three scores to go with 42 rushing yards and another two touchdowns. Watkins reeled in six receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown in the major victory.
Boyd and Watkins had a bit of a let-down performance the next week against South Carolina State. An injury scare early in the game prevented Boyd from going the distance, and he only ended up throwing for 169 yards and scoring one rushing touchdown.
Watkins was not much better while he was in the game, catching just three receptions for 19 yards. While the Tigers were content to test their depth and rest in the victory, Boyd and Watkins have now had over a week off after the iffy performances.
For the Tigers to roll right through NC State, Boyd and Watkins need to re-discover their rhythm quickly.
Two years ago the Wolfpack bullied Clemson up and down the field en route to a 37-13 victory in Raleigh.
The Tigers won't forget.
While NC State has found a capable starter in quarterback Pete Thomas (449 passing yards) after Brandon Mitchell's injury, Clemson is simply too talented on both sides of the football to lose this game.
The Wolfpack defense will have no answer for Boyd on the ground or through the air. Last year the Tigers dropped 62 points while surrendering 48, but this one should have an even bigger differential.
Tigers win 48-27
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling
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With Week 4 of the college football season is upon us, the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy are gearing up for another test.
The week starts off Thursday night with No. 3 Clemson and North Carolina State, as quarterback Tajh Boyd takes the field for the Tigers.
On Saturday, Braxton Miller is hoping to return to action to build his Heisman resume in Ohio State's game against Florida A&M.
Check out Boyd, Miller and the rest of the Heisman candidates matchups for Week 4.
We all like sweets. Even though we know too much of them are not a good thing, from time to time, it's nice to treat yourself to an indulgence.
College football teams, especially those near the top of the pyramid, absolutely love to gorge on the yummy guilty pleasures that come in the form of lower-level non-conference opponents who are willing to take a beating for a sizable paycheck.
Plenty of such cupcake games have littered the college football schedule over the first three weeks—mostly with expected results, though Kansas State and Oregon State might say otherwise—but now that conference play is starting to get underway, the sugary choices are becoming fewer.
That being said, here's a look at the 15 tastiest cupcake games on the Week 4 college football schedule in no scientific order.
The Texas Longhorns are currently sitting at 1-2 this season after an upset loss at BYU in Week 2, followed by a loss at home to Ole Miss.
Despite the shaky start, there are still signs of optimism to hold onto in Austin, including the fact that the Longhorns are ranked 30th in the FBS in total offense.
As Mack Brown and Co. prepare to host the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday night at 7 p.m., check out the reasons why Texas isn't as bad as everybody is making it out to be.
This is where NCAA Football 14 gets hot.
After a lackluster 1-4 Week 3, the video game is poised to turn it around with a magnificent comeback. Have no fear, faithful fans. It will provide magic in a week that needs it. It always does.
Even in a losing week, the world’s greatest simulation device nearly pegged the Iowa-Iowa State game. NCAA Football 14 predicted Iowa would win 27-20, and the Hawkeyes won 27-21. It also accurately predicted a ridiculous shootout in the Alabama-Texas A&M game.
Only it had the wrong side.
Forget about the past, anyway. We’re concerned with the future, and the future is bright.
For those of you who have just stumbled on this exercise and are wondering what exactly is going on, (a) I can’t blame you and (b) here’s the deal:
Using NCAA Football 14 on the Playstation 3—not Grand Theft Auto 5, we put that down momentarily—all games from the college football weekend have been simulated. The results have not been altered whatsoever; otherwise the overall record would be much improved.
Don’t doubt it, though. This game has powers and it is poised to prove it. Starting now.
Standing out in a city of 10 million can be difficult, especially when pitted against stiff competition. Anyone trying to make a name for himself or herself in Los Angeles can attest, and UCLA football is no different.
The Bruins are in the midst of a renaissance under second-year head coach Jim Mora. His team’s 41-21 rout of Nebraska in Week 3 sent a message that resonated throughout the college football world.
The steps for transmitting the same call amid the bustle of Los Angeles are simple. Following them isn’t, but UCLA is on the right path.
