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Ranking the Best SEC Matchups of Week 2

The first week of the college football season is in the books, and just one SEC program found its way into the loss column—a Vanderbilt team that (not surprisingly) squandered away several opportunities in a 14-12 setback to Western Kentucky.

While the league may not wind up having the nation's best team, it again is flexing its muscle as the country's deepest. When the Associated Press' Top 25 poll came out Tuesday, it featured 10 conference schools.

Alabama, Auburn and Georgia lead the pack, all sticking around in the Top 10. A rousing victory by Texas A&M over Arizona State helped the Aggies catapult into the rankings at No. 16.

Several others are sprinkled throughout the polls.

Before the huge Week 3 that will feature some of the best marquee matchups of the early season, everybody has to wade through another Saturday full of mostly lopsided, expected outcomes.

Despite the slim slate, there are a few quality games, including three conference battles in LSU-Mississippi State, Kentucky-South Carolina and Georgia-Vanderbilt.

Then there's a much-anticipated out-of-conference, prime-time showdown that will have the nation's attention Saturday night.

So, without further ado, taking into account the level of each involved team, national and conference importance and the competitiveness of the matchup, let's rank this week's games involving SEC teams.

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AP College Football Poll 2015: Week 2 Top 25 Rankings, Projections for Key Games

The first week of the college season was significant for top-ranked Ohio State.

The Buckeyes showed off their ability and power as they mounted an impressive second-half comeback and routed routed Virginia Tech 42-24 in Blacksburg, Virginia, Monday night in front of a national television audience.

The significance of the victory is not the revenge the Buckeyes gained on the team that handed them their only defeat in 2014. Ohio State had more than made up for that by winning the national championship after sweeping Alabama and Oregon in the first college football playoff.

The real key to the victory is that the powerful Buckeyes, who were led by quarterback Cardale Jones and former quarterback Braxton Miller (who is transitioning to wide receiver), appear to have an easy schedule from this point forward until they play Michigan State in late November.

Now that the Buckeyes have gotten past their challenging opener, Urban Meyer's key for the majority of the season is keeping his team healthy until the Buckeyes take on the Spartans Nov. 21 at Columbus.

Why Ohio State will be untouchable in the regular season. @BruceFeldmanCFB: http://t.co/hfOfWBiO4Dpic.twitter.com/QdYXxhsbLF

— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) September 8, 2015

Alabama may have been in unfamiliar territory—both in the rankings and playing in AT&T Stadium in Dallas—when the Crimson Tide played Wisconsin Saturday night.

Alabama had been the No. 3 team in the nation in the preseason poll, but Nick Saban's team moved up to the No. 2 spot after its 35-17 victory over Wisconsin.

The Crimson Tide were clearly the better team in this high-profile intersectional game between traditional powers in the SEC and Big Ten. Derrick Henry rushed for 147 yards to lead Alabama, and the Crimson Tide had a 238-40 rushing advantage over the Badgers.

.@finebaum & @monteburke join me to discuss Nick Saban's frustrations & his future w/ @AlabamaFTBL in today's podcast:http://t.co/9h3NgNPpnC

— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) September 6, 2015

Alabama's big win allowed it to surpass TCU, which had been the No. 2 team in the preseason poll. The Horned Frogs struggled to a 23-17 win at Minnesota, and that cost them one spot in the polls.

The only other change in the top 10 saw Notre Dame move up from the 11th spot to the ninth after it's one-sided 38-3 victory over Texas. The Fighting Irish passed Georgia and Florida State, who fell to 10th and 11th, respectively.

The big matchup in the second week of the season is the intersectional battle between Oregon and Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan.

Last year, the Spartans traveled to Oregon and played well for 30 minutes before getting overpowered by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Ducks in the second half. If the Spartans can find a way to win this game at Spartan Stadium, they would be in a position to make their Nov. 21 game at Ohio State a likely confrontation for the No. 1 position in the poll. 

The Spartans are 3.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark, and the key for Mark Dantonio's team appears to be holding quarterback Vernon Adams in check. With the image of last year's 46-27 defeat dancing in its head, Michigan State will gain its revenge and find a way to cover the impost.

Michigan State QB Connor Cook on Oregon game in 2014: "That loss last year stunk and stuck with us."

— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) September 7, 2015

Notre Dame has the dreaded sandwich game this week as the Fighting Irish travel to Virginia a week before playing a tough Georgia Tech team.

Brian Kelly's team is an 11-point favorite, and that's a sizable spread on the road against a team that played quite credibly in its opener. The Cavaliers went to the West Coast and played a relatively good game in dropping a 34-16 decision to the UCLA Bruins.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was sharp in his passing, throwing darts and putting the ball right on the numbers of his receivers. Virginia's coverage was tight, but Rosen's passing was better.

Coming home should help Virginia keep this game close.

LSU saw its opener against McNeese State cancelled because of lightning. As a result, the Tigers offense is largely unknown as it goes to Mississippi State as a four-point favorite.

Sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris could have used that opening game before going on the road in the SEC, even if it is against the team that has been picked to finish last in the SEC West.

Still, Mississippi State picked up a 34-16 win in the Bulldogs' opening game, and most teams make an improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. 

That means this game will be a tough one for the Tigers. It will be a full 60-minute battle, but LSU will get it done in the fourth quarter and cover the four-point spread.

No. 10 Georgia has what looks like an easy road game at Vanderbilt this week. Looks can be deceiving, and the Bulldogs may have a difficult time covering the 20-point spread away from home.

Vanderbilt lost to Western Kentucky in its opener, but the Commodores played respectably on defense as they limited their opponents to 246 yards. Western Kentucky has a powerful offense, and Vanderbilt did not allow its opponent to go wild.

Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert struggled in three road games last year, as he had problems at Brigham Young (5.4 yards per attempt), Georgia Tech (two interceptions) and Virginia Tech (less than 50 percent completions). 

The Bulldogs will win this road game, but they won't be able to cover the 20-point spread.

It shouldn't be much of a game when Hawaii travels to Columbus to play Ohio State. The Buckeyes are a ridiculous 40-point favorite, and while they have a short week since they played Monday night, they should be in better shape than they were against Virginia Tech.

Not only are they at home against an overmatched opponent, they are getting defensive end Joey Bosa back from his suspension. He is almost certainly going to create havoc in the Hawaii backfield.

