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More Impressive First-Year Coaching Job: Jim Harbaugh or Jim McElwain?

Last winter, two of college football’s best programs went through a tough process at the same time. Florida and Michigan both found themselves badly needing change. Will Muschamp’s leadership had left the Gators stagnant, while the Wolverines had regressed under Brady Hoke’s watch.

It was time to make a change, and both programs did that, firing their head coaches. The programs took different routes with their hires, with Florida plucking Jim McElwain from Colorado State and Michigan waiting until the NFL regular season wrapped to lure prodigal son Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor.

As we hit midseason, it’s clear, at least initially, that both hires were a success. Florida is 5-1 and ranked No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, and Michigan is just behind at No. 15 with a 5-2 mark.

In fact, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told Justin Dacey of MLive.com recently that Harbaugh has righted a "lost" program.

"When he came back and decided to say, 'As a Michigan man, I'm going to bring Michigan back to being who they are—elite and special,'" Herbstreit said." 

Which raises the question: Who’s doing a better coaching job? Let’s take a look. This is an examination of what Harbaugh and McElwain have done, not what’s ahead, given that McElwain’s job could get a lot tougher without starting quarterback Will Grier, who’s serving a one-year NCAA suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test.

Both programs have been extremely competitive, and neither has a “bad” loss. Combined, their three losses came to No. 3 Utah, No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Michigan State, and none by more than seven points. Michigan lost Harbaugh’s debut at Utah, 24-17 and was on the verge of beating the Spartans before a bizarre mishandled punt led to a final-play touchdown and a 27-23 defeat. Florida played LSU off its heels in Baton Rouge before falling 35-28.

While the Utah loss looked poor at the time, it has gained value by the week as the Utes have emerged as a Pac-12 powerhouse. The Michigan State and LSU losses should have similar staying power.

What are these coaches working with? They didn’t exactly inherit empty cupboards. While neither Harbaugh nor McElwain had a top-20 2015 recruiting class, per 247Sports (Florida was No. 21, Michigan No. 37), the classes’ lower rankings can be explained by the turmoil that inevitably surrounds a coaching change.
Let’s look at the previous three classes, as rated by 247Sports. In 2012, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class, and Michigan was No. 6. A year later, Florida had the nation’s No. 3 class again, with the Wolverines right behind at No. 4. In 2014, both teams slipped a bit: Florida was No. 9 and Michigan was No. 20.

Averaged out over three years, Florida’s classes were No. 5.3 nationally. Michigan’s were No. 10. Again, that’s not too shabby, but McElwain had slightly better talent to work with.

Both programs entered with quarterback questions. Florida returned sophomore Treon Harris, who started the final seven games last season, but Grier was the more polished pocket passer. Michigan returned one-time starter Shane Morris, but Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock proved himself a better game manager.

Senior Trip Thurman was the only returning starter on the Gators’ offensive line, and Florida starts a graduate transfer from FCS program Fordham, senior Mason Halter, at right tackle.

Despite those issues, the Gators offense has improved from a year ago. Last fall, the Gators were No. 93 nationally in total offense and No. 104 nationally in pass offense. Now, they’re No. 86 nationally in total offense with a significant improvement in pass offense, ranking No. 49 nationally.

Michigan returned five players with starting experience on the offensive line (which struggled a year ago) but had little experience in the receiving corps, returning just five touchdown catches from 2014. And that offense finished No. 112 nationally, and No. 110 in passing offense.

This fall, the Wolverines have shown some improvement, but not as much as the Gators. With Rudock running the show they are No. 90 nationally in total offense and No. 98 in passing offense, barely in the top 100 nationally.

However, Harbaugh did inherit a strong defense that ranked No. 7 nationally in 2014, and it has been strong again this fall, ranking No. 7 nationally through seven weeks. Muschamp left McElwain a strong defense, and he has largely maintained it. A year ago, the Gators ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense, and they’re No. 22 this season.

Look at all the numbers, and it’s close. Very close. Both programs began the season outside the Top 25, and both are solidly in it now, with an opportunity to win their respective divisions (Florida is in the SEC East driver’s seat, while Michigan remains in contention for the Big Ten East).

Which coach is doing the better job? Florida’s offensive improvement, given the lack of experience on the offensive line, gives McElwain the slightest of edges, at least for now.

Both programs, however, are clearly on the road back to national prominence. Ultimately, the story is far from over.

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Oluwole Betiku Decommits from UCLA: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

A huge class of 2016 recruit put himself back in play Friday as defensive end Oluwole Betiku decommitted from UCLA.  

The Nigeria-born prospect made an official announcement via Twitter, citing a desire to take a deliberate, calculated approach to choosing his school:

According to 247Sports, Betiku is a 5-star prospect who ranks as the No. 11 overall recruit in his class and the top weak-side defensive end.

With a nearly 6'4", 240-pound frame to go along with speed, quickness and power to boot, the Junipero Serra High School (Gardena, California) standout has all of the makings of a future collegiate superstar.

Per Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani, Betiku has big-time aspirations moving forward as he hopes to provide for his family by making it to the NFL: "I came into the game of football just to make a way for my family. Make a way in my life and just to find a good situation. My mom and dad are still in Nigeria. My sister is over there and my brother. I want to be the breadwinner of the family one day. I feel like sports was going to be the way."

With Betiku's recruitment now wide open once again, Tom Loy of 247Sports tabbed Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas A&M as potential landing spots.

UCLA and head coach Jim Mora may not be out of the running despite the decommitment, but the Bruins will have no shortage of competition in their efforts to bring Betiku back into the fold.

