For Nick Saban's No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide to secure a 23rd straight win in an SEC opener, he must move past close friend and Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Both SEC powers enter undefeated but certainly not unscathed. Saban still has things to figure out under center, while Muschamp must turn things around quickly after a close call against a lesser team last weekend.
A win for Alabama means legitimacy in the playoff hunt. A win for Florida signals an upward trend in Muschamp's job security, not to mention a clear sign things are on the mend after a 4-8 campaign and five losses in the conference a year ago.
As seems to always be the case between the two, much rides on the outcome of what is sure to be a competitive encounter.
Finding the Spark
Technically speaking, this one has the look of a blowout.
Alabama has cruised through three opponents (West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss) by a combined score of 126-35, and the team seems to have found a leader in senior quarterback Blake Sims, who already has 646 passing yards and four scores with another 102 and two on the ground.
But really, something feels off.
Alabama will be down two safeties for the matchup with the Gators, a team led by junior signal-caller Jeff Driskel. More importantly, Saban himself does not seem so sure about the quarterback position, which is a bad thing going into a showdown with Muschamp's defense.
“I think we're going to have to make a decision on a week-to-week basis on what gives us the best opportunity to win,” Saban said, per Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel.
So far, the statistics seem to back up that logic:
Still, it is a dangerous game to play against an SEC team, let alone Florida.
Muschamp's side does face a similar dilemma, though, as it needed triple overtime last week to upend Kentucky, 36-30. Keep in mind that went down in Gainesville, the Wildcats won all of two games last season and none in the SEC and the Gators shot themselves in the foot with eight penalties.
The most concerning thing for Florida, though, is the continued lack of explosiveness on offense against top-tier competition. Kurt Roper’s offense scored six points against LSU last year. Against Missouri? 17. All of 14 against South Carolina. Worst of all, just seven against Florida State.
Should that trend continue, the Gators are in for a long day Saturday on the road.
Strong Connections, Weak Results
Remember when this was one of the sport's top rivalries?
The foundation is certainly still there, and it starts at the top with the coaches.
Muschamp is a descendant of the Saban coaching tree and was his defensive coordinator at LSU before serving with him in that not-so-memorable NFL stint with the Miami Dolphins. Now a head coach himself, this version of the rivalry has happened once in 2011, where the former assistant was topped 38-10.
Really, though, for this one to capture the imagination of the globe as it used to, Muschamp's side has to experience a quick uptick in quality. The insider knowledge has Roper feeling confident at least, as captured by Zach Abolverdi of Gainesville.com:
Then there is Saban, who has a perspective that sounds like it comes from the heavy favorite in the matchup (which he is), per Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel:
Again, the framework is in place for this to be something special. But until Florida can keep pace, even with an Alabama team that does not resemble the dominance of past dynasty years, this is but another SEC contest in which the Crimson Tide are the heavy favorite.
When: Saturday, September 20, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):
- Over/Under: 52
- Spread: Alabama (-16)
Team Injury Reports
Injury reports via USA Today.
Believe it or not, there are things to like about the Gators.
Driskel is back under center after missing a chunk of last year due to injury and already has 542 yards and four scores through the air while completing 63.6 percent of his passes. On the flip side, Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the best corners in the nation and sure to be a hot commodity at the pro level soon, which means Alabama wideout Amari Cooper and Co. will have some issues moving the ball.
Alabama appears vulnerable, but that may simply be the subconscious desire of a nation tired of seeing the Crimson Tide in contention nitpicking at perceived issues more than anything.
The fact remains that Alabama has arguably the most talent on any roster in the nation and is at home against a team that struggled with Kentucky last week. Offense might be limited, but it will favor Saban's team, as expected.
Prediction: Crimson Tide 23, Gators 13
Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Jim Mora and his staff have gotten the UCLA football program off to a nice start in recruiting for the 2015 cycle.
According to 247Sports.com, the Bruins have 14 known commitments to date. What's more, as of right now, both 247Sports.com and Scout.com have UCLA with a Top 20 class. Per Scout.com, UCLA has a commitment from the top quarterback in the country (Josh Rosen), the top center in the country (Fred Ulu-Perry) and the second-best tight end (Alize Jones).
This piece will include a complete chart of official visitors in the upcoming months. It will also highlight strong performances by two current commitments and speak about the two most recent additions to the program.
Bruins Ink Rosen and McKinley
UCLA got a considerable boost this past week with the additions of signal-caller Josh Rosen and defensive end Takkarist McKinley.
Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Rosen signed a grant-in-aid document with the Bruins on Monday. Rosen's high academic standing enabled him to graduate from high school early. He will enroll in time for the winter quarter.
This is a massive coup for UCLA. Rosen is an elite talent at the quarterback position. By entering college early, he'll have the opportunity to participate in spring ball. With Brett Hundley likely leaving at the end of the season, Rosen has every chance to start as a true freshman next season.
As Rosen told Foster: "[UCLA is] churning out NFL players. They are on top in Los Angeles. Coach Mora is an awesome coach. It's something special to be a part of."
The addition of McKinley caught many off guard. Per Everett Cook of the Los Angeles Times, an error on his college transcript allowed him to be instantly eligible for competition on the Division 1 level.
Greg Biggins of Scout.com elaborated on the strange situation even further, explaining that McKinley was wrongly dubbed as a non-qualifier coming out of high school.
UCLA was able to ascertain this development, and they subsequently snagged the very talented defensive prospect. Per BruinReportOnline.com, defensive line coach Angus McClure was a huge reason why McKinley ultimately signed with UCLA.
Rivals.com rates McKinley as the fifth-best junior college prospect in the entire country. Although relatively raw, McKinley's physical gifts are undeniable. As a high school senior, McKinley ran a 10.5 in the 100-meter dash. He did this at 6'3", 235 pounds.
Last year at Contra Costa Community College, McKinley notched 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. According to Ed Lewis of BruinSportsReport, McKinley's former coach Alonzo Carter compared him to NFL great Jevon Kearse.
The addition of McKinley is considerable. Due to UCLA's lack of success rushing the passer through three games—only three sacks have been registered—he could find himself as a third-down rusher right off the bat. Per Cook, Mora expects McKinley to potentially play against Arizona State next week.
A Look at Official Visitors
Courtesy of BruinReportOnline.com, here is a list of expected official visitors over the course of the season (as of 9/17):
Of course, this is a very preliminary list and recruits often change their minds from week to week. Many of the UCLA commitments will likely visit on the same weekend—perhaps for the game versus Southern Cal in November.
Ryan Newsome is a very important recruit for the Bruins. He represents the quick, shifty, fast slot receiver desperately needed in the offense. Looking at his film, the 247Sports.com 4-star athlete is very comparable to that of current St. Louis Rams receiver Tavon Austin.
Two other Texas natives—Malik Jefferson and Soso Jamabo—are also immense targets. Scout.com has Jefferson rated as one of the best players in the entire nation. The 5-star linebacker is eerily similar to current UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.
