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Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt Ejected from Game vs. Villanova for Throwing Punch

A basketball game between Syracuse and Villanova would theoretically turn more heads than a football game, but Friday night’s showdown created a stir nonetheless. Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com indicates Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt was ejected after punching an opponent:

Josh Sanchez, an editor at Fansided, captured the play:

Before the ejection, Hunt was 10-of-17 for 94 passing yards and added 25 yards on the ground. The defender that he punched came in from behind as the Orange’s quarterback was going down and made contact with his facemask, but the punch was clearly an overreaction.

Simply put, the Orange needed a win in this contest if we look at the rest of their schedule.

This is Syracuse’s second season in the ACC, and there are plenty of difficult games on the horizon. In fact, the Orange have to play defending champion Florida State, Notre Dame, Maryland and Clemson, among others, so picking up a victory over Villanova could prove critical in terms of becoming bowl eligible.

Winning would have been much easier with Hunt in the lineup, although he probably wasn’t thinking about that in the heat of the moment. He was the Texas Bowl MVP against Minnesota in December and entered the 2014 campaign with plenty of momentum.

Hunt commented on the improvements he hoped to make this year before the game, via Stephen Bailey of Syracuse.com:

I think I played mediocre last year. Some people may say it was successful, some may not. But I think I played mediocre. It wasn't to where I set my goals.

Being able to come in with your head held high, rather than not knowing who the starter is going to be, that's going to make a big difference.

It will be intriguing to see if this punch results in a suspension going forward.

Syracuse plays at Central Michigan and then faces former ACC foe Maryland in the next two games. Hunt could use that time to improve his craft before conference play starts, although it remains to be seen whether he will be on the field.

Stay tuned for updates as they develop.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jacksonville State Football Player Caleb Lawrence Needs a New Jersey

Jacksonville State football opened their season against No. 8 Michigan State, and it looks like one of their linemen could use a larger jersey. 

As Caleb Lawrence entered the game, he had quite a bit of bare midriff that was clearly the result of a jersey that was not the appropriate size.

Judging from his team photo, however, he's OK with this look.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech Agree on New Contract: Latest Details, Reaction

Texas Tech is keeping head coach Kliff Kingsbury around for the long haul, the school announced:

National college sports writer Bryan Fischer and Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports initially filled fans in on the details:

Kliff Kingsbury led the Red Raiders to an 8-5 record in 2013 and topped it off with an impressive 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Texas Tech actually got off to a perfect 7-0 start and looked like a serious Big 12 title contender before faltering down the stretch and losing five games in a row.

Included in that stretch was a heartbreaking 38-30 loss to Oklahoma and a blowout 41-16 loss to rival Texas. However, winning the Holiday Bowl helped Texas Tech finish the season on a positive note and likely contributed to the contract extension Kingsbury received.

Kingsbury is only 35 years old and played at Texas Tech as a quarterback. He was drafted 201st overall by the New England Patriots in the 2003 draft but never really caught on as a professional signal-caller.

Still, he is one of the up-and-comers on the college football coaching scene and often receives far more attention than his team does. He has been called a rock star coach, is friends with Tom Brady and has a canning resemblance to actor Ryan Gosling.

He discussed all the attention recently, via Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News: “I’d rather it be about our players. I know a lot of it gets pushed toward me. That’s my biggest deal. Our players are the ones playing, working their butts off. Once the wins come, it will fade that way.”

Texas Tech made sure to lock up its superstar coach, especially since the school sold out of season tickets for the first time in school history after his debut season.

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5 Most Important Flips of the 2015 College Football Recruiting Season

Perspective is an important part of the recruiting process, which take teams through peaks and valleys all the way through national signing day on an annual basis. When an athlete verbally commits to a college program, whether he's a high school senior or eighth-grader, that decision is entirely non-binding for both parties.

Coaching staff changes, philosophical differences and family influence are just a few of the variables that come into play when prospects reconsider where they want to spend the next four or five years of their life. A commitment announcement never closes the door on other possibilities, as other recruiting departments remain in relentless pursuit of players regardless of their pledge to another school.

We've seen plenty of stunning decision reversals over the years and this cycle has supplied more of the dramatic change-of-heart moments we've come to expect on the path to national signing day. Here's a look at five commitment flips that greatly impacted two teams and created a domino effect across the entire 2015 class.