Los Angeles loves a winner. Whether it’s the price of Lakers tickets when the team is successful, or the shade of Dodger blue Yaisel Puig has painted the city, Angelenos’ embrace of winning teams is undeniable.
The same is true for college football. A common joke recited during the mid-to-late 2000s was that Los Angeles needed no NFL franchise—not with the success of USC. There was indeed truth to this notion; who needs the pros when there’s already elite football being played in the city?
Anyone who experienced the Coliseum on an autumn Saturday during the Pete Carroll era, particularly when Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Co. operated there, know the atmosphere Los Angeles football is capable of producing. It was indeed on par with that of the NFL.
At UCLA, the current architects come from such backgrounds.
“This is an excellent staff,” Mora said on Tuesday’s teleconference call. “Heck, there’s six Super Bowl rings on this staff. There’s men [who] know how to do it on the highest level and win on the highest level.”
Mora did not walk into a bare cupboard by any stretch of the imagination. Rick Neuheisel’s recruiting classes were consistently ranked among the conference’s best. But Mora and his staff tapped into how best to maximize the players’ potential.
“There was a level of trust,” Mora said. “The things we asked them to do paid dividends for them individually and as a team. When that happens, and they can trust you, they buy in. If you’re honest with them and don’t lie to them, they’re going to buy in.”
Last year’s nine wins and Pac-12 South championship were certainly a start, but taking that next step into the highest stratosphere of Los Angeles sports means winning at the highest level.
The Nebraska win was big. Consecutive road trips to Stanford and Oregon next month are blockbusters. Taking on the current standard bearers of the Pac-12 will measure just how ready UCLA is for the limelight.
And of course, the crosstown rivalry really needs no context to explain its importance. Last year’s 38-28 win over USC erased some of the bad memories of the losses of years past. Gone are the days of 50-0 blowouts and superfluous timeout fights.
“[Beating USC] means a lot: No. 1, to our kids, who are in [the locker room] celebrating right now. You can feel the emotion. No. 2, I think it means a lot to our university, our student body and our alumni,” Mora told reporters in his postgame press conference last November.
Both schools playing at high level works wonders for the series, and college football in the city as a whole. Neither is conceding an inch to the other to that end, but every great Hollywood tale needs a strong hero and villain—which will differ depending on with whom one speaks.
Los Angeles loves stars. The greatest of the great are immortalized with single-name status: Kobe. Magic. Fernando.
They have a long way to go to become simply "Barr" or "Brett," but linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Brett Hundley are among the best plying their trades in the college game this season.
Mora gushed over Barr’s playmaking ability Tuesday, one day after the outside linebacker was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Nebraska’s best efforts to avoid Barr’s side of the field resulted in a 10-tackle, two forced fumbles day.
“This guy is really, really, really special. He is something else,” Mora said. “He doesn’t take plays off.”
Hundley’s continued maturation into one of the most elite quarterbacks in the nation has earned him Heisman Trophy and NFL draft buzz. Mora emphasizes Hundley’s room for improvement—a terrifying thought for opposing defenses, because the redshirt sophomore is already one of the most difficult to defend, dual-threat quarterbacks playing.
Both stardom and success in Los Angeles can be fleeting, and the ultimate test to becoming a mainstay there is maintaining a high level. While only the future knows what is in store for UCLA football, Mora and his staff are still crafting the framework for a consistently winning program.
As good as the recruiting classes Mora inherited were, his two National Signing Days since taking over have raised the stakes. Rivals.com ranked the Bruins 2012 class No. 13 in the nation. The 2013 class was No. 8.
The next crop of stars are already wearing blue-and-gold, learning from the current leaders. It’s apparent in the play of true freshman Myles Jack, who emulates Barr. Asiantii Woulard should assume the offense from Hundley, and what better player for which to be an understudy?
What Mora is building at UCLA commands attention, and soon enough, not even the omnipresent buzz of Los Angeles can distract from it.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.X
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The Arizona State football team is off to a 2-0 start and has its best chance, in recent memory, to capture the Pac-12 South title.
