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ESPN "College GameDay" to Headed to Fargo for North Dakota State Game in Week 3

ESPN's College GameDay will spend Week 3 in Fargo, North Dakota, where it will witness a FCS game between three-time defending national champion North Dakota State and Incarnate Wood.

The show's official Twitter account reported the news:

Heading to Fargo for a game with no bearing on the College Football Playoff or any of the 11 FBS conferences is sure to be met with mixed reviews. For what it's worth, though, the GameDay crew did head to Fargo in September last season, when it saw the Bison beat Delaware State 51-0 to extend its winning streak to 12 games.

Since then, NDSU has extended that winning streak to 26 games, including a season-opening, 34-14 win at Iowa State two weekends ago. Last year, it started the season with a 24-21 win at Kansas State.

"To think (GameDay will come) two years in a row, I don’t know what to say," Bison defensive end Kyle Emanuel told Jeff Kolpack of The Jamestown Sun. "It’s unreal. It’s more than a dream come true."

Despite losing legendary head coach Craig Bohl—who has since moved on to Wyoming and is 2-0 to start his career in the FBS—the Bison remain the biggest draw in the FCS and a team deserving modest recognition. Especially after seeing Iowa State nearly knock off Kansas State in Ames on Saturday, their thorough beatdown of the Cyclones in Week 1 looks all the more impressive.

Besides, where else is GameDay supposed to go? Georgia at South Carolina stuck out as an obvious Week 3 destination during the preseason, but an ESPN-affiliated crew (the folks at the SEC Network) travelled to Williams-Brice Stadium just two weeks ago, and the game it saw between the Gamecocks and Texas A&M was effectively over with 20 minutes left to play.

One can understand why it wouldn't want to go back.

Other bigger games on the Week 3 slate include Tennessee at Oklahoma and...um...Louisville at Virginia? It's not like the GameDay crew had a banner weekend of games to choose from.

Why shouldn't it pack up and head to Fargo?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 2 Standings

Another week down in the NCAA means we're one week closer to the College Football Playoff in Arlington, Texas. Two games into the season, some early contenders for the championship have emerged.

Will the champion be an ACC team for the second straight year? Or will an SEC powerhouse, Pac-12 emerging talent or Big Ten underdog take the title?

Let's examine four early contenders for those final seeds and project which one will emerge as the national champion. 

 

No. 4 seed: Oklahoma

Oklahoma notched its sixth-straight victory over Tulsa Saturday to advance to 2-0 on the season and prove that it has a place among the top teams in contention for a College Football Playoff spot. 

Everything has been clicking for the Sooners so far this season, with the offense resembling a well-oiled machine. Against Tulsa, Trevor Knight was one yard shy of 300 yards passing. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a third. 

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard will be the Sooners' X-factor in their quest for a title in January. He set a career high of 177 receiving yards and tied his career high of eight receptions Saturday, via The Associated Press. He should continue to create a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, who will have to decide whether they can risk not putting him in double coverage.

Tulsa didn't and paid the price, losing 52-7. 

Oklahoma owed 21 of its 52 points to running backs Alex Ross and Keith Ford, who finished with 90 and 87 yards, respectively, and combined for three touchdowns. 

The Sooners only play one more team that is currently ranked in the Top 25 in their remaining slate of matchups, and that's Baylor. Their strength of schedule (or lack thereof) will be factored into their rankings, but a winnable schedule should keep them within reach of the top four throughout the season and up until the playoff teams are voted in.

 

No. 3 seed: Oregon

Though Oregon faltered early Saturday against Michigan State, the Ducks got back to form as a top-three team when they buried the Spartans by scoring 28 unanswered points to end the game, 46-27, and advance to 2-0.

Marcus Mariota strengthened not only his Heisman standing but his team's chances of advancing to the College Football Playoff, passing for 318 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He set an Oregon record with 69 career touchdown passes. 

CBSSports' Dane Brugler noted that Mariota, who is currently the No. 1 quarterback prospect, will likely remain there by season's end. 

Oregon's young receivers have proved through two games that they can become viable weapons for Mariota. The Ducks, ranked No. 3 after Week 1, are legitimate contenders for the No. 3 seed.

Though Oregon lost two top targets from last season (Josh Huff to the NFL and Bralon Addison to a torn ACL in spring practice), it has created opportunities for up-and-comers like freshmen Devon Allen, who had 110 yards in the win, and Darren Carrington, who had a 64-yard reception to start the second quarter.

Toppling a stout defense like Michigan State's is one way to climb the rankings. Per ESPN Stats and Information, 46 points is the most the Spartans have allowed since their loss to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl in 2011. 

The knee injury Mariota struggled with in 2013 had a noticeable impact on the rest of his season, but he's been in Heisman form so far in 2014. If he can remain healthy this season, expect the Ducks to remain near the top of the rankings. 

 

No. 2 seed: Alabama

Alabama rolled to 2-0 Saturday with a 41-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic in a game that was halted due to lightning, demonstrating that Nick Saban's squad has what it takes to beat out conference rival Auburn for a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

Alabama's future at quarterback post-A.J. McCarron looks promising, with Jacob Coker and Blake Sims continuing to compete for the starting job. Saturday marked the first time two Alabama quarterbacks had thrown for 200 yards in the same game, per The Associated Press, with Coker finishing 15-of-24 for 202 yards and Sims 11-of-13 for 214. 

But Sims pulled away in the competition, throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third. He earned more snaps on the night.

Behind either Sims or Coker, Alabama's arsenal of weapons keeps the Tide elite. The running game should again be dominant in 2014 behind T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013 and has added another 169 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Amari Cooper hauled in a 52-yard touchdown catch from Sims Saturday and will be one of the players who carry this team into the playoff. His 13 receptions against Florida Atlantic tied DJ Hall's school record, per ESPN Stats and Information

 

No. 1 seed: Florida State

What Jameis Winston accomplished last season at Florida State is difficult to beat, which he demonstrated in the Seminoles' first game of the season.

Though Florida State beat Oklahoma State 37-31, Winston only completed 62.5 percent of his passes, going 25-of-40 for 370 yards, two touchdowns and a career-high two interceptions.

Compare that against his first game in 2013, in which he threw four touchdowns and zero picks. In the best freshman season by a college quarterback on record, Winston set single-season NCAA freshman records for passing yards (4,057) and touchdowns (40).

Still, Winston engineered his team to a win, and he did it with lesser receiving weapons than he had in 2013. Florida State lost receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, but Winston still has Rashad Greene, while Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield are options on the outside and in the slot.

Greene had 11 receptions for 203 yards and a score against Oklahoma State, but Winston was able to make a difference with his legs—a skill the Seminoles will rely upon on their road to the playoff. 

Oklahoma State was one of the tougher matchups Florida State had on the schedule this year, and though it wasn't always pretty, coming out with the win kept the Seminoles at No. 1 in the AP Top 25. Only three of their remaining opponents are currently ranked. 