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Anthony Jennings Reportedly Will Start LSU's 2014 Season Opener vs. Wisconsin

LSU head coach Les Miles has his man for the Tigers' opening-week showdown with Wisconsin. Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com filled fans in on the details:

“LSU sophomore Anthony Jennings will start at quarterback for the Tigers in their season opening game against Wisconsin here Saturday, a source close to LSU told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.”

Jennings won the starting quarterback gig over freshman Brandon Harris in a tightly contested battle during spring practice and fall training camp. Miles actually commented on the signal-caller competition during the SEC coach teleconference, via a separate Kleinpeter report:

It's not something without conception. We understand it. It's (the plan) not something I'm going to reveal. I don't think there's any tremendous magic to it. Both will play.

If a guy separates himself from the other over time we'll certainly give him the nod. He'll be our starter. At this point we'll play two and we're confident in both.

Jennings clearly had the experience edge after playing in nine games last year and starting in the Outback Bowl victory over Iowa. While he only threw for 82 yards and an interception in the bowl game, he did come off the bench to lead a 99-yard, game-winning drive against Arkansas during the regular season.

As for Harris, he impressed during spring practice after enrolling early and actually threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 77 yards and one touchdown in the spring game.

Still, Miles gave the nod to the experience before this critical contest against Big Ten contender Wisconsin.

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports gave his opinion on the quarterback situation and whether LSU will play both competitors:

Of course, just because Jennings is going to start the game, that doesn't mean that Brandon Harris won't see the field. You have to think that if the competition during camp was close enough that it was just decided in the last week that Miles would consider using the four-star recruit should Jennings get off to a rough start.

Jennings will have his work cut out for him against the Badgers, who finished fifth in the nation against the run last year and sixth in scoring defense. However, they lost the majority of their front seven, including superstar linebacker Chris Borland, so there will be some new faces on that end of the field as well.

Jennings will certainly have the pressure on his shoulders considering LSU has College Football Playoff aspirations this season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UConn vs. BYU: Live Score and Highlights

BYU 35, UConn 10; FINAL

The BYU Cougars upended the UConn Huskies impressively by a score of 35-10. Quarterback Taysom Hill accounted for 435 yards of total offense. 

Mike Diaco's debut as UConn's head coach didn't go too smoothly. Questions at quarterback and up front will have to be answered in the upcoming weeks. 

A box score of the game can be found here at NCAA.com. 

Bleacher Report appreciates you tuning in with us tonight! Have a pleasant weekend!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Florida State Seminoles: Complete Game Preview

The Oklahoma State Cowboys will begin their 2014-15 season with arguably their toughest game of the year, kicking off the schedule with the Florida State Seminoles, who happen to be the defending national champions.

To say the Pokes have a difficult matchup would be an understatement. The Seminoles return a host of talent along with a star-studded recruiting class. Oh, and they just so happen to have the reigning Heisman trophy winner, Jameis Winston.

Can Oklahoma State pull off a monumental upset this week? Or will Florida State roll over a raw, young Pokes squad? Read on to find out.

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Arkansas vs. Auburn: How Razorbacks Can Upset the Tigers

When Arkansas and Auburn square off on Saturday, don’t be surprised if the Razorbacks walk out of Jordan-Hare Stadium reaping the seeds of victory.

No, that isn’t a misprint, nor is it a Skip Bayless-esque prediction of any sort. Instead, it’s merely piggybacking onto the point that any team can win on any given Saturday in college football. One only needs to refer to Thursday night when Texas A&M and Rutgers defeated opponents who were favored to win.

Here’s how Arkansas can do the unthinkable come Saturday.

 

Get Out In Front Early

It may be cliché, but against Auburn, it will be vital for the Razorbacks to do just that.

Also playing to their advantage is the fact that the Tigers will be without starting quarterback Nick Marshall and cornerback Jonathon Mincy to begin the game. Both will start the game on the bench due to off-the-field issues but are expected to play later, per The Montgomery Advertiser’sJames Crepea.

With that said, that means Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson will be making his first start against an SEC foe. The sophomore does have a start, but that was against an FCS opponent, Western Carolina. This will be a different animal for Johnson. Will he play it safe or take some risks?

