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Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fact: Since 1966, the Michigan State Spartans are 5-0 as a Top 10 team versus a Top 10 opponent.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Mississippi State DE Preston Smith Makes Beautiful 1-Handed Interception

Considering he's a 270-pound defensive end, that's one heck of an interception.

During their game against UAB, Mississippi State senior Preston Smith was dropping back in coverage when he made an incredible one-handed interception, the first of his college career.

[Vine, Twitter]

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Oregon Football Reveals 'Sonic Boom' Helmet and All-Yellow Uniforms vs. MSU

The Oregon Ducks have a huge matchup against the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night, and as always, they're coming out in some sharp uniforms.

For Saturday's game, the Ducks will be wearing their "Sonic Boom" helmets as their high-powered offense takes on Michigan State and their "No Fly Zone." The rest of the uniform is yellow with some silver on the gloves.

The Ducks also posted these close-ups of the uniforms on Instagram.

[Twitter, Instagram]

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USC vs. Stanford: Live Score and Highlights

Stanford 10, USC 7—Halftime

No. 14 USC is battling No. 13 Stanford in an important early-season Pac-12 matchup.

ABC is carrying the meeting, and Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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USC vs. Stanford: Live Score and Highlights

Stanford 10, USC 7—Mid 3rd Quarter No. 14 USC is battling No. 13 Stanford in an important early-season Pac-12 matchup. ABC is carrying the meeting, and Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Central Michigan Punter Ron Coluzzi Gets Trucked on Attempted Tackle vs. Purdue

The Central Michigan Chippewas have played quite well on Saturday against the Purdue Boilermakers, but their punter might think twice before he tries to tackle another returner.

During the first quarter, Central Michigan punter Ron Coluzzi tried to tackle Purdue's Frankie Williams, but instead got completely trucked over.

[Twitter, Lost Lettermen]

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Tennessee's Josh Smith Hurdles over Arkansas State Defender

The Tennessee Volunteers are starting the season strong with a 1-0 record and a 24-12 lead at halftime against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

During the first half, sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith got a chance to run the ball on a reverse and completely hurdled over an Arkansas State defender.

Here's another angle of the hurdle.

[YouTube, Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Penn State's Christian Hackenberg Doesn't Seem Happy on Phone with Coach

The Penn State Nittany Lions only have a 7-0 lead over the Akron Zips at halftime, and sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg seems frustrated so far.

During a call with his coach, Hackenberg looked upset and appeared to tell his coach, "I don't know what the **** we're doing".

[Vine, h/t Adam Lefkoe]

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Sooners' Julian Wilson Destroys Tulsa WR with Huge Hit, Celebrates Appropriately

The Oklahoma Sooners are having no problem dominating the Tulsa Golden Hurricane thanks to big plays on both sides of the ball, including this massive hit.

During the second quarter, senior cornerback Julian Wilson completely leveled Tulsa wide receiver Derek Patterson, then proceeded with an appropriate celebration after such a big play.

[Vine, h/t Twitter

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Western Illinois' Bonehead Kickoff Play Results in Safety for Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers were already huge favorites in their Week 2 game against the Western Illinois Leathernecks, and plays like this aren't going to help the underdogs pull off an upset.

On the opening kickoff, Western Illinois running back Kyle Hammonds bobbled the return, and the ball bounced out of the end zone to the 1-yard line. For some reason, the junior decided to bring the ball back into the end zone and take a knee.

While it was originally ruled a touchback, the call was reversed and Wisconsin was awarded two points for the safety. Here's another angle of the blunder.

[VineYahoo Sports]

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Alabama's Blake Sims Smokes FAU Linebacker with Nasty Juke

The biggest storyline for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team this offseason was figuring out who would take over at quarterback for AJ McCarron: veteran signal-caller Blake Sims or Florida State transfer Jake Coker.

Sims appears to have locked up that spot, and plays like this show why.

GIF: Blake Sims fake/juke http://t.co/jznwVbJZJk

— Marcus (@_MarcusD_) September 6, 2014

During Week 2 of the college football season, Sims smoked FAU senior linebacker David Lozandier with a filthy juke to pick up a nice chunk of yards. In the first quarter alone, Sims racked up two passing touchdowns and a seven-yard rushing score as well.


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Two ESPN College GameDay Signs Make Embarrassing Mistakes

ESPN College GameDay offers fans a chance to show off their clever wit on national television in the form of picket signs with puns and lighthearted insults.