Jamabo is the big back currently missing in UCLA's offense. The Bruins will be going up against the likes of Notre Dame and Oklahoma, but with an official visit upcoming, they've got a puncher's chance with the elite athlete.
As for other 2015 prospects, BruinReportOnline.com reported that UCLA made an offer to current Notre Dame commit and 4-star receiver C.J. Sanders. Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.com reported the Bruins have also made an offer to athlete Tim Irvin. The Miami native is the nephew of NFL great Michael Irvin.
Two Commitments with Big Games This Past Weekend
The elite tight end out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Alize Jones, put on a show versus Corona Centennial.
Jones registered eight catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the narrow 43-42 victory.
As Greg Biggins opined (subscription required):"There isn't a better athlete at the tight end position anywhere in the country. [Jones] has every physical tool you'd want in a next level prospect including size, elite speed, hands and body control."
It would be an absolute shock to see Jones redshirt as a true freshman next year. He could help to give UCLA a very dynamic option on offense in '15.
Running back commitment Bolu Olorunfunmi rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Buhach Colony High School. Olorunfunmi is a punishing back, getting most of his yards after contact.
The talented tailback chose UCLA over offers from Notre Dame and Stanford, among others.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Week 4 of the college football season will feature both intriguing nonconference and conference matchups.
The week begins on Thursday night in Manhattan, Kansas, as No. 20 Kansas State and No. 5 Auburn will face off in what could be the big upset of the week.
ACC rivals Florida State and Clemson will headline Saturday’s slate of games in Tallahassee, while Miami (Fla.) travels to Nebraska in what will be their first meeting since the 2002 Rose Bowl. In the SEC, Mississippi State has high hopes of finally defeating LSU on the road with a dangerous quarterback in Dak Prescott, and the Florida Gators head into a hostile Bryant-Denny Stadium, where Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide have lost just three times in the last five years.
In what should be another week filled with pandemonium, here are the top-five games to watch this week.
Amara Darboh proved one thing this past Saturday: Michigan has someone other than Devin Funchess who can catch the ball, make plays and score touchdowns.
Granted, Darboh’s breakout versus Miami (Ohio) was more of a necessity than a luxury, but it’s difficult to deny his six catches for 88 yards and a score. After all, someone has to do it while Funchess, the Wolverines’ star wideout, recovers from whatever he’s recovering from.
Brady Hoke won’t say, leaving the guessing game as the only available option at the moment.
But back to Darboh—he’s entering his time. Whether or not he wanted to get it like this doesn't really matter. However, it’s safe to assume that he probably wanted to earn the role rather than inherit it from a sidelined teammate.
Nonetheless, he’s quickly become one of the last, and best, remaining remedies for Team 135’s sluggish offense.
If Funchess returns soon, great; Michigan will have two consistent threats with which to take on the Big Ten. If he doesn’t come back, well, at least Darboh will be prepared to compensate for the absence of a 6’5”, 236-pound Biletnikoff contender.
What He Brings
Now three weeks into his first season at Michigan, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has yet to showcase the true range of his play-calling savvy. Part of that is because his offense is struggling, and without Funchess, aerial options have been few and far between.
But Nussmeier now has Darboh, a 6'2", 211-pounder with an above-average set of hands and great ability to get physical with blocks and separation techniques. He's not the tallest or fastest, but he can scoot down the field every so often and slip through layers of coverage, evidenced by his 29-yard-catch-turned-fumble in Week 3 against the RedHawks.
Just forget the fumble part.
Had he held onto that ball, we'd be talking about one of the Wolverines' best offensive plays of the year. They've been scarce, sure, but Darboh's grab-and-dash was refreshing. It proved what most have thought all along: He's good at what he does and can certainly increase his team's chances of winning.
During a postgame media session this past Saturday, sophomore tight end Jake Butt complimented Darboh's attitude, work ethic and, of course, his six catches for 88 yards and six points. Butt seemed genuinely excited, or maybe relieved, that someone else emerged as a go-to for quarterback Devin Gardner, who will need all of the help he can get this week against Utah.
"We were really excited about him before that injury last year," Butt said when asked about his teammate's potential. "We all knew what kind of ability he had, and he kind of put that on display today."
Darboh brings a sense of "new" to the fold. Michigan fans have yet see him unleash his real power, excluding Saturday, and that's exciting for them. They know what Funchess can do. They've seen Jehu Chesson make a few plays. But Darboh's arrival feels different.
With nine catches for 137 yards, he trails only Funchess when it comes to production. It's early, and depending on usage, stats can be skewed in either direction. Unless Saturday was a fluke, Darboh appears to be the one until the No. 1 makes a triumphant entrance.
Don't forget about the extra forearm muscles used to secure catches. Not everyone has those, you know.
Fans aren't the only ones who haven't seen much of Darboh. The competition hasn't either. With that said, game-planning for him could be difficult.
He's an ideal variable for Michigan, and he could be a dreadful nightmare this weekend for Kalani Sitake, the Utes' defensive coordinator/linebackers coach/assistant head coach.
Thanks to offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, Sitake hasn't had a lot to worry about lately. Utah averages 57.5 points per game (No. 3 in the NCAA), which is a comforting statistic for any DC. Sitake's guys just have to make sure the opposition doesn't go Utah on them.
Michigan's offense hasn't proved that it can hang big numbers on the scoreboard, but if Darboh plays like he did against Miami, a Utes-like total could be possible. It's a stretch, but not outside the realm of logic.
Fresno State's Josh Harper had six catches for a season-high 83 yards against Utah. The 6'1", 185-pound senior is a respectable athlete who uses speed and agility to elude tackles. However, he's not in the same league as Darboh when it comes to physicality. But yet he had little trouble with Utah's secondary.
That's a promising sign for Michigan, and for Darboh, who is a game away from igniting Team 135's offense and evolving into a legitimate top option, not just a secondary get-by while the star takes a breather.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Pac-12 Conference looks loaded with as much talent as ever, and when the 2015 NFL draft commences in the spring, you can expect to hear the names of a bunch of the league's stars—perhaps more than a few—in the very first round.
Given the propensity of experts to stay way ahead of the game with mock drafts, you're likely familiar with several names on the list as far as how highly scouts think of them. But every Pac-12 team has players who will someday be making plays as a professional.
Let's take a look at the very best 2015 NFL draft prospect from every team in the league.
All stats via cfbstats.com. All draft eligible players were candidates for the list, meaning each player has at least three years of college experience, redshirts included.
For the Clemson Tigers, things are pretty much done in the 2015 recruiting cycle. With 22 commits, there isn’t much more room in the incoming class.
So, we focus our attention to the players already committed to the Tigers, a group that includes eight 4-star prospects. The Tigers have the potential to finish with a top-10 class and build momentum for the future.
New week. Better games.
One of the biggest kicks off Thursday night when No. 20-ranked Kansas State plays host to No. 5-ranked ranked Auburn. The other game between a couple of highly regarded teams is an SEC battle when No. 1 Florida hosts No. 22 Clemson.