If Arkansas can jump out to a quick score against the Tigers, it could help quiet what should be a raucous crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Follow that up with a defensive stop or two, and momentum could quickly start building on the visitor’s side.

Once that occurs, there’s no telling what could happen.

 

Run, Hogs, Run

If the Razorbacks want to hang around in this game, they will need to open up strong on the ground.

The rushing attack was something of a bright spot for the team a year ago, as Arkansas accumulated 2,504 yards and 14 touchdowns. The team’s marks of 208.7 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry ranked No. 21 and No. 17 in the nation, respectively.

With another year under their belt, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams should be a lot more explosive and productive in the backfield. The duo combined to record eight 100-yard rushing performances a year ago; they easily give the Razorbacks one of the best—if not the best—rushing duo in the SEC.

It’s no secret that Auburn is lackadaisical when it comes to rush defense. The team conceded 200 rushing yards or more six times last year. Losing Dee Ford and having Carl Lawson sidelined due to injury isn’t going to help matters much either.

If Arkansas can get Collins and Williams going early, it can really put the pressure on the Tigers.

Consider this: In the Razorback’s three victories last year, the team averaged 294.3 rushing yards per game while finding the end zone six times. Collins and Williams both topped 100 yards on the ground in each of those games.

 

Win the Battle of Special Teams

Yes, Auburn’s standout play from 2013 occurred on special teams. But that doesn’t change the fact that the team will have a lot of rebuilding to do.

For starters, the Tigers will need to replace kicker Cody Parkey and punter Steven Clark. In their places, the team will turn to redshirt freshmen in Daniel Carlson and Jimmy Hutchinson, respectively. Not to mention, Chris Davis—the player who gained headlines for returning the missed field goal for a game-winning touchdown against Alabama—has graduated.

With that said, the Tigers could find themselves in a tough bind if the game comes down to a battle of field position or if Carlson is tasked with kicking a game-winning field goal. 

On the other hand, Arkansas benefits from having Korliss Marshall returning kicks. The sophomore returned 19 kicks last year for 422 yards. If he can break some big ones, he could give the Razorbacks excellent field position, or even better, immediately put points on the scoreboard.

Overall, even if Arkansas executes its game plan to absolute perfection, it will still be a tall task to top Auburn.

Then again, stranger things have happened in college football. Who last year really saw the Tigers’ 2013 coming?

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Sebastian can be reached on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Stars Who Will Break Out in 2014

With the Tennessee Volunteers' 2014 season only two days away, the team's biggest playmakers will soon begin to emerge, starting with the team's opening game against the Utah State Aggies. 

Although many fans are looking toward the freshmen who enrolled in the winter and spring as the biggest X-factors on the team, some of the most promising stars are those with a year or more of experience under their belts who are poised to take the conference by storm.

For Tennessee to have a successful season and reach a bowl game, it not only needs its freshman class to grow up in a hurry, but it also needs its established stars to become truly dominant at their positions.

Here are five players on the Tennessee roster who have the best chances of becoming breakout stars in 2014. 

 

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4 Bold Predictions for Wisconsin's 2014 Season

With the college football season beginning in earnest on Thursday, now seems like as good a time as any to make bold predictions for Wisconsin's upcoming season.

Questions abound at quarterback with the incumbent Joel Stave being replaced—at least for the first snap of the season, according to Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel—by Tanner McEvoy, at receiver with how to replace one of the best in team history in Jared Abbrederis and at linebacker with how to replace one of the best defensive players in history in Chris Borland.

Let's take a look at this year's team and make a handful of bold predictions.

 

Considerable Increase in Team's Interception Total

Last season, the Badgers had nine interceptions. Of those, four came from true freshman Sojourn Shelton. The Badgers return virtually their whole secondary, and freshman Lubern Figaro looks to be an impact player immediately.

Shelton, Darius Hillary and Devin Gaulden provide a formidable trio along with freshman Derrick Tindal, all of whom have shown an ability to force turnovers.

Replacing Dezmen Southward, a third-round pick who was inconsistent at best while wearing cardinal and white, is Figaro. He should form a terrific tandem at safety alongside Michael Caputo.

Furthermore, while Borland was excellent at diagnosing plays, his coverage skills were not the best.

While I am hardly saying Derek Landisch and Michael Trotter will be better than the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, they could still intercept more passes than Borland did—he didn't record an interception in his junior or senior season.