 

National Championship Prediction: Oregon 

It's hard to see these Ducks exiting any earlier than the national championship, and if they continue at their current level, it's hard to imagine anyone who could beat them.

Mariota is arguably the best quarterback in college football currently, and Oregon's high-octane spread offense allows him to lead an aggressive aerial attack that even Michigan State's vaunted defense couldn't slow. 

His spot-on decision-making allows Mariota to decide when to use his legs to make a play and when to go to his receiving weapons, of which he has many. Combine that with a rushing attack that was ranked 18th heading into Saturday and an offense that is sixth in scoring, and the only place this team looks to be going is up—all the way up.

 

All rankings from AP Top 25 via ESPN.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 3 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Upsets are one of the most compelling reasons to watch college football, and Week 2 delivered them. Teams that came into the season 1-0 and ranked in the Top 10, like Ohio State, will find themselves tumbling in the updated polls when they're released. The Buckeyes, ranked No. 8 heading into Saturday, fell to unranked Virginia Tech 35-21. 

Meanwhile No. 18 Wisconsin, which fell in its season opener to LSU, helped its cause Saturday. The Badgers defeated Western Illinois soundly, 37-3, and put themselves out of danger of falling out of the Top 25. 

Some teams benefited from others' follies. Texas A&M, which heading into Week 2 was ranked No. 9, will reap the rewards of Ohio State falling. 

Before the release of the updated polls, let's take a look at the most recent Bleacher Report rankings and a breakdown of how teams shifted in the standings.

 

Breakdown of Rankings

Florida State did nothing to endanger its No. 1 ranking Saturday as the Seminoles managed a 37-12 win over Citadel. Jameis Winston looked much-improved over his two-interception Week 1 debut, posting an incredibly accurate 22-of-27 passing for 256 yards and two scores.

Winston has now thrown a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games. 

Oklahoma improved to 2-0 on the season with a win over Tulsa on Saturday, demonstrating that it can contend with the best teams in college football. As Florida State, Alabama and Oregon also won, Oklahoma will likely remain at No. 4. 

Against Tulsa, quarterback Trevor Knight was one yard shy of 300 passing and threw for two touchdowns while rushing for a third. 

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard shone for the Sooners with 177 receiving yards on eight receptions Saturday, which set and tied career-highs, respectively, as Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman noted. 

Oklahoma owed 21 of its 52 points to running backs Alex Ross and Keith Ford, who finished with 90 and 87 yards respectively and combined for three touchdowns. 

As previously noted, no matter how well Oklahoma performed Saturday, there is no way they're leapfrogging Oregon in the updated rankings.

Though the Ducks struggled early Saturday against Michigan State, Oregon soon buried the vaunted Spartans defense by scoring 28 unanswered points to end the game and advance to 2-0.

Marcus Mariota helped not only his Heisman positioning but Oregon's chances of advancing to the national championship, passing for 318 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He set an Oregon record with 69 career touchdown passes. 

It wasn't a good day for Big Ten conference leaders Ohio State and Michigan State. 

Though the top-ranked teams will likely remain the same, the big shifts in the rankings will come as a result of Ohio State's loss and Wisconsin's first win. Teams that were ranked lower than Ohio State, such as Texas A&M and Baylor, which blew out Northwestern State 70-6, will likely rise in the rankings. 

UCLA narrowly avoided an upset by Memphis, eking out the win 42-35. Memphis safety Fritz Etienne returned a pick 17 yards to tie the game up with 13:44 left in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Brett Hundley connected with Thomas Duarte on a 33-yard reception and the Bruins defense stepped up to stave off a comeback. 

Even though it won, the manner in which it did means UCLA likely will not crack the Top 10 in the updated polls. It was the second week in a row that the Bruins squeaked out a win, after winning 28-20 over Virginia in Week 1. 

National college football writer Bryan Fischer remarked that after their performance over the last two weeks, the Bruins won't even make his Top 25. 

 

All rankings from AP Top 25 via ESPN.com 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame's Dominant Defensive Performance, What It Means

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Notre Dame and Michigan first squared off in football in 1887. For the first 126 years of the rivalry, the Irish had never shut out the Wolverines. That changed Saturday night, as Notre Dame blanked Michigan, 31-0.

“It is very hard to comprehend,” Irish senior linebacker Joe Schmidt said of Notre Dame’s first shutout in the series history. “It hasn’t set in. But it is for sure fun.”

In many ways, Schmidt’s thoughts on Notre Dame’s historic performance can parallel the overall thoughts on this Irish defense. It’s somewhat difficult to comprehend how well they played—this early in the season, with this many young players and with a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme. The shutout has yet to fully sink in. And, yes, that’s a fun defense to watch.

The Irish limited the Wolverines to 289 yards of total offense and never allowed Michigan to reach the red zone.

Michigan HC Brady Hoke says Michigan didn't do itself any favors in the red zone. Know why? The Wolverines never reached the red zone.

— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) September 7, 2014

“Obviously, shutting out any opponent in college football is an enormous task with offenses today,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said afterward. “A great performance by our defense.”

Kelly said stopping the run—Michigan averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on 35 attempts—was key to Notre Dame’s defensive success and set up the rest of the game plan. In slowing the ground attack, the Irish were able to force Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner into difficult third-down situations.

Given its top-notch performance, it’s somewhat easy to forget just how inexperienced and new this defense is. The Irish have already played eight true freshmen on defense through the first two games of the season. Of Notre Dame’s defensive starters Saturday, only sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith and junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day were regular starters last season.

“[This team’s] success is really in its youth,” Kelly said.

So is Notre Dame’s defense ahead of schedule?

“I would say it really just ceases all the doubts about we're young, can we execute,” Smith said.

Smith, however, was quick to point out there’s plenty of room for improvement in communication and execution, in particular.

“There were a lot of mental errors out there that the crowd may not see, but we're going to get better,” Smith said.

There was already major improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 for safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate, who played nearly every snap with graduate student captain Austin Collinsworth sidelined with an MCL injury. After the duo struggled at times with its communication last weekend against Rice, both players looked much improved against the Wolverines. Redfield notched six tackles and picked off Gardner, while Shumate tallied 10 tackles and added an exclamation point with his interception in the game’s final seconds.

Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate struggled last week. Complete 180 vs. Michigan. Huge for Irish defense.

— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) September 7, 2014

“They knew that it was their time to step up and lead back there,” Kelly said. “They were put in that position by virtue of an injury, and the circumstances, and they were not going to let their teammates down.”

Redfield and Shumate played fast and free, closing in on ball-carriers and wrapping up.

“When they’re playing fast and they know what’s going on, they’re pretty, pretty good,” said graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs, who praised the safeties for their inherent raw ability.

There certainly appears to be untapped potential remaining in this Irish defense. If the Irish can continue to grow throughout the season, the defense could be a strong suit, as it was against Michigan.

