Feed aggregator

Rutgers vs. Nebraska: Live Score and Highlights

After nearly a month on the road, Bo Pelini and No. 16 Nebraska (6-1) finally return to Memorial Stadium for a matchup against Big Ten newcomer Rutgers (5-2) Saturday afternoon.

With one loss already, the Cornhuskers are hoping to keep pace in a cloudy West Division. The Scarlet Knights, however, are just trying to keep their head above water as they get acclimated to life in the Big Ten.

The game is set to kick off at noon ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

We’ll be watching the matchup, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas vs. Kansas State: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats host the Texas Longhorns in a Big 12 Conference matchup set for a noon ET kickoff at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Texas (3-4, 2-2 Big 12) is teetering on the brink of missing bowl season since it plays two more ranked programs, but a win today helps the Longhorns salvage their frustrating campaign.

Kansas State, led by quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett, hopes to remain the lone undefeated team in conference play.

ESPN will carry the clash. Bleacher Report will provide live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowl Predictions 2014: Updated Projections Before Saturday's Week 9 Games

If you thought the stretch run of BCS seasons were exciting in college football, wait until the final month of the 2014 campaign.

Teams and conferences are vying for superiority with four spots on the line instead of two, and historical underdogs like Ole Miss and Mississippi State are trying to upend the bluebloods like Florida State and Alabama.

With that in mind, here is a look at some updated playoff projections before a full slate of Week 9 games on tap for Saturday.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: Florida State vs. Ole Miss

Rose Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama  

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal winners)

 

Breakdown 

You can argue the offensive pass interference call against Notre Dame until you are blue in the face, but it doesn't change the fact that Florida State got the win in a nail-biter against the Fighting Irish.

With close calls against Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina State in the rearview mirror, none of the top teams have a clearer path to an undefeated season than the Seminoles. College GameDay reiterated as much:

Florida State’s remaining regular-season games are against Virginia, Miami, Boston College and Florida.

On paper, none of those teams are remotely talented enough to compete with defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and the rest of the Seminoles. The reigning national champs are going undefeated, and that will be more than enough to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff.

It may also be time for the rest of the country to come to grips with the reality that two SEC teams are getting in.

The SEC champion will certainly be one of the four, especially if that team comes from the loaded SEC West. The thought here is that Ole Miss earns that designation because it already has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Alabama in its back pocket and gets Auburn and Mississippi State at home.

The Tigers have to go to Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, which is an absolutely daunting road schedule to say the least, and Mississippi State has to go to Alabama and Ole Miss.

While the Rebels will benefit from the home schedule, so will the Crimson Tide. As mentioned, they get the Tigers and Bulldogs at home, and an 11-1 finish for a national power like Alabama that has as much equity built up as any program in the country will get Nick Saban’s team into the College Football Playoff.

Saban suggested that his team still had a chance after the Ole Miss loss, via Andrew Gribble of Al.com, "Every goal that we have as a team is still in front of us. We must improve and respond the right way to losing."

That leaves the fourth spot, which is truly the one that is wide-open.

A number of one-loss teams are still remaining, and any of them could play their way there.

The thought here is that the Pac-12 cannibalizes itself, especially in the South division. Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, USC and UCLA will all get each other to at least two losses each (the Bruins and Trojans are already there), and the North division winner will also have to deal with the South champ.

The Big 12 is also in the race, with TCU, Baylor and Kansas State all with one loss. However, the Horned Frogs still go to West Virginia and play Kansas State; Kansas State plays Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and West Virginia; and Baylor has Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

Much like the Pac-12, these Big 12 teams will all beat each other up, and each will end with at least two losses. What’s more, no Big 12 championship game could come into play if a number of teams are contending for one spot and a positive national perception.

That leaves Notre Dame and the Big Ten.

The Fighting Irish will figure out how tough the Pac-12 South is this year with trips to Arizona State and USC down the stretch. One of those games will end in a loss.

As for the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan State are the only two teams with realistic playoff hopes. The eventual conference title and a potential postseason spot will be on the line when they face off in East Lansing.

While the Buckeyes look like a completely different team than they did in September as the young stars develop into legitimate weapons, Michigan State will win at home under the lights. The Spartans defense will pose a problem for J.T. Barrett and company, and the home-field advantage will prove to be the difference in a tightly contested battle. 

With a single loss at Oregon on the season, Michigan State will claim that final College Football Playoff spot.

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 9 Standings

Remember in school when you had one last cram session with some cliff notes the morning of the test? That is what we are doing here with the Top 25 polls in college football.

There is a full slate of games on tap for Week 9, so make sure you know where everyone stands in the rankings. After all, if you are going to argue with your friends when you are watching the games today about who belongs in the College Football Playoff, you need to understand the overall picture.

With that in mind, here is a final overview of the Top 25 rankings (the Bleacher Report poll can be found here) before we dig into a preview of a potential Saturday upset.

 

Potential Upset to Watch: Arizona State at Washington

Those college football fans who stay up into the wee hours of the morning every Saturday (technically, Sunday) have not been disappointed this year because the Pac-12 is the gift that keeps on giving.

Among the late-night finishes already was a heartbreaking Arizona loss to USC after a missed field goal at the end, an Arizona State Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat USC, a 60-59 shootout between California and Washington State and a 59-56 double-overtime shootout between California and Colorado.

Arizona State is ranked No. 14 in both the Associated Press and Amway Polls and will try to avoid the upset bug in a potentially tricky trip to Washington.