Additionally, after the Buckeyes establish a lead with Jones at quarterback, Meyer may turn the team over to backup quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is a brilliant talent himself with legitimate NFL aspirations.

That means there is not likely to be a letup when he comes in the game. A 40-point spread is usually laughable, but not in this case. 

Take the favorites.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bleacher Report's College Football Ultimate Guide to Week 2

Each and every week of the college football season is tantalizing because it conquers the all-too-familiar alternative of having no college football at all. That seems like an ideal place to begin a Week 2 preview—the “taco night” of the 2015 regular season.

If we’re being honest, the actual tacos aren’t all that delightful. No offense to your skillet and spice management—I’m sure it’s quite lovely. But the night itself—the tradition of a familiar meal and everything it represents—is comforting. Appointment, familiar customs surpass taste buds, in this instance.

Look down at this week’s lineup and you can breeze past the majority of the games before reaching a handful of truly exceptional pairings. There will be better slates of matchups, but don’t let that seize all enthusiasm. This is “taco night” in schedule form, and we’re going to consume every single well-spiced morsel.

Oh, and there just so happens to be a game on tap that will cause the first College Football Playoff contender to tumble. And there’s another featuring power brands hoping to regain superhero strength. Plus, through it all, there will be unexpected oddities.

It’s the unassuming weeks that often blow up the script, and this is what we’ll be watching. 


The Buffet: Previewing the Top 5 Games of the Week

5. Oregon State at Michigan (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC)

The khaki-toned Jim Harbaugh era makes its highly anticipated Ann Arbor debut. The Wolverines, fresh off a season-opening defeat at Utah, draw another Pac-12 opponent. Oregon State, however, doesn’t offer up the kind of challenge Michigan dealt with in Week 1. That is a very polite way of saying the Beavers' 26-7 sloshfest victory over Weber State left something to be desired.

Oregon State threw for only 110 yards in Week 1—instead doing most of its damage on the ground. A Michigan defense that looks the part will make that style slightly more difficult in Week 2. The offense certainly has its issues, but that was a work in progress all along.

Those who enjoy points in copious amounts best head elsewhere. Stick around long enough, however, and you might just see Harbaugh talk about talented tight end Jake Butt. 

What a wonderful, strange man.


4. Boise State at BYU (Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

I suppose we could talk about all the weirdness last week’s BYU-Nebraska game included, but let’s just skip all that and get to the good stuff. Here’s how the 33-28 BYU win ended, as you are probably well aware.

What a lovely sport we obsess over.

That was the good news for BYU in Week 1. The bad news was that quarterback Taysom Hill was lost for the season once again to a foot injury, which is an absolute downer for those at BYU and beyond. The Cougars will now turn to Tanner Mangum, who may not be a dramatic step down. Highly recruited and regarded, Magnum is a wonderful backup plan.

Boise State is taking its show on the road after winning a 16-13 nail-biter over Washington in its opener. Defensively, the Broncos looked dominant, allowing just 179 yards overall (albeit to a team with clear offensive concerns). Offensively, quarterback Ryan Finley will have to be better if Boise wants to inch itself into familiar, big-bowl territory.

Defense should again be a theme. May the most productive quarterback win.


3. LSU at Mississippi State (Saturday, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Mother Nature decided to delay LSU’s debut, which isn’t the best news for a team that could have used the reps. Brandon Harris will get the starting nod under center, and while there are questions over what this means, he is not without weapons. Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre make up one of the more intriguing wideout combos in the conference. Running back Leonard Fournette is a designer tank with an engine that is by no means street legal.

This group hopes it will put pressure on a Mississippi State defense that allowed Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens to crack the 300-yard threshold in Week 1.

Quarterback Dak Prescott wasn’t perfect, and the game was competitive for much longer than the Bulldogs hoped. Yet, Prescott still accounted for three touchdowns and showcased his duality as a thrower and runner. LSU knows all about it from a season ago.

It’s not the sexiest game the conference will roll out this season, but this is a critical moment for two programs that are trying to remind us they belong.


2. Oklahoma at Tennessee (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Let’s start with the quarterbacks, the conductors of offenses that looked awfully potent last Saturday. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw for 205 yards, ran for 89 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one running) against a Bowling Green team that refused to submit. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield threw for 388 yards and had a hand in four touchdowns against Akron (three passing, one running).

And then, of course, there are the running backs. Samaje Perine was quiet for the Sooners in Week 1 (33 yards on 11 attempts), while Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara—who combined to rush for 267 yards and score five touchdowns—were anything but. In a game stockpiled with future stars, these three gentlemen might have the largest influence on the outcome.

In the most meaningful game Neyland Stadium has witnessed in some time, Tennessee could announce its arrival. Oklahoma could announce its return. Points may be plentiful, and the importance for both programs cannot be overstated.

Drop everything and watch this.  


1. Oregon at Michigan State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Last year’s installment, despite what the final score said, was nothing short of football euphoria. This year’s version, as bold as this may seem, could be even better.

Playing against his former squad last week, Vernon Adams Jr. was brilliant after arriving late in Eugene. He threw the ball extremely well against Eastern Washington, including two touchdown passes, and he rushed for 94 yards. Adams was also on the wrong end of this questionable hit from his former teammate—a moment that had us hoping it wasn’t as bad as it looked:

That appears to be the case, and Adams will likely get the nod this week. He will be opposed by the great Connor Cook of Michigan State, a man on the verge of superstardom. Perhaps he’s already there.

Although Cook completed less than 50 percent of his passes against Western Michigan in his team's 37-24 win, he will be up for this. And because Eastern Washington tallied 549 yards of offense against the Ducks, he should have plenty of opportunities to move the ball downfield.

Defense will ultimately win this game—be it through stops or turnovers. Both offenses will likely spend much of the evening doing what they please, which means a moment or two might be enough.

Cancel all plans; stock the fridge; buy an amount of meat to grill that most normal humans would be offended by. You know what to do.


The Quiet Killer, aka The Game You Haven’t Made Plans to Watch but Should: Houston at Louisville (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Head coach Tom Herman’s Houston debut included 52 points and 621 yards against Tennessee Tech. The Cougars will get a significant upgrade in competition in Week 2 as they head to Louisville for a matchup you should make time for.