Read on for a breakdown of these matchups as well as several others, with the lines again courtesy of CoopersPick.com:
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 20 Kansas State
Betting Odds: Auburn -9.5
Auburn has two straight blowout wins and one of the best rushing offenses in the nation with the duo of Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, who are each averaging over six yards per carry.
It is 4-0 ATS in its last four road games, and Kansas State is 2-5 ATS in its last seven nonconference games.
Pick Against the Spread: Take Auburn in this one.
No. 22 Clemson vs. No. 1 Florida State
Betting Odds: Florida State -19
The Seminoles may be undefeated, the reigning champs and the top-ranked team in the nation, but they narrowly avoided an upset in their season opener facing Oklahoma State.
Furthermore, as Marc Tracy of The New York Times reports, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has been suspended for a whole, entire half, dealing yet another blow to the pairing of football and chivalry. Clemson already lost to Georgia last week, but it came back big, scoring 73 points last week.
Clemson is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against FSU.
Pick Against the Spread: The Tigers are on the prowl, covering at least the points.
Florida vs. No. 3 Alabama
Betting Odds: Alabama -14.5
Florida is the big underdog in this one, and it avoided a huge upset against SEC foe Kentucky, needing three overtimes to prevail. Alabama has the nation’s 10th-ranked defense and in the last two games has surrendered only 12 points while scoring 93.
Alabama is 0-6-1 ATS in its last seven games overall but 5-0 ATS in its last five at home against Florida.
Pick Against the Spread: The Crimson tide wins big and covers.
Mississippi State vs. No. 8 LSU
Betting Odds: LSU -10
Both are undefeated, but while Mississippi has yet to play a conference game, LSU beat a ranked Wisconsin team in its season opener and has the nation’s second-ranked defense to boot.
MSU is 4-1 in its last five road games. Meanwhile, the favorite has covered the spread in the last four games between these two SEC teams.
Pick Against the Spread: LSU's defense is too good not to carry the squad to at least a 10-point victory.
No. 4 Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
Betting Odds: Oklahoma -10
The Sooners have yet to play a close game, and after three games, they are only giving up an average of 11 points. West Virginia has won two straight after its opening-season loss facing Alabama—and only lost by 10. WVU quarterback Clint Trickett has over 1,200 passing yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception already this season.
Oklahoma is 4-0 ATS in the last four road games, and WVU is 2-5 ATS in its last seven home games.
Pick Against the Spread: OU continues its early dominance and will win and cover on the road.
Miami vs. No. 24 Nebraska
Betting Odds: Nebraska -7.5
Miami has won two straight, but its only road game facing a solid team was the opener when it lost badly to Louisville, 31-13. Nebraska is 3-0 and back in the top 25, mainly because of a rushing attack which ranks ninth in the nation, averaging an astounding 324.3 yards per game.
The 'Canes are 1-5 ATS in their last six road games, while the Huskers are an equally mediocre 1-4 ATS in their last five home games.
Pick Against the Spread: While it pains me to pick it, the Nebraska running game will be too much for Miami to handle, even with the spread.
Virginia vs. No. 21 BYU
Betting Odds: BYU -16
Interesting game here, as BYU is ranked but narrowly avoided an upset in the last game as a big betting favorite at home. On the other side of the coin, Virginia’s only loss was to a top 10 UCLA team, and it knocked off a ranked Louisville team last time out.
Virginia is 5-0 ATS in the past five overall, and BYU is 3-1-1 ATS in its last five home contests.
Pick Against the Spread: Go with the underdog Cavaliers, as they may not win, but they will cover.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Now, three games into his fourth season, he’d rather crawl on hot, broken glass than answer questions about the status of injured players.
Are you wondering if wide receiver Devin Funchess will play versus Utah? Or how about linebacker Desmond Morgan?
Hoke has nothing for you.
"I'm not going to talk about any of those guys who didn't play," Hoke said during his weekly press conference.
When pressed for a reason he replied, "Because I don't feel like it.”
While the quip earned a chuckle from the assembled media, it’s an example of Hoke’s changing relationship with the media as his team’s fortunes have dipped during his tenure.
Michigan entered this season unranked, with declining student ticket sales and the athletic department needing to hustle to preserve its streak of 100,000-plus crowds. Prior to the season opener, the athletic department offered deals bundling basketball tickets as an incentive for fans to buy football tickets.
Michigan, the quintessential football school, had resorted to leveraging basketball to fill its football stadium.
Hoke’s Return to Ann Arbor
Hoke was hailed upon his return to Ann Arbor in the wake of the disastrous Rich Rodriguez era. Hoke went on the road to re-engage fans and alumni who had been alienated by Rodriguez’ lukewarm embrace of Michigan tradition and even more disappointed by his 15-22 record on the field.
Hoke and his staff also made efforts to publicize the changes on the field. During spring and fall camp, selected practices were open to the media. When the season began, Hoke continued a practice began under Rodriguez of having informal roundtable discussions after his formal press conferences. These sessions provided a forum for more in-depth questions on a wide range of topics.
Fort Schembechler, as the football complex is known, had lowered the gates and was engaged in proactive public relations effort to promote Hoke’s efforts to bring tradition back to Michigan football.
Hoke’s efforts on the field bore immediate fruit. The team went 11-2 in its first season. Media coverage was also favorable; a rift that had opened up under Rodriguez that resulted in a very public and embarrassing NCAA investigation (but only minor penalties) had been repaired.
The Fort Pulls Up the Drawbridge
But access began to change as the team’s fortunes dipped. During Hoke’s second season, practice visits were scaled back. Criticism began to mount as the team finished 8-5. It began with a 41-14 loss to Alabama and was punctuated by debates about whether Hoke should wear a coaching headset during games and offensive coordinator Al Borges' baffling experiment to turn quarterback Denard Robinson into a dropback passer.
Criticism reached a crescendo last season as Michigan fell to 7-6 amid a lost November, when the team went 1-4, which included losses to key rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. The discontent become so fierce that athletic director David Brandon took to his blog to offer support and rebuke critics:
Brady Hoke is our coach and will be leading our football program well into the future. There is no question about it. Brady has done a great job rebuilding the program and reshaping the culture to the level it was under coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan Football.
The message was clear. You’re either with us or against us.
It’s a theme that Hoke would echo this season when questioned about his team’s 31-0 loss to Notre Dame.
"If they're truly fans, they'll believe in these kids and what they've done and the hard work they've put in," he said. "If they're not, they won’t."
From Boo-Boos to Radio Silence
Hoke has always been reluctant to discuss injuries. In his first couple of seasons, he’d describe them as “boo-boos” or “owies,” but he’d least entertain questions about when a player would return.
This season he has decided to not answer any questions about injuries unless a player will miss the rest of the season.
Occasionally a player will tweet information that could be construed as an update, only adding to the rumors and confusion among fans.
When things were going well, Hoke was open when answering questions and discussing players, but as the losses have mounted, information has become less than forthcoming. The media discussion roundtables have also been scrapped.
Victory may have a thousand fathers, but defeat begets thousands of questions, and fans are hungry for information, with injuries being a top area of interest.