Mora has done a great job on the recruiting trail of late as UCLA's Class of 2015 ranks 12th in the nation, according to 247Sports, but Betiku may ultimately be viewed by Bruins fans as the one who got away for many years to come.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 8: Top Sleepers and DraftKings Projections

Saturday is almost here, which means you don't have much longer to set DraftKings lineups for Week 8 of daily fantasy college football.

But don't worry. We've done a little research, too.

Everybody wants to find a couple of sleepers, and the following five players are priced at $5,000 or less. Plugging them into a lineup provides a high-upside, cost-efficient option that allows flexibility.

 

Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse ($5,000)

Baylor's Seth Russell will be an immensely popular play, but his $9,400 price tag likely makes the second quarterback a low-salary guy.

Perhaps the most reliable option will be Eric Dungey, who has scored at least 18.7 DFS points as the Syracuse starter. Last week, he tallied a season-high 26.5 points despite losing two fumbles.

Syracuse hosts Pittsburgh on Saturday, and it's not an outstanding matchup overall. But the two dual-threat quarterbacks the Panthers have played—Iowa's C.J. Beathard and Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas—combined for a total of 498 yards and two touchdowns.

Dungey's ceiling isn't tremendously high, but his floor is appealing.

Projection: 172 pass YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT; 68 rush YDS, 1 TD

 

Raekwon James, RB, Kent State ($4,300)

While Trayion Durham received the first shot at the starting job when Nick Holley went down, a sub-3.0-yard average gave Raekwon James a chance in Week 7—and he didn't waste it.

The freshman running back logged 20 carries for 85 yards, adding eight receptions for 56 yards during a five-point victory over Massachusetts.

Kent State probably can't keep up with Bowling Green's high-powered offense, but that doesn't spell disaster in the slightest. James has proved he's a pass-catching threat, and that'll come in handy when his team is inevitably trailing Bowling Green.

Although he's averaged 12.9 DFS points over the last four weeks, James has yet to score a touchdown. But this week, James will finally reach paydirt.

Projection: 71 rush YDS, 1 TD; 5 REC, 42 YDS

 

Keith Harrington, RB, Washington State ($3,700)

Be careful not to get overly infatuated with Keith Harrington, but he's a weekly double-digit player who can provide salary relief—and he's entertaining, too:

Just once in six games has the running back tallied fewer than 10.5 points. That's mostly because Harrington regularly contributes as a receiver, considering he has 23 catches this season.

What's most intriguing, though, is Washington State will face an Arizona defense that has surrendered 177.4 rushing yards per game and allowed a total of 15 rushing touchdowns.

Harrington should break off a couple of big runs, snag a few passes and find his way into the end zone once during a high-scoring contest.

Projection: 43 rush YDS, 1 TD; 4 REC, 37 YDS

 

Quenton Bundrage, WR, Iowa State ($4,300)

When Baylor steps onto the field, everyone knows what's coming: points, points and more points. But the Bears offense executes so quickly that opponents will have plenty of snaps.

And, more importantly, a team like Iowa State will be forced to throw, throw and throw some more, because Baylor will almost certainly build an early lead.

Allen Lazard is the Cyclones' No. 1 receiver, but Quenton Bundrage can rack up targets. The senior wideout has steadily improved throughout the season, which was an expected development after Bundrage missed all of 2014 due to injury.

Over the last two weeks, he's snagged 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Expect Bundrage to continue his trend on Saturday.

Projection: 7 REC, 91 YDS, 1 TD

 

Canaan Severin, WR, Virginia ($4,100)

Similar to Bundrage and Iowa State, Canaan Severin and Virginia are bound to be trailing—probably right away, too.

The biggest difference, though, is Severin has established himself as the top receiver. Plus, North Carolina's secondary hasn't faced a player of the senior's caliber. Severin has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.

Additionally, UNC is listed as 17.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark. So, the Cavaliers are expected to be playing catch-up for most of the matchup, and Matt Johns really doesn't have options besides Severin and Taquan Mizzell.

Virginia won't win, but Severin will put up solid numbers.

Projection: 6 REC, 102 YDS, 1 TD

Head over to DraftKings and sign up for daily fantasy college football today. Assemble your lineup to participate in contests with big cash prizes.

Follow Bleacher Report CFB and DFS writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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Tennessee Football: 5 Players Volunteers Will Rely on Most vs. Alabama

In order for the Tennessee football team to finally force the big crimson elephant in the room into the loser's column, the Volunteers are going to have to get some monumental individual efforts.

You can't just beat Bama with a pedestrian performance, and after eight consecutive losses to the rival, it's going to take some playmakers emerging with games that will be remembered in the UT record books. That's just the way it goes when you've got a program as sturdy as coach Nick Saban's.

Even so, there doesn't seem to be any fear on Tennessee's sideline.

"Is it going to be a great challenge?” Tennessee coach Butch Jones told ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "Yes, but it's all about being elite. We are working to be an elite football program. … Everything goes into that term 'elite.' Obviously, Alabama is elite, but I know our players are excited and looking forward to a great challenge and opportunity."

The Vols need to take advantage of the decisive edge they have on special teams, meaning Evan Berry, Cameron Sutton or Alvin Kamara needs a huge return (or more) to steal points. 

UT needs to be efficient on offense, keep the ball away from Alabama and sustain drives. Tennessee also has to be opportunistic on defense and force the Crimson Tide into mistakes the way Ole Miss did.

But several players need all-world efforts, too. Let's take a look at who must emerge with some of the biggest games of their lives in order for Tennessee to beat Alabama for the first time since 2006.

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College Football Picks Week 8: Latest Top 25 Odds and Final-Score Predictions

The changes keep sweeping through college football's top-25 rankings as a fresh crop of teams get ready to continue their rise toward the top of the polls. 

