NCAA Football News
Week 1 of the 2014 NCAA football season has already exposed the difficulty of making preseason rankings.
Wisconsin is in trouble at the quarterback position, UCLA and Alabama failed to look otherworldly, and it's very possible Georgia—led by sensational running back Todd Gurley—wasn't ranked high enough.
For the majority of teams, fans and pundits, the preseason polls are merely a soon-to-be-discarded signpost to frame early college football discussions. Yes, some powerhouses will validate their earliest positions in the college football pecking order, but the list will eventually become a relic.
However, it still works as a reference point for Week 2's action as some teams make a second run at showing why so many observers held them in high esteem before the action began.
The teams and rankings included here are from the AP preseason poll. There will, of course, be some movers and shakers after all the action that took place Saturday, but fans who want to keep track of the teams originally designated as the 25 best—and keep tabs on how ridiculous that list may look in a couple of weeks—should check out this schedule and these predictions.
Top Matchups To Watch In Week 2
Michigan State at Oregon
This is an excellent matchup in terms of pitting strength versus strength. Oregon's high-powered, scything offense takes on the nasty, brutish defense of the Michigan State Spartans. Neither team gave observers any reason to doubt its preseason ranking in Week 1.
Oregon rolled to a 62-13 victory over South Dakota State behind superlative play from quarterback Marcus Mariota. He played just one half of football and still managed to throw for three touchdowns and run for another. He also broke the school record for career touchdowns during the contest.
As SportsCenter noted, he's No. 2 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board for the 2015 NFL draft, to the surprise of absolutely nobody:
Michigan State has a highly touted defense, but even the crew led by star players such as defensive end Shilique Calhoun won't be able to slow down the Oregon offense enough for the Spartans to keep pace. Quarterback Connor Clay has plenty of experience, but he's not a particularly explosive player.
Oregon won't blow away the Spartans, but it will affirm its preseason ranking and win this contest rather handily.
Prediction: Oregon 38-24 Michigan State
USC at Stanford
USC hasn't been in the national title conversation for a couple of years now, as the NCAA sanctions against the program prevented it from developing deep rosters and may have driven away some wary top prospects.
For Trojan fans who can't wait to see their team return to dominance, quarterback Cody Kessler must look like a godsend. The junior passer threw for a career-high 394 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns in USC's 52-13 victory over Fresno State.
His favorite target was true freshman Juju Smith, who reeled in four catches for 123 yards on the afternoon.
Kessler noted that head coach Steve Sarkisian has made the new era of Trojan football an enjoyable one.
"His whole thing is we’re going to compete, we’re going to play hard, but at the same time we’re going to have fun," Kessler said of his head coach, via Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News.
USC fans should know just how high to set their hopes after the team takes on Stanford, who played brilliantly in a 45-0 win over UC-Davis.
The new-look, no-huddle Trojan offense could prove to be problematic for Stanford, but the Trojans are apt to make more mistakes in this contest. The team racked up nine penalties for 76 yards against Fresno State and, as the team's official Twitter account noted, relied on a bevy of true freshmen:
This sets up USC for a bright future, and it could very well take control of the Pac-12 South behind Kessler. However, this game is Stanford's to lose. Head coach David Shaw will make sure there is no letdown in Stanford this weekend, although the final score will probably be much closer than he would prefer.
Prediction: Stanford 35-31 USC
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Texas A&M opened the 2014 season with a 52-28 thrashing of No. 9 South Carolina on the road. The Aggies' impressive victory was the talk of social media on Thursday night, as pundits and recruits wanted to see what life was like for head coach Kevin Sumlin and the 12th Man in the post-Johnny Manziel era.
One recruit in particular, 5-star running back Damien Harris, took notice of the high-octane offense. The Berea (Ky.) Madison Southern standout has a top five of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio State and Texas A&M. During the game, Harris tweeted this:
He shared with Bleacher Report, "I love Texas A&M and their fast-paced offense. I love the way they keep the defense on their heels. I feel like they proved they will be fine without Johnny. Although the offense has a pass-first mindset, it doesn't affect me with the Aggies."