The Cardinals hung tough with Auburn as freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson dazzled, especially on the ground. So much so that Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn, the great ambassador of offense, made his praise known after the game while speaking with Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal‎:

Auburn's Gus Malzahn on #Louisville QB Lamar Jackson: "That freshman quarterback, he's electric now. . .going to be tough to deal with."

— Tim Sullivan (@TimSullivan714) September 6, 2015

It will be a tall order for Houston to pull off the upset, although it would not be at all surprising for one of the sport’s brightest young coaches to make this far tighter than anticipated. Add in a true freshman quarterback who looks mighty fun to watch, and you have yourselves a ballgame.


The NSFW Game of the Week: Lamar at Baylor (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

Please keep your children away from FSN around dinnertime Saturday. I say this as a friend.

Playing in a game that really does no one any good except the Lamar athletic department, Baylor will take on a program that just throttled Bacone College. (You can look it up. I had to.)

Last season, Texas A&M decimated Lamar 73-3. I don’t foresee this score being worse than that, which is about the only endorsement I can possibly provide. Thankfully there will be no shortage of options at this time slot.


The Game That Could Somehow Stay Inexplicably Close: Notre Dame at Virginia (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

I was intrigued by Notre Dame’s talent before the great annihilation of Texas. After Malik Zaire ran circles around the Longhorns, however, the excitement and buzz reached an appropriate new threshold. And yet, heading into Week 2, it feels like Virginia could provide a scare for the Irish as they take their show on the road. The key word here is indeed "could."

Now, I’m not saying the Cavaliers will win this game—not after UCLA made it look easy at times in Week 1. However, Virginia was a different team at home in 2014, taking down Pitt and Louisville and hanging tough with many others.

The defense should still play well. The offense, well, that’s a different story. Ultimately, Notre Dame will stay unbeaten. But it would not shock me if Virginia hovered around much longer than anticipated.


In Search of X-Factors: Fresh Faces to Keep Tabs On

LJ Scott, Michigan State, RB

Sparty’s bruising 233-pound true freshman tailback delivered a solid 77-yard performance in his debut. Matched up against fellow battering ram Royce Freeman, LJ Scott, one of the Big Ten’s next great running backs, could have himself a coming-out party against Oregon.


Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh, RB

With James Conner likely done for the year after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn MCL, Pittsburgh will ask running back Qadree Ollison—a redshirt freshman—to do its heavy lifting. After Conner went down, Wilson ran for 207 yards on just 16 carries in Week 1. Against Akron in Week 2, the 230-pounder could beef up those totals rather quickly.


Nick Stevens, Colorado State, QB

Garrett Grayson's departure to the NFL left a void for new Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo. Sophomore quarterback Nick Stevens threw five touchdowns in his first game as a starter, although that came against Savannah State in a 65-13 win. Playing a Minnesota defense that looked solid in Week 1 against potent TCU in a 23-17 loss, Stevens’ follow-up should be fascinating.  


Coaches Seated on Warm Chairs: Week 2 Installment

Mike Leach, Washington State

When you lose to Portland State at home—a game the Cougars paid its opponent $525,000 to make happen—everything changes. Although there is still plenty of season left to right what’s wrong, Leach has never really settled into Pullman. A loss to reeling Rutgers this week could propel Leach into a hole that's impossible to dig out of.


Mike London, Virginia

After UCLA freshman Josh Rosen dissected his team, Mike London did little to change his current status as a head coach. Making matters even more difficult is that Notre Dame is coming to town this week. With Boise State a few weeks away and ACC play to start shortly after, the Cavaliers need to win games no one expects them to for London to save his job.


Al Golden, Miami

There were no issues in Week 1 for Al Golden against Bethune-Cookman. There likely won’t be any issues against Florida Atlantic in Week 2, either. After that, Miami will play Nebraska, at Cincinnati, at Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson in a stretch that will ultimately decide his fate. The Hurricanes have the talent (and the quarterback) capable of throwing a bucket of ice water on this thing. Stay tuned.


Parting Shot: As the World Turns, Saying Farewell to a Few Good Men

For many extremely gifted footballers, Week 1 marked the end of the road. There will be no Week 2 for Pittsburgh running back James Conner, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, Notre Dame running back Tarean Folston, Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt and UCLA defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes. Each one suffered injuries that will likely keep him out for the season.

Clemson wideout Mike Williams, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright and Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer were also injured and will miss extended time. Quite simply, I can’t recall a weekend in which so many significant players went down in unison.

Perhaps one or more of these injuries will have an impact on games to be played in the coming days. Others will undoubtedly affect matchups and aspirations down the line.

This is the part that never gets any easier to stomach—the ugly side of such a beautiful game.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

1 Quick Fix Every Top 25 College Football Team Will Make Between Week 1 and 2

If they haven't already, head coaches across college football are reviewing game film right about now. Even in big wins, it's 100 percent guaranteed each and every one of those coaches is looking at something on film and grimacing. 

Welcome to a world without preseason games to knock off the rust and work out the kinks. That's why the time between Week 1 and Week 2 is so crucial. Many would say it's the time in which teams show the most dramatic improvement. 

Or, at the very least, it's the time that teams must show that improvement. 

What will each Associated Press Top 25 team be working on this week? We tackle one "quick fix" issue that plagued each team in the opening weekend but can at least be realistically addressed in time to show some improvement by the second game. Not every problem has to be completely solved, but it should be capable of being adjusted quickly.

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Oregon State vs. Michigan: Complete Game Preview

The Michigan Wolverines will be looking for their first win of the 2015 campaign against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Jim Harbaugh's coaching debut didn't go as planned last Thursday. Quarterback Jake Rudock tossed three interceptions, the running game stalled and Michigan ultimately fell to Utah 24-17.

Oregon State, which also has a first-year coach in Gary Andersen, opened the season against a lower-division program in Weber State. The Beavers knocked off the visiting Football Championship Division school 26-7.

As of this writing, per OddsShark.com, Michigan—which holds a 4-0 record in the series—is favored by 15.5 points. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET, and ABC will broadcast the matchup.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Week 2 Polls, Top 25 Standings and Analysis

The first week of the college football season was filled with plenty of drama, even without many major upsets. This has caused a slight shift in the Top 25 heading into Week 2.  

Fans are known for overreacting after each game, although we have learned quite a bit after Week 1. A lot of the top teams in the country challenged themselves with tough opening matchups, including each of the top five squads playing away from home. This provides a better indication of talent than anyone facing weaker FCS opponents.