Notre Dame’s defense is still settling in. But Saturday’s performance was an encouraging step.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Mizzou Football Week 2 Wrap-Up: Tigers Still Need Improvement

Mizzou fans are thrilled to see the Tigers pull through their dangerous road test at Toledo as Mizzou was able to repeat the theme of starting strong on the road.

Any time we critique, it's always best to start off with praise, and without question the biggest not-too-unexpected surprise was the play of senior wide receiver Bud Sasser. Sasser is a guy who has patiently waited his turn behind the wide array of receiving talent the Tigers have had over recent years. He's come out and shown that it won't just be Darius White who will carry the team in the air.

Also of note was the interception by sophomore defensive back Aarion Penton out of St. Louis. The takeaway was the result of pressure by Markus Golden, a name that SEC offensive coordinators are going to need to be familiar with if they're not already. Golden, much like his predecessors on the defensive line, has found an NFL-level of success and has that innate ability to be around the ball.

Unfortunately, none of these things on their own are going to be good enough to carry Mizzou to certain victory in its deciding games against the likes of South Carolina, Georgia and possibly Florida as well.

Still suspect is the Tigers' rushing defense, which hasn't exactly impressed so far against sub-SEC talent. Toledo's Kareem Hunt averaged 9.9 yards per carry with a 148-yard day on the ground overall. If Mizzou are giving up numbers like this early, it could be devastating when players like Georgia's Todd Gurley gets a crack at them.

We also didn't get a real good look at Eddie Printz in action. He only attempted one pass, which was incomplete, but it will be interesting to see if Printz can maintain his success in practice on the field in a real game or even critical situation.

The Tigers will rest up Sunday and watch film before getting ready for a tough week of practice in preparation to host UCF. Game time is 12 p.m. ET, and it can be seen on the SEC Network.

Follow Dan Irwin on Twitter @irwinsports or on Facebook.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Lack of Firepower Dooming Buckeyes Offense

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With 30 minutes to go until kickoff, four-time NBA MVP LeBron James came strolling out of the newly renovated entrance tunnel inside of Ohio Stadium. Moments later, two-time reigning Big Ten MVP and injured Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller followed, with The Horseshoe's student section chanting his name.

But unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that's where their star power stopped on Saturday night.

Because with Miller trapped in a neatly tailored navy suit thanks to a torn labrum that will keep him on the sideline for the entirety of the 2014 season—and James' eligibility having long expired—there would be no saving of an Ohio State offense that appeared impotent in the Buckeyes' 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech. Ohio State outgained the Hokies (327 yards to 324) but failed to move the ball consistently, as Virginia Tech employed a Cover 0 scheme that forced the Buckeyes to take shots downfield.

"Our opponent really did a good job preparing for us. They exposed us a little bit, some of the weaknesses on our team," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said after the game. "It was rather obvious what it is."

The inefficiency mentioned by Meyer was apparent in the stat line of redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who, in the second start of his college career, connected on just nine of his 29 pass attempts and threw three interceptions. For the second consecutive week, Barrett didn't find much help from an offensive line that's still in the process of replacing four starters from a season ago, but even more glaring issues were apparent for the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Particularly when it came to Ohio State's wide receiver corps, which saw just one player record multiple catches against the Hokies' dare-you-to-throw defense. While Michael Thomas tallied six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown, Barrett found few viable options outside of the redshirt sophomore wideout—something that clearly struck a nerve with Meyer in his postgame press conference.

"I don’t think our wide receivers played well," Meyer said. “I’m very disappointed.”

After drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff in the preseason, redshirt junior Corey Smith struggled on Saturday, dropping three big passes including a sure touchdown in the second quarter. Devin Smith and Dontre Wilson each added big plays with receptions of 58 and 40 yards, respectively, but Barrett and the Buckeyes never found the consistency to take advantage of VT's high-risk, high-reward approach.

“That was pretty unorthodox," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said of the Hokies defense. "We weren’t good enough tonight to make them pay for that."

Outside of Barrett, who rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, Ohio State's running game was virtually nonexistent as Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and Wilson combined for 53 yards on 15 carries. That again was a product of the Hokies scheme, which stacked the box and forced the Buckeyes to throw deep.

Ohio State attempted to—Herman admitted that it didn't really have a choice—but found itself limited to Thomas, who is more of a possession receiver than anything else. For a program that has spent three years placing an emphasis on recruiting speed at the skill positions, the Buckeyes had little to show for it on Saturday, even as Virginia Tech begged them to make the most of it.

"We’ve worked so hard and recruited so hard," Meyer said. "We gotta do better in isolating them and winning some matchups. That’s what it comes down to. Win a matchup."

Very rarely did Ohio State do just that, and as opposed to two seasons ago when opponents California and Purdue found success with the same defensive scheme, the Buckeyes no longer have Miller's legs to bail them out. The OSU wideouts may not be the "clown show" that Meyer called them when he first got to Columbus, but they certainly aren't ready for prime time either, as evidenced by Saturday's shaky showing when the Buckeyes needed them to step up the most.

And while Meyer's closing statements attempted to build belief in the unit, a bitter reality appeared to be sinking in for the third-year OSU head coach. The blueprint now is out on how to beat the Buckeyes, and it will be up to his unproven receivers to save this season.

And if they can't? Then there won't be any amount of star power on the sideline capable of of hiding how ugly 2014 could become in Columbus.

"I’m a little bit surprised. I thought our skills guys would perform better," Meyer admitted. "I still have confidence that we have enough skill on this football team to get by people. I know it didn’t look like it—but we have to get by people. Or you’re going to see what you saw today.

"You’ll see it every week."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

 

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Houston's Offense Still Needs Work Despite Blowout Win over Grambling State

The Houston Cougars dominated Grambling State 47-0 on Saturday night at TDECU Stadium to get into the win column for the first time in 2014, but the Cougars offense still needs work.

Houston improved to 1-1 on the season. The Coogs thoroughly outclassed GSU from the opening kickoff. Houston needed just two running plays to march 80 yards in their first possession for the score, and the rout was on.

Houston ended the first quarter up 10-0 and never looked back.

The good news for Cougar fans is that Houston’s offense, which practically no-showed last week against the University of Texas at San Antonio, displayed viable signs of life against GSU.

Junior wide receiver Deontay Greenberry totaled 110 yards on five catches. Junior running back Kenneth Farrow bulldozed his way to 130 yards and one touchdown on just 13 carries, and Houston’s offensive line opened up running lanes and gave up zero sacks.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect, sophomore wide receiver Greg Ward showed why he might be the most versatile offensive player in the country. Ward caught a touchdown and rushed for one, too. He returned punts, kicks and played multiple snaps at the quarterback position.

Ward’s athleticism makes him hard to tackle in the open field, and he has enough speed to take it to the end zone any time he touches the ball. Head coach Tony Levine seems to know it, and that might be best thing of all.