To put a number on it, I'm going to guess the Badgers will pick off 15 passes this season. With more aggressiveness in their front seven, putting more pressure on the quarterback will lead to more interceptions on the back end.

 

Melvin Gordon Will Be Invited to New York

He won't win the Heisman Trophy, though. A big game against LSU on Saturday would do a lot to raise his already-high national profile.

One has to go all the way back to 2009 to find a running back who won the Heisman (Mark Ingram), with the last four winners being quarterbacks.

In a year when guys like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley chose to return along with defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, it will be tough for any running back to break through here. Throw in Georgia's Todd Gurley, and Gordon has a ton of competition for the Heisman.

Even if Walter Football considers Gurley the better pro prospect, I think Gordon has a great chance to grab the most votes of any running back and get a trip to New York.

However, I don't think he will be the third Wisconsin running back—Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche the others—to take home the trophy.

 

Joel Stave Will Start Multiple Games

This is not an indictment of McEvoy, as I think the coaching staff will give him every chance to succeed.

With that being said, Stave has been very good throughout his collegiate career, though he has been a bit inconsistent at times.

Stave has a bigger arm than McEvoy, and while there were plenty of times when Abbrederis got behind the defense only to have to come back to the ball to catch it, Stave was still able to push the ball down the field on play-action passes time and again.

If McEvoy comes out strongly against LSU, with the coaching staff's seemingly strong preference to play a mobile quarterback—a look through whom they have been recruiting gives a good clue—maybe Stave won't get a chance.

Either way, these are bold predictions. Even without an injury, I still see Stave taking the opening snap of multiple games this season.

 

At Least 2 Players with 40-Plus Receptions

One needs to go all the way back to 2011 to find a Badgers team that had a pair of guys with more than 40 receptions. This year, with Abbrederis gone, multiple receivers will need to fill the massive void left by his absence.

Three names to watch are tight end Sam Arneson and receivers Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe.

Arneson has gobbled up touchdowns in his limited reps, snaring four on 10 career receptions, and should be a good red-zone threat for the Badgers.

For the receivers, with eight traveling to Houston, it will be interesting to see whether anyone can really separate themselves enough to make four or five receptions a game. If anyone is able to, it will probably be Fredrick or Doe.

Doe has been inconsistent as a receiver but looked really strong throughout both the spring and fall camps. He will be the No. 1 guy when the Badgers line up on Saturday.

As for Fredrick, who stands 6'4" and 214 pounds, he will get a lot of looks in the slot and his blocking ability will keep him on the field.

If I were to pick two guys from this group to reach or surpass the 40-catch mark, I'd go with Arneson and Fredrick. Depending on how things shake out in the early going, however, we could see as many as six or seven players with 10-plus receptions by the end of the season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 1: B/R's Expert Predictions for the Top 5 Games

After a wild offseason that included major lawsuits, big time transfers and suspensions, college football fans sure are ready for some real football.

Week 1 surely will not disappoint.

Will Ohio State State struggle against Navy without star quarterback Braxton Miller, or will his replacement, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, step in and carry the Buckeyes to glory?

Who will emerge as the true signal caller for Alabama when the Tide battle West Virginia, Jake Coker or Blake Sims? Dana Holgorsen will aim to play spoiler in the Georgia Dome, but his Mountaineers will have their hands full trying to shut down the Tide’s talented backfield.

Georgia will play host to Clemson, hoping to get revenge for losing in Week 1 a season ago. Both teams will be ushering in new quarterbacks, so this showdown is sure to be an exciting one.

Defending national champions Florida State look to hold off a hungry Oklahoma State team aiming to prove itself on the national stage.

And the fifth marquee game of Week 1 pits LSU vs. Wisconsin in what should be a prime example of how to run the football.

Each week of the 2014 season, Bleacher Report’s college football experts Adam Kramer, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee, Mark Blaudschun and Ben Kercheval will be making their predictions on the top five games of the week. These five have a strong background in college football and bring great knowledge and insight to readers.

Whether you agree or disagree with our expert picks, be sure to sound off in the comments below!

*All picks made straight up. Spread is not a factor.

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Josh Shaw Investigation: Updates, Details on Injured USC CB

Suspended USC football star Josh Shaw has been coy about the events that led to him jumping out of a second-story balcony, leading to two sprained ankles. The latest update isn't going to make the backlash go away anytime soon. 