While a lot will certainly change in the next few months, here is a look at the various polls after Week 1 of the 2015 season:

Ohio State remains at No. 1 after a great second half against Virginia Tech. After trailing at halftime, the Buckeyes came out strong after intermission and came through with a 42-24 Week 1 victory on the road.

While much of the discussion during the offseason was the quarterback competition between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, it was former quarterback-turned-receiver Braxton Miller who made the biggest difference. He came through with a 54-yard touchdown reception and a 53-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to help his team pull away.

ESPN's Mike Greenberg gave high praise for the reigning national champions after the Monday night victory:

Things didn't go as smoothly for preseason No. 2 TCU. The Horned Frogs survived a tough test against Minnesota, but the struggles offensively were enough to cause doubt in the minds of some voters.

Heisman Trophy contender Trevone Boykin had a bit of a rough game, throwing an interception and struggling with his consistency. However, head coach Gary Patterson had nothing but good things to say about his star quarterback, per Matt Jennings of Rivals.com:

Winning is the most important thing, but voters in the Associated Press poll, Amway Coaches Poll and Bleacher Report's poll all dropped TCU behind Alabama heading into Week 2.

The Crimson Tide had one of the stronger wins among the top teams, defeating Wisconsin on a neutral field. Like they have in past years, Nick Saban's squad dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the field, and running back Derrick Henry took care of the rest with 147 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

It clearly won't be easy for Alabama to remain undefeated through a tough SEC conference schedule, but moving ahead of TCU after just one week is a good sign going forward for the perennial contenders.

The biggest movers in and out of the Top 25 came as a result of the same game. Arizona State came into the year with high hopes against unranked Texas A&M, but it was the Aggies who showcased their ability with a 38-17 victory.

Kyle Allen led Texas A&M for most of the game at quarterback, although backup Kyler Murray provided a boost thanks to his ability to make things happen on the ground. Head coach Kevin Sumlin gave credit to both passers after the game, per Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:

Tra Carson also helped control the game with some tough running all game long.

Still, the big difference was the Aggies defense, which held Arizona State to 2.2 yards per carry and little consistency on the offensive side of the ball. ESPN's Brett McMurphy noted how well the unit performed in the season opener:

The result from this one-sided contest was Texas A&M climbing high into the rankings, while Arizona State is now on the outside looking in going into Week 2.

Another climbing team after the first set of games is Utah, which defeated Michigan on Thursday night and ruined Jim Harbaugh's debut. The Utes forced Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock to throw three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to effectively seal the win.

The Utes also proved they weren't cupcakes, as initially described by some Michigan students. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com noted the irony after the win:

Despite these results, we are still barely getting started on the 2015 season. Those who got off to a good start will have to keep it up to truly impress the voters and remain high in the polls. One win won't bring anyone a championship, but a bad loss could derail a season.

This means no matter where a team is located in the polls at the moment, anything can happen during the remainder of the year.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for more year-round sports analysis.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 2: Top-25 Rankings, Schedule, Odds and Predictions

After an opening week of last-second wins and stunning upsets, college football and its new rankings offer a plethora of attractive games in Week 2. 

Here are the updated rankings.

Three debutantes of the Top 25, Texas A&M, Utah and Mississippi State, will look to show that they belong, while Notre Dame moves into the Top 10. Of the three, Mississippi State might have the toughest test, taking on No. 15 LSU, who saw their Week 1 game against McNeese State canceled. 

Some other big movers within the Top 25 are Boise State and Missouri, who each moved up three spots thanks to losses from Wisconsin and Stanford, who dropped out along with Arizona State. 

Boise State encounters a BYU side that won their first game thanks to a miraculous Hail Mary reception on the final play. But the biggest game of the week is a Top-10 clash from East Lansing, Michigan. Before we get into that, here is a look at the Top-25 teams' Week 2 schedule with odds and predictions as to who will win. 

Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.


Game of the Week

No. 7 Oregon at No. 5 Michigan State

Who wins: Michigan State

Spartan Stadium doesn't see too many big games like this. According to Kyle Austin of MLive.com, this is the first Top-10 matchup in East Lansing since 1966. And it should be a doozy.

It's usually a safe bet to take Oregon when they are playing a Top-25 team. Under head coach Mark Helfrich, the Ducks are 7-2 against the nation's top teams, including a 46-27 win over Michigan State last season. 

But Michigan State has only lost one game in East Lansing in the past two years, and with a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Connor Cook, the Spartans might just squeak by the Ducks. 

Don't let last week's performance fool you, Cook should put up much better numbers than his 15-31 for 256-yard performance.

Oregon realizes that too. Cook is getting lofty praise from his Saturday opponents, especially from Ducks secondary coach John Neal, who spoke with Tyson Alger of the Oregonian:

He kind of reminds me of Tom Brady. He's got a coolness to him that I always like in a quarterback. He's very poised. He's got pocket presence, see the field, has great experience.

Cook is going to be lining up against an Oregon team that is no stranger to giving up points. Just last week, they allowed Eastern Washington to score 42 points, although they scored 61. But playing a Power Five side that is much more well-rounded than Eastern Washington, they might not be able to simply outscore their opponent.

Especially now with Michigan State's experience. After losing to Oregon last season and playing a high-powered offense in Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, Michigan State's defense has seen the uptempo offense before. Mike Griffith of MLive.com explains:

Michigan State wasn't fully prepared for the effect Oregon's uptempo offense would have on it, and the Spartans didn't realize how difficult it would be to substitute between plays against that pace of play. Having had a month of bowl prep for Baylor's hurry-up offense last December and an entire offseason to practice for the Ducks, MSU should do better with the quick substitutions. 

Oregon, though, still has an extremely impressive running game, including Royce Freeman and quarterback Vernon Adams. The Spartans can't count on completely shutting down Oregon and holding them under 20 points. That's just not logical for a team that was last held to such a mark by Stanford in November 2013. 

It's going to be a shootout, and it will be a question of which defense can dig deep enough to come up with a couple of big stops. I feel as though Oregon's defense just does not have the fortitude to do so. I say Michigan State wins this 45-36. 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2015: Week 2 Standings, Schedule and Predictions

College football is back, and if last week was any indication, the 2015 season should be chock-full of drama.

Whether it was true freshmen asserting themselves with aplomb, consensus title contenders living up to expectations or top-25 teams getting pushed by underdogs, intrigue abounded. 