Of the seven teams ranked last week that lost, only three of them fell out of the rankings as we take a look at the updated polls headed into Week 8.

I'm not sure how many of you had the likes of Temple, Toledo and Memphis in the top-25 entering Week 8, but sure enough, a trio of less prestigious football schools are making their way up the ranks of college football. 

They look to be in pretty good shape this week, too, as they take on teams with a combined 8-11 record. 

Among the top of the rankings, a pair of top-5 teams went down despite winning. TCU went from No. 3 to No. 4 after defeating Iowa State by 24, and Clemson dropped from No. 5 to No. 6 after beating Boston College by 17. 

They have a chance to regain those lost spots this week, as you can see below the upcoming schedule, latest odds and my predictions for the upcoming games. All odds are courtesy of OddsShark.com

Game of the Week No. 9 Florida State at Georgia Tech

I know what you're thinking. It doesn't look like an attractive matchup on paper. An undefeated Florida State, ranked ninth in the nation, is meeting a Georgia Tech team that has struggled mightily to a 2-5 record. 

After winning their first two games against Alcorn State and Tulane, Georgia Tech has lost five-straight games, four of them to teams currently ranked in the top-25. 

They are reliant on their rushing attack, which averages a little over 285 yards per game. They have three rushers that have over 300 yards on the ground, led by Marcus Marshall, who is averaging over 10 yards per carry this season. 

His presence in the backfield is a welcome sight for Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas, as he spoke with Ken Sugiura of AJC.com.

"It’s fun," said Thomas. "Just a guy who you can hand the ball off to and he can break (big plays). It makes your job easier."

Their flexbone offense features three running backs on the field at the same time, and Georgia Tech runs the ball over 50 times per game. 

Florida State's run defense, which gives up around 110 yards per game, needs to hold Georgia Tech's rushing attack to around that mark if it wants to win comfortably. 

They know they'll be busy, too, as Seminoles cornerback Marquez White told Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

They’re really good at what they do. [They've] got really elusive players. They do a lot of things that you’re not normally used to seeing, but it’s football. [You’ve] gotta be able to adapt and like I said, I’m looking forward to the challenge. Just coming up, just playing physical.

Florida State is going to want to avoid a shootout here. Georgia Tech hasn't scored under 30 points all season, including two games over 60. The Seminoles, on the other hand, have been held under 30 in three of the past four weeks.

If they let Georgia Tech run rampant on Saturday, this is going to be a very close game. It could even be the biggest upset of the week. 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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ESPN College GameDay 2015: Week 8 Location Hosts, TV Schedule and Predictions

The SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 can wait—the marquee game on Week 8 of the college football slate takes place in the Colonial Athletic Association in the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Richmond Spiders take their 5-1 overall record and perfect 3-0 mark in the conference on the road to battle the 7-0 James Madison Dukes for conference supremacy. The winner will be in complete control of the CAA standings and have the inside track for a postseason spot. 

As if there wasn’t already enough at stake, ESPN’s traveling pregame show, College GameDay, decided to set the stage in person. The show shared its decision to head to Harrisonburg:

College GameDay typically hits the road for power conference clashes that directly impact the College Football Playoff race, so this is a deviation from the norm. ESPN’s Sam Ponder, who is part of the show, shared her excitement for the switch:

Here is everything you need to know for the Week 8 version of College GameDay, as well as a prediction for the showdown on the field.

 

ESPN College GameDay: Week 8 Info

Date: Saturday, Oct. 24

Time (ET): 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia

Watch: ESPN  

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction

The presence of College GameDay isn’t the only reason this is such an important battle. The Spiders and Dukes sit atop the CAA standings with undefeated conference records. The last time either program won the outright conference title in the regular season was in 2008, when James Madison took it, and Saturday’s winner will be in firm control of this year’s race.

Richmond holds the 17-15 historical advantage, but the Dukes won the past two meetings, including last year’s 55-20 blowout at Richmond. The battle shifts to James Madison for homecoming this year, and the crowd is planning a “purple out.”

The Spiders may be on the road, but they have plenty of momentum on their side.

They lost at Maryland to start the season but are undefeated since, with the last four wins coming by a combined 101 points. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta threw for a career-high 312 yards in Richmond’s 37-12 victory over Rhode Island in his last game, and wide receiver Reggie Diggs tallied 142 receiving yards.

Lauletta is the leader of the offense with 1,510 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, but the rushing combination of Seth Fisher and Jacobi Green is also dangerous. The two runners combined for 720 rushing yards and 10 scores this season and will test James Madison’s defense Saturday.

Richmond’s offense has been impressive, but it doesn’t hold up against James Madison’s. The Dukes are 7-0 for the first time ever and boast a 48-45 win at SMU on their resume. The other six wins came by a combined 191 points (an average winning margin of 31.83 points a game).

The Dukes don’t just win, they win big. They scored more than 50 points four times already, and their lowest point total was 38 against the Stony Brook Seawolves. They also topped 600 yards of total offense five different times, thanks largely to the presence of quarterback Vad Lee.

Lee was a highly regarded recruit who initially attended Georgia Tech, but he is now the favorite to win the Walter Payton Trophy as the best player in the FCS. Against SMU, he threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 276 more yards and two additional scores.

Matt Walks of ESPN.com described the superstar:

Through seven games this year, they have one of the best and most efficient offenses in college football, regardless of division, and Lee keeps pillaging the record books. In JMU's 48-45 upset win over SMU, he set single-game marks for total offense (565) and rushing yards (276, to which he added 275 passing yards). Against Towson, he went 24-for-32 with five passing touchdowns. Last week, JMU blew out Elon 51-0, the biggest margin of victory in program history. At the midseason mark, he looks like a lock for the STATS National Player of the Year, essentially the MVP of the FCS.

