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Ohio State vs. Michigan State: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

Ohio State and Michigan State last met in the Big Ten Championship Game last season, with the vibe around Saturday's rematch eerily similar if not more so thanks to a chance at the College Football Playoff being alive and well for both programs. 

The 14th-ranked Buckeyes have one loss on the season and are hotter offensively than most teams in the nation although it certainly does not hurt that the defense ranks among the top 20 in the nation, too.

The No. 8 Spartans lost to then-No. 3 Oregon on the same weekend the Buckeyes picked up their only loss of the season but have since won just about every game in dominating fashion.

Saturday night is an important showcase for the Big Ten, especially with College GameDay in town. For both programs, though, all that matters is staying alive in the hunt for the CFP.

 

No Ordinary Big Ten Encounter

Runs and punts are what most think of when it comes to the Big Ten, but that could not be further from the truth for the Spartans and Buckeyes.

As Big Ten Network puts into visual form, it is in no way cliche to say it is difficult to find a pair of more evenly matched teams:

Urban Meyer's Buckeyes not only rank No. 4 nationally with an average of 45.6 points scored per game, the team has rattled off 50 or more points in five of its last six games.

Not to be outdone, the Spartans come in right behind the Buckeyes thanks to a 45.5-points-per-game average and have scored a minimum of 45 in four of their last six.

For two programs accustomed to buttering their bread on the defensive side of the football, both have flipped the script on the nation—and each other. Something has to give, too, as not only are both teams similar in their stats, their downright dominance in the conference is much of the same, as explained by Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com:

Defense does not exactly take a backseat, though. The Buckeyes allow just 19.9 points per game. The Spartans currently rest at 20.3, with five of their eight opponents scoring just 17 or fewer points.

But offense is sexy and grabs the headlines, and this time for good reason. Both teams provide a breath of fresh air as opposed to their usual strengths, making this matchup one of the most intriguing between the two in recent memory.

 

Unexpected Quarterback Duel

If somebody had told fans before the season that J.T. Barrett vs. Connor Cook would be one of the most hotly anticipated quarterback showdowns of the year, that poor soul would have been laughed out of the building.

So it goes.

The junior Cook has exceeded expectations since the conference title game last year, something Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Bennett certainly has not forgotten.

"Going into the game last year, Connor Cook didn't really put anything exceptional on film," Bennett said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Then when he played us, he had a really good game, and I think he's kept improving since then."

This year, Cook has completed 60.6 percent of his passes and has 1,868 yards and 17 touchdowns to five interceptions.

Many were ready to count out the Buckeyes after a season-ending injury to Braxton Miller, but Barrett has been better in many ways since taking over. The freshman has completed 64.7 of his passes and has 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Few quarterbacks are better in the dual-threat department as well, as he also has 496 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

"The one thing that he does well, even better than Braxton, is when something is not there, he puts his foot in the ground and gets us to 2nd-and-4, 2nd-and-5," Meyer said, per Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "Someone blitzes, someone flashes, someone misses a block...he puts his foot in the ground."

An ability to take care of the football and put their offenses in short-yardage situations has both teams riding high even if the general public has yet to catch on to the fact that two of the nation's better quarterbacks play for these rivals.

That changes Saturday night.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 57.5
  • Spread: Michigan State (-3.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Unfortunately for Meyer's new-look Buckeyes, Saturday is going to feel a whole lot like the title game last year. 

The Michigan State defense is simply too good to let the Ohio State offense run wild. Outside of a matchup with Penn State, which was decided in overtime, the Buckeyes have yet to truly be tested against an elite defense.

At home, Cook will do enough while taking care of the football to give his defense the cushion it needs. It will not be some sort of low-scoring affair, but the Spartans will once again prove they are the class of the Big Ten.

Prediction: Spartans 34, Buckeyes 30


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame vs. Arizona State: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time, More

Even though it almost did not happen, Saturday’s showdown between No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 9 Arizona State is one of the biggest games of the season due to its College Football Playoff implications.

Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish have rarely been asked to hit the road this season, and his young team has struggled after a loss to Florida State and a close call against Navy.

Then again, Todd Graham’s Sun Devils have not looked much better, needing overtime to take down then-No. 17 Utah despite the return of quarterback Taylor Kelly.