And thankfully, Week 2 doesn't project to be any different. 

But before making some predictions and breaking down a few of the weekend's most compelling storylines, here's a glimpse at an updated look at the national pecking order: 

As the action gets set to heat up, here's a look at when you can catch the biggest games of the weekend:  


Week 2 Predictions  Michigan State Survives Oregon's Lethal Offense

Michigan State will be out for revenge after falling to Oregon, 46-27, a year ago, and if recent history is any indication, the Spartans should be favored to down the high-powered Ducks. 

With the matchup slated to descend on East Lansing, it's important to note that Michigan State has won 13 of its last 14 games at home. The lone loss came against Ohio State last November. 

However, Michigan State hasn't hosted a game of this magnitude in nearly five decades, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg: 

Quarterbacks Vernon Adams and Connor Cook will dominate discussion after leading their teams to 61 and 37 points, respectively, last week, but defensive efficiency may very well dictate which side departs with a victory. 

"We have to expect the unexpected," Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun said, according to USA Today's Paul Myerberg. "But they're still going to be that fast-tempo team with a quarterback that can create and wide receivers that are going to make plays."

Familiarity with Oregon's scheme dating back to last year's battle should aid the Spartans' confidence, but Adams and Co. won't be denied entirely.  

Fresh off a 61-point outburst against Eastern Washington, Oregon proved it isn't ready to skip a beat even if Adams is still adjusting to life in the Ducks' spread offense. 

A shootout should be in order, but Michigan State gets the slight edge with a more reliable defense and raucous home crowd at its disposal.  


LSU Opens With a Close Win in Starkville 

LSU's Week 1 hype was dampened by a weather-related cancellation against McNeese State, but energy should build at a rapid pace in advance of the Tigers' Week 2 SEC clash with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 

Although Les Miles' squad had to retreat to the locker room while rain and lightning pelted Baton Rouge at a furious pace, his offense will be ready to go for its season opener in enemy territory. 

Buoyed by running back Leonard Fournette, LSU has a chance to impose its will early and often against a Bulldogs defense that's still establishing an identity.

That much was evident in Mississippi State's 34-16 win over Southern Miss last weekend.

"The Golden Eagles gained only 102 yards rushing but were effective at times," the Times-Picayune's Trey Iles wrote. "Running back Ito Smith carried for 69 yards on just eight carries, an 8.6 yard per carry average. LSU running back Leonard Fournette probably can't wait to get to Starkville after seeing Smith run free." 

However, LSU is essentially operating with a fresh face at quarterback, as Brandon Harris gets set to take the reins in a hostile environment without much experience under his belt. 

Harris' first start came last season at Auburn, when he completed 3 of 14 passes for 58 yards while rushing for 36 yards in a 41-7 loss. And without a tuneup against McNeese State to help boost the sophomore's confidence, Harris' play could wind up deciding Saturday's showdown.

Matched up against a seasoned signal-caller like Dak Prescott, who's looking to rattle off a second-straight win against the Tigers, LSU's offense will need to be firing on all cylinders in order to avoid an 0-1 start. 

The task at hand won't be easy, but with a running back who can set the tempo and a defense that finished last season ranked eighth in total defense, LSU is the pick to eke out a close victory. 


Josh Rosen's Heisman Hype Continues to Build

Josh Rosen made his UCLA debut last Saturday against Virginia, but you wouldn't have known it based on the true freshman's domination of the Cavaliers' defense. 

In the 34-16 win, Rosen completed 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns while posting a QBR of 90.8, per ESPN.com

Some picture-perfect ball placement on a second-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Thomas Duarte was the highlight of Rosen's stellar debut: 

Throws like those thrust the 18-year-old into esteemed territory right away, as UCLAFootball's Instagram noted: 

"I did not see a deer in the headlights look with him at all," UCLA head coach Jim Mora told reporters following the win, according to ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura. "I didn’t think that I would, either. I didn’t know how he’d perform, but I didn’t get the feeling that it was going to be too big for him. He was very in the moment -- before the game, [Friday] night, during the game. He’s a mature young man and he handled it well."  

Now Rosen will be tasked with keeping the hype train rolling as the Bruins get set for a road tilt with UNLV (0-1). But if Week 1 was any indication, that shouldn't be an issue.

The Rebels enter Week 2's meeting fresh off a 38-30 loss to Northern Illinois that saw Tony Sanchez's side surrender 545 total yards, including 360 through the air.

If the Huskies approached 400 yards, UCLA's vaunted aerial attack should have no problem topping that number with Rosen ready to drop dimes all over Sin City. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 2 Schedule: Live Stream, TV Coverage for Top-25 Games

The opening week of the new college football season came and went without any major surprises. The upsets were more of the moderate variety, and while that's good news for the top contenders, it's only a matter of time before the first shocker arrives to shake up the rankings.

Perhaps it will happen in Week 2. There's certainly no shortage of chances, with the vast majority of the teams inside the Top 25 taking on unranked foes. Some will undoubtedly end up on upset alert, but the question will be whether any of the underdogs can finish the job.

Let's check out the complete schedule of action for Week 2 along with television and live stream information for each contest. That's followed by a preview of the biggest games.


Top-25 Schedule for Week 2


Preview of Key Games

No. 7 Oregon at No. 5 Michigan State

One year ago, Michigan State held a six-point halftime lead over Oregon in a battle of Top-10 teams. Marcus Mariota and the Ducks responded by outscoring the Spartans 28-3 in the second half en route to an eventual appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Michigan State, on the other hand, suffered one other loss, to eventual national champion Ohio State, and ended up in the Cotton Bowl. It's aiming for bigger goals this season, and quarterback Connor Cook states the loss to Oregon last year is still providing motivation, per Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:

The overarching theme remains much the same. The Spartans defense must slow down the Ducks offense enough to give Cook and Co. a chance to keep pace. The good news for Michigan State is the fact that Oregon gave up 42 points to Eastern Washington in Week 1.

Along with Mark Dantonio's squad seeking revenge, the schedule once again sets up for a long winning streak ahead of a late-season clash with Ohio State. Win this game, and suddenly the outlook for the entire campaign becomes a lot more promising for the Spartans.

Of course, that's much easier said than done against an offensive juggernaut that seemingly didn't miss a beat as Vernon Adams Jr. took over for the NFL-bound Mariota.