If you go the insult route, make sure to proofread and double-check your facts. Two fans in Eugene, Oregon, failed to follow that advice in Week 2 of the college football season.

Floyd Mayweather and Bama reading sign pic.twitter.com/t58z6AX2Q2

— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) September 6, 2014

Well this is awkward #GameDaySignspic.twitter.com/2ig7LiVbZO

— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) September 6, 2014

[Twitter, h/t For the Win]

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Best Signs from ESPN's College GameDay Week 2

ESPN's College GameDay is in Eugene, Oregon, this week as the No. 3 Oregon Ducks take on No. 7 Michigan State in a battle that could have College Football Playoff implications.

Here are some of the best fan-made signs, including some that didn't make it on TV.

So far this #GameDaySigns is #winning@CollegeGameDay#GetUp4GameDaypic.twitter.com/tS5gXJ3mgC

— Patrick Wingert (@pwingie) September 6, 2014


— Busted Coverage (@Busted_Coverage) September 6, 2014

#GameDaySigns Part II: pic.twitter.com/R6TJS9J0aI

— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 6, 2014

[h/t College Spun]

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College Football Week 2: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Keep it locked here for all the College Football action! 

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Michigan State vs. Oregon: Keys to Victory in Clash Between Spartans and Ducks

In a week where the final game between Michigan and Notre Dame takes place, the biggest matchup on Saturday's college football schedule takes place out west when the Michigan State Spartans head to Autzen Stadium to take on the Oregon Ducks. 

September tends to be a slow time in college football, at least early on. Teams want to get their feet under them and prepare for the more grueling part of the schedule, so seeing a battle between two top-10 teams that play thousands of miles apart locking horns on the second week of the year is fantastic. 

It's also notable because the loser will have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks to keep their hopes for the College Football Playoff alive. With two very distinct styles of play on display Saturday night, we've got the keys to victory for the Spartans and Ducks. 


What Michigan State Must Do To Win

You can tell how little respect there is for the Spartans and the Big Ten conference overall by looking at the odds for this game. Despite being ranked seventh in the AP Top 25, Michigan State has been made a 13-point underdog according to Oddsshark.com

No matter what you think about the randomness of a point spread, that margin is blatant disrespect directed at the Spartans. They aren't exactly the same team that won the Big Ten and Rose Bowl last year, but Mark Dantonio has built one of the most physical teams in the country. 

There has been a formula for beating Oregon in recent years, pulled off to perfection by Stanford. The Cardinal have held the Ducks to a total of 34 points in their last two games by slowing things down and keeping that high-octane offense off the field. 

In the 120 minutes of football they have played since 2012, Stanford held the ball for 79 minutes and 39 seconds. You can't score 40 points if you only have the ball for about 20 minutes. 

I use Stanford as an example because Michigan State bears a strong resemblance to David Shaw's team. The Spartans aren't flashy on offense but don't beat themselves, allowing the defense to set them up with good field position. 

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune put it best when he said the Spartans are just a smart fundamental team: "Michigan State already represents the guts of Big Ten football. The reigning Rose Bowl champions do it the way Bo and Woody devised it. The Spartans huddle before plays. They run the ball and stop the run. They create turnovers. They play smart."

Stopping Marcus Mariota from running is the key to slowing down Oregon's offense. The Heisman hopeful has tremendous ability as a pocket passer, but this offense shines when the read-option is firing on all cylinders. 

Going back to the Stanford games, Mariota threw the ball well with 250 yards and two passing touchdowns last year. On the ground, though, the Cardinal picked him apart to the tune of minus-16 rushing yards. 

Coy Wire of FoxSports.com spoke to former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who took over as head coach at Vanderbilt in January, about the key to stopping Mariota in the read-option:

I talked to Mason about his tactics for stopping Oregon’s read-zone, and he said that one of the keys is to make Mariota hesitate when he makes his read.


Mason knew that the QB’s read and decision was determined by the quick decision and action of the unblocked man, so he went against conventional thinking. He told his player NOT to make a quick decision. He told his player to take two steps across the line of scrimmage and then just stop...

Michigan State doesn't have the offensive firepower to win a shootout. Connor Cook is the epitome of a game-managing quarterback. He's not flashy or stylish, completing just 58.7 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions last year, but does make the right read more often than not. 

Cook also did something Mariota couldn't do last year: Conquer Stanford's defense. He threw for 304 yards against the Cardinal in the Rose Bowl. He will have openings against an Oregon group that thrives on forcing teams into situations where they have to throw the ball deep. 