Over the weekend, Harris unofficially visited Lexington to see the in-state Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky has been working hard to keep Harris home and getting him on campus to start the season is a good move.
"I always have a great time when I'm on campus at UK. Its always a great atmosphere," added Harris. "Especially being an in-state kid. They show me a lot of love from the fans, coaches and players. My favorite part other than the game is being with Coach (Mark) Stoops and Coach (Chad) Scott. I love trying to develop a closer relationship with them."
When asked to rate the visit on a scale of 1-10? Harris replied, "It was a definite 10."
Next up, Harris will take his first official visit to Ohio State for the Buckeyes contest against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6. Harris checked Ohio State last spring.
Harris went on to say about the Buckeyes, "The running back tradition would be what I look forward to the most at OSU. Along with trying to become another great player Coach (Urban) Meyer has developed."
Skylar Diggins' Cousin Diggin' the Irish
Two-way 4-star D.J. Morgan was set to attend USC's home opener against Fresno State this weekend, but his plans fell through, forcing him to miss the Trojans' 52-13 romp over the Bulldogs. He grew up a fan of UCLA, USC and Texas—although he feels out of his childhood favorites that the Trojans are the closest to offering. The junior prospect reports two current offers from Utah and Vanderbilt.
"I've known Coach (Johnny) Nansen since his time at Washington," Morgan told Bleacher Report. "He is a real good guy. They recruited me when he was up there. I like SC a lot. They are recruiting me as a defensive back. After their win I feel they could be back to winning Pac-12 championships again."
Morgan said he is going to check his schedule to see when he can make a USC game during his bye week. The 4-star standout said he also wants to check out games at Cal, Notre Dame and Texas.
"Texas is known for sending guys to the NFL. They are a great program and they have a new coach," mentioned Morgan. "Charlie Strong did a great job at Louisville too. My cousin Skylar Diggins went to Notre Dame and now she's in the WNBA. I try to talk to her as much as possible, but she has a busy schedule. I stay in touch with her grandmother. I have family in South Bend, so that helps with Notre Dame."
The 6'2", 185-pounder said his mom prefers to stay close to home because she doesn't like to fly, but he said heading out of state won't be an issue when he decides. The Golden Bears provide another in-state option for Morgan with USC in the picture.
"Coach (Greg) Burns and Coach (Rob) Likens are recruiting me from Cal," stated Morgan. "One of the things that pulls me to Cal is the chance to play as a true freshman. I want to play early and Cal is a good school academically."
Morgan said even if Cal, Notre Dame, Texas or USC offer, he won't commit on the spot. He wants to take his time and enjoy the recruiting process because "it's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Commonwealth Stars Check out UVA, Virginia Tech
This is a big season for Virginia head coach Mike London, who enters the year on the hot seat according to most media outlets. The Cavaliers turned in a strong effort in their 28-20 loss to No. 7 UCLA. Mechanicsville (Va.) Atlee 4-star outside linebacker Ricky Deberry was in attendance for the stout defensive performance. The Wahoos have done a great job keeping talent in the Commonwealth in London's tenure, landing Taquan Mizzell, Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown, among others.
On Aug. 4, Deberry tweeted his final four of Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Deberry has set official visits to Alabama on Sept. 19 and Texas A&M on Oct. 10. He is still trying to figure out his remaining official visits.
Ryan Bartow of 247Sports weighed in on the chances of both stars staying home.
"The three schools that have been on Deberry the hardest are Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. He likely won't take official visits to those schools because he has been to all three so many times. Virginia feels good about him because of their proximity. In addition to the opportunity of early playing time. I feel Virginia and Virginia Tech will be right up there, but he is a long away from making a decision," explained Bartow.
Bartow feels Settle could be headed out of state despite this weekend's trip to Blacksburg, Va.
"You can't count out the possibility of him staying in state, but I think he went there to accompany Floyd. Tim goes on so many unofficial visits, so its hard to tell with him. I think Penn State, Tennessee and Clemson are the ones standing out right now," remarked Bartow.