It is important for the Sun Devils to not overlook this one because there are more important things down the line. The defending Pac-12 South champions are in the thick of a tight race with USC, Utah and Arizona and still have to play the Wildcats, Utes and Notre Dame.

Although the tilt with the Fighting Irish doesn’t count in the conference standings, it represents a golden opportunity to make a statement to the selection committee with the group of one-loss teams still hanging around in the playoff race.

Washington is 5-2 in head coach Chris Petersen’s first year, but it lost to Stanford and Oregon and has wins against lackluster competition.

Still, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham compared the Huskies favorably to his last opponent, Stanford, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, "We think it's a very similar game to last week. This is a very, very explosive defensive football team. You look at their ability to rush the passer, they're probably the best we've played to this point." 

If Arizona State is worried about that pass rush, it will have to prepare for quarterback Taylor Kelly, who could return to the field for the first time since he injured his foot on Sept. 13. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see some split-duties at quarterback after three impressive performances from Mike Bercovici, but Kelly did throw for 271 yards, run for 84 yards and score four touchdowns against Washington last year in a 53-24 win.

Doug Haller of azcentral sports believes Kelly is the right quarterback for the job:

This is Kelly's team. More important, Mike Norvell's offense -- at least this season -- works best with a dual-threat behind center. I sat with Norvell over the summer and watched film. It was pretty obvious from the first few plays: When defenses have to account for Kelly - whether though the zone-read or as a runner extending plays -- more one-on-one opportunities are available on the perimeter. This benefits everyone.

The Sun Devils boast an explosive offense and are 11th nationally in passing yards per game at 324. They put up points on Washington last year and will do it again on Saturday night.

The question is whether the Huskies, who have struggled to move the ball against better competition, will be able to keep up on the scoreboard. They are 107th in the country in passing yards per game at 181.4 and 55th in rushing yards per game at 183.1. 

The Sun Devils would be wise to counter with plenty of blitzes, as this graphic, via ESPN Stats & Information, indicates:

Ultimately, the Sun Devils are the more talented team with much more to play for in this one. The reason this is a potential upset, though, is the possible overlook factor as Arizona State gets ready for more marquee showdowns later in the schedule.

What’s more, there should be a raucous Washington crowd underneath the lights in Seattle, which will make life difficult for Kelly, who has not played since mid-September.

Thanks to those factors, this one will stay close for a while, but Arizona State will make enough big plays in the second half to come away with a comfortable win. 

Prediction: Arizona State 34, Washington 21

 

Follow me on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Marcus Mariota and the Ducks Offense Avoid Another Stanford Shutdown?

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Four hours is how long it took for the Oregon Ducks to make their latest bid for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. 

The Ducks (7-1, 4-1) took care of Cal (4-4, 2-4) by the score of 59-41; however, there’s no time to enjoy this one as the Ducks must now turn their attention to their Achilles’ heel: Stanford.

With only four days until the College Football Playoff committee releases its first rankings, the Ducks knew they had to make a statement on Friday night under the lights at Levi’s Stadium. The Ducks certainly made a statement offensively, but questions remain about a Ducks’ defense that was suspect against Cal after consecutive impressive performances against UCLA and Washington.

The good news for the Ducks is that this performance against Cal, which was at times impressive and at other times sleepy, won’t hurt them at all in the eyes of the committee.

What the Ducks really need to do to ensure themselves of a spot in the playoff is win out. That begins with taking down Stanford on Nov. 1. The Ducks should be treating that game as if it is their national championship.

The past two seasons the Ducks have come into the Stanford game riding high with an undefeated record. Both times they’ve walked away battered, bruised and without a shot at a title.

So will this year be any different? Can Marcus Mariota and the Ducks avoid another devastating loss to the Cardinal?

The answer is yes. However, they’re going to have to play a much better game on both sides of the ball than they did against the Cal Bears.

 

Can Mariota finally beat Stanford’s D? 

There’s no doubt that Oregon’s offense is clicking at the right time of the season. Their offensive line is healthy, their playmakers are making plays and Marcus Mariota looks as dangerous as ever. In their last three games—against UCLA, Washington and Cal—the Ducks have averaged 48.7 points. In their first two conference games, with a deteriorated offensive line, the Ducks averaged only 31 points per game. The “blur” offense is back.

Despite the fact that Mariota threw his first interception of the season—in the red zone, no less—he had another incredible day and repeatedly destroyed Cal’s weak pass defense. On the night, Mariota was 18-of-30 for 326 yards and five touchdowns. The Ducks’ quarterback also added six carries for 36 yards.

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said Mariota made some mistakes tonight and quipped that Mariota still has another year at Oregon. “He had a couple of mistakes, which is almost funny because you expect him to be perfect. Marcus is such a stud and it’s great that he has another year-and-a-half left.”

While Oregon running back Thomas Tyner didn’t make the trip, the Ducks’ running game worked just fine against a suspect Cal defense. True freshman running back Royce Freeman had 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts—his third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. Byron Marshall, who led the Ducks with 1,038 yards last season, had four receptions for 133 yards—including a touchdown—and also ran the ball seven times for 57 yards. In total, Oregon rushed the ball 39 times for 234 yards.

Oregon also finally got a boost from its special teams—something the Ducks have been looking for all season. With the Ducks up 10 in the second quarter the Oregon defense forced a punt (success!) and freshman sensation Charles Nelson did his best De’Anthony Thomas impression. Nelson weaved his way 58-yards for a touchdown and gave the Ducks a 17-point lead. It proved to be a pivotal moment.