On paper, though, the Fighting Irish and the Sun Devils are meant for each other. Both offenses have enough explosive weapons to exploit shaky defenses. As far as the CFP is concerned, the importance of this regular-season contest cannot be overstated. There may be no coming back from a loss for either side.

 

Righting Wrongs Under Center

The Sun Devils got a talented passer and leader in Kelly back a few games ago, but his return has been less than encouraging.

Arizona State has not lost since he got back under center, but his performances on an individual level are enough to suggest the team could take a dive against a top team if he doesn't turn things around:

If Kelly is going to return to form, though, one has to imagine it will happen against Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish took down the Sun Devils last year. A note from Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports on 98.7 FM says it all:

Kelly is not the only quarterback in need of a turnaround.

Notre Dame’s Everett Golson shocked the globe earlier this season with his superb play, which briefly had him in the Heisman conversation and his team in the CFP conversation. Since late September, though, Golson has warped into a turnover machine who has tossed seven interceptions over the course of his last five games and lost a number of costly fumbles.

Golson’s worst games in the turnover department have predictably come on the road, so while an average of 35.4 points scored per game is great, it means little if the team’s signal-caller falters once again on the team’s biggest trip of the season to date.

This game may simply come down to which quarterback blinks first.

 

Defensive Composure

Coincidentally, both defenses have followed paths similar to those of their respective quarterbacks.

The Notre Dame defense started out hot but has since fizzled thanks to injuries and simple inexperience. Without senior Joe Schmidt at linebacker against Navy, the Midshipmen bruised their way for 336 rushing yards and three scores on the ground while coming back from a 28-7 hole to at one point take the lead.

For Kelly, the buildup toward the showdown with the Sun Devils has been about learning as quickly as possible.

"We've got a couple things we're going to experiment with today, and then we'll get a better feel," Kelly said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "We haven't practiced yet, so we have a system that we'll employ today, and I think we'll get a better feel over the next couple days."

This is not to suggest the Arizona State defense has been much better. After a collapse near the end of September in which UCLA dropped 62 points on the unit, it has been relatively rough riding the rest of the way. The unit ranks No. 50 in the nation with an average of 24.1 points allowed per game.

While there is something to be said about holding Stanford, Washington and Utah to 10, 10, and 16 points, respectively, it is important to keep things in perspective—none of those offenses ranks above No. 40 nationally in terms of points per game.

Now, the unit has to turn around and play the best offense it has faced all season long. Golson may be a turnover machine, but if quality of play does not improve at home against top-tier opposition, the game may turn ugly rather quickly.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

Television: ABC

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 59.5
  • Spread: Arizona State (-2.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Golson’s turnover woes are an issue, and the fact that a young Fighting Irish squad must travel to battle a top team is also a concern.

But really, Notre Dame is the superior team in this matchup and can eventually wear the Sun Devils down. This is the same Fighting Irish squad that almost knocked off Florida State in Tallahassee, while Arizona State has been anything but consistent in most regards.

Golson is sure to make his mistakes. But a learning defense can force a struggling Kelly into a few errors too, and when push comes to shove, Golson has the big-game experience that simply gives the Fighting Irish an edge with the game on the line.

Prediction: Fighting Irish 28, Sun Devils 24

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama vs. LSU: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Look no further than Saturday's SEC showdown between No. 5 Alabama and No. 16 LSU for proof that the College Football Playoff amplifies the magnitude of any contest on the schedule on a week-to-week basis.

Should Nick Saban's Crimson Tide crush its equally physical rival in Death Valley at night and somehow overcome a ludicrous final three weeks in terms of difficulty, his team is headed to the postseason.

If not, better luck next year.

LSU is rounding into form at just the right time to play spoiler—not to mention getting a serious shot to jump into the Top 10 if it can hold its ground against an old foe.

Gritty, physical football between the tackles seems to be fading around the nation, but not when these two meet. The eyes of the globe await to see how the CFP looks by the time the clock hits zeroes.

 

Physicality Defined

The Tigers have been anything but consistent this year although in hindsight, the team's two losses came against the best of the best (Mississippi State and Auburn).