The easiest way to win a game is by slowing the other team down. Michigan State has the defense to do that. Now it just has to execute the game plan in a hostile environment to pull off the upset. 



What Oregon Must Do To Win

To use a movie analogy, Michigan State is like a Terrence Malick film. It's slow, contemplative and frustrating at times but never less than fascinating when you get to the end. 

Oregon, on the other hand, is the big summer blockbuster that generates $1 billion at the box office because it's nothing but fast-paced action that tickles your most surface-level senses.

That's not meant to denigrate the work done by former head coach Chip Kelly and current leader Mark Helfrich. Their work has built Oregon into one of the best programs in the country, and sometimes you just want to sit back and watch a really good action movie. 

This is the kind of non-conference test the Ducks should have. Outside of Stanford, the Pac-12 is a finesse conference. No one wants to play physical football when they can recruit the flashy skill players to create big plays in a short amount of time. 

Oregon's defense has to play better than it did last week against South Dakota. You would never know it looking at the 62-13 final score, but the Ducks weren't sharp. 

Andrew Greif of The Oregonian wrote after the game last weekend that the effort on the defensive side of the ball was lacking any discipline. Defensive coordinator Don Pellum is quoted in the recap as saying that consistency was a huge problem:

No one, at least from the sideline ... played great. Just a lot of guys making plays but no one really stood out.

I think if you asked our players most of them would tell you that our intensity, the way we like to shed, throw and go, the way we like to move, it was inconsistent. We're expecting a much faster, dynamic team. At times it showed a little bit but it wasn't consistent and obviously we have to get it consistent.

That has to change against Michigan State. The Spartans don't want to run up and down the field, but they're more than capable of putting together sustained drives with an efficient passing game and the power-running style of senior Jeremy Langford. 

Offensively, Mariota has to be able to make plays from the pocket. One strategy that would be smart for the Ducks to try, at least early on, is play-action passing. Everyone expects the Ducks to try running the ball because they do it as well as any team in the country and have a quarterback capable of breaking a big play with his legs. 

However, there's a reason Mariota is considered one of the top quarterbacks for the 2015 draft class. He can throw the ball around the field and makes great decisions. He's got the arm strength and accuracy to make deep throws. 

Striking early is the best way to take Michigan State out of its comfort zone, because then the Spartans are forced to play catch up with their offense and take more chances down the field. That's not their style and can get them in trouble. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Oklahoma vs. Tulsa: Live Score and Highlights

Oklahoma 31, Tulsa 0 — Halftime

Game action is now underway between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. ABC and ESPN2 is televising the matchup from Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Stay tuned here as we provide live analysis and commentary as the action unfolds:

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Florida Atlantic vs. Alabama: Live Score and Highlights

Alabama 31, Florida Atlantic 0—Early 3rd Quarter

The Alabama Crimson Tide were somewhat less than impressive in their Week 1 meeting with West Virginia.  Consequently, Alabama dropped in the B/R Top 25 Poll from preseason No. 3 to No. 7 this week.

How well will the Tide recover today against FAU?

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Akron vs. Penn State: Live Score and Highlights

Penn State 7, Akron 0 — Early 3rd quarter

Game action is now underway between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Akron Zips. ABC and ESPN2 is televising the matchup from State College, Pennsylvania.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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College Football Rankings 2014: Last-Minute Look at Week 2 Polls

Catch the Week 2 college football polls while you still can.

With games like Michigan State at Oregon, USC at Stanford and Virginia Tech at Ohio State on tap, there are sure to be plenty of significant changes in the polls between now and Week 3. With that in mind, here is a look at the Week 2 polls before the games officially kick off.


Most Important Week 2 Game for the Polls: Michigan State at Oregon

There is a lot at stake in the showdown between Michigan State and Oregon.

The winner will get a coveted, marquee nonconference victory in the first season of the College Football Playoff when strength of schedule is likely to be very important to the selection committee. 

Plus, there is the general assumption that the SEC is the best league, so every other conference is trying to pick up head-turning victories to improve their reputation. Along those fronts, Michigan State already beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl last season, so there is an opportunity for the Spartans to be a real thorn in the Pac-12’s side.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News discussed the significance of this game from the conference angle:

The matchup is loaded with significance for both participants and both conferences.

The winning team has a star on its resume to show the playoff selection committee, while the loser likely enters run-the-table mode. The losing conference could have trouble in the committee room, as well.

Officially, there are four playoff berths. Realistically, two are already taken — by the SEC champ and Florida State.