According to Gary Holland and Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, Shaw and his girlfriend are being investigated to determine whether they "were involved in a domestic-violence incident."

Capt. John McMahon, head of Central Division patrol, said Friday that Shaw, citing his attorney’s advice, has refused to be interviewed about the case.

“We would have like to hear from Mr. Shaw to provide some clarity about the situation, but that is not going to happen,” said McMahon. “In light of that, our investigation into a possible domestic dispute will continue.”

Donald Etra, Shaw's attorney, is quoted in the report as saying that his client talked "to the LAPD twice. We believe that is enough. The matter is over and there is no need to talk to them further. ... Enough is enough."

McMahon also said that Shaw's girlfriend has spoken to the police and "'did not indicate she was a victim of domestic violence."

Police officer Sara Faden describes in the piece that cops went to a third-floor apartment in downtown Los Angeles on August 23 "after receiving a report of a woman screaming" and officers had to break open the door after no one answered the initial knocks but didn't find anyone inside.

Faden did say that the officers saw “the window had been pried open," and that witnesses said they saw "a man with dreadlocks climbing from the third-floor balcony of the apartment. The woman who resides in the unit then arrived on the scene."

This story comes out days after Shaw was suspended indefinitely from the USC football team after admitting that he lied to the school about the way he suffered the injury.

The original story Shaw told, via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN.com, was that he jumped off a second-story balcony and into a pool to save his nephew from drowning. That tale of heroism garnered national attention, including on social media and morning talk shows. 

However, according to Meghan Keneally of ABCNews.com, Shaw's story first started to come apart shortly after his tale of heroism gained steam because "a man named Josh Shaw matching the football player’s description was listed in a police report stemming from a disturbance call."

Shaw's future on the field has never looked less clear, but right now that's the least of his concerns. He's gone from being viewed like a hero and role model to an outcast and pariah in the span of a few days because of this huge lie he concocted. 

It's important to note that this is just an investigation at this point. No one has been charged with anything, nor has anyone been arrested. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Darian Roseboro to Michigan: Wolverines Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Given the importance of pass-rushing in today's football world, the news of 4-star defensive end Darian Roseboro committing to Michigan has huge ramifications for the 2015 recruiting class. 

247Sports' Steve Lorenz first broke the news about Roseboro's decision:

As Wolverine247 predicted and many believed, Michigan has secured the commitment of four-star defensive end Darian Roseboro, beating out home-state N.C. State and North Carolina among others for his pledge.

Roseboro, the nation's No. 7 strong-side defensive end recruit and No. 109 prospect overall based on 247Sports' composite ratings, has turned into a pass-rushing monster at Lincolnton High School in North Carolina over the last three years. 

According to 247Sports, Roseboro had more than 30 offers from top programs across the country and was seriously considering six in early August. On that list was Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, North Carolina State, North Carolina and Tennessee. 

He said on Twitter, via Pack Pride, that those were his final six schools and the decision would come at the end of August:

As a freshman, Roseboro was already a beast with 107 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Those are scary numbers for a quality high school senior, let alone a player in his first season at that level. 

Yet when you look at the constant evolution for Roseboro, it's easy to see why power schools like Alabama, Michigan and Clemson were all after him. His performance continued to improve with 107 tackles, 30 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2012 to go along with four forced fumbles. He followed that up by posting 125 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks as a junior. 

Every school across the country needs help rushing the quarterback. Since defensive backs are all but forbidden from touching wide receivers, having a player who can get in the backfield is paramount to success on defense. 

Roseboro brings a ferocious, attacking style and insane athleticism at 6'4", 285 pounds with a 4.64 40-yard time to the next level. The scary thing is, he will only get better with more seasoning and higher-level coaching. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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LSU Professor Asks Students to Clean Up Les Miles Quotes for Homework

Some coaches may talk a lot but never provide much useful information. One LSU professor has decided that students can learn how to be clear and concise by translating Tigers coach Les Miles' quotes.

For homework, the instructor asked the students to read through some of Miles' statements and clean them up a bit. The students were asked to translate "coach talk" to concise—and grammatically correct—sentences.

Hopefully the professor will hand over the papers to Miles and let him read through them so he can learn how to get to the point quickly in the future.