Wideout Ryan Newsome Takes In Oklahoma State-Florida State
Athletic 4-star flanker Ryan Newsome was in Arlington, Texas on Saturday night for the Cowboys' showdown against the Seminoles. Oklahoma State came up short in a 37-31 hard-fought loss to the defending national champions, but Newsome came away impressed with the Pokes.
I watched the game, and the Cowboys are in need of some playmakers on the perimeter. Newsome would be an ideal fit in head coach Mike Gundy's uptempo spread offense and as a return man with his track speed.
"It was a great game. Honestly, Oklahoma State outplayed them, but they made a couple mistakes," Newsome told me on Sunday after the contest. "I noticed they need some weapons on offense. Tyreek Hill did his thing out there, but he was returning kicks, punts, and was the primary ball-carrier. That is a lot to ask. No. 13 (David) Glidden is scrappy and made some plays."
The 4-star receiver attended the contest with Oklahoma State commit and close friend, Ronald Jones II. Newsome says they text every other day and Jones is always in his ear about the Pokes.
"My five official visits are pretty firm, but don't count out Oklahoma State from the schools I'm considering," added Newsome. "I talked to all the coaches there and have a good relationship with them. Coach (Jemal) Singleton and Coach Jason Ray are great. Their track coach Diego (Flaquer) even hits me up about running for him and playing football there."
Speaking of track, Newsome said he will do both in college and he wants a strong program for both sports. That was an important factor for him when he decided he would take official visits to Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and UCLA. His first visit will be this weekend to Oregon for the Ducks' marquee matchup against Michigan State.
"This summer I took a west swing to Oregon, UCLA and USC. I've seen the campus before, but I can't wait to see Autzen Stadium for a game like this against Michigan State. I predict a 28-21 win," stated Newsome. "The facilities are so far ahead of everyone else in terms of technology. I'm good friends with Bralon Addison, and I like how they use him and their players in space on offense. Plus there's no secret that Oregon is known as Track Town, USA. So they have some advantages, but everyone is still equal. I don't have a leader."
Newsome plans on making his college announcement at either the US Army All-American Bowl or the Under Armour All-America Game in January. He is being considered for both games. The 5'8", 168-pound speedster said distance will not be a factor in his decision.
Jacques Patrick Rolls with Aggies, Sets Up an Official Visit, Talks Ohio State Trip
Like Harris, Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek 4-star running back Jacques Patrick took to Twitter to let his followers know he was rolling with the Aggies over South Carolina. Patrick currently doesn't have a list of top schools. However, talks between Texas A&M and the power back have heated up over the last few weeks, thus Patrick's comfort level to take to social media with his interest in the Aggies. The Florida native first reported to Bleacher Report that he would take an official visit to College Station in two weeks when A&M plays host to Rice.
"I'm taking a visit to A&M on Sept. 13. This will be my first time there. I'm trying to get a good feel for the place," Patrick told me exclusively. "A&M just started recruiting me. Coach (David) Beaty was the one that reached out to me. He had great things to say about my film and he told me he is very excited about me. Their offense is so explosive. What they've been doing on offense in the SEC appeals to me. They looked just fine without Johnny Manziel."
This weekend, Patrick will take his first official visit to Ohio State when the Buckeyes host Virginia Tech. OSU will have a star studded list of official visitors in Columbus for the prime-time game with the Hokies.
Look for Ohio State to put on the full-court press, with many experts having Florida State in front followed by Alabama. The 'Noles are the heavy favorite with the 247Sports Crystal Ball showing a 100-percent lock for Patrick's services. His mom has been a fan of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett for a long time. Ohio State has done a great job recruiting him since his sophomore year.
Patrick told me, "I've been building relationships with Coach (Urban) Meyer and Coach (Stan) Drayton for a long time. I've been up there twice already for unofficial visits. I liked it a lot. After my first time being there I knew it was a school that I would take an official visit during my senior year. This time I just want to get that home feeling when I'm there. I'm graduating early, so this will be another chance for me to interact with the coaches one last time."
Recently, Florida State and Ohio State offer Patrick's younger brother Peter Hayes-Patrick. Smart move by both schools, as Patrick will make his college announcement on his brother's birthday, Oct. 28.
Will K.J. Hill's Commitment to Arkansas Help with TE Will Gragg?