No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 23 Tennessee

Oklahoma and Tennessee both opened their respective seasons against MAC opponents. They combined to score 100 points and gained more than 1,100 yards. Now it's time for a game that should give a better gauge of the direction the teams are heading this season.

The biggest concern for the Sooners coming out of the opener was their rush offense. While they moved the ball at will through the air, they averaged just three yards per carry. Getting more consistent contributions on the ground will be essential Saturday and heading toward Big 12 play.

The Volunteers gave up 30 points against Bowling Green, illustrating how much work there's left to do on that side of the ball. In the bigger picture, winning these games is essential for Tennessee and head coach Butch Jones to march back toward the top of the college football, as Brad Crawford of Saturday Down South explained:

Similarly, Oklahoma struggled against elite opponents last season, going 0-4 against ranked teams. So this is truly a game where one of the teams is going to get a much-needed, confidence-boosting win that could spark a winning streak with a pair of navigate schedules on the horizon.


No. 14 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State

Dak Prescott showed why he's in the Heisman Trophy conversation and one of the most vital players in the nation as Mississippi State opened with a 34-16 win over Southern Mississippi. The game was close until the coaching staff opened the playbook and let him loose, both through the air and on the ground.

The dual-threat quarterback threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the team in rushing. Yes, football is a team game, but it's not a stretch to say the Bulldogs will go as far as Prescott can carry the offense this season.

Getting a defense some work before having to face a quarterback of that caliber is ideal. LSU didn't get that luxury after its opener against McNeese State got cancelled due to weather conditions. Les Miles certainly understands the impact, as Shea Dixon of 247Sports noted:

A lot of top teams struggled in the first half of Week 1 before coming alive over the final 30 minutes. Mississippi State must utilize the advantage of having a game under its belt to push the pace against LSU early, trying to gain the edge before the Tigers find their footing.

It's the first of seven games against currently ranked opponents for the Bulldogs. As a sleeper in the SEC, they are going to have a serious impact on the playoff race, one way or another. The intrigue begins on Saturday.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Now Is the Time for Tennessee to Prove the Hype Is Real

Somewhere—lost in the whirlwind of flowery words reserved for media darlings, the star-studded recruiting classes, the excitement of a Week 1 juggernaut offense and the gnashing of teeth over a defense that allowed 30 points to Bowling Green—lie the real Tennessee Volunteers.

Right now, the Vols are a hype-fueled enigma ranked 23rd in the nation by the Associated Press because the college football world doesn't know whether to embrace all that talent or fear the unknown of inexperience.

To twist the line from "Rocky Top," are they half-bear or half-kitty-cat? Ready for prime time or destined to be swept back into the pack of pretenders?

The nation will find out this Saturday night in Neyland Stadium. Everybody will be watching as No. 19 Oklahoma comes to town.

For all the talk surrounding Tennessee, it's time to see if there's any substance or if Vols fans will be clearing their throats to say those four words uttered for much of the past decade: "Wait until next year."

To be completely fair, the season would be far from over if UT slips up against the Sooners at home in front of what surely will be a raucous crowd. The season goals—such as ending long, winless droughts against Florida, Georgia and Alabama and competing for the SEC East—would still be unscathed.

Also, a loss to OU shouldn't do anything to deter the positive upward trajectory of Tennessee under coach Butch Jones, a man who has proven he can recruit with the best of them and turn around a program.

But are the Vols ready to win right now?

A prime-time game against a marquee opponent with a blue-blood name like Oklahoma is an ideal time for Tennessee to prove it belongs. According to Rocky Top Insider, Vols cornerback Cameron Sutton is ready:

Now's the time to show everybody what UT's identity is.

Though UT fans know Jones' Vols want to run a scheme based on quick-tempo offense and pressure-heavy defense, it has never really come to fruition in a big-time win on a national stage.

If it doesn't happen this time, the headlines will fade to black and the Vols will still have to prove to everybody that they can win a meaningful game against a quality opponent.

Considering the work that has been put into reshaping the image of the program and rebuilding the mentality of the players, what would a loss do to their psyche? How much would it affect the more important game against the Gators looming on Sept. 26?

While the Vols can turn right around and beat Florida in Gainesville in two weeks to recapture the excitement, a victory against the Sooners would be monumental.

Not only would it justify all the buzz surrounding Tennessee all offseason, it would stir a fanbase into a frenzy and keep Jones' recruiting machine going.

Lose to the Sooners, and that stage in the Swamp gets a little bit smaller.

So much hype has swirled around Rocky Top all offseason as national media members circled Knoxville, swooping down on a weekly basis to chronicle a team on the rise.

Is quarterback Joshua Dobbs really the potential next face of a storied conference because of his talent on the field and intelligence off it? Now's the opportunity for him to beat his first ranked opponent and rise to that next level it takes to make plays with an important game on the line.

Are Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara really one of the SEC's best running back tandems, as they claim they're striving to be? Though the early returns (267 combined rushing yards) from that Bowling Green game suggest they can be special, everybody will see what transpires against a rugged Sooners defense that will pose a tougher test.

The Vols' perceived two biggest strengths—their pass rush and veteran-laden secondary—were anything but that in a shaky opener against Bowling Green. Was that an aberration or is this a worry moving forward?

This week will go a long way toward answering all of those questions and therefore determining UT's immediate fate as a contender or pretender.

Tennessee is a product of the hype machine, and now everybody will see if it's actually warranted or if the tender Vols need to marinate just a little longer.

There's no denying their immense talent and potential. They've got a stable of playmakers that anybody would feel fortunate to trot onto the field. Back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes have outfitted Jones' arsenal with enough weapons to keep opponents worried.

But the program rebuild is nowhere near complete, and the Vols are about to take on an entrenched coach in Bob Stoops whom Jones hailed during Monday's press conference as a man who has built a "top-five program."

Right now, Tennessee just has a top-five recruiting class.

Turning the latter into the former can only happen by winning games like Saturday's.

Tennessee fans everywhere are hungry for a champion, and the expectations are that now in the third year of Jones' tenure, the time has come to win some important games. Think it's not going to be rowdy? According to 247Sports' Wes Rucker, UT students set a record for ticket requests.

The third-year coach loves to speak to his players about the expectations at Tennessee and embracing them. 

The Oklahoma game may not be the biggest of the season, but the outcome certainly could dictate how big the others will be.