Even if Richmond somehow finds a way to stop Lee, James Madison has three of the top four rushers in the CAA. Lee is one, but tailbacks Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson are dominant forces as well. The Dukes ran for 440 yards against SMU behind an uptempo offense that has an FCS-high 220 first downs.

Richmond cornerback Jarriel Jordan discussed facing the potent James Madison offense, per John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Wrap up. That’s the big thing. We need to tackle and get them down. Watching film, they break a lot of tackles. They keep their feet moving. They’re determined to get to the end zone every time they get the ball.”

Jordan has the right idea, but recognizing the need to wrap up and actually doing it against the three-headed attack of the Dukes are two separate things. Richmond’s offense will keep it within striking distance throughout the game, but the defense will not be able to slow down Lee and company for all four quarters on the road.

Look for James Madison to pull away at the end with another explosive offensive performance.

Prediction: James Madison 51, Richmond 34

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Alvin Kamara's Return to Alabama Promises to Be Emotional on Many Levels

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This isn’t the way it was supposed to happen.

Sure, former University of Alabama running back Alvin Kamara was looking forward to finally playing a game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but not like this. Not with his former teammates and himself mourning the loss of a friend.

Kamara has been trying to treat this week like it was any other, even though it clearly isn't, but that became impossible after the death of Altee Tenpenny, one the running backs he practiced alongside for a year.

When asked about his former Crimson Tide colleague who died in a car accident on Tuesday, Kamara teared up.

"What was so sad is I talked to him actually yesterday," Kamara told reporters in Knoxville on Wednesday. "Just to wake up and get that news was heartbreaking. I know those guys over there are hurting, but it hurts me a lot, but I know he's resting easy now."

Regardless of the outcome, Saturday’s game against Tennessee figures to be an emotional one on many levels. The Volunteers are desperate for a big win while the No. 8 Crimson Tide can’t afford another loss in their pursuit of both the Southeastern Conference and national titles, and now a lot of the key participants are also dealing with a tragedy.

That’s all on top of it being the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry. It’s a lot for anyone to take in.

"Guys have been asking me about the mood over there or, more specifically, about certain guys, matchup-wise, kind of the demeanor of those guys as far as playing," Kamara said. "So, I've been kind of an insider, being able to give [Tennessee] some information about them. It comes down to Saturday, we've got to keep having great practices and put it on the field on Saturday."

Alabama is all too familiar with facing former teammates, including former Auburn running back Corey Grant—who is now one of T.J. Yeldon’s backups and a kick returner with the Jacksonville Jaguars but was placed on injured reserve this week due to a hip flexor tear—and tight end Corey McCarron at Middle Tennessee earlier this season.

Kamara was part of Alabama's 2013 recruiting class that was hailed by many as the nation’s best. It was especially notable for its additions in the backfield. Due to depleted numbers at the position, the Crimson Tide added four top recruits: Derrick Henry, Kamara, Tenpenny and Tyren Jones.

“When he was here he was cool,” said junior defensive end Jonathan Allen, who was also in that class. “Great guy to be around, great team player. I love the guy.”

The idea was that they would push each other only it didn’t quite work out that way. While Kamara redshirted, the others all played as freshmen, and it was Henry who established himself behind Yeldon on the depth chart during bowl practices.

One of the bright spots in the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, Henry had 100 rushing yards on eight carries and took his first reception for a 61-yard touchdown. The others either had to be patient and wait their turns or look elsewhere.

Some off-the-field factors came into play as well. Tenpenny transferred (initially to UNLV then to Nicholls State this season), Jones was eventually dismissed from his scholarship and Kamara spent a season at the “Hutch”—Hutchinson Community College in Kansas—before making his SEC return with Tennessee.

“There was no question about the fact that he was an outstanding player,” Saban said. “What happened here was he was doing extremely well for us and was probably going to play as a freshman, and he got his knee scoped and missed three or four weeks and really couldn't catch up. He was really frustrated with the fact that he wasn't playing, and it was difficult for him at that time in his career. 

“I've seen him play this year, and he's done extremely well, and we're happy for him.”

Kamara wasted no time in establishing himself with the Volunteers. As part of a dangerous backfield combination with running back Jalen Hurd and quarterback Joshua Dobbs, he’s tallied 255 rushing yards (42.5 per game), 15 receptions for 108 yards, and five punt returns for 84 yards (16.8 average).

He’s seen the end zone six times already in the same number of games for Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC), and he's even completed a pass.

"This is a tough league, and for anyone to take a pounding as a running back play after play—and I'm not just talking about running the ball, I'm talking about pass-protection and things like that—it's tough," Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said at a press conference on Tuesday. "Alvin has obviously come in and given us great depth at that position, great production."

Even though his future lay elsewhere, Kamara has kept in touch with a lot of his former teammates, and even more have continued to follow his career. Once the game starts he’ll just be No. 6, although senior linebacker Reggie Ragland has already said that he’ll make a point to say hello the first time they collide on the field.

“I ain’t talked to Alvin in a while,” Ragland said. “That’s my little brother. I can’t wait to see him.”

Henry said he’ll wait to “speak to him after the game.”

Regardless, Saturday will be an exercise in containing a wide range of emotions for both Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) and Kamara. From the joy of reconnecting to the shared grief they’ll feel, there will be a lot more going on than a football game played roughly three hours after Tenpenny’s funeral in Arkansas. 

"When he was here, we played against him a lot on the scout team,” linebacker Denzel Devall said, “So it's gonna be interesting to be back out there with Alvin and competing against him.

“It's gonna be fun. I'm looking forward to it."