Ward was “Mr. Everything” for Houston against GSU, something offensive coordinator Travis Bush might do well to remember as the Cougars march toward American Athletic Conference play.

But Houston also suffered several miscues on the night. Greenberry, as sure-handed and gifted as any receiver in the nation, dropped at least two passes in the game, one a sure touchdown from Ward in the end zone that hit him right on the hands.

Still, Greenberry is likely Houston’s premier offensive player, and if ever there was a team to drop a few passes against, it was GSU.

The Houston players were simply bigger, faster and stronger than the Tigers, and GSU committed six turnovers to make thing even worse for themselves. GSU lost three fumbles on the evening, and quarterbacks Stephen Johnson and D.J. Williams combined for three interceptions.

Yes, Houston did what it was supposed to do against GSU, but it would have almost been difficult not to.

Houston was in the red zone nine times on the night and came away with points seven times.

While that’s a sharp improvement over their abysmal seven-point performance against UTSA, Houston will need to improve greatly on offense if conference title hopes are to remain grounded in reality.

Sophomore quarterback John O’Korn played better than he did last week. O’Korn threw for 200 yards and one touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, O’Korn did not throw an interception and wasn’t sacked.

O'Korn threw four interceptions in the opener and was sacked four times. 

But O’Korn’s accuracy still leaves much to be desired. He completed just 14-of-25 passes, throwing many of his misses too wide for his receivers to even have a chance. 

The former Florida high school standout’s play was erratic. His cannon of an arm means little when he consistently misses open receivers. Against GSU, he forced the ball into coverage enough times to leave Cougar fans wondering if they’ll ever be allowed to exhale during an offensive series.

That isn’t to say O’Korn isn’t a smart, talented and hardworking player. By all accounts, he’s everything a coach would want in a young quarterback. O’Korn led all true freshmen last season with 28 touchdowns, and he has as high a ceiling as any signal-caller in the nation.

But O’Korn seems to lock into his favorite target, Greenberry, way too much. In fact, it seems Greenberry is O’Korn’s escape plan when the pocket collapses: No matter how covered Greenberry might be, O’Korn is throwing it to him.

Regardless, hopes remain high for the Cougar faithful. Seeing their team for just the second time this season in their brand new stadium, Houston fans have plenty of things to feel good about heading into next week’s game against BYU.

And, sure, fans should feel good about their offense, too. Houston racked up 477 total yards on the night and had most of its starters yanked before the end of the third quarter.

But fans shouldn’t feel great about it. Not just yet.

Levine, Bush and company still have plenty of work to do on the offensive side of the ball before Houston fans can start believing week one’s single touchdown effort was the exception in 2014 and not the rule.

 

@KelseyMcCarson covers University of Houston football for Bleacher Report.

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The Death of the Big Ten

If you flew cross-country on Saturday—gazing out your football-less window of sorrow—you would have seen ominous smoke hovering over various parts of the Midwest, painting the sky black.

Over South Bend, over West Lafayette, near Chicago and certainly above Columbus, where the sky seemed extra threatening, there was darkness, thick pockets of smoke foretelling distress below. Elsewhere, in Eugene, the sky turned a menacing color no sky has a right to be. And, when you finally touched down, you learned of the panic that afflicted the other areas you only recently passed over hours earlier.

There is no easy way to put this—even for a Midwesterner who has defended the Big Ten from the tired narratives that have dogged the conference—so let’s just call Saturday exactly it what it was.

This was a catastrophic day for Jim Delany’s baby, a 13-hour stretch that could seemingly crush the Big Ten’s College Football Playoff hopes while furthering the national criticism that has grown louder in recent years.

But before we dive into the rabbit hole of bad, let’s dispense the limited praise where it’s due.

Michigan State put forth an admirable fight against Oregon, and the 46-27 score wasn’t nearly indicative of the game, at least the first three-and-a-half quarters. At halftime, Sparty looked to be in control behind quarterback Connor Cook, and then Oregon fought back and took over.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of for losing to the nation’s best player in one of the nation’s most hostile environments, although it served as a valuable showcase for the conference to deliver. Michigan State, which still has the look and feel of a Top 10 team, was unable to take advantage.

Compared to the rest of the conference, however, this seemed worthy of mild applause. Well, Indiana did have a bye.

As for the B1G in its entirety, here was how it played out. The following should come with a disclaimer.

Let’s play a game—find the best win.

Was it Iowa, which had to fight and claw to victory at home against Ball State? How about Wisconsin, which scored in the first second—literally—and then struggled offensively before pulling away from Western Illinois, a Missouri Valley team? What about Minnesota? Or Penn State? Or Illinois? 

Nebraska needed a Herculean effort from running back Ameer Abdullah to get past McNeese State, a Southland team that nearly pushed the Cornhuskers to the brink and Bo Pelini to the volcano seat.

His 58-yard touchdown catch was the difference in the game, securing a 31-24 win for Nebraska. (It was also the most impressive play you’ll see all weekend.)

On the other side of the results spectrum, the losses were notable. Some of the Big Ten’s most noeteworthy brands—Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan—all lost on the same day for a first time in a long time. (I was three.)

Sept. 17, 1988: Last time Ohio State, Michigan & Mich. State all lost on the same day

— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 7, 2014

The Wolverines’ 31-0 loss to Notre Dame in the final rivalry game (for now) served as perhaps the most disappointing showing all weekend. It’s not that Michigan lost on the road to the Irish, and more specially, a locked-in Everett Golson; it’s that it was kept off the scoreboard entirely.

When was the last time Michigan was shutout? I’m glad you asked. It’s been quite a while. (I was a year from being born.)

Via @ESPNStatsInfo: Michigan hasn't been shut out since 1984 at Iowa. Have four minutes to score or that streak is over.

— Brett Edgerton (@EditorEdge) September 7, 2014

Ohio State made history of its own in Week 2 against Virginia Tech, and not the kind you want to make. The inexperience at the offensive line served as the Buckeyes’ undoing, while quarterback J.T. Barrett threw three interceptions. In fairness to Barrett, he wasn’t given much of a chance.

The 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech was the first time the Buckeyes lost at home to an unranked, out-of-conference team in 64 tries. (I was three years from being born.)

The loss was OSU's first at home vs an unranked, non-conference foe since losing 34-17 to Florida State in 1982, snapping a 64-game streak.

— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 7, 2014

Add in losses from Northwestern to Northern Illinois and Purdue to Central Michigan, and you cover the full spectrum of disappointment. It wasn’t just the top teams in the conference that fell short; it was, from the top down, a historically disappointing morning, afternoon and night.

Despite the horrendous nature of the day, the Big Ten should not be ruled out of the College Football Playoff. Not yet, at least. There is far too much football to be played to cast such blanket statements, so let’s leave those for later in the year.