The team's current three-game winning streak is proof enough of the erratic play, as the Tigers hardly escaped with a three-point win over unranked Florida but then turned around and upset then-No. 3 Ole Miss recently.

Really, the only thing consistent about the Tigers this year is the ground game thanks to a number of names that help to mask issues under center:

Alabama is familiar with this run-at-any-cost approach, though, thanks to a pair of talented backs and 250 rushing yards and five scores from quarterback Blake Sims:

LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith sounds quite aware of the challenge at hand Saturday, especially after just a month ago allowing Auburn to rush for 298 yards and three scores.

"I know it's going to be hard-nosed football," said Beckwith, per ESPN.com's David Ching. "I know they're going to try to come downhill on us, and we're just going to have to do a good job of stopping the run."

While cliche to talk about imposing their wills and the like, few contests actually live up to such a description like this one does. 

Both defenses better prove up to task although on paper, that is not difficult to see happening. Alabama ranks No. 2 in the nation by surrendering an average of just 14.0 points. LSU comes in two spots down the list at 15.9.

For players with a heart for the physicality of such an encounter, this contest has been circled in red ink all season long.

 

Discomfort Zone

As prolific as both offenses can be, both Alabama and LSU tout a similar deficiency—effectiveness and consistency of play from under center.

It is funny, really, as both programs annually reel in top class after top class only to struggle through the air at times.

The problems are not as serious for Alabama thanks to Sims, but he certainly has his clunkers at times such as a rough outing in a loss to Ole Miss in which he threw an interception and did little else.

Anthony Jennings, on the other hand, certainly limits what LSU can do as far as offensive balance goes. The sophomore has been in and out of the lineup this year and has not completed at least 60 percent of his passes in a game since the third contest of the season.

Last week, Jennings went just 8-of-16 for 142 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Comments by head coach Les Miles, as illustrated by Shea Dixon of 247Sports, say quite a lot:

Miles is also concerned about Alabama's defense as a whole, as captured by Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com:

I don't know that we'll find that we'll play against a team that year that has as quality a defense as this team. They're big, strong and fast and play in the secondary. Just a talented group. Landon Collins, Louisiana native, is having a great year, making plays, and again, very, very talented guy and playing very, very well in the secondary.

Jennings will have to take to the air at some point if LSU is going to pull off the upset. Whether or not he can minimize mistakes is something that will decide the game outright given his usually low amount of attempts.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 45.5
  • Spread: Alabama (-7)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

LSU at night is a tough matchup for any team, but the Crimson Tide are perfectly equipped to handle the situation.

Not only does Alabama have an advantage in the defense department, it arguably has a better ground game and easily the better quarterback, which gives the team a major advantage in the game-changing plays department.

Look for Saban to exploit the number of mismatches available to him and for an elite defense to create turnovers that ultimately reshape the complexion of the game. Alabama will take care of business late barring an epic collapse.

Prediction: Alabama 20, LSU 17


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: Bowl Projections for Every Team

Goals vary in the Pac-12 Conference from team to team, but reaching a bowl game has to be at the top of everyone's list. If you're Cal, that might be any bowl game regardless of prestige; for a team like UCLA, you're probably thinking roses.

Well, back in August that may have been the case. With less than a month left in the regular season, expectations have shifted, and while reaching a bowl is still within reach for nearly every program, some can be ruled out based on their records.

Teams such as Oregon and Arizona State are still hoping to be included among the final four teams invited to the initial College Football Playoff. Others, like Utah, Arizona, UCLA and even USC, are hoping to win the south and play the spoiler role.

But what it all comes down to is this: Everybody wants to play in a bowl game. It means more practice for the future and a chance to end the season on a high note.

Let's take a look at where each team could be headed at the conclusion of the season.

 

All stats via CFBstats.com. Bowl tie-ins via Scout.com, though it should be noted that the bowl formerly known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is now the Cactus Bowl.

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: Bowl Projections for Every Team

Goals vary in the Pac -12 Conference from team to team, but reaching a bowl game has to be at the top of everyone's list. If you're Cal, that might be any bowl game regardless of prestige; for a team like UCLA, you're probably thinking roses...