Until Hoke can win more games, his reluctance to address injuries will only bring more negative attention to a program that appears to be hanging in the balance.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
If Tom Osborne is anything, he is confident.
It's been 30 years since the 1984 Orange Bowl against Miami, a game with the national championship on the line. It was a game Osborne's Nebraska Cornhuskers, riding a 22-game winning streak, lost 31-30 when Osborne famously elected to go for two instead of a tying extra point.
A two-point conversion that failed.
On Saturday, Nebraska and Miami will play again, this time in Lincoln, for just the 11th meeting ever between the two schools. The series is tied at five wins a piece.
That game will undoubtedly dredge up archived footage and memories of Osborne's decision to go for the win instead of, as he put it, "backing in" to a national championship.
Osborne could have been annoyed when he was asked about the decision and no one would have blamed him. How would you like to be asked about a loss of that scale over and over again?
"Does it ever get tough revisiting that moment?"
"It’s not difficult for me to talk about," he said. "I don’t necessarily view it as a negative in our program."
Even after 30 years, there was no there was no regret, no qualifying statement preceding the explanation. His answer was simple, as though you could hear his shoulders shrug matter-of-factly just by the tone of his voice.
It was the same answer now as it was then.
"You play to win."
Setting the Stage
There was no overtime in college football during the 1983 season. It wasn't instituted until 1996. Before that, it was possible to end a game with identical scores and without a winner, regardless of what Harvard football might say about a certain tie with Yale in 1968.
Yet, in 307 games as the head coach of Nebraska, Osborne tied just three times. That's fewer than one percent. And in the 11 seasons leading up to the '84 Orange Bowl, Osborne's Huskers won 108 games by an average of 28 points.
The '83 Huskers may have been the most talented offense of them all, averaging 50 points a game. They were loaded with running back and Heisman winner Mike Rozier, receiver Irving Fryar and quarterback Turner Gill, plus a wealth of offensive linemen.
Rarely in Osborne's tenure of thorough domination did he need to go for two. He was prepared, however, should the occasion arise. It did against Miami, which was in its infancy of becoming "The U" under head coach Howard Schnellenberger. Quarterback Bernie Kosar was a freshman, as was running back Alonzo Highsmith.
With Rozier sidelined with an ankle injury, the Huskers entered halftime down, 17-14. Thanks to another 14-point Miami run in the third quarter, Nebraska needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns just to come within one point.
Nebraska's second and final touchdown came on a critical 4th-and-8 inside Miami territory. A wide-open Fryar had dropped a pass in the end zone the play before. Gill took the snap on an option-action play, saw Fryar was covered, ran horizontally down the line and pitched the ball to backup running back Jeff Smith, who scooted 24 yards for the score.
"That particular play was fairly difficult to handle because it put a lot on the quarterback," said Osborne.
If that play was risky, it didn't touch what Osborne did next. With about 40 seconds left in the game, Osborne wasn't interested in the extra point. "By that point in the game," he explained, "it didn’t appear we were going to get another chance [on offense]."
There was no hesitation. Osborne had the play he wanted and felt confident after watching tape on the Hurricanes.
"When you start looking at two-point conversions, you’re looking at what they’re doing inside the 5-yard line defensively," Osborne said. "Even if an offense isn’t going for two points, if it’s third down and, say, two or three yards to go in a goal-line situation, it’s the equivalent of a two-point situation.
"We were fairly certain they’d be in man-to-man coverage and rushing at least five," he continued. "So we thought putting the halfback to the flat—hopefully covered by a safety or linebacker—we could pick up the three yards. So I thought we had a good play called and we practiced it several times."
Amid the roars inside the Orange Bowl, the offense stayed on the field. This was it, the crossroads of one dynasty and the start of another.
Gill took the snap, rolled out to his right and threw to the running back in the flat. It was just like they had practiced.
The result was not. The pass was batted away by Hurricanes defender Ken Calhoun. Incomplete. Game over. The months of preparation that could have resulted in Osborne's first national championship as a head coach, and the first for Nebraska since 1971, came to a halt in a matter of seconds.
"The guy who was covering Irving on the slant saw what was happening, came off his coverage and took a dive at the ball and got a finger tip on it," Osborne said. "He made a good play."
The intensity within the Orange Bowl surged. Schnellenberger was yelling for his players to get off the field. Osborne was trying to regroup, to figure out what, if anything, he could do next. There was nothing to do, except coming to terms with defeat.
"There was no doubt in Tom Osborne's mind, there was no doubt in my mind," Schnellenberger said about the two-point attempt in an interview with NBC's Bill Macatee. "He's a champion and he went after it like a champion."
Keeping with his philosophy, Osborne would likely say there was only one champion that night.
Going for two didn't end Nebraska's dynasty. It did, however, help launch another. That is the mark of a defining moment, as Evan Scott Schwartz of Sports Illustrated opined:
The ramifications were massive. Miami leapt to No. 1 in the final AP poll, just ahead of No. 2 Nebraska and No. 3 Auburn, which had squeaked by Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. The controversy extends to this day, as Auburn claims a share of the 1983 national title and fans and analysts still question Osborne’s decision to go for two.
Miami’s Schnellenberger would make way for the brash Jimmy Johnson, who would begin to shape Miami’s cocky and controversial identity. The Canes would march to three more championships over the next eight seasons, and the program soon became a recruiting juggernaut and factory for NFL talent.
Nebraska wouldn't win a national title for another 11 years—on Jan. 1, 1995 against Miami in the Orange Bowl, of all teams and places. From 1987-'93, the Huskers lost seven straight bowl games.
"Some people at the time wished we kicked the point because we hadn’t won [a national championship] since 1971," Osborne said. "They were hungry for that. I’m sure there are people today who still thought it was a bad decision."
But it never affected Osborne's standing within the Nebraska program. The Huskers' dynasty of the mid-1990s is one of the all-time greats. Chase Goodbread of NFL.com named the '95 Nebraska team the best to ever play college football.
Osborne's legacy is synonymous with Cornhuskers football. More than that, though, Osborne is synonymous with the state of Nebraska. When combining his years as a head coach, assistant, athletic director and even a member of the United States Congress, Osborne served Nebraska for more than 40 years.
Steven Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star captured the relationship last April when he interviewed Jon Frankel, who is producing/directing an upcoming 30 for 30 documentary for ESPN about the two-point conversion:
Nebraskans like to see themselves in Osborne, the Hastings native. Of course, they supported the coach's call.
"Nebraska lost the game, but did it with honor," said Frankel, getting to the essence. "Ultimately, that means more than what the scoreboard says."
Osborne chuckled, slightly scoffing.
"The 'moral victory' term—I don’t know what that means," he said.
In Osborne's mind, you either won or lost. And he won a lot. The head coach of 25 years won three national titles—all after the '84 Orange Bowl—and 255 games. Like all coaches, Osborne prepared to win every single one. He wasn't always successful, but he was 83 percent of the time.