Last Friday, talented split end K.J. Hill committed to Arkansas over offers from Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Hill was a huge addition for head coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks staff. Arkansas fans are now expecting Dumas (Ark.) 4-star tight end Will Gragg to follow when he makes decision later this month.
The Natural State target told Dalton Person of Hawgs247 on Aug. 26 to expect a decision on Nov. 18 (subscription required). However, Gragg made headlines when he attended Hill's press conference and told reporters a decision could come earlier than the Nov. 18 date.
Gragg told me via text message, "I decided to move up my decision because I just felt that my birthday (Tues., Sept. 23) was the best date." The 247Sports Crystal Ball has him as a 72-percent lock to the 'Hawgs. His brother, Chris Gragg, spent his college career in Fayetteville, Ark. and is now a tight end for the Buffalo Bills.
"My brother played at Arkansas, so that helps them," Gragg added. "That along with KJ does have some influence on my decision. KJ wants me there with him very bad."
As of today, Gragg said he is still "open" despite the ties to his home state. He watched the Arkansas-Auburn game over the weekend and he told me he enjoyed watching the tight end production. Senior TE AJ Derby and freshman TE Hunter Henry each had receiving touchdowns.
"I really liked what I saw from them, they both scored," said Gragg. "I'm looking at schools that involve their tight ends as a big factor in my decision. My favorite tight end is Jason Witten."
Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas are the other schools he is considering before his big announcement.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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The 2014 college football season kicked off with a bang in Week 1.
Texas A&M lit up the scoreboard against South Carolina, Florida State staved off a physical Oklahoma State team and Ohio State was dominant against Navy. There's plenty more in store for Week 2.
Rankings don't mean a whole lot early in the season, as they are always subject to change as the season progresses. That said, there are two interesting matchups between ranked teams this week. Predictions for those two contests are below.
Before you look ahead to those two scintillating matchups, check out the college football standings after one week, courtesy of ESPN.
No. 15 USC at No. 11 Stanford
Ready for a one-possession game?
That's the only way this game will finish. Both USC and Stanford are destined to finish highly in their divisions, and this matchup serves as a litmus test for both the Trojans and Cardinal because of the intense competition.
The Trojans are coming off a 52-13 drubbing of Fresno State, while Stanford just shut out UC Davis, 45-0.
While it's difficult to deem one victory more impressive than the other, both Stanford and USC are quality teams destined to play a competitive matchup on Saturday.
One concern in regard to Stanford has to be the running game. The Cardinal cumulatively ran for 149 yards on 32 carries, but 10 different runners contributed to that mark. Barry Sanders led the charge with seven carries and 43 yards, but he'll have to do even better against USC.
The Trojans relied heavily on quarterback Cody Kessler and running back Javorius Allen. Kessler tossed four touchdowns and racked up 394 yards, while Allen notched a touchdown and 133 rushing yards.
This game could really go either way, but it's hard not to like the explosiveness of USC's offense.
Prediction: USC 31, Stanford 27
No. 8 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon
It will be difficult to rival the matchup of USC and Stanford, but Michigan State and Oregon will certainly put on a show. The Ducks flash serious offensive potential, but Spartans play-by-play announcer George Blaha noted that the Spartans' talent can't be overlooked, via Bill Bender of the Sporting News:
I think flash vs. smash is the best way to describe it, and the Spartans are happy to be smash. Oregon definitely has the flash, but there is some flash in that Michigan State offense with Connor Cook at the controls, Jeremy Langford at running back and a loaded group of wide receivers. Michigan State can score enough to play with anybody, they have all kinds of depth and they're well coached. It's an awesome opportunity for the Spartans. I think it's a great opportunity to show the capability of Michigan State, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Those players are definitely difference-makers, but Oregon's Marcus Mariota is destined to be one of the top players in college football this year.
The signal-caller has even been picked as a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, via ESPN College Football:
Look for Mariota to take over. The Spartans boast a strong defense, but Mariota should carve them up through the air. He'll also rack up his fair share of yards on the ground. He'll build his Heisman case with this one.
Prediction: Oregon 40, Michigan State 28
Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR
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