Begin Slideshow

The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Wisconsin Badgers This Season

The Wisconsin Badgers find themselves at 6-2 and tied in the loss-column for first place in the Big Ten West. While, coming into the season, the Badgers may have had aspirations for the College Football Playoff, it became abundantly clear after Week 1 that a trip to the playoff was out of the cards.

A loss to Northwestern to open their Big Ten slate set them back. But with every Big Ten West team featuring at least one loss (and Northwestern featuring three), the Badgers control their own destiny as they move into the final four games of the regular season.

In each of their two losses, their biggest flaws were on display. When it came to the offense, it wasn't the rushing attack that let them down. Rather, it was a lack of a viable passing game with no separation on the outside.

When it came to the defense, it was the loss of Warren Herring that featured in both defeats. It caused the wheels to come off entirely and against LSU. Losing Konrad Zagzebski also exposed the Badgers' lack of depth when it came to their big bodies up front at the beginning of the season.

However, after losing to Northwestern and picking up a less-than-convincing win against Illinois the following week, the Badgers regrouped after their second bye week and turned in their two best performances of the season against Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers.

Let's take a look at five of the most telling stats when it comes to why the Badgers are 6-2. Some are positive, some are negative and some are just statistics that have a meaning left up to interpretation. Without further ado, let's start with the most hotly debated position on campus: the quarterback.

Begin Slideshow

The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Florida State Seminoles This Season

No. 2 Florida State University is 8-0 and likely in control of its own destiny when it comes to a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff—just like many predicted the Seminoles would be before the season started.

But how FSU has gotten to this point at the start of the final month of the regular season has been anything but expected.

How did the ‘Noles get here? Let’s take a look at their five most telling statistics of the 2014 season.

Begin Slideshow

College Football Picks: Week 11 Predictions for Every Game

For years we've clamored for a playoff in college football, something to help spice up the season beyond just figuring out who would be the top two teams in the country. We've got it, with the four-team College Football Playoff, and it's turning the final weeks of the 2014 season into a heck of a finish.

This week might be the best yet of this campaign, with six matchups of teams both ranked in the CFP Top 25. All of them remain in contention for their conference titles while fighting for a spot either in the playoffs or one of the major bowls that the rankings help fill.

The Week 11 slate also includes some notable stinkers, including battles for the bottom of the Big 12 and American Athletic conferences, but we can't have them all be classics.

Check out our predictions for Week 11's games, as well as our experts' picks for the top games on Saturday. Then give us your thoughts on who will win this weekend in the comments section.

Last week: 42-16 (.724)

Season: 453-145 (.758)

 

NOTE: Team rankings are based on the College Football Playoff Top 25.

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Florida Sends Recruits Photoshopped Images of Bleacher Report's Team Stream App

College football programs have recently been stepping up their Photoshop game for recruits.

For instance, we've seen Tennessee commit Shy Tuttle on a Rolling Stone cover with Beyonce.

Well, the Florida Gators want in on the fun.

High school standouts CeCe Jefferson and George Brown Jr. shared these Photoshopped images of Bleacher Report's Team Stream app.

In the image, each player is the focus of every Bleacher Report article in the feed. The image also features the tagline, "The Future is Now."

Pretty cool, Florida.

[Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Nebraska's Biggest Opponent Left Is Itself

Bye weeks in Nebraska tend to leave fans with a lot to think about. This year is no different.

At this time, the Huskers are ranked No. 13 in the College Football Playoff's Top 25. What has a lot of fans talking is the possibility of Nebraska cracking the Top 10. According to Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, it's possible even though the Huskers won't play on Saturday.

"That’s because two games — No. 9 Arizona State vs. No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 6 TCU vs. No. 7 Kansas State — are CFP knockout games," McKewon wrote. "Winner stays in the hunt and asks the SEC for permission to breathe its air. Loser drops out of the top 10 at least, and probably below the Huskers."

What does all of this mean for Nebraska? If nothing else, it means the team has to stop beating itself if it wants to stay in playoff contention.

Over Bo Pelini's time as Nebraska's head coach, the Huskers have lost winnable games with penalties, sloppy play and blown coverages. While Nebraska is currently 8-1, that hasn't excused the team from dealing with those same issues again in 2014. Even against Rutgers, who Nebraska beat 42-24, Pelini was not happy with the performance.