"The main thing that was important to me was that we played at the highest level, which to me meant we were capable of winning a national championship," Osborne said. "I guess I walked off the field that night feeling that we had played at a very high level."
"And we just didn’t get it done."
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Texas defensive tackle Desmond Jackson will miss the remainder of the 2014 college football season with a foot injury.
Head coach Charlie Strong announced the news during a press conference Wednesday, via John Taylor of College Football Talk.
It was originally reported as an ankle injury, but Shawn Clynch of KVUE in Austin issued a correction:
Jackson made headlines when he mismanaged the coin toss in the loss to UCLA. He actually told the ref that Texas wanted to kick off at the beginning of the game after UCLA deferred to the second half.
Ultimately, it meant Texas had to kick off to start both halves, and Jackson apologized on Twitter in the aftermath:
Jackson racked up 11 total tackles in the first three games this season but did not record a sack. The senior started 13 games the past two-plus seasons for the Longhorns, and his loss will surely be felt.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Texas quarterback David Ash's football career is over. Three weeks after Ash suffered his latest concussion in a Week 1 win over North Texas, Texas head coach Charlie Strong announced the QB has decided to give up the sport to maintain his long-term health.
Longhorn Network and ESPN Texas provided the news from Strong's Wednesday press conference:
Ash, a junior, threw for 190 yards and a touchdown in the Longhorns' 38-7 win against North Texas on Aug. 30. While he took numerous hard shots throughout the game, he did not begin exhibiting signs of a concussion until after the game. Ash complained of dizziness and a headache to trainers and was later diagnosed with a concussion.
He has not played in either of Texas' last two games, both losses. Ash was a starter in parts of each of the last three seasons, but bouts with concussions limited him to only three games in 2013. He suffered his first in a 40-21 loss to BYU in Week 2 before going down two games later against Kansas State, effectively ending his season as he struggled to return.
The NCAA granted Ash an extra year of eligibility, and after being cleared to play, he seemed set for a big year. Strong, who replaced longtime Longhorns coach Mack Brown, had a large hand in developing former Louisville star QB Teddy Bridgewater. At 6'3" and 230 pounds, Ash had a combination of prototypical size and above-average skills that should have prepared him for a breakout.
But as news of Ash's latest head injury became public, a growing chorus wondered whether he should be playing football at all.
"That's a decision his family is going to have to make," Strong told reporters earlier this month. "You have to be concerned, any time you have that number of concussions. We will never jeopardize a young man's health for the sake of this football team. That will always be the case."
In announcing Ash's retirement, Strong indicated that the quarterback came to him and said this was the best thing for his future, per the American-Statesman's Kirk Bohl:
Ash, 22, finishes his college football career with 4,728 passing yards and 31 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. An underrated athlete, he added 379 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
As he has the past two weeks, sophomore Tyrone Swoopes will continue as Texas' starting quarterback going forward. Swoopes has thrown for 372 yards and three touchdowns against one interception this season but has struggled to make plays down the field. The Longhorns have averaged less than 300 yards of offense in his first two starts.
Given the numerous players already suspended or kicked off the team in Strong's short tenure, losing Ash is a tough blow in what's shaping up to be a rough season in Austin. But as Strong and everyone associated with the Texas program has said throughout this ordeal, the most important thing is that Ash is able to live a long and healthy life.
If walking away from football is the only way that can happen, then he's making the right decision.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
For the second straight week, college football seems to be taking a reprieve from anything others might deem "difficult." Despite the beginning of conference play for most of the nation, the Week 4 schedule is decidedly chock-full of the elites taking on the non-elites.
Of course, we were saying that at this time seven days ago. And the college football gods decided to smite our skepticism by providing perhaps the most surprising and exciting slate of games this season. Should history repeat itself, we should all spend the rest of 2014 complaining about how all the games are terrible and be rewarded with week-to-week goodness.
Until then, this week looks super-meh, you guys.
Only three games on the calendar feature single-digit spreads, per Odds Shark. Only two games feature two opponents currently sitting inside the Associated Press Top 25. One of those two contests happens on a Thursday. The other games look like a combination of bloodbaths so gory they're unwatchable and ho-hum shrugfests best served as "entertainment" to get your daughter's damn slumber party to calm down already.
So, in an effort to spice things up, let's talk about the two games featuring teams with numbers next to their names. At least one of those contests has a decent chance of being good!
No. 5 Auburn at No. 20 Kansas State (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN)
It's honestly disappointing that arguably Week 4's best game is set up to get slaughtered against a Thursday Night Football telecast. Kansas State and Auburn have both gotten off to red-hot starts, averaging 95.5 points per game between them while taking care of lesser competition.
The 20th-ranked Wildcats overpowered Stephen F. Austin before engaging in a torrid fourth-quarter comeback against Iowa State two Saturdays ago. Quarterback Jake Waters has compiled 655 total yards (462 passing, 193 rushing) and six touchdowns in those two contests, emerging as a much more dynamic two-way threat than he was as a junior.
"Every quarterback we've played has been pretty mobile, but not like this guy," Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser. "Coach (Bill) Snyder is going to run him intentionally about 30 times a game if he has to. That will be a big deal, and just being able to fit the run against him period.
Waters' ascent has been no doubt helped by the emergence of sophomore running back Charles Jones. The 5'10" speedster is averaging more than six yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns each of the first two weeks; Jones has been the far superior option to senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has struggled in his first extended look in the backfield.
That is partially a byproduct of Kansas State's unique rushing system. Bill Snyder still somehow uses the Wildcat formation with effect, and Jones has scored all four of his touchdowns this season out of the formation, per Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.
While it seems archaic in today's football culture to be talking about the Wildcat—a formation that is more effective at the college level but nonetheless a gimmick—Kansas State's execution has Auburn taking it seriously.
"When they get in the Wildcat, it's just like everybody else," Johnson said, per Erickson. "They give you a lot of different formations just to try to get you misaligned or find an open spot where they can punch a hole in your box."
In essence: A game written off as an easy Tigers win suddenly looks a whole lot more compelling.
Auburn's defense did a fine job stopping the run in Week 1's win over Arkansas, but some of that was thanks to some strange play-calling to start the second half. With the game still within arm's length, the Razorbacks continually went to the Brandon Allen over trusting one of the nation's best rushing attacks.
Against Auburn, Allen threw 31 times. He's thrown 17 in the last two weeks, both Arkansas wins.
If the Tigers are able to jump out to an early lead, it's unlikely Kansas State is able to mount a comeback. Waters is a solid passer but one who can be undone by inaccuracies; his best moments come when the Wildcats can use the threat of a run to open the middle of the field.
Auburn should be, and is, a strong favorite Thursday night. Just be sure to check back in on this game at halftime if Thursday Night Football pulls you away. If it's close, that'll probably stay the case through the final whistle.
No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State
A childish mistake by Jameis Winston has flipped this game's narrative on its head. Florida State announced Wednesday afternoon that the Heisman-winning quarterback will be suspended for the first half of Saturday's game after making lewd comments around campus earlier this week.