When your likely playoff candidates all enter Week 3 with a loss, however, the siren should be warming up. One loss shouldn’t eliminate any team from contention, but the losses collectively are killing the perception of the conference and thus the candidacy any team will have once resumes are held side by side. 

Lost in the carnage of Week 2 was the fact that the Big Ten stepped up and played quality power-five opponents, which is more than most can say during a week where quality matchups were lacking. It’s noteworthy, but given the overall lackluster showing, sympathy will be hard to come by.

This is what the Big Ten is up against: not just the out-of-conference teams it struggled mightily with, but the image problems it has had all along.

It's slow.

It can't score.

It can't win big games.

Etc.

The jokes became a reality. The criticism was realized. The teams expected to carry the conference beyond these stigmas crumbled; the teams without expectations stayed the course.

Where the conference collectively goes from here will further shape the future, which suddenly feels far less promising than it did days ago. The sun will come out again, just like it always does, although the darkness still speeding toward the sky is making it hard to guess when exactly that will be.

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College Football Rankings Week 3: B/R's Official Top 25

How great was Week 2 of the college football season? It was so full of amazing games and awesome performances that our Top 25 poll has had to swell by one extra team.

In fact, the results from this past weekend's action combined with our voters' observations resulted in a pair of ties in the latest poll, one at the bottom and one at the top that was decided by first-place votes. Meanwhile, a couple of teams that were in the top 10 a week ago have tumbled down the rankings, while another two have dropped out and been replaced by some rising powers.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 20 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th, and then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 3 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Is Ohio State Still in Contention for a College Football Playoff Spot?

The Ohio State Buckeyes are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss whether or not the Buckeyes still have a chance to make it to the College Football Playoff. What do you think?

Watch the video and let us know

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Everett Golson 2.0 Makes Notre Dame Legitimate Playoff Contenders

South Bend, Ind.—If Everett Golson could change one thing about Saturday night's 31-0 victory, it would've been the student section's song selection.

After the chorus of the annoyingly effective "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" echoed on and on, Golson wishes the students would've paid tribute to his defense. 

"I was disappointed they didn't do the D-Boyz thing," Golson said with a laugh. "I don't know if they heard about that. Matthias had them doing the D-Boyz, but they didn't do it. But they definitely gave great effort all night. That kind of energized the team." 

Forgive the students for not being up to speed on the surprising strength of Notre Dame's young defense.

But they know quite well that they're watching the next offensive star in South Bend, with Golson the key to Brian Kelly's team. And the senior quarterback's play is a legitimate reason why the upstart Irish are College Football Playoff contenders, one year earlier than many expected. 

For the second consecutive Saturday, Golson sliced and diced a defense apart. That he did it against Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison's veteran unit took the college football world by surprise.

Golson played the worst game of his football-playing career against Michigan in 2012, a spectator for the second half as Notre Dame's defense led the Irish to a 13-6 victory. But Golson piloted the ship this season, throwing three touchdowns and completing 23 of 34 passes for 226 yards against Mattison's defense.

That he didn't finish the game this year was just fine, as he watched backup Malik Zaire close things down, as the Irish shut out Michigan for the first time in the history of the rivalry, breaking the Wolverines' NCAA-record shutout streak, which started during the Reagan administration.

After doing a lot of damage on the ground last week, scoring three rushing touchdowns against Rice, Golson picked Michigan apart from the pocket. As Mattison and Michigan stacked the line of scrimmage to take away the running game, Brian Kelly went to the air, with his strong-armed and accurate quarterback putting on a clinic.

"The way they decided to play the game, there was six, seven guys, it was just how they decided that they wanted to take those opportunities away from us, and we were gladly to oblige them and throw the football," Kelly said after the game. "So, if somebody is going to play the game so one‑sided defensively, we're going to throw the football."

Golson hooked up for two touchdowns with slot receiver Amir Carlisle, with the converted running back making a career-high seven receptions. And sophomore Will Fuller filled in just fine for DaVaris Daniels as the team's No. 1 receiver, catching nine passes for 89 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown that was a perfectly placed throw by Golson.

Two years after the moment seemed too big for his then-young quarterback, Hoke saw a completely different signal-caller running the Irish offense. 

"I think he's matured," Hoke said. "I think I said that this week coming in, he's a much better quarterback than he was two years ago. Just watching the Rice game, I would say the same thing after watching our game." 

Tonight's game continues Golson's second tour at Notre Dame, back after a semester-long academic suspension forced him to reapply to the university after missing the 2013 season. After working with George Whitfield on becoming a more complete quarterback, Golson took a moment to appreciate the opportunity to finish this historic rivalry, as the Irish set some records themselves. 

"I credit my family for all that," Golson said, after considering the road he traveled. "It all starts with God. Just to allow me to be here to keep my head on straight the whole time." 

After the darkest part of his life, Golson's glorious return had fans streaming out of Notre Dame Stadium happy.

And while it's still way too early to know for sure, Golson's emergence has turned the Irish into a dark-horse candidate for the first ever College Football Playoff. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Lamar vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for the Aggies

The start of the game was delayed by two hours, but the end result was exactly what we expected it to be: a Texas A&M beatdown of FCS Lamar.

What we weren't expecting was the size of the beating.  The Aggies rolled up 73 points to the Cardinals' three in what was one of the most lopsided games of the young 2014 season.

We saw a lot from Texas A&M, and a lot of what we saw validated what we thought after last week's win at South Carolina.  So, just how good were the Aggies?  Let's take a look at their game grades.

Box score via NCAA.com

 

Pass Offense

To start the game, Kenny Hill was, well, Kenny Hill.  He came out and absolutely lit up the Lamar defense, leading A&M to a first-quarter lead that included over 200 yards of total offense.

But Kenny Hill isn't the only part of the passing game.  A few dropped passes kept the first-half performance from being absolutely perfect, but we're still willing to give the Aggies' passing game an "A-" grade.

In the second half, young Kyle Allen struggled a bit.  He only had two completions until well into the fourth quarter.  Some of those were drops, some were poor passes, but they all combined for a shaky performance, downgrading the overall passing offense grade for the day to a straight "B."

Kenny Hill: 17-of-26 for 283 yards, 4 TD, 2 carries, 6 yards

Kyle Allen: 12-of-16 for 122 yards, 2 TD, INT 

 

Run Offense

The run game was actually a pleasant surprise for A&M.  While the Aggies could lean on the passing game, the backs got into the action today, and piled up 225 combined yards and four touchdowns.

As Lamar's defense became more and more tired in the second half, the holes opened up.  Even better is the fact that the A&M running game took full advantage of the holes.

Texas A&M had three backs gain more than yards; it's encouraging to see a strong second facet of A&M's offense in 2014.

 

Pass Defense

The only way Lamar could move the ball was through the air—and even then, it wasn't all that great.  The pass defense didn't start off with its hair on fire, but it was certainly solid.