We’ve come to expect this sort of performance from the Ducks. They scored quickly and in a variety of ways. However, what we haven’t expected are the offensive flameouts that have occurred over the past two seasons against Stanford.

Oregon has failed to score more than 20 points in either game against Stanford over the past two seasons and has not been able to produce more than 405 yards of offense. Quite simply, Stanford’s defense has dominated Oregon’s offense.

Oregon has shot itself in the foot each of the past two years against Stanford.

The question remains: Can Marcus Mariota and the Ducks survive Stanford by outplaying and outwitting them on the offensive side of the ball?

Mariota and company have the requisite skills and schemes to break a Stanford defense that is ranked No. 2 in the nation. Heck, the Ducks put up 46 points against Michigan State in Eugene and the Spartans are ranked No. 9 in the nation in total defense.

It’s a familiar term in Eugene: “Just Do It.”

It’s time for the Ducks to show up against the Stanford D and prove they are the offensive juggernaut we all think they are.

 

Where’s the Defense?

While Oregon’s offense needs to stay focused, it’s Oregon’s defense that may end up costing the Ducks a shot at a national title in 2014.

The Ducks defense clearly doesn’t understand the idea of “bend but don’t break.” Oregon’s defense didn’t necessarily contribute to the victory as much as they were just broken less often than the Bears.

Against Cal the Ducks allowed 560 yards of offense and 41 points. They were once again sliced up against the pass—allowing Cal quarterback Jared Goff to throw for 360 yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks run defense wasn’t much better. The Bears gained 193 yards on 38 carries—an average of 5.1 yards per carry—and scored four touchdowns on the ground.

Oregon’s defense clearly struggled for parts of the game, however, Helfrich indicated that he thought his defense was really solid at times. “Good in spurts. Really good at times” said Helfrich of his defense. “Our whole thing going into this game as that they were going to make some yards. They made some spectacular plays throwing it”.

While the Bears offense isn’t easy to prepare for, especially on a short week, the Ducks defense had been performing better as of late. After allowing 31 points per game in their first two conference games against Arizona and Washington State, the Ducks defense had only allowed 25 points per game against UCLA and Washington and about half of those points came after the game was well in hand.

We knew Cal was going to throw the ball against Oregon. That’s not a concern as the Ducks turn their attention to Stanford. In their past two meetings, the Cardinal have averaged 157 yards passing. This season, Stanford is ranked No. 63 in the country in passing offense. Stanford has only gained 235 yards per game through the air.

However, Oregon’s rushing defense should be a concern. Stanford has dominated Oregon on the ground over the past two years. In fact, Stanford has gained 474 rushing yards against the Ducks in their past two games. Conversely, the Ducks have only gained 274.

While Stanford is currently ranked No. 92 in rushing offense, they are gaining 4.29 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Oregon was ranked No. 75 in the country in rushing defense heading into the Cal game and allowed 193 yards. That ranking is heading in the wrong direction.

The Ducks need to shut down Stanford’s running game first and foremost. If they can do that and force Kevin Hogan to beat them with the pass, they should be able to come away with their biggest victory of the season.

Oregon has eight days to prepare for Stanford. The Cardinal have struggled mightily on offense this season but have dominated the Ducks on both sides of the ball over the past two seasons.

Something’s got to give if the Ducks are to finally slay the dragon. Will it be Mariota finally getting over the Stanford hump and making a case for the Heisman? Could it be Royce Freeman’s ferocious running that gets the job done? Maybe Stanford just isn’t the same team it was over the past two seasons?

When it comes to Stanford all the records go out the window. The only thing the Ducks should be thinking about is “0-2.”

It’s time for the Ducks to put up or shut up.

 

Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise stated. All quotes were acquired firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Marcus Mariota and the Ducks Offense Avoid Another Stanford Shutdown?

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Four hours is how long it took for the Oregon Ducks to make their latest bid for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Oregon vs. Cal: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

Marcus Mariota and No. 6 University of Oregon (7-1) took care of business in Levi's Stadium Friday night, overwhelming the University of California (4-4) offensively in a 59-41 shootout.

The Ducks piled up 590 total yards of offense, but they also surrendered 560 to the Golden Bears. Mark Helfrich's squad is certainly in the College Football Playoff conversation, but the defense is emerging as a legitimate concern with each passing week.

How did Oregon grade out from its 18-point victory?

Oregon Ducks Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Mariota threw his first interception of the season when one of his passes was tipped and picked in the end zone, but that was the lone blemish from an outstanding performance for the Heisman Trophy candidate. He finished with 326 passing yards, completing 18 of 30 passes to complement five touchdown passes. Byron Marshall had a big night, recording four catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. 

Run Offense: Like his quarterback, running back Royce Freeman committed a costly turnover late in the second quarter when he was stripped on a short run. Outside of that, though, the freshman was fantastic, pacing a rushing offense that finished with 264 total yards. Freeman had 112 yards on 22 carries, averaging 5.1 yards per rush to complement two touchdowns.

Pass Defense: Few teams have had luck stopping Jared Goff and Cal’s high-flying offense. That was no different Friday night when Goff lit up Oregon’s secondary, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns. He spread the wealth, as 10 different receivers hauled in passes against the Ducks.