"We were sloppy," he said. "Penalties and one thing after another. We were shooting ourselves in the foot. There were a lot of good things, but you can't take yourself out of drives and you can't put yourself behind schedule the way we did numerous times. We were able to get out of it a number of times, but that's just not the way we need to play."

Against Rutgers, snapping the ball was one of the issues that led to the sloppy play. “That’s like tying your shoes, it should be easy,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said, per the Lincoln Journal Star. “That’s the frustrating part for me.”

And the snapping issues weren't just a one-time deal. It was also a cause for concern against Michigan State. During that game, Pelini believed MSU linebacker Ed Davis was clapping to disrupt the snap count. However, snapping the ball has remained an issue since.

Penalties and turnovers are also a problem for Nebraska. They have been in the past, and they still are today. Comparing 2013 to 2014 shows that it's an area the Huskers still have plenty of room to improve upon.

Regardless, the Huskers are winning. Despite Michigan State, Nebraska has performed well enough to win every other game. After Nebraska's 35-14 victory over Purdue, quarterback Tommy Armstrong didn't feel it was enough, though.

"It was just a lack of communication," he said. "We practiced the right way, it just didn't show. Going into this game, we had a great plan. Like I've said each and every week, the teams don't stop us, we stop ourselves. It all starts off with me.

"Most people will think of this as a win, but I don't see it that way. I know Purdue is good, but if we keep playing like this, we are going to lose our games. The way that we played, we should have lost. I know we won, but I feel like I failed."

The Huskers now have a bye week to prepare before facing Wisconsin at Madison. Armstrong understands what the team is up against. "Wisconsin is a hardworking team, and we have to take care of the ball," he said. "If we turn the ball over like we did, and make mistakes like we did, we are going to lose."

Armstrong may have been a bit hard on himself after Purdue, but it's clear the quarterback understands what his team needs to do to keep winning. If the Huskers are inconsistent and unable to keep turnovers, penalties and mental mistakes at a minimum, winning the Big Ten championship seems less likely.

"The expectation level is very high," junior I-back Imani Cross said after Purdue. "So when we make mistakes, we tend to get down on ourselves. But it's OK. That adversity that we faced out there is going to make us a better football team."

And Nebraska needs to be a better football team if it hopes to win against itself.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 NFL Draft Prospects in Need of a Strong Finish

Unfortunately for college football fans, there are only a few weeks remaining in the regular season. 

As the season winds down, NFL draft prospects take the field knowing their final performances could leave a lasting impression on scouts and front office executives at the next level. 

The final weeks can make a difference for anyone, especially for those prospects whose seasons got off to a slow start. 

The following slideshow features five players who entered the season as highly regarded prospects, but who are now in need of a strong end to the year in order to maintain their high grades heading into draft season.

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UCLA Football: 5 Most Surprising Bruins in 2014

There have been five surprise players this year for the UCLA football team. 

The surprises come from opposite ends of the spectrum. Three players on this list have underachieved considerably from where they were expected to be heading into the 2014 season. 

On the other side of the coin, two players mentioned have surpassed expectations—with one in particular becoming one of the best players on the team. 

Here's a look at the most surprising Bruins in 2014. 

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 5 Most Surprising Bruins in 2014

There have been five surprise players this year for the UCLA football team. The surprises come from opposite ends of the spectrum...

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Longhorns' Home-Field Struggles Must Change

The final three-game stretch of the Texas Longhorns' season features two home games. This would seem like a favorable schedule for most football teams, but when it comes to the Longhorns, playing at home has not always equaled home-field advantage.

Playing against talented opponents at home has led to embarrassing losses.

The Longhorns are 2-2 at home this season, with the two wins coming against North Texas and Iowa State. In other words, the two games Texas was supposed to win.

The two losses were atrocious, which is putting it lightly.

BYU and Baylor totaled 818 total yards and 69 points whereas the Longhorns only managed to put up 14 points.

"We haven't played well at home all season long," head coach Charlie Strong said. "The thing we have to start doing is winning in our home stadium. We haven't done a great job on our own turf."

Strong is not pleased with the Longhorns' performances at home this season. It has upset him so much that he took away the privilege of practicing in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Thursdays before games.