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Josh Rosen's Continued Growth Evident in UCLA's Dominating Win vs. Cal

PASADENA, Calif. – Every college football game is filled with a litany of small moments that can send momentum in a specific direction no matter what sideline you’re standing on.

Sometimes those plays happen early. Sometimes, as we all saw last week in Ann Arbor between Michigan and Michigan State, they can come on the very last snap.

That’s simply college football nowadays, and while it may seem like an easy-to-digest, macro concept, many players, coaches, fans and media members often overlook the fact that even amid blowouts there’s some spark buried deep inside a game that can prove to be the difference between being an upset and a runaway.

UCLA’s 40-24 thrashing of No. 19 Cal was merely quarterback Josh Rosen’s seventh game of his promising college career, but that notion was one of the key things the true freshman hit upon when diagnosing his 399-yard, three-score effort on Thursday night that was as close to flawless as one could be.

“There are so many instances that make the media or fans say that was a good game or that was a bad game,” Rosen said. “I almost threw a pick on that first drive when I threw the fade to (Jordan Payton), and I short-armed it. That could have changed how everybody is looking at this game. But it was just a few inches on a few certain plays that make people say you had a good or bad game.

“The cards fell in our favor. We executed.”

Few fifth-year seniors would be savvy enough to note an incomplete pass on a nine-play scoring drive that occurred nearly four hours ago. That Rosen did so, and labeled it as a turning point in an otherwise routine contest, was yet another reminder that he is no ordinary first-year starter nor your typical 18-year-old freshman.

“Josh is a lot like (Cal quarterback Jared Goff). He’s very mature, he has tremendous poise, he prepares well and he’s smart,” Bruins coach Jim Mora remarked. “Like all great performers, they are able to let go of what just happened and move on to the next event. Josh has been able to do that now for seven games, in spring ball and in our summer camp. He’s a rare kid.”

Goff is considered by most to be a first-round pick when he eventually declares for the NFL draft and even a 295-yard outing against a depleted UCLA defense in which he had three touchdowns but five sacks would dissuade few teams from making him the face of their franchise. Rosen may be fresh out of high school but his continued progression on the field has made him look far more like an elder statesman for the Bruins than a freshman.

“(This win) feels as good as BYU when I threw three picks and had a hundred something yards,” Rosen said matter of factly. “I feel like I’ve played five great games in five great wins.”

That fifth one may have been a season-saver for the team too.

UCLA’s division hopes remain on life support but another season finishing with double-digit wins remains on the table. That may not be what a fanbase longing to turn the corner wants to hear, but it’s not bad at all in the big picture considering the youth behind center and a host of devastating injuries.

After all, a big reason why Rosen was front and center leading the offense on a picturesque evening at the Rose Bowl was due to the absence of star tailback Paul Perkins. The underrated slasher took a helmet to his leg in the first half and failed to return to the game after limping off.

The redshirt junior led the Pac-12 in rushing last season and appeared well on his way to doing that again in 2015 but may find himself on the sidelines for the foreseeable future with several other starters after Mora said his prognosis was “not good at all.”

In other words, expect UCLA to do exactly what it did for most of the game against a woeful Cal defense: lean on Rosen.

“I have to give UCLA a lot of credit, they had lost two straight. They came out and played a very aggressive physical brand of football,” Bears coach Sonny Dykes said. “We got pressure on Rosen, but we didn’t do a good job of keeping him hemmed in.”

Welcome to the club, coach.

With the meat of the Bruins schedule behind them until trips to Utah and USC to end the year, it’s unlikely Cal will be the last to say the same about the continually improving signal-caller.

Rosen led seven straight scoring drives to open the contest against Cal and put the game out of reach just after halftime. By the end of the night, he held or tied eight school records.

Not bad for his seventh game.

The Bruins don’t just have their quarterback of the future, they clearly have a good one for the present.

Rosen has been wise beyond his years during his short tenure so far in Westwood and his maturing under fire certainly gives the team plenty of hope after another dominating win that may just have saved the season.

 

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Josh Rosen's Continued Growth Evident in UCLA's Dominating Win vs. Cal

PASADENA, Calif. – Every college football game is filled with a litany of small moments that can send momentum in a specific direction no matter what sideline you’re standing on...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Cal vs. UCLA: Game Grades, Analysis for Bears and Bruins

In another Thursday night shocker, No. 20 California limped out of the Rose Bowl following a 40-24 beatdown from rival UCLA, who reignited its conference title hopes behind the victory. True freshman quarterback Josh Rosen impressed throughout, snapping a school record for completions while totaling 399 yards passing with three scores.

Up next, the Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) host division opponent Colorado next week at the Rose Bowl while the stumbling Golden Bears (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) return to Berkeley to face USC at home. For more details on the Cal-UCLA game, check out the NCAA box score here.

Pass Offense: Put simply, Rosen was prolific. After a brilliant first half in which the true freshman completed 24-of-33 passes for 238 yards and two scores, Rosen followed up with a 161-yard, one-touchdown performance en route to breaking the school's single-game record for completions with 34. 

Rush Offense: Considering how Rosen was driving the passing game, it's safe to assume Jim Mora and the coaching staff saw no need to put much pressure on the rush attack. However, Paul Perkins and Soso Jamabo combined for 152 yards on 29 carries for one touchdown, removing any focus on Rosen by a not-so-impressive Cal defense.

Pass Defense: Quarterback Jared Goff's numbers may have been statistically solid at the final whistle, but the tape will show UCLA's defensive front harassing him all night. On top of that, tight coverage forced out-of-sync throws and a multitude of dropped passes. 