Run Defense: Cal coach Sonny Dykes added a wrinkle to his run game, having backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer rotate in and mix things up with the zone read. The Golden Bears came into the game with the 105th-ranked rushing offense, but they piled up 193 yards on the Ducks. Cal’s Daniel Lasco broke free multiple times against the Oregon defense and finished with 85 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.

Special Teams: Field-goal kicking has been an adventure for Oregon this season, but Aidan Schneider was called on just once, connecting on a 23-yard attempt in the second quarter. The special teams' play of the game came from Charles Nelson in the second quarter, when he fielded a punt and weaved his way through the Cal defense for a 58-yard touchdown return. Oregon also came up with a fumble recovery when Cal returner Bryce Treggs muffed a punt in the fourth quarter.

Coaching: There isn't much you can criticize the offensive staff about after the Ducks torched the Golden Bears defense. But Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum allowed Cal to eclipse its rushing average by more than 70 yards, failing to adjust to the Golden Bears' misdirection. With the high-powered offenses in the Pac-12, the Ducks will need to figure things out defensively to maintain their status as a legitimate playoff contender.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon vs. Cal: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

Marcus Mariota and No. 6 University of Oregon (7-1) took care of business in Levi's Stadium Friday night, overwhelming the University of California (4-4) offensively in a 59-41 shootout...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Oregon vs. Cal: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks overcame a sluggish first quarter to knock off the California Golden Bears, 59-41, on Friday night at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

The story of the night was defense—or lack thereof. The two teams combined for 1,152 yards. It was the fourth time this year that Cal has surrendered 50 or more points.

The game's open nature allowed Marcus Mariota to bolster his Heisman Trophy campaign. The junior quarterback went 18-of-30 through the air with 326 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. Mariota added 36 yards on the ground.

In addition to Mariota's strong showing, Oregon had a lot of success with its running game.

Freshman running back Royce Freeman broke the century mark, rushing for 112 yards and two touchdowns. During the game, he set the school record for most yards on the ground for a freshman, per Andy McNamara, assistant athletic director for communication at Oregon:

Junior running back Byron Marshall also had a big game, with most of his damage coming through the air. He led the Ducks in receiving yards, with 133, and a touchdown on four receptions, adding 57 yards on the ground.

Although Cal entered the game at 4-3, few expected the game to be a cakewalk for Oregon. The Ducks defense really struggled against Connor Halliday and the Washington State passing attack in a hard-fought 38-31 game back on Sept. 20.

The Golden Bears have the fourth-best passing offense in the country, according to NCAA.com, whereas Oregon ranks 107th in pass defense. Ducks defensive coordinator Don Pellum knew that Friday's game wouldn't come easy with a quarterback like Jared Goff under center for Cal.

"He gets rid of the ball in time, he's not going to let you get to him much," Pellum said of the sophomore QB, per Andrew Greif of The Oregonian. "He reads the field really well does a nice job with pre-snap. When the ball is snapped, he knows where he's going to go with the ball."

Goff wound up with 360 yards and two touchdowns through the air on 32-of-50 passing.

On Cal's first drive of the game, Goff was overshadowed by his backup, freshman Luke Rubenzer. Perhaps taking note of how successful dual-threat QBs have been against Oregon this year, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, used Rubenzer in the Wildcat to devastating effect.

Rubenzer finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run through the heart of the Ducks defense:

Oregon tied the game at 7-7 on the ensuing drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to sophomore wide receiver Dwayne Stanford. The Ducks only needed 2:06 to go 67 yards, exhibiting how quickly they can strike.

Cal didn't back down, however, with freshman running back Vic Enwere finding the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown run to give the Golden Bears a 14-7 lead. Greif felt that the tackling from the Oregon defenders on the play was extremely poor:

Fortunately for the Ducks, Cal's defense had little answer for the Oregon offense. Freshman kick-returner Devon Allen provided a helping hand with a 45-yard return to the Cal 46-yard line, giving the Ducks a short field. Freeman punched it in from four yards out, stumbling backward into the end zone (via Pac-12 Networks):

The offensive fireworks didn't end after the first quarter, with Oregon dropping 17 more unanswered points on the Golden Bears.

Freshman walk-on Aidan Schneider hit a 23-yard field goal to give Oregon its first lead of the game, 17-14. Mariota increased the advantage to 10 points, 24-14, after a nine-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Pharaoh Brown.

Cal stalled on its second drive of the second quarter and punted the ball away. Freshman returner Charles Nelson fielded the punt on his own 42-yard line and delivered an electrifying 58-yard return to pay dirt. Many, including Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, evoked the name De'Anthony Thomas after watching Nelson weave his way through the Cal coverage:

The Golden Bears offense responded in kind, dropping 14 unanswered points to cut the deficit to three points, 31-28. Goff hit junior wide receiver Stephen Anderson for Cal's first score, and then junior running back capitalized on a Freeman fumble to score on a one-yard touchdown run.

Oregon turned the ball over on its next drive as well, with Mariota throwing his first interception of the 2014 season. CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli joked that Mariota threw his Heisman hopes out the window with the pick:

Cal couldn't make the most of the opportunity, going three and out and handing the ball back to the Oregon offense.

The Ducks wasted little time, using 30 seconds to take a 10-point lead, 38-28, with 41 seconds left until halftime. Mariota and Stanford connected in the end zone for the second time on the score.

The second half began as the first ended, with Mariota grabbing his fourth passing touchdown of the night. He found Marshall for a 54-yard pitch-and-catch on a 3rd-and-21. Oregon tweeted out an infographic for the scoring drive:

The Ducks' lead grew to 24 points, 52-28, in the third quarter, with Freeman picking up his second rushing touchdown of the game.