As the game wore on, the secondary began to swarm, and Deshazor Everett came away with the Aggies' lone interception of the evening.

All told, the Aggies held Lamar's Caleb Berry to 16-of-42 passing for 153 yards, no touchdowns and the aforementioned interception.  That's easily good enough for an "A."

 

Run Defense

There's not much to gripe about here.  Through four quarters, the Aggies gave up just 90 yards on the ground.  Lamar averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on the evening, and any ball-carrier was met almost immediately by a D-lineman or linebacker.

The longest run given up by the Aggies?  Just 13 yards.

Easy "A."

 

Special Teams

With all the punting Lamar did, you might have thought that A&M would have had more than three punt returns on the evening.  Still, the Aggies averaged 32.3 yards per return.  What's even more impressive about that number?  That includes one return with zero yards.

Josh Lambo connected on his only field-goal attempt of the night and nailed all 10 of his extra-point attempts.

The two kick returns A&M had on the day averaged 37 yards.

Another easy "A."

 

Coaching

To be honest, we didn't think Kevin Sumlin and his staff really needed to do much tonight.  Lamar was overmatched from the get-go, and the Aggies probably would have rolled on autopilot.

Still, the minor adjustments needed early were needed, and A&M began rolling before the first quarter was over.

The only markdown we have is for the second half when Kenny Hill returned to the game.  With A&M up big, Hill was still taking snaps.  What's wrong with that?  Oh, just the late hit he took that buckled his knee out of bounds.

Okay, so Hill wasn't hurt and nothing came of it (other than a 15-yard penalty against Lamar).  But what if something had happened?  Sumlin would have been pilloried for leaving Hill in so long.

Still, we're perfectly willing to give Sumlin and the coaching staff a healthy "A-" grade today.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Follow Bleacher Report's National College Football Featured Columnist David Luther on Twitter!

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 2

Outside of a couple of big games—Michigan State at Oregon, Stanford at USC—Week 2 of the college football season looked pretty drab on paper. But, as weekends that look drab on paper are wont to do, it ended up being a memorable one.

Both of those big games lived up to their billing, and behind them, a small group of big-name programs getting pushed to the limit by underdogs made for gripping entertainment from start to finish. 

With a few of those programs going down, next week's Associated Press rankings should take a much different shape than this week's.

Here is a prediction of the order we might see on Sunday:

Note: Rankings reflect a prediction of the Week 2 AP poll—not how the author would rank the teams himself. Predictions made under the assumption that all remaining Week 1 games finish as betting spreads would indicate.

 

Fun Facts 

• North Carolina was No. 21 last week but drops out of the rankings despite coming back to beat San Diego State in Chapel Hill, 31-27. Nebraska was No. 19 last week but incurs the same fate after needing some late-game heroics to beat an FCS team, McNeese State. If either team actually goes unranked Sunday afternoon—which is, of course, not guaranteed—they would be the first 2-0 teams to fall from the rankings since Missouri in 2009. That Mizzou team finished 8-5.

• After winning at Stanford, USC rises up to No. 9, its highest ranking since Week 3 of the 2012 season. The reason it dropped back then? A road loss at Stanford. Every time the Trojans play in Palo Alto, you can bank on a top-10 shakeup.

 

Teams Rising

USC

It wasn't always pretty, but USC-Stanford games never are. They're supposed to be low-scoring, painful, grind-it-out fistfights, and the team that lands the final punch is supposed to end up better in the long run because of it.

And that's exactly what USC should be after its 13-10 win on The Farm. One week after running 104 plays and gaining 700-plus yards against Fresno State, the Trojans proved they could win in multiple ways.

Even though they got outgained by more than 100 yards and benefited from a little bit of luck (David Shaw's coaching, ugly turnovers, terrible kicking), beating the Cardinal on the road is no small task.

It's deserving of a top-10 ranking.

 

Notre Dame

It's not clear what should be made of Michigan, a team that looked great against Appalachian State in Week 1 but could easily be the same type of train wreck as last year. Either way, though, the Wolverines were a far better test for Notre Dame than Rice, but the Irish looked roughly as dominant in a 31-0 win Saturday night.

In the process, Notre Dame snapped Michigan's NCAA record streak of 376 consecutive games since its last shutout.

"It only counts for one," said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com), "[But] I'd be lying if I told you that it didn't feel great to shut out Michigan 31 to nothing."

Not a bad way for the Irish to end this rivalry (for now).

 

BYU

An easy way to rise early in the season: Beat somebody.

An easier way to rise early in the season: Beat somebody on the road.

BYU did both Saturday night, beating Charlie Strong's Texas Longhorns in Austin, 41-7. The margin of victory (34) was actually 15 points higher than that of last year's program-changing blowout: the one that effectively cost Mack Brown his job after 16 years.

Quarterback Taysom Hill couldn't match last year's ridiculous rushing numbers (17 carries, 259 yards, three touchdowns in 2013), but his improved passing accuracy was on display, and he still left a lasting image with his legs.

 

Virginia Tech

To quote the section above: 

An easy way to rise early in the season: Beat somebody.

An easier way to rise early in the season: Beat somebody on the road.

Virginia Tech did both Saturday night, beating an Ohio State team with severe offensive problems. JT Barrett couldn't complete a 10-question survey against the Hokies' secondary, and the offensive line was a human turnstile against the Hokies' front seven.

Still, Frank Beamer's team deserves credit for going into Columbus and leaving with a win—regardless of the flaws of the opponent. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer played a great game at quarterback, overcoming a big interception to lead the game-winning touchdown drive in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Florida State does not want Virginia Tech to win the ACC Coastal.

 

Teams Falling

Ohio State

Are we sure that was an Urban Meyer-coached team?

The Buckeyes were outplayed, out-schemed, out-muscled, out-worked and altogether outclassed on their home field by Virginia Tech, losing by two touchdowns, 35-21. The final score was inflated—technically—by a pick-six at the end of the fourth quarter, but despite that, Ohio State was lucky to even keep it this close.

 

North Carolina

The Tar Heels were lucky to escape against San Diego State, looking shaky for the second consecutive week despite the 2-0 record.

They've now given up 340-plus yards in both of their 2014 games, first to Liberty and now to the Aztecs.

Larry Fedora's team should continue lighting up the scoreboard—something Fedora-coached teams have never had a problem doing—but it does not have an ACC-contender worthy defense, as some had quixotically hoped. Especially with Virginia Tech rising, its chances of winning the ACC Coastal are trending the wrong way.

 

UCLA

UCLA had a chance to prove that Week 1 at Virginia was a fluke—and in some ways, it did. The offense wasn't nearly as bad as it looked against the Wahoos, but the defense wasn't nearly as good.

Perhaps both units were a fluke.

The Bruins very nearly lost to Memphis at home Saturday, allowing 35 points and not taking the lead for good until late into the fourth quarter. The whole "9 a.m. kickoff on the west coast" excuse is no longer viable to bail them out. The most logical verdict on Jim Mora's team right now is perhaps it just isn't that good.