"Coach Strong stopped practicing on the home field on Thursdays. He wants us to value that field, that turf," senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "We've got to handle our business when people come in here. We got to take it personal. There's not really that personal aspect that they're trying to come in here and kick down the door and beat you. That's not the feeling that we have and that's the feeling we've got to get."

Winning at home against solid opponents has been an issue for Texas for many years, dating back to before Strong arrived in Austin.

The Longhorns are 0-9 against ranked opponents at home, and Texas has not beaten a ranked opponent at home since 2008.

This losing streak could make some wonder why the Longhorns struggle to beat good opponents on their home turf—and how these losses look to Texas recruits.

It's the goal of football coaches to get the top-rated recruits on campus to take in a home game. Even though the coaches do not get a lot of one-on-one time with recruits on official visits, having the athletes see the game-day atmosphere and spend time around the team helps in recruiting.

But what do recruits think when they see the fans leave games early when their team is losing?

There is still a lot on the line for Texas in Strong's inaugural season. The Longhorns must win at least two of the final three games in order to make it to a bowl game. At least one of those wins has to come against a Top 25 opponent.

Texas hosts No. 23 West Virginia Saturday in another must-win game. Saturday just so happens to be one of the bigger recruiting weekends for the Longhorns.

"The first impression is to go win the football game and give them something where they can go see us play well," Strong said of the big recruiting weekend. "Our hosts are really key, which are the players. They're going to have to do a really good job of just selling the program and selling what it's all about. The first thing we need to do is go out and play well and give them something to talk about."

The Longhorns' home losing streak to ranked opponents has to end sometime. The best time for it to happen in 2014 is Saturday against the Mountaineers.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter @Taylor_Gaspar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The 5 Most Telling Stats for the Clemson Tigers This Season

Statistics can tell us a lot about a team. And for the Clemson University Tigers, it’s been no different. The Tigers have played as well defensively as any team in the country, but the offensive struggles have been well-noted over the last few weeks.

I have put together a list of five statistics that pretty much sum up how the season has gone so far. These numbers will show how well the defense has played, but they also show how much the offense has struggled to find consistency.

 

All stats used in this slideshow came from CFBStats.com.

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 5 Most Telling Stats for the Bruins

Many factors contribute to the UCLA football team's record of 7-2. 

Self-inflicted wounds have been a serious issue. This development has put UCLA behind the chains on numerous occasions. In addition, the protection of its quarterback—or lack thereof—has been a serious problem. Lastly, the defense hasn't quite lived up to expectations. 

There are some positive statistics as well, namely revolving around the run game and quick-strike offense. The Bruins have been better in these two categories when compared to a year ago. 

This piece will look at five statistical subjects directly relating to UCLA's current position in the conference. 

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Football: 5 Most Telling Stats for the Bruins

Many factors contribute to the UCLA football team's record of 7-2. Self-inflicted wounds have been a serious issue. This development has put UCLA behind the chains on numerous occasions...

Begin Slideshow

Meet UCLA's Paul Perkins, the Most Explosive RB You've Likely Never Heard of

All UCLA needed was a little momentum in its 17-7 win over then-No. 12-ranked Arizona, Bruins running back Paul Perkins said. 

His five-yard touchdown run gave UCLA the spark its offense needed to complement a stingy defensive effort and score the Bruins a crucial Pac-12 South win. 

Who better to provide the nation's No. 18 team with some momentum than a player who's ridden his own wave of it to a standout season?  

Perkins opened 2014 behind Jordon James on the depth chart, tabbed to fill the same change-of-pace role he provided as a redshirt freshman in 2013.

But with the Bruins run game sputtering in the first half at Virginia during Week 1, Perkins got the call. He responded with 80 yards and never looked back. 

"The start of the second half against Virginia, he just kind of came alive," head coach Jim Mora said. 

Indeed, Perkins has surpassed that 80-yard mark in every game subsequently, save one, and has efforts of 126, 137, 180 and 190 yards. 

But Perkins first showed he had the ability to take on the every-down role last season against Washington, the Bruins' opponent this Saturday. He went for a then-career-high 86 yards in a 41-31 UCLA win. 