"First of all, I want to apologize to the university, my coaches and to my teammates," Winston told reporters. "I'm not a 'me' person, but in that situation, it was a selfish act, and that's not how you do things around here. I want to apologize to my teammates because I have now made a selfish act for them. That's all."
Winston's benching opens the door for an upset that seemed all but impossible for Clemson, which was manhandled by a much shakier Georgia team earlier this month. The Tigers opened as 20.5-point underdogs, per Odds Shark, and have since seen most sportsbooks pull the game off their books in response.
Sean Maguire will be under center for the first half, which, well, doesn't bode too great for Florida State's chances. Maguire has only a 26-pass sample on his resume—far too few to make any true assessment—but has thrown two picks and averaged 5.5 yards per attempt while playing against less-than-stellar competition.
In his most extended look last season, he completed 9-of-14 passes for 84 yards with a touchdown and interception in an 80-14 win over Idaho.
At the very least, we can comfortably assume the Florida State offense will be significantly less dynamic with Maguire under center. Winston has never finished a game with a yards-per-attempt average of less than 5.67 and all but one of his games (at Wake Forest, last season) have been above six.
There is also reason to believe Clemson will be fired up when Winston does get in the contest. Players left over from last year's team have spoken openly about a tweet Winston sent in March, showing the exterior of Death Valley with the caption "our house."
“That’s a guy that wants to make it all about him,” defensive lineman Grady Jarrett told reporters. “We’ll let him have that. It’s a team game.”
Florida State went into Clemson's home field in 2013 and left with a 51-14 romp that helped propel its national championship run and continued Winston's rise to a household name. It'd almost be fitting that Clemson take down the Seminoles at a time when Winston's infamy and immaturity—the number of people who tweeted about his actions over the last few days are astounding—ultimately led to his absence.
But one issue remains: Florida State is better at football. Rashad Greene and Karlos Williams did not disappear overnight, nor did one of the nation's best defenses. If Maguire can manage the game well enough to stay within one score—and by manage the game I mean the definition to the word; no turnovers, smart throws, extended drives led by the ground game—Winston should clean up in the second half.
That's quite a sizable "if."
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Hindsight is always significantly more clear than outlooks based on projection when it comes to college football recruiting. Not every 5-star is destined for greatness and lightly scouted high school prospects annually rise to stardom at the next level.
We took a look into the rearview mirror to examine a loaded 2011 class of quarterback recruits, throwing out old ratings and analysis in the process. After reviewing how each passer has performed in high-stakes collegiate settings, here's how we rank the top members of a collection that includes multiple first-round NFL draft picks and a Heisman Trophy winner.
Most experts and analysts aren't giving the Florida Gators much of a chance to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday. To their credit, it did take the Gators three overtimes to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats 36-30.
While the Gators didn't play well last weekend, they certainly shouldn't be 14.5 underdogs like they are on Saturday, according to Odds Shark. Here are the Gators' keys to victory over the Crimson Tide.
Driskel Needs to Air It Out
Alabama’s secondary was awful against the West Virginia Mountaineers in Week 1. Quarterback Clint Trickett was able to throw for 365 yards and a touchdown pass.
Alabama will be without its starting free safety, Nick Perry, for the first half of Saturday's game. Perry was ejected during the second half of last week's game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles for targeting. So expect quarterback Jeff Driskel to get the ball into receiver Demarcus Robinson's hands early.
Driskel threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats. Robinson tied a school record last week with 15 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gators are averaging 90 plays from scrimmage offensively under first-year coordinator Kurt Roper. With the Crimson Tide short-handed in their secondary, you should expect the Gators to call a lot of passing plays early in the game.
Contain Cooper's Big Plays
Amari Cooper comes into the game against Florida leading the nation in catches with 33. He is also third in the nation in receiving yards with 454.
Fortunately for the Gators, they have arguably the best cornerback in college football in Vernon Hargreaves. The sophomore is first in the nation with 2.50 passes defended per game. Hargreaves also ranks first in the SEC with five pass breakups.
Last week, Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns against the Gators. Head coach Will Muschamp told Gators beat writer David Jones that Florida has to make improvements in its secondary, and he is correct.
If the Gators secondary struggles like it did against Kentucky, it could be a long day. Florida has to limit Cooper's plays and force other Crimson Tide receivers to beat them.
Slow Down the Alabama Running Game
Last week Towles was able to improvise and make plays with his feet against the Gators. This week, Florida will face another dual-threat quarterback in Blake Sims.
Not only did Sims throw for two touchdowns against Southern Miss last week, but he also rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown.
The Gators also have to worry about running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. Alabama has averaged 205 rushing yards per game, so you can expect head coach Nick Saban to pound the ball to take pressure off Sims and the passing game.
Both Alabama and Florida's defenses are good enough to keep the game close. If the Gators can limit the mistakes and take advantage of Alabama’s short-handed secondary, they certainly have a chance to win this game.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Ever since Gary Andersen was hired to be the head coach of the Wisconsin football team, the Badgers have made remarkable strides in recruiting.
While many of Andersen's swings have been misses, he's expanded the Badgers' recruiting area immensely and stepped up the Badgers targets in a major way.
While Andersen has had trouble mining the Badgers' traditional recruiting area—namely Minnesota and Wisconsin—he's made major strides in California, Texas and Florida, garnering 10 of the Badgers' 19 recruits from those three states alone.
The Badgers' recruiting class currently sits at No. 22 overall and fourth in the Big Ten behind Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. The Badgers have an outside chance of sneaking into the top 20 after all is said and done but will likely find themselves among the top 30 teams when it comes to recruiting.
With plenty of high-profile targets still uncommitted while the Badgers continue to try to flip others, the next few weeks will be pivotal as the Badgers attempt to round out their 2015 recruiting class.
Let's take a look at their commits, upcoming visits and targets still in play for the Badgers as they close out their non-conference schedule.
What image do you see when Jameis Winston jumps on a table and yells "F--k her right in the p---y!"? (If you're not following, the "F" is for a swear word and the "p" for a derogatory term for female anatomy.) Do you see some college kid doing a dumb thing? Or something more shocking?
It should be shocking. Because football—and not just the NFL—is grappling with issues of acts of violence against women. And it shouldn't just take a graphic video of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee out cold in an elevator to make us see the culture behind the violence. No, I'm not equating jumping on a table and yelling with domestic violence. It would be dangerous and unfair to Winston to go so overboard. But in a less obvious way, Winston's behavior is representative of a football culture that is the breeding ground for more serious offenses.
Anyone can see violence in a video, but what's harder to see is the seed of this kind of behavior.
Florida State suspended Winston for the first half of Saturday's big game against Clemson for that phrase. It was the right move by FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, because the only thing that registers with so many athletes is taking them off the field. Winston was mimicking a viral video where someone pretends to photobomb live reports by saying those words in the background.
With this latest incident, Winston is either turning into a dangerous cliche, or he already was one and we were duped out of realizing it. It's on us for not seeing it.
Last year, we were told so many times about how Winston was different, how he was a team player. At a press conference, we might see him stop talking about himself and start naming and thanking each individual offensive lineman.