Expect it to tumble because of that.

 

Nebraska

Ameer Abdullah made the highlight of the season (so far) with less than a minute to go against McNeese State, putting the team on his back with a ridiculous, Super Mario Bros.-esque touchdown reception in a tied game to bail Nebraska out of an ugly upset.

That's the good news. The bad news is that…well, Nebraska needed to be bailed out of an ugly upset. If not for Abdullah, the Huskers would have had to take McNeese State to overtime on its home field.

That is not something a top-20 team would do.

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Cameron Artis-Payne Establishing Himself as Auburn's Replacement for Tre Mason

AUBURN, Ala.—After Auburn's commanding 59-13 win against San Jose State on Saturday night, head coach Gus Malzahn still stayed true to his running back hierarchy.

Seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are still "1 and 1A" on the Tigers' depth chart at running back.

"We utilize both those guys," Malzahn said. "Nothing has changed as far as that goes."

Malzahn may still say that, but the numbers don't lie.

Artis-Payne started the game at running back for Auburn, took the majority of Auburn's carries and broke the century in rushing yards for the second straight week Saturday night.

The Harrisburg, Pa. native recorded 15 of his 16 touches and all three of his touchdowns before halftime as the Tigers received little resistance on the ground from the Spartans. Auburn averaged 7.2 yards per carry, and Artis-Payne averaged seven yards by himself.

"[Artis-Payne] is a great back, a great leader and a great person," true freshman running back Roc Thomas said. "He keeps his head up if something's not going his way, and he keeps our heads up when something's not going our way."

After struggling to get carries last season with Tre Mason leading the way as the feature back, Artis-Payne said he feels he is getting better as a back through the first two games of the season.

"I'm just being more comfortable," Artis-Payne said. "Understanding blocks and reading blocks better. But all-in-all, being more comfortable knowing that I'm going to be in the game and not having to worry about playing time."

Now, Artis-Payne is the runaway candidate to replace Mason as the leading rusher.

Although the speedy Grant has worked over the offseason to get bigger and stronger as a between-the-tackles rusher, Artis-Payne has the experience of being more of an every-down back than the speed sweep specialist.

"He has a good understanding of the overall offense," Malzahn said. "He’s a good pass protector. He’s getting more comfortable behind this line."

Against San Jose State, Artis-Payne showcased a more all-around running game by bouncing to the outside for big gains.

The senior knows the stereotype placed on him, and he wants to get past that in his effort to become the next feature back at a school known for producing top rushers.

"I wanted to come out and show my speed because everybody says I'm a bruiser," Artis-Payne said. "That's a big thing for me. All-in-all, it was just what the offensive line gave us and the looks the defense gave us."

That ability to take whatever defenses give him, from getting into the second level on the outside to busting through the heart of the line for the end zone, has made him Auburn's leading running back through the first two games of the season.

Unofficially, that is.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 2

The top players in college football are making a case for why they should be in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee makes his predictions on who he thinks deserves to be in the hunt.

Who do you think will win the Heisman? Watch the video and let us know.

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Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Hokies and Buckeyes

Virginia Tech entered Ohio Stadium as the 11-point underdog for its matchup against No. 8 Ohio State. Three-and-a-half hours later, they left as 14-point victors after shocking the Buckeyes with a 35-21 upset.

The win was big for Frank Beamer and the Hokies, who look primed to make a run in the ACC. The loss was a big blow to the Buckeyes, who lost in the regular season for the first time under Urban Meyer.

How did the two teams grade out?

 

Virginia Tech Hokies Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer turned in a gutty performance, completing 22-of-36 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He took a beating throughout the game and committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), but he played through pain, connecting with seven different receivers to keep the Buckeyes off balance.

Run Offense: It's very hard to run on the Buckeyes, but Virginia Tech found a few lanes on their way to 125 rushing yards. Deon Newsome led the way with 38 yards on four carries, but Marshawn Williams' 14-yard touchdown scamper in the first half was the biggest run of the game.

Pass Defense: Virginia Tech's pass defense was absolutely dominant, especially down the stretch. J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes had a rough night as the Hokies tallied six sacks and two interceptions—one of which was returned for a touchdown—in the fourth quarter alone. 

Run Defense: The Hokies limited Ohio State to 108 rushing yards Saturday night—the lowest output from the Buckeyes under Meyer. They got those yards on 40 carries as Virginia Tech only allowed 2.7 yards per carry.

Special Teams: To the surprise of nobody, Virginia Tech won the special teams battle. There were no game-changing punt blocks or returns, but the Hokies were smart with the kicking game, especially in the first half as they controlled the field position. The only thing that prevented a perfect grade was a missed 46-yard field goal from Joey Slye late in the fourth quarter.

Coaching: Frank Beamer, Bud Foster and the Virginia Tech coaching staff drew up a masterful game plan against the Buckeyes. The performance of the offense was particularly impressive considering the Hokies had no game film of Ohio State's new-look defense against a conventional offense (the Buckeyes played Navy in their season opener). Virginia Tech's defense seemed prepared for everything Ohio State tried offensively, which led to the dominant performance.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: J.T. Barrett's passing stats were brutal enough—he completed just 9-of-29 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions. The offensive line blocking up front did him no favors as the Buckeyes surrendered seven total sacks to Virginia Tech's defense. Ohio State's receivers had a woeful night catching the ball, dropping a number of passes that could have been the difference in the game.

Run Offense: This does not look like a team that's a year removed from ranking No. 5 in the country in rush offense. The Buckeyes ran for just 108 yards against the Hokies, and only 58 of those yards were produced by the Buckeyes' running backs. Barrett led the way with 70 yards on 24 carries, a workload that needs reworking if the quarterback hopes to make it through the entire season.

Pass Defense: It wasn't all bad for the Buckeyes Saturday night. The secondary looked improved under the direction of new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. The Buckeyes only allowed 199 passing yards and forced three turnovers from Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer. There were still holes in the defense, but a turnaround appears to be in the works for Ohio State's pass defense.

Run Defense: The Buckeyes were once again solid against the run, limiting a dynamic group of Virginia Tech running backs. The Hokies averaged just three yards per rush, and the Buckeyes defensive line came up with 10 tackles for loss on the night. 

Special Teams: The Ohio State special teams were horrendous. Two missed field goals from Sean Nuernberger, a shanked punt, a kickoff that went out of bounds, poor results in the return game—everything went wrong for the Buckeyes on Saturday night. The only redeeming play on special teams came early in the third quarter, when Cameron Johnston pinned Virginia Tech inside its own five with a perfectly placed punt. 