Goff found junior wideout Maurice Harris in the end zone from five yards out to trim the deficit, 52-35, with 3:54 left in the third. But Cal's comeback was thwarted for good in the fourth quarter after Bryce Treggs muffed a punt on his own 21-yard line. Oregon recovered and scored on its first play from scrimmage, effectively finishing off the game:

Rubenzer added a late touchdown with 4:21 to go in the game.

The schedule doesn't get much easier for Cal over the next few weeks. The Golden Bears get Oregon State and No. 20 USC on the road in their next two games and a home game against Stanford awaits immediately after that.

Oregon plays the Cardinal next week, which has been a tricky game for the Ducks in the past. They also get No. 19 Utah on Nov. 8. If Oregon's going to trip up between now and the Pac-12 Championship Game, it will likely be in one of those two matchups.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BYU vs. Boise State: Game Grades, Analysis for Cougars and Broncos

The Boise State Broncos have never lost at home on a Friday night, and that didn't change in a 55-30 drubbing of BYU that wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

Boise State dominated on both offense and defense en route to the victory, as you can tell in the below game grades for both teams.

 

Pass Offense: Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick had a career-best day in many capacities, going 24-of-31 with 410 yards, one interception and five total touchdowns—four through the air. He threaded the needle with a couple of deep balls, but it was largely the speed and separation ability of his receivers that ran up those passing totals.

 

Run Offense: Boise State’s fanbase held its collective breath when Jay Ajayi looked injured after conceding a safety, but they exhaled after seeing him return to punishing defenders. He finished with 26 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns, constantly blowing over BYU’s defense. The Cougars stacked the box early to frustrate Ajayi, and it didn’t work one bit.

 

Pass Defense: The holes are still there in Boise State’s secondary, but they’re a lot less glaring when the defensive line is generating pressure. The Broncos’ front was treacherous on Friday, chasing Christian Stewart around all game long. They slipped up once and it was a big one—an 81-yard touchdown—but it was an otherwise strong outing from the unit. 

 

Run Defense: BYU’s offensive success was few and far between, but Jamaal Williams’ rushing success was one bright spot. He had a number of punishing runs including a 17-yard touchdown, but Boise State held him in check other than that. After grabbing an early lead, BYU didn’t run the ball much, anyway.

 

Special Teams: Boise State punter Sean Wale wasn’t on the field very much early, and that’s a promising sign. The Broncos made the plays when opportunities came up, recovering a botched punt return in the first quarter. Kicker Dan Goodale was perfect on extra points and 2-of-2 in field goals.

 

Coaching: Like they're known to do, Boise State's coaches orchestrated the trickery with a first-quarter pitch-and-pass that went for a touchdown. They constantly drew up pressure to frustrate BYU's passing game, and kept Boise State's offense ahead of the chains.

 

Pass Offense: BYU quarterback Stewart was rarely protected in the pocket and when he was, he struggled to find the mark. He went 23-of-38 for 259 yards, overthrowing a couple of receivers and failing to make plays when the Cougars needed a spark. His 81-yard strike to Colby Pearson seemed to open things up early on, but Boise State’s defense tightened. 

 

Run Offense: Williams was a small glimmer of light in an otherwise paltry performance overall from BYU. He ran 16 times for 70 yards. If the Cougars weren’t down so much in the second half, Williams would have put up even bigger numbers. But it’s no secret that without Taysom Hill around, this rushing offense is a shell of what it used to be.

 

Pass Defense: BYU has hidden its speed deficiency in the secondary against many of its opponents, but not Friday night against the electric Boise State offense. The Cougars’ secondary was gashed for 410 yards through the air, giving up everything from deep balls down the field to screen passes for chunk yardage.

 

Run Defense: After Ajayi's first rush of the game went for 17 yards, his next five went for just seven yards combined. But instead of continuing to bottle up the talented rusher, Ajayi emerged with 26 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Special Teams: BYU's early botched punt return only cost them three points, but it set the tone for a poor special teams day. The Cougars' three punt returns went for just 13 total yards, and Scott Arellano punted eight times—never a good thing. 

 

Coaching: Head coach Bronco Mendenhall put his trust in his defense against the odds before the first half ended and it paid off with a safety. Other than that, though, BYU's coaching staff rarely put the offense in a position to succeed.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon vs. California: Live Score and Highlights

Oregon 59, Cal 41—Final

Mark Helfrich guided No. 6 Oregon past Cal Friday night, turning in a dominant offensive performance in a 59-41 victory in Levi’s Stadium.

Marcus Mariota built on his budding Heisman Trophy campaign, completing 60 percent of his passes for 326 yards and five touchdowns. He did throw his first interception of the year in the second quarter, but that was the lone blemish in an otherwise brilliant performance.

Cal had success on offense as well. Jared Goff threw for 360 yards and the Golden Bears piled up 560 total yards, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Ducks.

We watched the action and provided live analysis all evening.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon vs. California: Live Score and Highlights

Oregon 59, Cal 41—Final Mark Helfrich guided No. 6 Oregon past Cal Friday night, turning in a dominant offensive performance in a 59-41 victory in Levi’s Stadium...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

BYU vs. Boise State: Live Score and Highlights

BYU's hopes of an unbeaten season have turned to despair following three straight defeats, and the Cougars are simply trying to stop the bleeding Friday night with a trip to face Boise State.