Now, his image is transforming, maybe for fans and certainly for his future employers in the NFL. An anonymous NFL scout, according to Yahoo columnist Dan Wetzel, tweeted this to him about Winston:
"He keeps filling up the 'recurring stupidity' column."
About this time last year, reporters asked Winston about Johnny Manziel's behavior, and Winston replied: "If I get Manziel Disease, I want every one of you all to get your mikes and start slapping me on the head.''
He's going to be eating those words now, but the truth is, we're way past that. Winston's actions are far more hurtful than those of Johnny Football. Manziel was about partying and name-dropping and selling his autograph.
Winston's actions may not have been intentionally mean-spirited. But this isn't like his other recurring stupid mistakes, such as reportedly stealing soda pop (although the restaurant did not pursue charges) or crab legs. This is much bigger, and symbolic.
Think about this: Less than two years ago, a woman accused Winston of raping her. After an investigation, no charges were filed, but the whole thing made national news. And now, sports—football in particular—are staring down the issue of athletes and violence against women. It might be the first time football has decided to take this seriously, thanks to TMZ showing a video of Rice on the elevator.
And what does Winston do? Jumps on a table and starts yelling about assaulting women. At the least, it was degrading to women. His chant was not about sex; it contained violent, dehumanizing language.
Just a college kid, I know. Not a genius. But this arrogance is at the root of the problem, this comfort in the sense that a football player is all-powerful and able to say anything.
This week, in response to the Ray Rice case—or at least to the public-relations disaster that resulted from it—NFL commissioner Roger Goodell formed a four-woman committee on domestic violence and sexual assault. Part of their task will be about education.
Winston apparently is a perfect example of the type of player they need to address. He has not been found guilty of any assault or violence. He has not demonstrated any overt examples of any such behavior. What he shows is a thought process, a seed of a cultural thing among so many football players that needs to be rooted out. It's about what attitudes toward women are being taught through a lifetime in the sport.
That's going to be tough to change. It has something to do with the ego of football players, their need to be tough guys, and their views about the value of anyone whom they don't see as a tough guy.
Recurring stupidity is an issue, and it did cost Manziel some in the draft. But part of his problem was the strength of his arm. Winston is bigger than Manziel and has a stronger arm. In usual times—as in, before last week—this would go down as another example of boys being boys.
But the perception of Winston is changing, and an NFL team will have to decide whether it can entrust the job of being the face of a franchise to Winston. And that's a matter of not only his behavior, but also his growing public-relations baggage.
Winston apologized for the chant in a press conference, and said he has to "tone it down."
I don't know. That just sounds as if he thinks he has Manziel Disease.
Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Bill Snyder’s college coaching debut came three years before we landed on the moon. The president was Lyndon B. Johnson. A gallon of gas cost $0.32. The Beatles, in the words of the late John Lennon, were “more popular than Jesus.”
Steve Spurrier, quarterback of the Florida Gators, kicked—yes, kicked—a game-winning 40-yard field goal against Auburn. Weeks later, he won the Heisman. Gus Malzahn, the coach for whom Snyder is currently spending elongated hours game-planning, celebrated his first birthday. It was 1966.
In football, time is insurmountable. It is unbowed. It is a relentless brute that will eventually conquer every player or coach in some capacity, no matter what kind of fight they are able to put up. And yet, in the instance of the 74-year-old Snyder—a throwback in every sense of the word—time has seemingly met its match.
Like a wizard working on variations of spells and acquiring newfangled tricks with his wand, the coach who brought Kansas State back from the dead, retired and then returned to do it again is truly one of a kind.
The man loves football. He eats one meal a day, mainly because it gets in the way of football, and he refuses to take lunch breaks. When asked a matchup-centric question, you can hear his voice break its normal methodical pace ever so slightly. Even after talking about various ways to start and stop an offense over 50 years, he still seems to genuinely enjoy the long hours and incredible challenges.
His style is anything but orthodox. From his eating habits to variations of the wishbone and beyond to his persistent and unmistakable JUCO recruiting efforts, his impact on the sport he has nurtured will be evident on Thursday when Auburn comes to town. And when it comes to embracing challenges, there are few as daunting as this one.
Led by 48-year-old Malzahn, Auburn will be operating with its unique offense led by Nick Marshall, a former JUCO quarterback whom Snyder desperately tried to lure to Manhattan, Kansas, when he excelled at Garden City (Kansas) Community College.
The plan is familiar and diabolical, a page out of one of many of Snyder’s books, with slight variations here and there. The awareness of it all won’t make it any easier to slow down, which is why Kansas State has been deemed a nine-point home underdog according to Odds Shark.
“We don’t have the personnel to emulate the speed, the quickness, the strength and the size that they present,” an honest Snyder said this week while assessing how the Wildcats planned to prepare.
But if there is anyone equipped to slow down Auburn—a powerful blur that hasn’t lost against the spread in a full calendar year and was a minute away from a national championship just eight months ago—Snyder, with his walking encyclopedia of football knowledge and his own bag of tricks, has as good a chance as anyone of derailing the train he helped assemble.
A Brief History Lesson: Six Decades of Success
“There is only one school in the nation that has lost 500 games,'' Bill Snyder said when he landed the Kansas State job in 1989. ''This is it, and I get to coach it.''
Sports Illustrated crowned Kansas State “Futility U” when Snyder, after 23 years of bouncing around as an assistant, finally landed his first head coaching job in Manhattan. After a stint at North Texas, Snyder migrated north to Iowa, where he served as the offensive coordinator under the legendary Hayden Fry. It was here that his stock began to rise, and Kansas State—in search of football CPR—tapped the 50-year-old to be its next head coach.
At the time Sports Illustrated posted its piece, Kansas State had gone 0-26-1 over its past 27 games. Dating back to 1934, the team had gone to one bowl game. Perhaps even more staggering, the Wildcats had just two winning seasons over the previous 34 years.
While the story was nuclear in nature, it was also deadly accurate. Given Snyder’s overall lack of head coaching experience, expectations were minimal, just like they were for the coaches who came in and failed before him.
But then, without warning, the team started to win. In 1990, just two years after he took over, the Wildcats won five games. The following season, they won seven. In 1993, they won nine. By 1996, Kansas State was rolling.
Less than a decade after taking over a so-called "dead" program, Snyder led Kansas State to an undefeated regular season in 1998 in which they were they voted the No. 1 team in the country.
Barry Switzer, one of the greatest college football coaches to ever walk this earth, had this to say about Snyder to Tim Layden in a Sports Illustrated piece published 10 years later: "Bill Snyder isn't the coach of the year, and he isn't the coach of the decade. He's the coach of the century."
In 2005, Snyder retired from the job after two average seasons, at least by these newfound standards. In 2009, he returned—a move that’s hard to compute given the bridge-burning nature of the business—and led K-State to a 10-win season after only two years. Three years after his return, the Wildcats made a BCS bowl.