Coaching: Ohio State was thoroughly out-schemed by Virginia Tech, something Meyer admitted in his post-game comments. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman and the Buckeyes failed to adjust or come up with a way to attack Virginia Tech's defense. There were a few ill-timed blitzes from co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Ash. It was just an all-around bad night for the Buckeyes.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State: How Hokies' Upset Reshapes Playoffs

When Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury, many were quick to write off Ohio State as a contender for college football's four-team playoff. 

It took just two weeks for those opinions to be validated. 

The No. 8 Buckeyes dug themselves into a big deficit in the first half against unranked Virginia Tech Saturday night and weren't able to complete a comeback, falling 35-21 at home. 

A spot in the Final Four isn't completely out of the question. If Ohio State runs the table the rest of the way, it would be 12-1 with a victory over Michigan State in Lansing, as well as a win in the Big Ten Championship game. 

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler is already looking forward to "The Game":

It would obviously depend how the other big conferences play out, but that's a pretty good resume. The problem is, the chances of that happening if Ohio State plays like it did Saturday night are somewhere between pigs flying and J.T. Barrett hitting a five-foot-wide target from 15 yards away. 

Barrett, the talented freshman quarterback, has simply been thrown into the mix too early. He displayed his tremendous playmaking ability on the ground, rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries (that takes into account his sacks, as well), but he completed just nine of 29 throws for 206 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. 

Grantland's Bill Barnwell joked, while Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel noted he wasn't getting much help from the run game:

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder also chimed in after Virginia Tech dialed up the blitzes and continually put Barrett on his back in the fourth quarter:

No matter who you want to put the blame on, Ohio State's offense was a mess for most of Saturday night, and the team's 2014 outlook isn't pretty at this point. 

It's also interesting to note what this might mean for Michigan State. 

The Spartans lost at Oregon Saturday, but they looked very good for 35 minutes and are believed by most to be the class of the Big Ten. Should they run the table, it's going to get tricky for the selection committee. 

Ohio State lost, Michigan was dominated by Notre Dame and Nebraska nearly fell against McNeese State. The conference is not making a great case for having a spot in the Final Four. 

There's still a lot of season left to play, but it's probably time for the Buckeyes to readjust end-of-the-season expectations. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Projections After Week 2

Week 2 of the 2014 college football season is coming to a close with some of the top teams in the country showing why they are in a class of their own. Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer breaks down who should be in the four-team playoff after their performances this week. Who do you think should be in the 2014 playoffs?

Watch the video and let us know.

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What Devastating End to Notre Dame Rivalry Means for Michigan Football

Michigan 31-0 loss to rival Notre Dame is a devastating blow to supporters of Brady Hoke’s rebuilding program. Last year athletic director David Brandon denied that Hoke was on the hot seat, despite a 7-6 record. But after watching the Irish demolish the Wolverines, it’s hard to see how the team has improved, despite numerous offseason changes.

A scheduling quirk means, for the first time in 135 years, Michigan plays all three of its key rivals on the road. Of those three games, Notre Dame appeared to be most winnable, but the Michigan offense self-destructed, being shut out for first time since 1984—a 26-0 road loss to Iowa.

In his fourth season Hoke is now 0-5 on the road versus Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. Still on tap are visits to East Lansing and Columbus where Michigan will be a prohibitive underdog. Hoke is still seeking a signature win against a higher-ranked opponent on the road or at home.

Michigan actually outgained Notre Dame in total yardage (289 to 280) but was undone by turnovers—three interceptions and a fumble, while Notre Dame had none.

Last season quarterback Devin Gardner was dogged by bad interceptions—throws into obvious coverage—and despite Doug Nussmeier’s streamlining of the offense, interceptions sunk Michigan in this game. Gardner was under constant harassment behind an offensive line that provided little protection. The scene was eerily similar to last season’s defeats.

Entering this season expectations were high for fifth-year senior Gardner under Nussmeier’s new scheme. He and receiver Devin Funchess appeared to be poised for a historic breakout season. Against Appalachian State the duo appeared unstoppable, hooking up for three touchdowns in the first half alone.

But Notre Dame has better coaching and better athletes than Appalachian State, and its overall team speed overwhelmed Michigan.

Now, Hoke needs to evaluate whether Gardner can lead the Wolverines to success this season or if it’s time to switch quarterbacks. Gardner is a respected leader of the team, but entering his second full season as a starter, his flaws may be too much to overcome.

Hoke also needs to take a hard look at his offensive line and consider how to better protect whoever plays quarterback. The offensive line’s lack of development has been a stunning failure under his tenure.

The excuses are running out for Hoke.

He needs to beat Michigan State or Ohio State this season to show that his program is moving forward.

If he can't then Michigan is settling for mediocrity and in danger of being lapped by its rivals.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

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@PSCallihan

All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site.

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Virginia Tech Football: Hokies Defense Makes Strong Statement to Rest of ACC

J.T. Barrett got the message. 

The rest of the ACC better take notice. 

The Virginia Tech Hokies, coming off two subpar seasons by traditional Frank Beamer standards, made perhaps the biggest statement south of the Mason-Dixon line on Saturday with its 35-21 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

What led the Hokies over Urban Meyer and Co.? Well, the fact that Braxton Miller wasn't suited up surely played a part of it. 

But not even the most mobile of quarterbacks could've escaped the relentless, suffocating pressure that the Hokies put on Barrett throughout the night. Barrett was the victim of seven sacks—six of them in the second half and three on the Buckeyes' penultimate drive, which ended in Hokies defensive back Donovan Riley taking an interception to the house and sealing the game. 

Barrett was also picked off three times by the Virginia Tech secondary. As a whole, the Hokies held the Buckeyes to just 4-of-16 on third-down conversions and just 2.7 yards per rush attempt. Barrett also completed just 9-of-29 passing attempts. 

There's no other way to put it: Virginia Tech locked down Ohio State—all night. 

And now with only one game against a ranked team—No. 21 North Carolina on October 4—left on its schedule, Virginia Tech may very well be a dark horse to not only dethrone Florida State as the ACC champion but an under-the-radar contender for the College Football Playoff. 

Beamer Ball is in full effect in 2014, and that is nothing but great news to fans in Blacksburg who suffered through a 7-6 season in 2012 and an 8-5 one last year. 

Riley's pick six to ice the game away was the epitome of Beamer Ball. The best teams under Beamer have always been terrific at scoring points, keeping their opponent off the board and finding ways to win by any means necessary. 

And it's guys like Kyshoen Jarrett, a rover linebacker who made two interceptions on Saturday night, that make the system work. Jarrett is a jack of all trades, having done everything in his career with the Hokies from pick off quarterbacks to returning punts. 

It's guys like Dadi Nicolas and Derek Di Nardo, who each recorded two sacks against the Buckeyes, that have revitalized the Hokies' defense. 

After two below-average seasons, there was a growing suspicion that Beamer—the longest tenured coach in college football—was on the hot seat. 

Not anymore. Virginia Tech proved on Saturday night that they are back, and their message was delivered loud and clear. 

Just ask Barrett. 

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