[Twitter, h/t SB Nation]

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UCF Unveils Irish-Themed Helmets for Season Opener in Ireland

Central Florida is doing its best to win over fans in Ireland for its season opener against Penn State.

The Knights and the Nittany Lions will square off in the 2014 Croke Park Classic in Dublin this weekend, and to get in the spirit of the game, UCF has made a slight tweak to its helmet. To commemorate the special game, two Irish clovers and a pot of gold have been added to the Knights' helmets.

Playing in Ireland is a unique situation for both teams, and this was a cool way for UCF to pay tribute to the country.

[UCF Football, h/t Sports Illustrated]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 1: Previews and Predictions for the Top 5 Games

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! College football is back in full swing with a full slate of games that will have national significance. 

Kenny Hill and Texas A&M went into Columbia, S.C., on Thursday evening and blew out the Ol' Ball Coach's Gamecocks 52-28. While that was viewed as a big upset already for Week 1, this weekend could be presented with upsets that have significance on the new College Football Playoff.

Clemson and Georgia, as well as LSU and Wisconsin, are all teams that could be playing in the six major bowl games at the end of the season.  

With that said and a lot to look forward to this weekend, here are the top five games to watch. 

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Power Ranking Top 10 Alabama Crimson Tide Players Heading into 2014 Season

Backed by talent all over the roster, the Alabama Crimson Tide once again will be challenging for a national title in 2014.

After winning three of four BCS titles, the Tide saw their run come to a heartwrenching end last season. But while the rest of college football fans bask in the end of a dynasty, head coach Nick Saban and Co. seem poised to begin Act 2.

These are the top 10 players who should prove the most beneficial to Alabama in its pursuit for championship No. 16.

Each player was given a ranking based on several factors. Among the factors used were each player's career stats, experience on the team and awards/recognitions earned.

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Eastern Illinois LB Takes a Cheap Shot at Minnesota Player, Gets Ejected

Things didn't go so well Eastern Illinois through the first three quarters of its season opener against Minnesota, but the opening play of the fourth quarter had to be the worst moment of the night for the Panthers.

The Golden Gophers were leading 21-0 entering the fourth quarter and driving for another score. After Minnesota picked up a first down and moved closer to the goal line on the first play of the quarter, Panthers linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill decided to give Golden Gophers offensive lineman Zac Epping a shot below the belt.

Not only did the cameras pick it up, but the referees did as well. Grugier-Hill was flagged for a personal foul and ejected from the game.

Minnesota won the game, 42-20.

[The Big Lead]

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Quarterback Shuffle the Main Reason for Vanderbilt's Blowout Loss to Temple

The Derek Mason era at Vanderbilt couldn't have gotten off to a worse start, as the team kicked off the 2014 season with a blowout loss to Temple.

Temple won just two games last season, and this win marks the program's first over an SEC school since 1938.

The 90-plus minute weather delay forced the game to a 9:50 p.m. kickoff, but that is no excuse for the 30-point loss. Mason looked confused in his first game at the helm, and his inexperienced players followed suit. 

Clay Travis of Fox Sports commented on this being one of the worst head coaching debuts ever:

The five worst college football coaching debuts of all time. Starring Derek Mason: http://t.co/5WfZXOWdLA

— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) August 29, 2014

What Mason and the Commodores have to do to make this embarrassing loss a distant memory is the question now.

The Commodores have to turn the page quickly and understand that this non-conference loss can be quickly forgotten if the team pulls off an upset against No. 18 Ole Miss next week. It may seem like it would take a miracle for the Commodores to avoid another blowout to a much better team, but crazier things have happened.

One upset somewhere along the way can still lead to a bowl berth with this favorable schedule. But the quarterback situation will have to be figured out quickly to keep this from snowballing into a season that the program became accustomed to prior to James Franklin.

The fact that Mason pulled Patton Robinette in the first half appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction, and that was where the wheels began to fall off.

Mason's offense was never able to settle in after seeing three different quarterbacks lining up under center during the course of the game. 

It's very puzzling that Mason pulled Robinette so quickly after displaying that he didn't want his starting quarterback to look over his shoulder, per David Climer of The Tennessean.

Stephen Rivers saw the most action but never looked comfortable. He finished 12-of-25 for 186 yards and two turnovers.