Rush Defense: The Cal rushing game was a joke in the first half, mainly because UCLA controlled the line of scrimmage. The second half was, for the most part, similar, as the Golden Bears abandoned their ground game to try and put quick scores on the board. On the day, Cal racked up 131 yards, but most came during garbage time and failed to impact the course of the matchup. 

Special Teams: Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn drilled a school-record 60-yard field goal to close the half for UCLA, which set the tone for the Bruins in the second. Prior to that bomb, though, Fairbairn nailed three (much) shorter kicks to help UCLA establish a commanding lead. 

Coaching: After the away loss to Stanford last week, many questioned the "get-up" of UCLA. However, Mora and his staff composed an almost perfect game plan for Cal, as consistent pressure and faith in Rosen pushed the Bruins to a clean victory. Further, another slew of injuries plagued the team, but an unmatched resolve by the coaches helped UCLA over the hump of its past two losses. 

 

Pass Offense: After closing the first half with a long drive and impressive score to Kenny Lawler, most thought quarterback Jared Goff might recover for an impressive second. Unfortunately for Cal, the junior was unable to craft a comeback, as despite solid numbers (32 of 53 for 295 yards and three scores), his offensive line could not shut down the pass rush and Cal could not establish a running game. 

Rush Offense: The first half featured a dismal 35 total yards, and even though the second half was better with 97 yards, most came in garbage time late in the fourth. There's not much else to say, except the Golden Bears need more balance to stand a chance as the season progresses. 

Pass Defense: The Josh Rosen show of the first half, which ended with 238 yards for two scores, continued into the second, as the freshman quarterback broke a completion record while racking up more yards and another touchdown. The Cal defense struggled to put any pressure on the young signal-caller, and receivers were constantly open. 

Rush Defense: Despite losing Perkins to injury, the UCLA rushing attack still found its legs in its 174-yard, one-touchdown performance. Jamabo stepped in when needed, while Rosen was able to take pressure off the offensive line with his strong passing attack. 

Special Teams: The early field goal was good for Cal's only lead, but a failed fake punt and a strange (but still no good) onside kick put this unit in the doghouse. Outside of those "big" plays, Cal was relatively quiet on special teams. 

Coaching: Coming off a bye week, much more was expected from Sonny Dykes' squad. The offense was sluggish and unresponsive while the defense failed to put any pressure on Rosen throughout the game. Against a UCLA team fresh off two losses, Dykes and his staff deserve most the blame for the mental shortcomings of Cal on Thursday night.

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Cal vs. UCLA: Game Grades, Analysis for Bears and Bruins

In another Thursday night shocker, No. 20 California limped out of the Rose Bowl following a 40-24 beatdown from rival UCLA, who reignited its conference title hopes behind the victory...

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Cal vs. UCLA: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The UCLA Bruins kept their Pac-12 championship hopes alive with a convincing 40-24 win in Thursday’s Week 8 opener over the No. 20 California Bears, losers of two straight.

The win didn’t come without a bite from the injury bug. Already dealing with a slew of attrition, the Bruins lost leading rusher Paul Perkins (knee), leading tackler Isaako Savaiinaea (leg) and the game’s leading receiver, Devin Fuller (neck). ESPN.com's Ted Miller pointed out the team's unfortunate luck this year:

None of the three who left returned to the game Thursday, and five players left with injuries during the Bruins’ Week 7 loss to the No. 10 Stanford Cardinal. UCLA is still alive in the Pac-12 South and may have to limp its way to the conference title game, as ESPN.com's Travis Haney noted:

The Bruins' fate largely rests on freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who was marvelous in Thursday’s win, completing a school record 34 passes on 47 attempts for a career-high 399 yards and three touchdowns. Bruins wide receiver Thomas Duarte also had career highs of 10 catches for 141 yards. 

Rosen outdueled highly touted Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who finished 32-of-53 for 295 yards with three touchdowns, extending his school record to 73. Rosen's performance impressed the Los Angeles Times' Eric Sondheimer:

The Bruins accounted for just one turnover—a fumble by running back Soso Jamabo well after the game had been decided—against a Cal defense that led the nation with 21 takeaways entering Week 8.

UCLA jumped out to a 23-3 lead before Cal finally reached the end zone on a one-yard fade from Goff to wide receiver Kenny Lawler with 51 seconds remaining in the first half. ESPN College Football shared the replay:

The Bruins marched downfield and extended their lead to 26-10 as time expired in the half on a school-record 60-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn—one of four that the senior booted in the win. Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday provided a replay:

UCLA fell out of the Associated Press Top 25 following a 56-35 loss to Stanford in Week 7 but will likely return to the rankings following Thursday’s win. 

The Bruins will need help to reach the conference title game, and they’re running out of time. With five games remaining, UCLA sits in a three-way tie for second in the Pac-12 South with the Arizona Wildcats and Arizona State Sun Devils at 2-2 in conference play. The Bruins hold the tiebreaker against Arizona but lost in Week 5 to Arizona State.

The No. 3 Utah Utes sit atop the division undefeated but will play UCLA in Week 12. The Bruins need to win out and have Utah and Arizona State each lose at least one other game to reach their fourth conference title game in six years.

Nonetheless, Rosen spoke with conviction following the Bruins’ loss to Stanford and believes the Bruins will face the Cardinal again for the conference crown.

“It’s frustrating,” Rosen told Joey Kaufman of the Orange County Register. “I really wanted to beat this team. I really wanted to make a statement. But we’ll face them again in the Pac-12 Championship Game.”

Cal also needs help in the Pac-12 North at 2-2 in the conference and two games behind Stanford, which it will play in Week 12. The Bears are capable of running the table until then, with games against USC, Oregon and Oregon State ahead, but they will need drastically improved play from their defense, which is allowing 26.7 points per game.