Whether the Sun Devils should have two wins is up for debate, but their chances at the Pac-12 South title are still intact.
Coming into the year, many fans wanted to see how ASU could improve their run defense and find more weapons for quarterback Taylor Kelly to work with. While the wide receiving corps and run defense have greatly disappointed through the first two games, there have been plenty of bright spots that have fans hopeful this may be ASU's year.
The solid play of ASU's front seven, scoring prowess of Marion Grice and consistent play of Kelly all make this the Sun Devil's year to capture the Pac-12 South crown.
Solid Play of ASU's Front Seven
A lot of attention was given to Will Sutton this offseason, and rightfully so. Opponents also knew they had to keep an eye on Carl Bradford this year.
What many didn't know was who else would be able to step up with so much attention being paid to those two.
The answer appears to be clear: pretty much everyone.
Chris Young, Anthony Jones, Jaxon Hood, Gannon Conway, Salamo Fiso and Grandville Taylor have all stepped up at different points of this young season and shown flashes of brilliance.
ASU currently has allowed opponents to score 15 PPG on average and, according to cfbstats.com, has the third best pass defense and fourth overall defense in the Pac-12, based on yardage.
The Sun Devils are currently ranked last in the Pac-12 with only two sacks to their name. That isn't to say that they aren't pressuring the quarterback though.
Against Wisconsin, ASU made sure Joel Stave was uncomfortable all night and even though they didn't sack him much, they greatly disrupted his timing.
That's truly all they have to do the rest of the year to be successful. Sure sacks are great, and anyone would be a fool to try and argue they aren't necessary, but the fact is as long as ASU's front seven is causing disruption, their secondary is good enough to do the rest.
The fact that the unit is getting production from everyone, even the reserves, is an excellent sign as well.
Take Fiso for example. The redshirt freshman saw early playing time against Wisconsin and, as head coach Todd Graham told azcentral.com's Doug Haller, he made the most of it, "I thought Salamo was outstanding."
It's going to take a lot for ASU to win the Pac-12 South this year, but their defensive front will certainly help the cause.
Scoring Prowess of Marion Grice
If you give him the ball, he'll score.
Grice has already accounted for six touchdowns through two games, including four in ASU's win over Wisconsin. Not bad for the senior.
Grice's biggest strength is his ability to see a play develop quicker than the opposition. Coach Graham told arizonasports.com's Craig Grialou it's this aptitude for the game that sets Grice apart:
"I think 99.9 percent of that is instinct. He has a great gift running the football and he has an interesting style. I mean sometimes I look at him and wondering if he's going full speed because he is going so smooth on his runs. But he is very tough and very physical and finds that end zone and I think he is very instinctive."
Grice will play a major role in a Sun Devil title run because the offense heavily relies on him coming up with big play after big play.
He is used as a receiver and running back, and as long as he has the ball in his hands, he can make something special happen. For ASU to win the Pac-12 South, they will need a lot of Marion magic.
Grice tells Craig Grialou that he's confident he can score whenever he has the ball:
"What's going through my mind is I hope we call a run play. And if we call a run play, I'm going to get us there. That's pretty much what is on my mind is just to get to the end zone as fast as I can and get off the field."
The more Grice finds the house, the better ASU's chances of capturing the Pac-12 South crown. If Grice keeps scoring at the pace he's at, those chances are looking pretty good.
Consistent Play of Taylor Kelly
Taylor Kelly is coming into his own as a dual-threat quarterback.
He currently ranks third on the team in rushing yards and has thrown for 652 yards and five touchdowns on the young season.
Dating back to last year, when Kelly was on, he was on. The issue was his consistency.
Kelly threw nine interceptions last year, and they all came in Sun Devil losses. That isn't to say he played poorly in every game ASU lost, but when your quarterback turns the ball over it certainly puts the team behind the eight ball.
This year, Kelly seems much more confident and comfortable when he drops back.
That is certainly due in part to having a year under his belt in Mike Norvell's offense, but the Idaho native is also making better reads and smarter throws.
At times last year, Kelly tried to force throws and was punished with turnovers.