Four straight wins to start 2014 had BYU (4-3) ranked in the Top 25, but defeats to Utah State, UCF and Nevada in a 15-day span changed all of that. In recent weeks, the Cougars have looked nothing like the team that throttled Texas 41-7 on the road.

Boise State (5-2, 3-1 Mountain West) is looking to stay undefeated at home on Friday night after holding off Fresno State on the Broncos' iconic blue turf one Friday ago. 

Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top Recruits Who Will Be Impacted by Result of Ohio State-Penn State Game

Ohio State heads to Happy Valley this weekend for a Saturday night showdown with conference rival Penn State. The Nittany Lions continue to embark on a new era as head coach James Franklin matches up against Urban Meyer for the first time in blue and white.

The matchup has major Big Ten implications, with Penn State attempting to snap a two-game losing streak and Ohio State searching for its fifth straight victory. These programs regularly battle beyond the football field, routinely crossing paths in recruiting endeavors. 

Plenty of prospects will be paying close attention when action kicks off, and several will be in attendance for the matchup. Here's a rundown of key recruits who should be watching with great interest.

Begin Slideshow

College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 9

Week 9 of the 2014 college football season will feature just two matchups between ranked opponents, including No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU and No. 20 USC at No. 19 Utah. 

Ole Miss has been thriving and is in the hunt for a playoff spot, but LSU will hope to give the Rebels trouble with its rushing attack in an always electric Death Valley atmosphere. USC, which has defeated Utah the last three years, is looking to win a difficult road game and keep itself in the Pac-12 title race. 

Besides the two contests consisting of ranked teams, it’s basically highly ranked teams hoping to avoid upsets. Michigan State has had its way with rival Michigan, as it has only lost one game to the Wolverines since 2008 and has not lost at home in the series since 2007. 

Auburn will look to keep itself in the national title picture against Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks, who will be out of the SEC East Division race with a fourth conference loss.

A surging Ohio State team will play a night game at Penn State, where it hopes to avoid any sort of letdown and stay undefeated in Big Ten play.

With highly ranked teams looking to avoid upsets on Saturday, here are the top five games to watch. 

 

Begin Slideshow

NCAA College Football Picks: Week 9 Against the Spread

We’ve reached a point in the year where there is a chill in the air (at least for us Yankees up north). However, the college football season is beginning to heat up.

While there are no games between top-10 teams this weekend, there are some major conference matchups, as well as a couple of traditional powerhouses looking to salvage a season against ranked squads.

Let's check out the biggest games with lines courtesy of CoopersPick.com:

 

No. 3 Ole Miss vs. No. 24 LSU

Betting Odds: Ole Miss -3

LSU’s only losses this season have come against Mississippi State and Auburn, and it will have to lean on its eighth-ranked defense to win this game.

Ole Miss has the nation’s top-ranked defense and it already has conference wins over Alabama and Texas A&M this season. 

Pick Against the Spread: Ole Miss is rolling and will continue its streak winning and covering against LSU.

 

South Carolina vs. No. 5 Auburn

Betting Odds: Auburn -17

South Carolina is under .500 in SEC play and both of its losses came against unranked teams. Needless to say, it has been a big disappointment this season.

Auburn suffered its first loss of the season last time on the field, but it is coming off a bye week and back at home.

Pick Against the Spread: Auburn will run all over the Gamecocks, winning and covering at home.

 

No. 14 Arizona State vs. Washington

Betting Odds: Pick

Arizona State is coming off a huge win over a ranked Stanford team and quarterback Mike Bercovici leads a passing attack that ranks 11th in the nation.

Washington lost badly last week against Oregon, but its only two losses have come against top-20 teams.

Pick Against the Spread: ASU will beat Washington this week even up in its house.

 

No. 20 USC vs. No. 19 Utah

Betting Odds: USC -1.5

USC has won two straight, but is 1-1 facing ranked teams this season. The Trojans' balanced offense and respectable defense will be facing a Utah team that has a solid rushing attack and good defense as well.

In other words, it should be a very competitive matchup.

Pick Against the Spread: Take USC in this one even on the road, as its offense will carry the team to the win.

 

Michigan vs. No. 8 Michigan State

Betting Odds: Michigan State -16.5

Michigan is under .500, but at least the Wolverines recently snapped a three-game skid. Still, they have really struggled on offense and need to play good defense to score a huge upset over Michigan State.

MSU has not lost since its second game, which was against Oregon. Five straight wins later, it now boasts the nation’s third-highest scoring offense. 

Pick Against the Spread: With the offense Michigan has, it will get crushed in this game, as MSU will easily win and cover at home.

 

Texas vs. No. 11 Kansas State

Betting Odds: Kansas State -10

Texas is under .500, but is coming off a shootout win. It's been a tough schedule: Three of its four losses have come facing ranked teams.

Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 that does not have a conference loss and is coming off an impressive win over Oklahoma.

Pick Against the Spread: The Longhorns may not win, but they should cover the 10-point spread.

 

No. 1 Mississippi State vs. Kentucky

Betting Odds: MSU -14

The Rebels are the top-ranked team in the nation for a reason: They have now beaten three top-10 teams in a row. UK was playing well and had wins over South Carolina and Vanderbilt before getting crushed in its last game.

Pick Against the Spread: The Bulldogs are for real, and last week showed UK is not, getting drubbed at the hands of LSU. Even on the road, Mississippi State will win and cover.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama vs. Tennessee: Keys to Vols Upsetting Crimson Tide

Tennessee will be pining for a season-altering victory when Alabama comes to Knoxville on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2).