In 2013, Snyder, at the age of 73, inked a five-year contract extension to remain with the program. For anyone else, it would have seemed like an absurd bit of business to give a man in his mid-70s a long-term contract.
For Kansas State, it was a no-brainer.
Game Week: Inside the Mind of a Football Wizard
When asked how he plans to slow down Auburn’s offense, Snyder, seated comfortably in his element, his hands locked together, couldn’t help but laugh. It didn’t come across as nervous or anxious, but rather as an honest response to the task ahead.
“You can take your pick,” Snyder said. “It’s kind of like throwing at a dart board.”
Snyder is back to the chalkboard again, the place where he seems most at home. This is his comfort zone. It’s as if he’s testing his game plan out in the open, just to see how it sounds. He is light on cliches and the obvious, instead throwing out meaty fillets for those who crave X's and O's in their football conversations.
“They have a lot more offense than what people might indicate,” Snyder said. “They can do a lot of different things in a lot of different ways. And it’s not just the zone read.”
He breaks from Auburn. Someone has asked a question regarding Kansas State’s special teams, and he wasted little time diving headfirst into a response. Over the next few minutes, Snyder provided a crash course on the matter, giving enough material for a chapter in a book. His philosophical approach had a philosophical sound bite to back it up.
“We never step away from its value,” Snyder said as the room processed the special teams lesson it just unexpectedly received.
You can see his brain calculate—sharp as ever—as he recalls certain plays, film or players while making comparisons. And with his soothing and unwavering tone, you get a sense that you should be writing all of this down for more than just a quote in a story.
With chaos sweeping into town in the form of the nation’s hottest football program, no human being should be this calm, especially one who is expected to lead a roster composed of about 50 percent walk-ons.
But then you remember everything he’s been through—the unthinkable practice hours and film sessions, critical game scenarios and expectation-less times from a different era—and you realize that Auburn really isn’t all that daunting in terms of the bigger picture. It’s just the next game for a coach who has always been about the next game.
Getting the team to acquire this same mindset is a different matter entirely. It’s also a challenge he’s embracing.
“Their focus has been on the moment, whatever that happens to be. Yesterday it was on yesterday, and today it’s on today,” Snyder said. “I’d like to think that they’re enthused about the opportunity and the challenge that lies in front of them, but if you get caught up too much in Thursday night you’re probably not taking care of Monday.”
It comes down to the preparation. But it also comes down to balancing confidence—some might even call it arrogance—with just the right amount of nerves to carry you through an abbreviated game week.
“Any football coach in the country wants his players to honestly—and ‘honestly’ is a valuable word—believe that they will win and can win,” Snyder said. “You can expect to win and should have that attitude if you prepare yourself.”
Snyder, hands still overlapping, voice unwavering, is back in his comfort zone, comparing Auburn’s offense to ones he’s schemed against and even coached.
He highlights the wishbone and how it has advanced. He also mentions Ell Roberson and Michael Bishop—two quarterbacks he coached more than a decade ago—while searching for the appropriate comparison to Nick Marshall. It comes off as natural and familiar, as if he coached these players yesterday.
The conversation comes full circle, and Snyder provides his own state-of-the-offense assessment of what his team will face on Thursday and beyond.
“Football evolves,” Snyder said. “Whatever it was will reinvent itself and be back again.”
No one would know better. After all, college football’s greatest active historian and walking wizard has reinvented his program—and himself—time and time again.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The Miami Hurricanes defense has noticeably improved in 2014, but the nation's 15th-ranked run-stopping unit will be tested by Nebraska superstar Ameer Abdullah.
Since the beginning of last season, the running back has posted 13 100-yard performances and scored 15 total touchdowns. Overall, the senior has compiled an impressive 6.2 yards per carry since the Cornhuskers beat Wyoming in August 2013.
According to SI.com, Florida Atlantic coach Charlie Partridge had high praise for Nebraska's star back. "He's got all three: power, make-you-miss ability and speed. All at an extremely high level. He's a great player," he said.
Two weeks ago, McNeese State of the Football Championship Subdivision surprisingly contained Abdullah to a mere 54 yards on 17 rushes. His 3.2 yards per attempt marked the worst average since his freshman season, three long years ago.
It's possible to stop Abdullah, especially considering the 'Canes are a more powerful overall defense than McNeese State's—bigger, faster, stronger.
But collective physicality is far from the deciding factor of victories. Miami needs to stay disciplined more than ever because its defense cannot lock in solely on him. Keeping both Abdullah and quarterback Tommy Armstrong in check will be an enormous challenge.
Completely focusing on Abdullah leads to mental lapses and allows Armstrong to break off huge runs, so there needs to be a proper balance, with the emphasis certainly on the former.
While the Hurricanes have a decent unit of defensive linemen, Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister face a major task on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET.
As a team, Miami has already tallied 21 tackles for loss. Ten players have earned a spot in that category, where Perryman and Armbrister pace the unit with 4.0 each, while Ufomba Kamalu has 3.0 and edge-rusher Tyriq McCord has 2.5.
Now, the 'Canes must prove whether or not those superb numbers mean anything against the country's ninth-best rushing attack.
Study the Blueprint, Make It Better
McNeese State did an excellent job of defending the speed option, not ceding a long gain to either player. The Cowboys took the risk and unleashed a safety toward the running back. It definitely worked, since Abdullah was tackled for a loss five times on a mere 17 carries.
But the game plan, though outstanding in its own right, was not perfect.
Armstrong broke loose three times for a combined 98 yards, and each time was via the read-option. Abdullah managed one run for more than 15 yards, which happened on the second possession of the day and was off, you guessed it, a read.
In the picture above, there is an open lane to attack between the defensive end and the man guarding Nebraska's slot receiver. All it would take is one slip-up by the McNeese State defensive end for Abdullah to waltz untouched into the second level.
And he made that one mistake.
Junior right tackle Zach Sterup capitalized on the aggressiveness of the Cowboys defensive end and buried him into the wash, leaving no opposition to Abdullah's run:
He easily eluded three tacklers at the second level and scampered for 19 yards, his longest run of the day. Had the end stayed home, Abdullah would have a running lane between either the center and guard, but a linebacker was filling that gap.
The best way to counteract that play is sealing the edges and not getting overzealous, and the Cowboys calmed down later in the quarter.
On a comparable call, the McNeese State defenders—from the trenches to the secondary—executed perfectly this time:
Armstrong's running lane was closed, and a McNeese lineman disrupted the backfield, forcing Abdullah outside. This time, the weak-side end rightfully stayed on his edge, giving his teammates sufficient time to track down the Nebraska back near the sideline for a three-yard loss.
McNeese State sealed the gaps, pushed Abdullah away from his blockers and didn't allow him back to the line of scrimmage.
Plus, Armstrong had nowhere to go.
It's a total team effort, not an individualistic approach. That's the only way the Hurricanes can stop Abdullah. Otherwise, the Cornhuskers will run Miami right out of Lincoln, and the senior running back will be the one leading the charge.
One mistake, and the only thing stopping Abdullah could be the end zone.
Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com.
Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com