Johnny McCrary also got into the game for a short stint. He threw three passes, and two of those were interceptions. McCrary was quickly pulled after those blunders, and it led to more confusion for the offense.

Mason has to make his choice for a starter and ride them out for a while, through both the high points and the low points. By changing quarterbacks so many times, he showed his inexperience as a head coach. 

The running game also was abandoned too early. Panic seemed to set in before halftime even arrived, which could be another sign of inexperience as a head coach.

All of this negativity can change in a hurry if a couple wins are strung together, but Mason has to stick stick with one quarterback to give this offense a chance.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Football: Cody Kessler Can Erase Trojans' Bad Week

Week 1 of a new era in USC football is not off to an ideal start for Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Redshirt senior cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended for lying about the circumstances of his ankle injury, per Jordan Moore of USCTrojans.com. Then Thursday, former cornerback-turned-running back Anthony Brown lambasted Sarkisian in a social media tirade, captured by USCFootball.com's Ryan Abraham.  

It's been a week to forget for USC off the field. However, one Trojan can play a big part in making it a distant memory with his performance on the field Saturday against Fresno State: quarterback Cody Kessler. 

Sarkisian's first big splash as USC head coach was made in April, when he named Kessler the Trojans' starter. He wasn't exactly going out on a limb with the decision—Kessler started all 14 games and led USC to 10 wins a season ago. 

But with the buzz surrounding redshirt freshman Max Browne, Kessler also wasn't grandfathered into the No. 1 spot. His own performance in spring football and Sarkisian's vote of confidence made it official.

Saturday is Kessler's chance to validate his head coach's first major decision.  

"Cody has a chance to step his game up and go to a whole other level," Sarkisian said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call. "Generally speaking, a quarterback in his second year starting really starts to see those strides."  

Kessler went to that next level in last year's season finale, a 45-20 rout of the same Fresno State team USC sees on Saturday. He went 22-of-30 passing and reached career highs with 344 yards and four touchdowns.  

It started from an opening drive in which Kessler hit wide receiver Darreus Rogers for 20 yards and Nelson Agholor for 14. That set the table for two scoring strikes of 40 yards. 

Kessler effectively buckled the Fresno State defense's knees with his big plays. Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter said in his press conference on Monday said he's using last year's slow start as motivation, via GoBulldogs.com

"We did not compete as well as what we hoped to last December," he said. "We've challenged our team with that." 

Of course, Fresno State is seeing a much different USC offense than it did in the Las Vegas Bowl. Along his naming of Kessler the starting quarterback, the other big splash Sarkisian made in the offseason was his implementation of the no-huddle system. 

Saturday is the new offense's debut with Kessler at the controls. 

"I think he really has a nice grasp of what we're trying to do offensively," Sarkisian said. 

Fresno State sees a fair amount of no-huddle offenses playing in the Mountain West Conference, DeRuyter said. But USC's version poses a unique challenge to the Bulldogs defense. 

"I don't know that the tempo itself will be something new," he said. "The athletes they have doing it will be different than what we've seen in the past."

Perhaps more than anything else in last season's bowl win, Kessler made effective use of that athletic advantage. Six different receivers from three different positions caught at least two passes. 

Agholor will certainly get his targets Saturday, but look for Kessler to also hook up with sophomore running back Justin Davis. 

Sarkisian commended the speedy Davis' ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which should develop into a fundamental component of the Trojans' hurry-up attack. 

As for Kessler, blocking out distraction is nothing new when it comes to running the new offense. In fact, he said it's a primary responsibility. 

"The tempo is awesome," Kessler said last month at Pac-12 media days. "Especially at the skill spots, you've got to be ready to go...You've got to be locked in and focused the whole time." 

Focusing this week could be a challenge, given all the negative outside attention drawn on the Trojans in the past few days. But should their collective focus manifest Saturday with another win over Fresno State, it would be a real testament to the team's leadership. 

If Kessler flourishes in the new offense, memories of last week should be wiped away, but memories of even longer ago should come flooding back.  

Kessler said he's taken the success of recent Trojans quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez as motivation heading into the season.  

"You expect to win every week. You expect to be in the national championship discussion because of everything that surrounds you. These guys have set the bar so high, you don't want to let them down." 

 

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

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