Moral-victory time is over. This is a prime opportunity to get a real one and announce to the rest of the college football world that Tennessee is back.


All stats gathered from UTSports.com unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Furman vs. Virginia Tech: Complete Game Preview

The Virginia Tech Hokies kicked off the 2015 season in disappointing fashion on Monday, losing to No. 1 Ohio State, 42-24, in Blacksburg. But the Hokies' biggest loss was not on the scoreboard—it was losing starting quarterback Michael Brewer to a broken collarbone for an estimated four to eight weeks, according to Chip Patterson of CBS Sports.

The Hokies don't have a lot of time to regroup as Furman comes to town on Saturday, giving Tech an extremely short week to get backup quarterback Brenden Motley up to speed.

Yes, it's only Furman, but Virginia Tech cannot afford to overlook anyone. Remember 2010?

It was in 2010 when the Hokies—coming off a heartbreaking Monday night loss to Boise State—hosted James Madison and lost to the Dukes in one of the more embarrassing moments in Virginia Tech history. 

Furman, like JMU, is an FCS school. However, the difference between the two is JMU is a perennial contender in the FCS. Furman is not. 

  • When: Saturday, September 12
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • TV: ESPN3
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
  • Spread: Presently, there is no spread for this game, according to Odds Shark.

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Issac Gross Injury: Updates on Ole Miss DT's Neck and Return

Ole Miss Rebels defensive tackle Issac Gross will miss the remainder of the 2015 college football season with a neck injury.

Continue for updates.

Gross Played with Injury in Season Opener Tuesday, Sept. 8

Scout.com's Chuck Rounsaville reported how Gross put himself in harm's way during this past Saturday's 76-3 victory over Tennessee-Martin. Rounsaville also heard that Peyton Manning's neck-injury situation is a viable comparison to what Gross is going through.

Although Manning has been able to make a full recovery and continue playing football from his own neck problems, he did undergo four medical procedures to come back. Neal McCready of Rivals.com reported Gross will redshirt and return for a fifth year in 2016.    

Bennett Hipp, formerly of the Daily Mississippian, passed along one standout evaluation of Gross' talent:

With a full year to recover, the hope is Gross can return to finish off his college career in proper fashion. The senior appeared in 12 games last season and totaled 37 tackles, including eight for loss, per cfbstats.com.

The Rebels have strong depth on the interior defensive line, headed by supreme athlete Robert Nkemdiche and junior college transfer D.J. Jones. Woodrow Hamilton is 319 pounds and can clog lanes well in his own right, but losing Gross is nevertheless a considerable blow to Ole Miss' rotation.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Charlie Strong Revokes OC Shawn Watson's Play-Calling Duties: Details, Reaction

Historically great programs like the Texas Longhorns are not supposed to lose by 35 points in embarrassing fashion in the season opener, so head coach Charlie Strong wasted little time making a change.

Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman said Strong stripped offensive coordinator Shawn Watson of the play-calling duties and handed them to wide receivers coach Jay Norvell following the 38-3 loss to Notre Dame. 

Davis also passed along some of Strong’s quotes on the switch:    

It is important to note the change does not mean the end of Watson’s tenure at Texas. Max Olson of ESPN.com noted Strong said Watson will “without a doubt” stay on the staff for the rest of the season.

While the defense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain either during the 35-point loss, the Texas offense looked lost on the field. It managed a meager 163 total yards (compared to Notre Dame’s 527), and quarterback Tyrone Swoopes finished a dismal 7-of-22 passing for 93 yards. It also didn’t help that no individual ball-carrier tallied more than 40 rushing yards.

The showing was a continuation of what Longhorns fans saw in 2014, when the team finished 105th in the nation in total offense and 108th in scoring offense. Those numbers are a far cry from the days of Vince Young and Colt McCoy. 

Even with the struggles of a season ago, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the switch was somewhat hasty after a loss in a hostile environment against one of the best teams in the country:

Perhaps Strong was thinking about his own future if the offense continues to struggle, especially after finishing 6-7 in 2014. Matt Hinton of Grantland suggested as much:

The Longhorns still face notable contests against California, Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor this season. If the transfer of play-calling duties does not produce more favorable results than what we saw Saturday for the Texas offense moving forward, the 6-7 finish and bowl appearance from a year ago may not even be in reach in 2015.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USF vs. Florida State Complete Game Preview

Florida State had to wait a little longer than expected in order to record its season-opening rout of Texas State on Saturday thanks to inclement weather.

But barring another thunderstorm, the Seminoles will get to take care of business early—quite early—in Week 2.

FSU has a pre-noon kickoff this Saturday for its matchup with in-state foe USF, which is coming off a 51-3 beatdown of Florida A&M. Head coach Willie Taggart's team went 4-8 last season but kept things reasonably close with Power Five opponents Maryland and Wisconsin. (The Bulls' lone ACC foe, N.C. State, smashed them by a score of 49-17.)

The Seminoles are coming off a fantastic offensive showcase featuring new starting quarterback Everett Golson. Despite some frustrating mistakes in other areas, head coach Jimbo Fisher's younger squad cruised to a comfortable victory in Week 1 of the new campaign.

Before the complete breakdown of this Sunshine State showdown between the Bulls and the Seminoles, here is the basic information for Saturday's matchup:

Date: Saturday, September 12

Time: 11:30 a.m. ET

Location: Tallahassee, Florida (Doak Campbell Stadium)


Radio: Seminole IMG Sports Network

Line: Florida State -29, according to Odds Shark

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College Football Week 2 Predictions: Picking Top 25 Games Against the Spread

This is why you need to shop the number.

I started the the season with a solid 11-7 week against the spread but could have gone 13-5 if not for Virginia's covering by one point at UCLA and SMU's covering by a half-point against Baylor. Had I wagered real money and taken the Bruins minus-19 and the Bears minus-35.5 without shopping for a better line, my laziness would have cost me revenue.

Of course, it hardly matters for this article, where I play the Westgate Las Vegas line (via Odds Shark) at 11:00 p.m. on Monday evening for every game with a Top 25 team. It's not like I can choose my favorite number. Still, the small margin between covering those games and losing them provides a good lesson for any handicapper.

Every half of every digit counts.

But let's move past that. I'll happily start the year with an 11-7 record, which checks in at 61 percent. Anything over 60, if sustained throughout the season, would be incredible. My personal goal is 57.