Postgame reaction

Things got chippy after the final whistle when the teams scrummed at midfield in the latest edition of this in-state conference rivalry:

ESPN broadcasters told Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter that no punches were thrown and that the skirmish never escalated to an all-out brawl.

As for the in-game contact, Bruins head coach Jim Mora was not optimistic about the alarming number of injuries that continue to dwindle the depth chart:

Given the sustained slew of injuries, Bleacher Report’s Bryan Fischer doesn’t like the Bruins’ chances of returning to the Pac-12 championship game.

On a positive note, Mora had high praise for Rosen, who has emerged as one of the game’s great young quarterbacks with seemingly limitless upside.

Meanwhile, Cal is also in trouble after losing its second straight. Third-year head coach Sonny Dykes is still seeking an elusive win against the Bears’ major rivals.

If they still hope to compete for the Pac-12 title, they’ll need a major boost on defense. As ESPN Stats & Info indicates, Thursday’s loss was Cal’s 24th in a row when scoring fewer than 30 points. Goff continues to be great, but he can’t do it alone.

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Temple vs. East Carolina: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Temple Owls secured their best start in history Thursday with a 24-14 road victory against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina.   

The 10-point victory didn't come easy, as Temple trailed most of the game. They led 3-0 in the first quarter, but quarterback P.J. Walker and the offense were quiet most of the night. Trailing 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter, the junior came up big when it mattered most.   

Walker, facing a 2nd-and-24 from his own 15-yard line with 5:22 to go in the game, found wide receiver Robby Anderson streaking across the field. He hit him in stride around the Temple 33, and Anderson took it down to the ECU 34-yard line.

Even though it wasn't a score, it was probably the most important of the game. If they didn't complete that pass, the Owls were looking at 3rd-and-24 inside their own red zone and possibly punting down four.

Four plays after the big gain, Walker found Anderson again, this time for a 23-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner.

The Owls scored 10 points fewer than their season average of 34 points per game, but Walker finished 19-of-35 for 250 yards and the one touchdown. Running back Jahad Thomas rushed for 66 yards and two scores, his second coming with 2:18 left in the game following the Owls' second punt of the night.

ECU took a 14-10 lead with 18 seconds remaining in the first half, when junior quarterback Blake Kemp found Quay Walls in the end zone from seven yards out. The Pirates held that same lead until Anderson's score then fell apart in the final six minutes.

The victory should keep the Owls, who were ranked No. 22 coming into the game, in the Associated Press Top 25 poll next week. It has been 36 years since Temple was ranked, and in case you aren't sure exactly how long ago that is, ESPN CollegeFootball reminded everyone.

This was certainly a game to celebrate, and Temple did just that:

The Owls move to 4-0 in the and are the only in the conference's East Division. The Pirates could have moved into a first-place tie with a victory but instead are now 2-2 in the conference and in second place in the East.

Now, as Philadelphia-based AP reporter Dan Gelston described, the Owls have a pretty big game next week.

However, just because you in a big game, doesn't mean you are going to win it. Sports Illustrated's doesn't seem to have much faith in the underdog Owls.

If the Owls can get past the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Temple has winnable games at 1-5 SMU and 3-3 South Florida before the No. 18 undefeated . Then they would need to finish off 3-4 UConn at home the next week and then win the AAC on Dec. 5 to finish undefeated.

That is a ton of work still ahead of them, but if they can finish unscathed, the Owls will have made a great case to in a January .

Postgame Reaction

Temple head coach Matt Rhule wasn't exactly thrilled with the way his team played, but he was glad to leave Greenville with a win, per Joseph Santoliquito of CBS Philly.

“We overcame shooting ourselves in the foot, but I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Rhule said. “We didn’t look like a very good football team at times tonight, but I couldn’t be prouder."

It didn't look good for a while, but during crunch time, the Owls showed they were the better team.

"For us to fight, hang in and come back, they showed a lot of heart and character," Rhule said. "We just have to get better at some things.”

It wasn't just the coach talking about the Owls after the game. 

Someone who probably didn't enjoy talking about the game was ECU's quarterback Kemp, who threw for 272 yards in the game, but was not happy to see this one slip away, per ECU's official athletics' site.

"We expected to win the game," Kemp said. "It's frustrating to see the game end like that."

It was certainly not pretty for the Pirates, who, in the final six minutes had two punts blocked, and gave up 14 points. 

Head coach Ruffin McNeil told ECU's official athletic's site he felt like the Priates gave the game away.

We stopped ourselves with the penalties. We can't have (nine) penalties, turnovers and the blocked punt. Temple did a lot of tonight, and we didn't. We didn't do the things we know we've got to do to win the game.

It no doubt felt like it was one that got away for some, but The New Bern Sun Journals' Jordan Honeycutt, think the Pirates can finish the season strong.

 If Temple finishes strong, it could mean big things for the Owls this season, but could it mean Rhule might move on to greener pastures?

For now the Owls can bask in the glory of their best start in season history, but they better not get too comfortable, because in three weeks the undefeated Memphis Tigers, who knocked off Ole Miss last weekend, come to town for what could be one of the biggest regular season games in Temple history.

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Can Leonte Carroo and a Surging Rutgers Team Spoil Ohio State's Playoff Run?

The race for the College Football Playoff is past the midway point, and No. 1 Ohio State (7-0) seems to be hitting its stride after a dominant 38-10 victory over Penn State last Saturday.

After the offense struggled through an early-season slump, J.T. Barrett has emerged as the starting quarterback and has the Buckeyes trending up.

Ohio State is on the brink of hitting the home stretch of its regular season, where games against Michigan State and Michigan loom large. But a prime-time date with Rutgers is set for this Saturday, and the surging Scarlet Knights have a chance to derail the Buckeyes' playoff run.