In the only Pac-12/Big Ten matchup of elite teams this season … and given the significance of head-to-head results … the losing conference could be left behind in the playoff race.

Michigan State’s offense should be strong this season with the return of Connor Cook at quarterback and Jeremy Langford at running back. What’s more, the Spartans have plenty of experience in raucous atmospheres, as head coach Mark Dantonio suggested, via Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press:

“We don’t really worry about that. We’ve played big games and won in every stadium in this conference. ... I’m more concerned about getting the job done. I don’t think we’re gonna go in there and be intimidated.”

Still, defense is the king for Michigan State, thanks to the pedigrees of Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, but it is breaking in seven new defensive starters. Oregon’s fast-tempo offense is not exactly the ideal opponent to face early in the season with a young and inexperienced defense leading the way.

The thought here is that Michigan State eventually bounces back from a loss to challenge for a postseason spot with Cook and Langford on offense and the young defense developing over the course of the year under Narduzzi. It also helps that showdowns against Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska are all at home.

That strong finish for the Spartans would be critical for Oregon as well because its victory would look more impressive.

It would be easy to get a bit macro with this and point out that the Ducks have lost to physically imposing defenses like Stanford, LSU, Ohio State and others over the past few years. However, Marcus Mariota’s presence alone will be enough to win this contest against the physical Spartans.

Mariota may just be the Heisman front-runner for the time being after Jameis Winston threw multiple interceptions in the season opener and can beat defenses with his arm and legs. He will find any weaknesses on the Michigan State side and exploit them constantly.

The Oregon up-tempo attack is about more than just Mariota, though.

Royce Freeman rushed for two touchdowns in the opener, but it was Byron Marshall who put on a show. Marshall averaged 11.3 yards a carry on his 90 rushing yards and exploded in the passing game for 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Oregon had 11 people with a reception, so look for Mariota to spread the ball around yet again. It will be enough to beat a Michigan State squad that will be much better in November than it is now. 

Prediction: Oregon 31, Michigan State 20


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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Exploring Championship Implications of Week 2 Games

Just one week into the college season, the College Football Playoff landscape already has an entirely different look.

Sure, programs like Florida State and Alabama are still at the top, but both struggled in Week 1. Each team remains a favorite to reach the postseason at the end, but have question marks moving forward.

As for early talks about South Carolina and UCLA potentially contending for a spot, both dropped off after disappointing performances. The Gamecocks were blown out by Texas A&M, 52-28, while Brett Hundley and the Bruins was underwhelming against lowly Virginia.

Then there were teams that blossomed into contenders such as Georgia and Texas A&M. The aforementioned blowout of the Gamecocks helped the Aggies while the Bulldogs rolled over Clemson in prime time.

With the full slate of Week 2 games set to being on Saturday afternoon, here's a look at the standings and a breakdown of the games with championship implications.


Breakdown of Week 2 Championship Implications

Following a surprising Week 1 that saw several contenders rise and fall, the second weekend promises to be equally as enthralling.

The Seminoles and Crimson Tide have cupcakes on the schedule, so both will likely remain at the top of the rankings. But when it comes to huge matchups, it doesn't get any bigger than Michigan State vs. Oregon.

Michigan State go on the road to test its dominant defense against a high-powered offense. As for the Spartans' starting quarterback, Connor Cook believes he'll be ready to go, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

While much of the focus will be on Marcus Mariota—for good reason—it will be Cook that has more to prove coming in. The Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl MVP in 2013, Cook is 14-1 as Sparty's signal-caller during his career.

Both programs come in with aspirations of making the College Football Playoff, but the Ducks are currently ranked higher. Going into the matchup, Oregon has the higher percentage chance to win, per ESPN College Football:

Apart from the huge Big Ten-Pac-12 showdown, another matchup on the West Coast might have championship implications.

Currently, USC and Stanford are neither inside the top five and near contention for the playoff. But with the Cardinal cracking the top 10 in the Amway poll, they are clearly creating buzz with their play.

Heading into the huge conference clash, Stanford clearly holds the upper hand in the last several seasons, as ESPN notes:

With both teams hoping to make noise this season, this is a crucial matchup. And after early controversy for Steve Sarkisian and the USC program, a win over Stanford would help turn the corner.

The likes of Kenny Trill and other Heisman contenders will make their cases against lesser opponents, but the real competition will be in Oregon and California. As the West Coast prepares for all eyes to be firmly focused on it, all four teams in those matchups have hopes for a playoff appearance.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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