Feel free to chime in below with your opinion or with questions about the picks. I'll explain my rationale beneath each game, but of course we can always dive deeper. Just remember to keep it civil, because what's the point of yelling on a comment board?

As always: We are all on the same team here. The line is our only enemy.


Note: Top 25 rankings refer to the Associated Press Poll. All Week 1 spreads via Odds Shark. All historical spread info via TeamRankings.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Power Ranking All 128 Teams for Week 2

The first week of the 2015 college football season had everything we could have asked for. Then again, after waiting nearly nine months for meaningful games after the long offseason, it didn't take much to satiate our hunger.

There were shootouts and defensive struggles, blowouts and last-second wins—even a Hail Mary—and a couple of notable upsets. Put them all together, and you've got the first set of current data that we can use to update our power rankings for the first time this season.

Bleacher Report's power rankings are comprised of an average of five sources: B/R's weekly top 25, the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings and my personal ranking of every school. The top 50 teams are broken down individually, while the rest of the 128 FBS teams are summarized in a few easy-to-digest chunks.

Check out the Week 2 rankings, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section. 

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Why the Entire SEC West Division Should Not Be Ranked in Top 25

One week into the season, and the SEC is already setting records.

The new Associated Press Top 25 was released on Tuesday, and it contains a distinctly Southern flare.

Alabama jumped over TCU to the No. 2 spot behind top-ranked Ohio State, Auburn (No. 6) and Georgia (No. 10) maintained their Top 10 rankings and fresh off a 38-17 thrashing of then-No. 15 Arizona State, Texas A&M jumped from unranked to No. 16.

As Chuck Dunlap of the SEC noted on Twitter, it's a new national record for teams from the same conference being ranked in the AP Top 25.

Is it impressive that the entire SEC West is ranked?


It's the most balanced division in college football, and as I wrote on Monday, several of the top contenders in the West played well in big out-of-conference games that help re-establish the conference's dominance. That doesn't mean that all of its teams are worthy of top 25 slots?

No. At least, not yet.

What exactly has LSU done to earn a spot?

It finished 8-5 a year ago, had its game vs. McNeese State rained out, still has major questions at quarterback, downgraded from John Chavis to Kevin Steele at defensive coordinator, lost its two best defensive ends and is slowly making the switch from the 4-3 to more of a hybrid scheme that could veer more toward a 3-4 eventually once Steele and new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron establish its identity.

Those are the exact reasons I didn't have the Tigers on my ballot on the preseason B/R Top 25 or in the Week 2 edition.

Now it has to go on the road into a hostile environment against Mississippi State with all of those questions in its first full game of the season.

What about Mississippi State?

Mississippi State struggled mightily with Southern Miss late Saturday night in Hattiesburg. Sure, the 34-16 score doesn't truly indicate how close the game was. But the Bulldogs gave up 311 passing yards, never really got their offense going and needed a seven-yard touchdown run from Dak Prescott with 5:55 to play to truly put the game away.

Is that Top 25 worthy?

Over a BYU team that won on the road over Nebraska or a West Virginia team that shut out a pretty good Georgia Southern team?


This is a team that won 10 games last year, boasts a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Dak Prescott and clearly has a system that works under head coach Dan Mullen. Those same Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the division by the assembled members of the media at SEC media days in Hoover, Alabama, in July due in large part to the absence of returning starters along the offensive line and in the defensive front seven.

Those questions still remain after opening night, and another big one presented itself in the secondary against a Golden Eagle team that isn't exactly a juggernaut.

Don't confuse "balance" with "quality."

The teams at the bottom of the division are still good but shouldn't get a bump simply because they play in a "balanced" division.

Others did more on opening weekend to prove their worth like BYU and West Virginia and should be recognized for their work.

Mississippi State and LSU will square off Saturday night in Starkville in a matchup that is even more intriguing now thanks to the mystery of LSU, Mother Nature and Mississippi State's issues in Week 1. The loser of that game should drop out of the Top 25.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama vs. Middle Tennessee Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s the return of the McCarron family to Bryant-Denny Stadium, although this time they’ll be excused for wearing blue instead of crimson.

Corey McCarron, the former University of Alabama walk-on and younger brother of three-year starting quarterback AJ McCarron, is expected to be on the visiting sideline with Middle Tennessee against the No. 2 Crimson Tide.

McCarron, who transferred after graduating in the spring, is a fullback for the Blue Raiders, and did play in last week’s season opener against Jackson State, a 70-14.victory.

Middle Tennessee will also bring 16 returning offensive and defensive starters.

Alabama is 2-0 in the series, having last won 26-7 in 2005. The last time the Blue Raiders faced a Nick Saban-coached team was when he was at LSU in 2001. The final score was 30-14. 

Here’s everything you need to know for Alabama’s home opener:


Date: Saturday, September 12 

Time: 3:00 p.m. CT

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Blue Raider Sports Properties

Spread: Alabama 34½, according to OddsShark.com.

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Stock Watch for Top 10 Undecided 2016 5-Star Recruits

The 2015 football season is underway across America as high school programs aim for early success. Top prospects are paramount in those efforts while working to validate widespread recruiting attention.

This senior class of standouts is suddenly just five months away from signing national letters of intent, and several players will arrive at college campuses in January as early enrollees. We focus our attention on 10 uncommitted athletes who sit atop 247Sports composite rankings, gauging their development based on summer-camp assessment and initial senior-season progress.

Here's a look at this collection of elite recruits, including many who continue to provide glimpses at eventual collegiate stardom.


Prospects listed in order of composite rankings.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2015: Hits and Misses from Week 2 Polls

After five incredibly rewarding days, Week 1 of the 2015 college football season is finally in the books. It's time to stop going off preseason narratives and start judging teams based on what they've done on the field. 

In other words, it's time to stop overreacting to polls. 

Oh, who are we kidding? Of course there are going to be overreactions. In fact, given the narrow scope of the season, it's only natural to overreact to what we've seen thus far. The more important point is to keep those opinions malleable. 

With that in mind, we're going to put our two cents in regarding the latest rankings from the USA Today Amway Coaches Poll and the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Which teams were appropriately ranked? Which ones did pollsters miss the mark on? Which ones deserved to fall out of the polls? Which ones should have been included? We provide some answers in the following slides based on Week 1 results. 

Begin Slideshow