Just a few short weeks ago, that seemed so improbable.

Rutgers got off to a rough start this season, as head coach Kyle Flood found himself in hot water when allegations arose that he tried to negotiate a grade change with a university professor to alter the eligibility for one of his players. Those allegations led to a three-game suspension and a $50,000 fine for Flood.

Things were deteriorating on the field in a similar fashion as the Scarlet Knights started the season 2-2, with their wins coming against FCS opponent Norfolk State and basement-dwelling Kansas.

The struggles were compounded by a suspension to All-Big Ten wideout Leonte Carroo, who missed two games after an arrest on simple assault charges in mid-September.

But since Carroo returned to the field, Rutgers has looked like a different—and much more dangerous—team.

The shift started under the lights in Piscataway, New Jersey, when the Scarlet Knights hosted No. 4 Michigan State two weeks ago. Carroo was unstoppable as he hauled in seven receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns, helping Rutgers knot up the game at 24 late in the fourth quarter.

The defense collapsed during Michigan State's second-last drive, allowing the Spartans to escape with a 31-24 win.

It would have been easy to let that deflating loss linger, and it looked to be happening last Saturday against Indiana, which built a 25-point lead with less than 18 minutes to go.

But Carroo sparked a rally with a 43-yard touchdown catch, his third of the afternoon, and the Scarlet Knight's scored the game's final 28 points to secure a stunning 55-52 win.

"We're relentless," quarterback Chris Laviano said, via ESPN.com." We'll never give up and we have a lot of fight in this team."

Will Rutgers put up a worthy fight against Ohio State, which enters Saturday's contest as a massive 21.5-point favorite, according to Odds Shark?

That's dependent upon the health of Carroo, who tweaked his ankle and has been limited in practice all week. The star pass-catcher is making progress every day, though, and Flood won't forecast his availability, saying he's a "game-time decision," according to Dan Duggan of NJ.com.

But the Buckeyes are preparing like they'll see the dangerous wideout, and cornerback Eli Apple is up for the challenge.

“As a defense, whatever you have to do to stop [Carroo], that’s what we’re going to have to do,” Apple said, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. “It doesn’t really matter to me, I’ll do whatever the coaches tell me to do and I have great confidence in our abilities and I feel like we have a good game plan."

If the Buckeyes don't execute that game plan effectively, Rutgers has the ability to give Ohio State a big scare this Saturday.

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Paul Perkins Injury: Updates on UCLA RB's Knee and Return

The UCLA Bruins still have Pac-12 title hopes in a daunting South Division, but that will be more difficult if running back Paul Perkins misses extensive time with the knee injury he suffered Thursday.

Continue for updates.

Perkins Ruled Out for Game Thursday, Oct. 22

Perkins was off to an impressive start against the California Golden Bears with 73 rushing yards on his first 11 carries, but Dane Brugler of CBS Sports noted the playmaker went to the ground and clutched his left knee in the first half. While Perkins walked off the field under his own power without help, Daily Cal Sports confirmed he was out for the remainder of the game.

The fact the running back walked off without any help seemed encouraging, but head coach Jim Mora said the injuries UCLA suffered during Thursday's game were "not good," per Dan Wolken of USA Today

A potential long-term injury to Perkins would be the latest blow for a UCLA team that has already lost star linebacker Myles Jack, defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes and cornerback Fabian Moreau for the season, among others.

Perkins has 754 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on the season and turned heads against BYU with 219 rushing yards in a comeback victory.

Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi handled the rushing duties after the starter left the game. Jamabo is a freshman who didn’t have more than nine carries in a single game coming into Thursday’s contest, and Olorunfunmi—who is also a freshman—didn’t have more than eight carries in a game this year before Thursday.

Both are high-upside youngsters who are physical enough to pick up tough yardage (Olorunfunmi is 220 pounds, and Jamabo is 210 pounds), but the Bruins need their rushing leader back if they hope to fulfill their goals for the rest of the season. 

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Paul Perkins Injury: Updates on UCLA RB's Knee and Return

The UCLA Bruins still have Pac-12 title hopes in a daunting South Division, but that will be more difficult if running back Paul Perkins misses extensive time with the knee injury he suffered Thursday...

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Massive Brawl Breaks out During Junior College Football Game in Mississippi

Football is a violent, intense sport. It shouldn’t get this violent, though.

During a junior college contest between East Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Delta Community College on Thursday night, a wild brawl broke out and forced referees to end the game.

East Mississippi had a 48-0 lead when the contest was called.

Scott Walters, a writer for the Commercial Dispatch, broke it down:

[h/t SB Nation]

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Shirtless Warrior Drills Field Goal While Performing Backflip at UCLA Game

If you woke up this morning expecting to see this, you’re lying.

During a timeout in the first half of UCLA’s showdown with California on Thursday night at the Rose Bowl, a shirtless warrior with flowing hair booted a ball through the uprights.

This legendary fella, who is actually a Cirque du Soleil performer, threw in some sort of backflip on his follow-through for good measure.

Don’t question it. Just enjoy it.

[Twitter]

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Cal vs. UCLA: Live Score and Highlights

UCLA 17, Cal 3 - Early Second Quarter

Stay tuned for breaking news, commentary and analysis throughout the game, as the No. 22 Golden Bears visit Los Angeles aiming to knock off the Bruins on ESPN. 

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Cal vs. UCLA: Live Score and Highlights

UCLA 20, Cal 3 - Early Second Quarter Stay tuned for breaking news, commentary and analysis throughout the game, as the No. 22 Golden Bears visit Los Angeles aiming to knock off the Bruins on ESPN...

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