Through two games this year, Kelly has thrown one interception and has played much smarter. For ASU to have a special season, smarter is exactly what they need from their quarterback.
Kelly has more than enough playmakers at running back, and with the emergence of Jaelen Strong, he has a few decent targets at receiver.
As long as he continues to play consistent, smart football, it will be ASU's year to win the Pac-12 South.
All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from ESPN.com.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
As a 5-star defensive end, Da'Shawn Hand is a terror to offenses in Virginia. He is a 6'4", 254-pound monster on the edges who can make a variety of plays.
Hand displays solid quickness at the snap, can get a jump on blockers in a hurry and has impressive strength. He can rush the passer with speed while also possessing the temperament to be a good defender versus running plays.
Hand's skills can be seen on his impressive highlight tape, which was constructed by the Full Ride video team. His highlights are so impressive that they warrant a closer look.
Raekwon McMillan is a 5-star linebacker from Georgia who is regarded as one of the premier prospects in the country.
At 6'2" and 242 pounds, McMillan combines excellent size with power, agility, instincts and athleticism. He gets a jump on plays by anticipating at the snap, explodes to insert himself in gaps and can shock an offensive player at the point of attack.
McMillan will be physically ready to make an immediate impact as a true freshman, which is why many programs want his services. The stud 'backer recently revealed to Chad Simmons of Scout.com (subscription required) that he has narrowed his list to five schools.
At a critically uneasy 1-2 heading into Big 12 play, the Texas Longhorns are about as unsteady—if not more—as they were at any point last season.
Three games into the 2013 campaign and already the 'Horns have been torched on the ground twice, while providing the springboard for two opposing players to set career highs. Texas has also suffered an alarming number of injuries to its offensive unit, leaving the able-bodied remainder very limited compared to a fully healthy squad.
Just a week ago, the Longhorns let go of their defensive coordinator, putting action to the long-awaited call for a change.
Not all surprises are good, and the latest string of them has the Longhorns reeling.
College football teams must lock up their city and state when it comes to recruiting. They can't allow other programs to come into their territory and take recruits from them.
After a team puts a strong fence up around its turf, the next recruiting objective should be to go out of state to look for talent. Some teams excel at this, as they have the power to go anywhere in the country and land a recruit.
A program out West scares teams in SEC country, the Midwest and the Atlantic region. A pair of Big Ten teams can go all over the nation for talent, plus an SEC team has built its dynasty with in-state and out-of-state players.
The 2014 recruiting class is littered with talented receiving targets capable of taking over when it counts the most. Efficiency in the red zone is key for any team looking to contend for a title.
The ability to punctuate a drive with a trip to the end zone is imperative, and these receivers provide tremendous weapons for that effort. Here's a look at several top tight ends and receivers ready to dominate near the goal line during their collegiate careers.
In coach-speak, "looking ahead" is like walking under a ladder, spilling the salt or chanting "Christina Aguilera" 13 times in front of a mirror. If you do it, something bad is probably going to happen.
Just thinking about next weekend's game before you've played the one directly in front of you will send all manners of bad mojo down on your program.
More likely, college football coaches' near-universal refusal to talk about future games is just another way to stiff arm the media without resorting to Pelini-like profanity. (Seriously, what is that guy's deal?)
Luckily for sports bards, bloggers and bloviators everywhere, those rules don't apply to us.
So, submitted for your approval, are the five biggest storylines as we "look ahead" to the rest of South Carolina's slate this season.
Go ahead, indulge in a little fantasy. You've earned it.
After an emotional victory against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the No. 13 UCLA Bruins will hope to avoid an upset against the New Mexico State Aggies.
To put it mildly, the Aggies (0-3) have had a rough start to the season. New Mexico State is allowing a porous 47.3 points per game. Texas rolled up an eye-popping 715 yards of total offense against the Aggies in the season opener.
UCLA is riding high after coming back to defeat Nebraska by 20 points on the road. Jim Mora's group has the look of a team that could threaten for a BCS bid.
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Sirius XM Radio
Spread: UCLA -43, per VEGAS.com.