No, a win wouldn’t propel the Vols into the SEC title discussion. However, the momentum of a victory over the Tide could last all the way up until the beginning of next season.

In other words: Tennessee’s program really needs this win.

Here’s how it can happen.

 

Worley Must Be Nearly Flawless 

Arguably the best performance by the Vols this season came in the team’s Sept. 27 loss at Georgia, 35-32.

In that game, quarterback Justin Worley had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-35 passing against a talented Bulldogs defense. He made great throw after great throw and looked calm and poised in the pocket. 

That kind of effort will once again be needed.

Earlier this week, the senior’s status for this weekend’s game was up in the air. However, according to Saturday Down South, Worley looks set to go:

Tennessee will hope that remains true, because it may not even be worth attempting to run the ball on Saturday.

After being held to zero total rushing yards on 28 carries against Ole Miss, the road should only get tougher against Alabama’s No. 2-ranked run defense on Saturday. Thus far, the unit has allowed a meager 63.4 yards per game while only conceding two rushing touchdowns.

Furthermore, the one game the Tide did lose—23-17 to Ole Miss on Oct. 4—was won through the air. Quarterback Bo Wallace paced the Rebels, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns.

Worley, or whichever backup quarterback gets the call, will need a similar effort.

 

Make Life Uncomfortable for Sims

It’s no secret that Blake Sims finds life difficult on the road. 

Three times Alabama has played away from home—twice on the road, once on a neutral field. All three times, the team has struggled.

In fact, Sims is pretty much a completely different passer outside of Tuscaloosa: 

If the Vols can get pressure in the backfield, they could help Sims’ struggles continue.

Keep an eye out on defensive end Derek Barnett, who had his breakout game against Ole Miss last weekend. The freshman recorded six tackles (four for loss) and three sacks.

It’s vital for Tennessee to pounce on Sims’ vulnerability.

 

Win the Turnover Battle 

It may sound cliche, but the Vols’ chances of success rest largely on turnovers.

This is an area the team has really struggled with. Tennessee has turned the ball over 13 times over the last five weeks. 

Most recently, the team coughed it up four times in a 34-3 loss at Ole Miss last Saturday.

“Turnovers were the story of the game,” head coach Butch Jones said following the loss, per the Times Free PressPatrick Brown. “When you turn the football over, that gives you zero opportunity to win.”

Fortunately for the Vols, this is an area Alabama struggles with too. Prior to last weekend's blowout win over Texas A&M, the team turned it over eight times in a three-game stretch.

Conversely, the Tide struggle in creating turnovers (nine on the year) while Tennessee ranks No. 31 in the category with 14. 

If the Vols can get a couple of early turnovers, this is a game that the team might be able to steal.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Forget Lane Kiffin, Alabama's Defense Is the True Storyline to Watch vs. Vols

To be clear, "forgetting" Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is no easy task. He is, by nature, unforgettable. People seem to either love or hate him—but mostly just hate him.

Tennessee fans certainly haven't forgotten Kiffin's one-and-done departure from the program following the 2009 season.

Therefore, Alabama's trip to Tennessee on Saturday is as much, if not more so, about the buildup of Kiffin returning to Knoxville as anything else.

What will the fan reaction be to Kiffin? AL.com's Michael Casagrande reports he is expected to call plays from the sideline rather than the press box. In an interview with Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com, Kiffin's mother says she worries for her son's safety:

It's under this backdrop that Kiffin visits Knoxville for what figures to be a hostile return Saturday night. Kiffin's three kids are staying home out of concern that the environment won't be appropriate for them, according to Kiffin's mother and sister. They remember how uneasy the family felt leaving Knoxville in 2010.

"I'm scared to death for his safety," Robin Kiffin said of Saturday's game. "Some people were visiting us last weekend from Tennessee and they said they better not let him on the sideline (where Kiffin coaches at Alabama), they should put him in the press box. I want him to be in the press box."

Lots of former coaches return to their old stomping grounds with another team. Then again, Kiffin isn't like other coaches. He has an uncanny ability to charge others emotionally, for better or worse—usually worse.

However, barring an instance where Tennessee pulls off the upset and rushes the field, Kiffin's safety probably isn't an issue.

In fact, once the game kicks off, Kiffin's presence ceases to become a distraction. Will there be verbal jabs flung his way from the stands? You can bet on that, but you can also bet that Kiffin and Alabama won't care.

In the end, the only thing Tennessee and its fans should care about is ending the team's conference losing streak, regardless of who is on the opposing sideline.

If Tennessee is going to pull off the upset, it needs score a lot of points. In two of their three conference losses—to Georgia and Ole Miss—the Vols have given up at least 30 points. Only a 10-9 loss against Florida was low-scoring.

Thanks to Kiffin, Alabama can light up a scoreboard. The Tide are putting up 36.9 points and 514.6 yards per game, the latter being about 60 more yards per game than a year ago.

Kiffin's offense has been explosive, too, ranking second in the SEC in plays of longer than 10 yards.

Given the way SEC games have gone for Tennessee, Saturday seems less likely to be a defensive game. Offense is going to be important for the Vols.

That brings up a consistent problem for Tennessee: having the time to allow plays to develop. The Vols are one of the worst teams in the nation at giving up tackles for loss and sacks.

Much, if not all, of that has to do with a rotating door at offensive line. As Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News points out, 18 of Tennessee's 30 total sacks have come in the last three games.