Now the undisputed linchpin of the UCLA running attack, Perkins is second in the Pac-12 with 1,074 yards, just 50 fewer than USC's Javorius "Buck" Allen. Perkins will have the opportunity to become UCLA's first conference rushing champion since Karim Abdul-Jabbar in 1995. 

Perkins already joined Abdul-Jabbar as just the 13th Bruin to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season.  

Perkins may be writing his name in the UCLA record books, but he's doing so quietly. Pac-12 running back counterparts Allen and Washington's Shaq Thompson have garnered Heisman Trophy buzz from national outlets, the latter of whom doesn't play the position full time. 

Conversely, Perkins flies under the radar. Even this week ahead of facing Washington, Mora fielded more questions on Tuesday's teleconference call about linebacker Myles Jack's role in the run game than he did about Perkins' play thus far. 

But that seems to suit Perkins just fine. He is as quick to deflect individual praise as he is to run through a hole. 

Take his assessment of reaching the 1,000-yard mark. UCLA's offensive line has endured its share of criticism for allowing 29 sacks this season, but Perkins credited the sometimes-maligned unit's performance for his own success. 

"The [offensive] line is having a tremendous year. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys," he said. "I'm so happy for them. This 1,000 yards is really for them, but it just gets put on me." 

Don't let Perkins' modesty fool you, though. His own explosiveness has certainly contributed to the impressive numbers he is putting up three-fourths of the way through his sophomore campaign. 

He ranks ninth among all Football Bowl Subdivision players with 33 runs of 10-plus yards, including carries of 58, 81 and 92 yards.  

Talk about giving the offense momentum. 

On those highlight-reel plays, Perkins looks like he's back in the Phoenix area playing for Chandler High School.  

He hasn't limited his explosive plays to the ground, either.

With 20 catches on the season, Perkins has proved to be a favorite receiving target of quarterback Brett Hundley. He also gave backup Jerry Neuheisel a reliable presence when Neuheisel was thrust into the lineup in Week 3. 

"That’s the prerequisite to play in these styles of spread offenses," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "You’ve got to have a kid who can catch the ball at running back. We're not an I[-formation] team where we just hand it to them, hand it to them, hand it to them, then just throw to our receivers." 

Perkins' pass-catching ability proved critical three weeks ago in a 36-34 win at Cal, where he hauled in touchdown receptions of 16 and 49 yards. 

His efforts might go somewhat unrecognized, but Perkins is playing a starring role in UCLA's pursuit of the Pac-12 championship. The Cal game was the first of two must-win decisions in which he scored a pair of critical touchdowns. 

The touchdown run against Arizona gave Perkins his fifth score during the Bruins' current three-game win streak. And in helping UCLA to beat the Wildcats, Perkins helped move it one step closer to the Pac-12 South title. 

"We can sense we're on the verge of something great," he said. "We've got to keep pushing and hopefully everything will line up for us." 

Continuing the positive momentum UCLA has now is vital to win out, which the Bruins likely must do in order to earn the division's bid into the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

It's fortunate, then, that Perkins has a formula for keeping it going. 

"Come in Sunday and Monday, watch the film and grow from it," he said. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet UCLA's Paul Perkins, the Most Explosive RB You've Likely Never Heard of

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Top 10 Highlights of Marcus Lattimore's Career

The professional career of one of college football's best running backs this past decade came to a far-too-soon end with Wednesday's announcement that Marcus Lattimore was retiring at the age of 23.

A fourth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, Lattimore's NFL tenure consisted of two seasons spent on his team's non-football injury list without ever playing in a game. Lingering issues related to two devastating knee injuries suffered while in college led to his early retirement.

"Unfortunately, getting my knee fully back to the level the NFL demands has proven to be insurmountable," Lattimore said in a statement released by the 49ers, according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.

Lattimore ran for 2,677 yards and 38 touchdowns over three seasons in college at South Carolina, including 1,197 yards with 17 TDs as a true freshman in 2010. Knee injuries cut short his sophomore and junior years, but in August 2012 he ran for 110 yards and two TDs against Vanderbilt just 10 months after surgery.

Lattimore never got a chance to show what he could do during an NFL game, but there are plenty of highlights from his collegiate days. Scroll through for the most notable moments of his short career.

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