Meanwhile, Alabama averages just under three sacks a game and had an effective pass rush with six sacks in a 59-0 blowout over Texas A&M in Week 8.

Suttles discussed this performance:

Alabama’s improved pass rush was never more evident than against the Aggies with Dickson and outside linebackers Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams sustaining good pass rushes.

That’s not including Jonathan Allen, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, among others, who’ve helped establish the line of scrimmage while also getting a good push.

If Tennessee gets behind on second and third downs, that's an open invitation for Alabama to bring pressure.

Kiffin is going to get the headlines and pregame attention. If Tennessee beats Alabama, the story will be about the Vols beating Kiffin. If the game comes down to the wire, it'll be about Tennessee almost beating Kiffin.

However, if the Tide's defense does its job and handles the Vols up front, things may get out of hand early. In that case, very little will be about Kiffin's return to Knoxville.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Todd Gurley May Have Dressed Up as a Pirate and Yelled 'Free Me'

Todd Gurley will be freed or go down with the ship.

The University of Georgia running back continues to serve an indefinite suspension for allegedly receiving money in exchange for autographing memorabilia.

Gurley’s suspension began October 9 and could ostensibly continue through Halloween—a holiday he appears to be preparing for in earnest.

CollegeSpun.com’s Andrew Holleran spotted an image of Gurley in costume. Twitter user @MasterShelbz tweeted that she encountered the SEC’s leading rusher Thursday night wearing a pirate outfit and screaming “Free me!” 

Twitter user @DawgBreed responded in kind with a picture of Gurley decked out like Blackbeard and wielding a bejeweled saber. 

So either Gurley habitually dresses for high-sea robbery in his downtime, or this image was taken recently.

For what it’s worth, @MasterShelbz stands behind her Gurley story and claims it was a life-changing moment. 

Gurley may get his wish sooner than some fans imagined.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach reports that Georgia issued a statement Wednesday claiming the university will apply to the NCAA for Gurley’s reinstatement. The school is convinced the league will respond with a swift ruling in favor of allowing the Heisman candidate back on the field.

“Todd has confirmed his desire to seek reinstatement, and the university fully supports Todd’s request,” the university said in a statement. “The university hopes for and expects a prompt ruling by the NCAA so that Todd, his coaches, and teammates can adequately prepare for our next game.”

The team holds out hope that Gurley will be back and suited up in time to play Florida on November 1. Until then, sail on Lake Chapman at your own risk.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ole Miss Football: Are Rebels on Upset Alert vs. LSU Tigers?

Ole Miss’ perfect season could be in danger when the team travels into Death Valley for a prime-time showdown with LSU on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN).

The No. 3-ranked team in the country, the Rebels have had a lot to be optimistic about this season on both sides of the ball. However, this weekend, the team will be facing a Tiger squad that is pining to regain some respect.

Given that the game will be played at Tiger Stadium—a venue LSU is 61-8 at under head coach Les Miles—it’s safe to say Ole Miss is on upset alert.

 

Gaining Form

After struggling to find their identity over the first six games of the season, the Tigers have looked a lot like the team we’ve come to know in the last two weeks.

More specifically, the rushing attack seems to finally be in a grove. After rushing for 195 yards against Florida on Oct. 11, LSU gashed Kentucky for 303 yards on the ground just last weekend.

Even the defense has been playing better, forcing three turnovers in those two games and limiting the Gators and Wildcats to a combined 523 yards. The unit also held the two to just 7-of-29 on third-down conversions.

This is a Tigers squad that seems to finally be regaining some swagger.

And as USA Today’s Glenn Guilbeau notes, this is a team that earns wins like this on an annual basis: 

Backed by a loud, boisterous home crowd on Saturday night, expect the confidence to only swell.

 

Revenge On the Mind

LSU went into Oxford last October with national title aspirations.

Instead, the team came away battered and bruised, its championship dreams shattered and nursing a defense that had just been embarrassed on the way to conceding 525 yards of total offense. Backed by a last-second field goal, the Rebels won that game 27-24.

It’s a game the Tigers defense hasn’t easily forgotten.

“I still have a bad taste in my mouth,” sophomore safety Rickey Jefferson told The Daily Reveille’sMichael Haarala. “Just because it’s another team in the SEC and it’s Ole Miss, a rivalry for us, so anytime we lose to a team like that in our division it’s a hard loss.”

When LSU has revenge on its mind, the team is usually difficult to stop. Since 2008, the Tigers are 6-0 against opponents not named Alabama that beat them the previous year.

 

Running Up a Storm

As mentioned above, LSU’s rushing attack is playing as well as it has all season long.

Every week, a different running back steps up to the plate.

Last weekend against Kentucky, senior Terrence Magee registered his first 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 127 yards and two scores on only nine carries. The week before that, it was freshman standout Leonard Fournette who assaulted Florida’s defense for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 27 carries.

In all, the Tigers have four different running backs who have rushed for over 240 yards this season and five who have found the end zone three or more times.

Sure, the Rebels boast a formidable run defense, ranking No. 6 in the nation against the run (97.14 yards allowed per game) while only allowing three touchdowns on the ground. However, the unit has only faced two top-40 rushing attacks.

Those two attacks—Louisiana-Lafayette and Alabama—rushed for 193 and 168 yards, respectively.

That has got to be music to the ears of LSU and its No. 30-ranked rushing attack.

 

All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of cfbstats.com and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages