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Cody Kessler Will Lead USC to Top of Pac-12 South

USC starting quarterback Cody Kessler could do little wrong on Saturday against the Fresno State Bulldogs...

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South Dakota vs. Oregon: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

Oregon has developed a reputation as an offensive juggernaut.  After the Ducks' performance against the South Dakota Coyotes, it's clear that the reputation is set to continue for at least another season.

Marcus Mariota was everything we expected him to be in Oregon's opener, especially against an FCS opponent.  The Oregon ground game also added nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns, helping to propel the Ducks to a 62-13 victory with 672 yards of offense.

Box score via NCAA.com

Oregon Game Grades Positional Unit First-Half Grade Final Grade Pass Offense A A Run Offense A- A- Pass Defense C C+ Run Defense C+ C+ Special Teams B+ A Coaching B+ B

Pass Offense

We could pick apart every little thing about Oregon's passing performance against South Dakota, but it's more than adequate to boil it down to a couple of stat lines.

First, Mariota was his usual spectacular self, completing 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns in two quarters of work.  Jeff Lockie played the second half, and completed 11-of-12 for 113 yards and one touchdown.

Neither quarterback threw an interception.

We also saw 11 Ducks combine for 380 receiving yards and four scores.  Without question, the passing offense deserves a straight "A."

Run Offense


When five guys combine for 292 rushing yards and four touchdowns, you might think it's an automatic "A," right?

Ordinarily you'd be correct.  But we can't help but deduct a little for one of the more bone-headed plays we've seen in quite some time.  Junior Byron Marshall looked to be waltzing into the end zone for a touchdown when he decided he didn't need to take the ball all the way with him.  He dropped the ball nonchalantly, as many players do.  The problem was that Marshall hadn't quite crossed the goal line.

South Dakota was awarded the ball after a touchback.

Sure, Oregon recovered a fumble on the very next play, but it's still worth mentioning.  This kind of mental error can't be ignored, and deserved the half-grade deduction we've given it.

Pass Defense

Somehow, we expected the Ducks to completely overpower the Coyotes—even on defense.  That didn't happen, as two South Dakota quarterbacks combined for 198 passing yards.

That's not too bad, so why the low "C+" grade?

The Ducks had a difficult time defending the short and medium passes, and there were plenty of opportunities for big stops or interceptions that simply weren't exploited.  Against South Dakota, that's not such a big deal.  Against a quarterback like Connor Cook, who was named both the Big Ten Championship Game and Rose Bowl Game MVP last season, it could be a very big deal.

We did upgrade the Ducks a bit from a "C" to a "C+" in the second half, mainly because the secondary made a few adjustments that kept South Dakota out of the end zone (from a pass game standpoint), and that deserves some recognition.

Run Defense

The Ducks run defense hasn't been the center for attention in Eugene, and after giving up 172 yards to FCS South Dakota, we all can understand why.

Despite being overmatched, South Dakota's offensive line did a great job of opening up holes for the Coyotes running backs to exploit.  With a much more physical Michigan State team coming to Eugene next week, we're understandably concerned.  MSU is much more physical and much more talented than South Dakota.

Clearly, there's a lot of work to be done, and that's why we're giving the Ducks' run defense a "C+."

Special Teams

The Ducks can score at any time, and almost at will.  We saw that with special teams against South Dakota.

Oregon averaged a perfectly mediocre 11.5 yards per punt return, but the 50 touchdown return by Charles Nelson easily gives the Ducks enough extra credit to earn an "A."


We gave the coaching staff a "B+" in the first half, mainly because South Dakota was able to take advantage of some systemic holes in Oregon's defense.

We downgraded the coaches to a straight "B" as a final grade because we're extremely concerned that many of the issues Oregon had in the first half were not fixed for the second half.  South Dakota was able to run between the tackles, and the intermediate passing game was only derailed when South Dakota shot itself in the foot.

Mark Helfrich is a good enough coach to straighten a lot of things out over the course of a week, but since we're talking about this game, and this game alone, we have to stick with our "B" grade for the coaching staff. 

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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South Dakota vs. Oregon: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

Oregon has developed a reputation as an offensive juggernaut. After the Ducks' performance against the South Dakota Coyotes, it's clear that the reputation is set to continue for at least another season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football's Confounding Week 1, Gives Fans More Questions Than Answers

We know nothing.

When you signup for college football and are granted access to this peculiar, passionate club, you have to come terms with this before you’re allowed access. You agree, reluctantly, because you have no other choice. 

It won’t prevent you from loading up on knowledge to feel like you know something, although resistance is futile. As much as you obsess over depth charts, “bold predictions” and conference previews, the games and moments will take the knowledge you acquired, jumble it up, and tell you politely to start over.

So you do. And you did again in Week 1.

Overall, the Jenga topple never came. The teams you expected to hold serve—excluding South Carolina, and we’ll get to that—did what we thought they would. Upsets were sprinkled here and there, although they didn’t come in bunches.

And yet, despite the expected notches in the win and loss columns, Week 1 provided some valuable evidence on what could be coming. More specifically, it answered our questions with more questions, opening the door to plenty of scenarios that were not thought possible just a few days prior. 

Not all of these questions trended toward the negative, either. Some did, while others opened up the door for big seasons that could be brewing before our eyes.


Stumbling Out of the Starters Gate

Florida State

Was Oklahoma State a better opponent than we initially thought? Was FSU feeling the impact of a title hangover? Or is the nation’s preseason No. 1 simply vulnerable?

Perhaps it’s a solid serving of all three.

There were plenty of positives to take away from the Seminoles’ 37-31 over Oklahoma State. For starters, and most importantly, it was a win. That’s all that matters at this time. But the invincibility surrounding the program is at least, for the moment, wobbly.

Quarterback Jameis Winston looked human for the second game in a row, tossing two interceptions and nearly a third. He also finished with 370 yards passing and sprinkled in some gorgeous throws, but there were lapses in his game.

The Seminoles can get right against The Citadel Bulldogs next week and then use the bye to their advantage. They are still the team to beat until proven otherwise, although the daunting task seems slightly more manageable after only four quarters.

Reminder: There are many more quarters to be played.




Take the invincibility paragraph from above and copy and paste it here. Obviously Alabama’s invincibility comes with success over the past five years rather than the past nine months, although the program still carries a giant-like feel each time it steps on a field.

Although a double-digit win over a Power 5 conference team should by no means be considered a failure, Alabama’s expectations are far different than those pinned to any other team. 

After the Crimson Tide’s 33-23 win over West Virginia, there are still questions. Quarterback Blake Sims looked very capable throughout much of the game, which could be an answer to one problem. We need to see it over the course of a few games (and against improved competition) but it's certainly a start. Perhaps more concerning, the secondary still has obvious holes and was picked to pieces at times.

There is an abundance of talent in place to fix almost any issue Alabama may have, although assuming a quick fix is just a week away can be dangerous as well. There’s no reason to panic after one week—especially when Alabama averaged nearly six yards per carry—but the offseason did not provide an all-encompassing cure.

Stay tuned.


Other Slow Starts...

Ohio State

Without Braxton Miller, you knew there might be some growing pains for Ohio State as it adjusted to J.T. Barrett under center. That was certainly the case, although no one expected one of the nation’s most gifted defensive lines to be gashed the way it was.

A 34-17 victory over Navy—arguably a top 50 team—isn’t exactly disappointing. The way the game played out, however, didn’t exactly tip the hand of one of the nation’s most intriguing favorites. There is so much more to learn about the Buckeyes. The good news is that there are incredible areas for growth.



If the Bruins are going to compete for a Pac-12 Championship or claim a spot in the College Football Playoff, the offensive line has to improve. It’s that simple. This group struggled mightily in UCLA’s 28-20 victory in Virginia, which featured three defensive touchdowns for the Bruins. Offensively, outside of a few positive moments for quarterback Brett Hundely, UCLA had issues moving the ball.

The good news? The defense scored three touchdowns and is clearly one of the nation’s best. That’s not going to change anytime soon. Whether the offensive line can solve its issues will likely dictate the Bruins’ season.


And Away We Go...


Not all questions are necessarily negative. In fact, Georgia delivered the most intriguing performance of anyone in Week 1, leaving us with more to think about than with any other team.

Mark Richt’s opening statement said it all.

Richt opening statement: “That was fun.” #UGA

— Logan Booker (@LoganBooker_BI) August 31, 2014

The Bulldogs suffocated Clemson after a slow start, thanks in large part to an active front seven and running back Todd Gurley. Gurley showcased his wealth of abilities, running for 198 yards on 15 carries. He also returned a kickoff.

The end result was a 45-21 victory and pure domination of almost every statistic imaginable. For the game, Georgia averaged eight yards per carry. Clemson, meanwhile ran the ball 44 times for 93 yards.

Of all the teams in Week 1, no one left an impression quite like Georgia. It looked dominate in all facets, and it has a chance to add onto these positive first impressions with a game against South Carolina on deck.


Texas A&M

In time, we’ll figure out this team. For now, we’re still processing how Texas A&M replaced quarterback Johnny Manziel and wideout Mike Evans without an ounce of struggle.

Forget about simply replacing one of the most exciting players of our lifetime. Quarterback Kenny Hill grabbed the baton and ran with it. More specifically, he threw it—and a plethora of gifted wideouts caught it and kept running.

Notes from #TAMUvsSC win: Soph, QB Kenny Hill, 511 yards broke program record of 464 by Johnny Manziel against Alabama in '13 #12thMan

— TAMU Gameday (@TAMUGameDay) August 29, 2014

In the end, Texas A&M went on the road and torched South Carolina 52-28. Does this tell us more about A&M’s offense or South Carolina’s growing pains of switching schemes on defense?

The answer, quite frankly, is probably yes. Texas A&M is clearly much more equipped to handle these changes than many realized, and South Carolina might have a longer road to the SEC Championship than many believed.

This was a fascinating result that should look even more interesting as the sample size increases for both teams.



Steve Sarkisian’s first game as USC head coach ended with a record thanks to his team's extreme offensive output. In a conference known for pace, plays and offense, the Trojans set the Pac-12 record for total plays in one game in their 52-13 blowout win against Fresno State.

USC ran 104 plays against Fresno State - setting a new Pac-12 record. #FightOn

— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) August 31, 2014

Quarterback Cody Kessler threw for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Wideout Nelson Agholor hauled in two of these scores, while freshman JuJu Smith caught four passes for 123 yards. Freshman tight end Bryce Dixon also caught a touchdown. 

Given the negativity and turmoil that have engulfed the program over the past week, you couldn't have asked for a better start. Now it’s a matter of figuring out what it means in the bigger picture. The Trojans are immensely gifted, particularly when it comes to their starters. It would also appear that the youth is ready now.

Thankfully we’ll learn a lot more about this team when it heads to Stanford next weekend. This will be a fitting (and telling) Week 2 obstacle indeed.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Ducks' Big Win over South Dakota Marred by Mental Errors

The Oregon Ducks took care of business against South Dakota to the tune of 62-13. Despite the margin of victory, there is plenty of work to be done in Eugene this week, as the Ducks prepare to face eighth-ranked Michigan State.

The biggest issue for the Ducks tonight was mental errors. Simply put, the Ducks will not beat the Spartans if they make the mental mistakes they made tonight.

There’s no doubt that the Ducks offense looked as fast and potent as ever. Forty-one points in the first half, on seven possessions, is nothing to scoff at. On the night, the Ducks racked up 672 yards of total offense in a a balanced attack (380 passing yards, 292 rushing).

Marcus Mariota threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball six times for 43 yards and a touchdown. Royce Freeman, the freshman sensation, scored two touchdowns on his first three carries and finished the night with 86 yards on eleven touches. The young wide receivers looked poised, as did the offensive line. But the player who looked the most impressive also committed the most glaring mental lapse of the game.

Byron Marshall, the Pac-12’s leading returning rusher, had perhaps his best game as a Duck. Marshall caught eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing another 89 yards on eight carries.

However, late in the second quarter Marshall took a hand off from Mariota 52 yards and looked to have found the end zone, which would have been his second touchdown of the night. Instead, Marshall pulled a Leon Lett (or a DeSean Jackson depending on your age) and dropped the ball at the one-yard line thinking he had already scored. The play was reviewed and Marshall had indeed dropped the ball before crossing the goal line and the play resulted in a touchback instead of a touchdown.

While Marshall’s gaffe may have been the most memorable mental error of the night, it certainly wasn’t the only one.

Oregon committed five penalties in the first quarter alone, two of which were for unsportsmanlike conduct. All in all, the Ducks committed nine penalties for 67 yards. The Ducks also missed a PAT at the end of the first half, which was caused by a bad snap and a fumble on the hold.

Oregon’s defense also contributed significantly to the mental lapses. The Ducks defense gave up 13 first-half points, which isn’t terrible until you consider the opponent. Not only did the defense give up 13 first-half points, but they also missed an alarming number of tackles along the way.

In 2013 the Ducks defense was very solid but also had the reputation of missing open-field tackles. They once again played to that reputation against South Dakota. If the Ducks are going to take down a team like Michigan State next week, they'll have to do a better job of wrapping up ball-carriers. Michigan State has one of the strongest rushing attacks in the nation, and the Ducks gave up 172 yards on the ground tonight.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Oregon’s defense in general seemed to lack an attitude and swagger. The Ducks played a lot of young players, most of whom were making their first appearance as starters. Perhaps that’s the reason they were a little bit tentative. However, Michigan State’s offense isn’t going to care about how experienced the Ducks defense is.

Oregon needs to get their ducks in a row defensively before next week’s game. New defensive coordinator Don Pellum must make this a teaching moment for his young unit and ensure that the missed tackles aren't a trend going forward.

All in all the Ducks played a solid game against an inferior opponent. The offense played efficiently, Mariota threw the ball very well and the playmakers made big plays. The Ducks calmed down in the second half, and the backups played some solid football. However, there’s a lot of work to be done between now and next Saturday when the Spartans come marching into Autzen Stadium.

The Oregon coaches know that if they’re going to beat Michigan State there can’t be any of the mental errors committed by their team tonight. But that’s why they play tune-up games. The Ducks will put this big win behind them, clean up the errors, get their minds right and come ready to play Michigan State next weekend.


Follow Jason Gold on twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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Oregon Ducks' Big Win over South Dakota Marred by Mental Errors

The Oregon Ducks took care of business against South Dakota to the tune of 62-13. Despite the margin of victory, there is plenty of work to be done in Eugene this week, as the Ducks prepare to face eighth-ranked Michigan State...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Playoff Projections After Week 1

Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is coming to a close with some of the top teams in the country showing why they are the best of the best. 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Projections After Week 1

Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is coming to a close with some of the top teams in the country showing why they are the best of the best...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

T.J. Yeldon's Heisman Campaign Still Has Long Way to Go Despite Strong Opener

T.J. Yeldon has plenty of reasons to be happy about his performance in Alabama's 33-23 win over West Virginia on Saturday. When it comes to his Heisman Trophy chances, on the other hand, the junior running back should remain cautiously optimistic.

Yeldon rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. On a day when the Crimson Tide were below their best, he was one of the few players to meet expectations. And of course, anything he does is viewed in part through the Heisman spectrum. In that regard, he did nothing to hurt his campaign.

Coming into the season, Yeldon is on the periphery in regard to the Heisman race. He sits eighth in ESPN.com's preseason Heisman Watch, getting a sole fifth-place vote. You could argue that the injury to Braxton Miller bumped him up at least a place or two.

After he ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa, it's reasonable to expect Yeldon to be even better in his third year at the school. With that improvement, maybe he can follow in Mark Ingram's footsteps and win the Heisman.

In order to get there, though, he'll have to overcome both history and his own teammate.

In general, the Heisman Trophy has almost become the "Best Quarterback Award," considering how many have won in recent years.

In order for a running back to win today, he has to fall into one of three categories. There are the history-makers/history-approach-ers (Ricky Williams in 1998 and Ron Dayne in 1999), electrifying playmakers who do more than run the ball (Reggie Bush in 2005) and voters' only recourse (Ingram in 2009).

Ingram was very good in '09, but his 1,658 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns weren't exactly otherworldly. The yardage doesn't even crack the top 100 single-season rushing leaders of all time

What helped Ingram the most was the dearth of Heisman-caliber quarterbacks. Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow were the only QBs with any shot to win, and there wasn't any chance either of them were gonna lift the trophy.

Yeldon will have to outplay the incumbent Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty and Nick Marshall. Not to mention that Todd Gurley is arguably the most likely running back at this point to win the Heisman.

Another major road block is Derrick Henry. The sophomore went for 113 yards and a touchdown of his own. If anything, he was the more buzzworthy running back from the day.

If Alabama finds itself near the top of the polls by year's end, then you can count on at least one of the Tide's bigger offensive stars being mentioned as a possible Heisman candidate, as Ingram, Trent Richardson and AJ McCarron managed to do.

More than likely, that guy's gonna come out of the backfield. Head coach Nick Saban isn't all of a sudden going to radically alter his offense, especially with unproven quarterbacks like Blake Sims and Jacob Coker.

"We definitely we want to be physical running the ball, pass blocking and being effective as receivers," said Henry after the West Virginia game, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "Anything we can help out Blake in any way, we're going to try to do."

Unless Alabama can run a joint Heisman campaign, you could easily see Yeldon and Henry taking away from one another's chances. As long as they're splitting carries, neither has a chance to truly shine.

Yeldon may well be one of the most talented running backs in the country. As things stand now, though, it's hard to see how he'll be able to build the momentum necessary to capture college football's most coveted individual award.

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Melvin Gordon Must Be Utilized More Often for Wisconsin to Find Success

Melvin Gordon is one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football. So it came as a huge surprise when the Wisconsin running back had just 16 carries in a season-opening 28-24 loss to LSU—including just two touches in the fourth quarter.

Following the game, head coach Gary Andersen spoke about the lack of carries for Gordon in the second half, per Zach Heilprin of ESPNWisconsin.com:

That's a pretty befuddling comment from the head coach—you know, the one who is in charge of the program.

Even with his limited touches in the second half, Gordon made the most of his opportunities. The junior led all running backs in the game with 140 yards, a touchdown and an 8.8 yards-per-carry average.

While Kenny Hilliard was asked to bring his team back for LSU, Gordon's team seemed to ask little of its All-Big Ten back. That led to plenty of questions from analysts like Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Meanwhile, Paul Myerberg of USA Today came to his own conclusion during the game:

Needless to say, the plans need to change moving forward. While any chance of a national championship is likely gone with a loss for the Badgers, a successful season is still on the table if Gordon is asked to lead.

As players such as Todd Gurley of Georgia exploded in Week 1, Gordon simply wasn't asked to do enough in order to make his case as one of the best players in the country. Though Gurley had one fewer handoff than Gordon, his team had a healthy lead late against Clemson.

Here's a look at the two players' statistics after their first games of the season.

Gurley clearly did more with fewer carries, but his team also relied him less. Even with LSU closing in and eventually winning, Gordon was not asked to carry his team—literally and figuratively.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report also added his take on the running back situation:

While it might not be fair to say that Gordon didn't "show up," getting called upon more might help his case.

Following the heartbreaking loss to LSU, Wisconsin still has plenty to play for the rest of the season. With two cupcakes on the schedule in Western Illinois and Bowling Green at home the next two weeks, Gordon will have a chance to thrust his name back near the top of the running back conversation.

Thanks to a favorable schedule that includes Nebraska and Iowa late in the season, Gordon has a chance to shine the rest of the way. And if the Badgers plan on getting back on track, they'll need to unleash their most talented player.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 1

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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Kenny Hilliard, Not Leonard Fournette Looks Like LSU's No. 1 RB After Week 1

In the first half, carries between LSU Tigers senior running back Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette were split almost down the middle. 

And the Tigers found themselves trailing Wisconsin 17-7 at the break. A 75-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter for the Badgers swelled the lead to 24-7, and LSU looked all but out of the game. 

So, with Fournette, the nation's most highly touted recruit of the 2014 class, struggling to break himself into the college game, Les Miles went with the tried and true.

He called on Kenny Hilliard, who got most of the carries in the second half and was the driving force behind LSU's big second-half comeback. 

Hilliard finished the game with 110 yards on 18 carries—a 6.1 yards per carry average—and proved to the nation that he's the one Miles and Co. should lean on in the running game this season. He also had LSU's only rushing touchdown, a 28-yard fourth-quarter scamper that capped off a 21-point Tigers run, putting them up 28-24. 

Hilliard has always been in the shadows of other backs since arriving at LSU (Jeremy Hill and Michael Ford). But he's always had a knack for big plays. In his first two seasons in Baton Rouge, he averaged over five yards per carry, racked up 800 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

Last season, as Jeremy Hill took a firmer hold of the reins as the featured back, Hilliar was limited to just 68 carries and 310 yards. But even then, he still found pay dirt seven times. 

Out of high school, according to 247sports, Hilliard was a 4-star back and the eighth-rated ball-carrier in the nation. So he knows what it's like to have tons of hype laid on a player's shoulders coming out of high school, and that could prove very beneficial in Fournette's maturation process. 

It's not that the jury is still out on Fournette—the jury hasn't even been sent to deliberate yet. Fournette is just one game into his college career and has three years to realize his enormous potential. His highlights against the Badgers came on special teams, where he had three returns of 25 or more yards. 

That's undoubtedly something that Fournette can build on as he gets acclimated to the college game. And there's no doubt that he's the future of LSU football. 

But for now, the top of the SEC looks weak compared to seasons past with Alabama's scare against WVU, Auburn fighting to stave off Arkansas and LSU's flirt with danger against Wisconsin. So Miles knows now that he has to rely on his senior running back if he wants the Tigers to have a shot at making the inaugural College Football Playoff. 


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Which Teams Should Panic the Most After Week 1?

Opening weekend of the 2014 college football season is wrapping up with a few teams that played much worse than expected. Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss who should be worrying the most after Week 1. Who do you think had a shaky start to the 2014 season?

Watch the video and let us know.

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LSU vs. Wisconsin: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers, Badgers

In a true tale of two halves, the LSU Tigers came from behind and defeated the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 28-24. 

It was shocking early on as to how dominating the Badgers' rush attack truly was. Wisconsin finished the first half with nearly 200 yards on the ground. It was the first time in over a decade in which an LSU team has relinquished that many yards in one half. 

However, the tide turned on the fake punt call by Les Miles. LSU got the momentum and never looked back. Wisconsin curiously abandoned the run game in favor of Tanner McEvoy throwing the football. This didn't turn out to be such a good decision, as he finished 8-of-24 for 50 yards on the night. He also threw two bad interceptions. 

Final stats from the game can be found here at NCAA.com. 

Check out first-half and final grades for both the Tigers and Badgers. Additional analysis for different position units will also be addressed.

LSU Tigers Game Grades

Pass Offense: It was initially a slow start for Jennings and the Tigers' offense. He looked out of sync with his wide receiver corps. However, he flashed a big arm on multiple occasions. His ability to throw the ball down the field with accuracy helps to give LSU's offense an added dimension.

Huge plays to Dural and Diarse ultimately got the Tigers over the hump for the victory. Jennings hasn't done anything to lose his starting spot. As the game progressed, he settled down and looked comfortable. Although his accuracy wasn't great (9-of-21), he did throw for 239 yards and two touchdowns. 


Run Offense: LSU's rushing attack was stifled in the first half. It managed 16 yards on 15 carries. Much of the credit does go to Wisconsin's quick front, but LSU simply wasn't opening up any holes. 

In the second half, the loss of Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring helped the Tigers get on track. Kenny Hilliard led the charge with 112 yards on 18 carries. Leonard Fournette had a quiet start to his collegiate career, totaling only 17 yards on eight carries.


Pass Defense: LSU blanketed the Wisconsin wide receivers corps all night long. The Badgers wide outs weren't able to gain any separation. 

Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin both came away with interceptions. It was a dominating performance for a unit allowing only 50 yards through the air. 


Run Defense: This unit was absolutely gashed all night long. LSU allowed 268 yards on the ground. Wisconsin backs ran to the tune of 6.9 yards per carry. McEvoy's mobility neutralized the pass-rushing abilities somewhat, but it was a porous effort all the way around.


Special Teams: The Mad Hatter pulled out another trick with the fake punt in the third quarter. This call ultimately changed the momentum of the game. LSU ended up driving down the field and scoring after the genius call. 

Colby Delahoussaye also connected on both field goal attempts. It was a flawless effort by the special teams unit. 


Coaching: The defense definitely did not play up to the usual LSU standards. Wisconsin made its living on the ground, and there was little resistance. 

The call for the fake punt was paramount. As the game progressed, Jennings also became more comfortable. LSU started to roll him out and got him easy throws. This in turn helped him gain confidence. 

Wisconsin Badgers Game Grades

Pass Offense: The pass attack by Wisconsin was absolutely abysmal. McEvoy completed a third of his attempted passes on the night. He looked tentative on a majority of his throws, and also primarily threw the ball off of his back foot when pressured. 

If Wisconsin is to contend for a B1G title, play at the position has to get markedly better. 


Run Offense: This was a vintage Wisconsin performance tonight. The duo of Gordon and Corey Clement was phenomenal against a good SEC defense. The OL opened up holes all night for their backs. In total, the unit rushed for 268 yards on 39 carries. 

Reggie Love's 45-yard jet sweep score also helped to open the game up early. The Badgers were able to break off big chunks of yardage with the ground game (something that couldn't be said with the passing game).  


Pass Defense: The pass defense didn't play overly well. Aside from a few pass interference penalties, the unit was victimized by two long touchdown throws of 80 and 36 yards, respectively. A 44-yard completion from Jennings to Dural also led to a touchdown score by the Tigers. 

The secondary did allow only 239 yards through the air, but there were multiple big plays.  


Run Defense: Wisconsin's unit up front held stout for the majority of the game. In the first half, they held a strong LSU rushing attack to only 16 yards on 15 carries. 

Unfortunately for the Badgers, the loss of two starters on the defensive line hurt them in the second half. LSU did finish with 130 yards rushing, but it came on 47 carries. It was a valiant effort by the group. 


Special Teams: Freshman kicker Rafael Gaglianone connected impressively on a 51-yard kick. It was the first attempted kick of his collegiate career. LSU also did not break any huge returns, and thus the coverage team played well. 

The minor flub was defending against the fake punt. It was a 4th-and-2 attempt near midfield, and LSU managed to execute it effectively. The fake ultimately led to points, and helped to flip momentum over to the Tigers. 


Coaching: Gary Andersen will have to answer some tough questions this upcoming week...

Is Tanner McEvoy still the starting quarterback? Why did he virtually abandon the run game in favor of throwing the football in the second half? Why did Melvin Gordon play sporadically in the third and fourth quarters? 

This statistic truly says it all about the play-calling in the third and fourth quarters...

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Inconsistencies Bad for Jameis Winston's Heisman Run but Shouldn't Worry FSU

Florida State got off to the start we all expected Saturday night, racing to a 17-0 lead over a rebuilt Oklahoma State team.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston completed nine of his first 10 passes and even threw an interception toward the start of the second quarter. But once Mario Pender lunged into the end zone to put Florida State up by three scores, the start of the 2014 season looked like this year would be the same as last.

But then something happened, a reaction that was foreign to the Seminoles in 2013. The Cowboys not only didn't collapse after enduring a punch; they got up and started punching back.

The result was one of the most up-and-down games of Winston's career. He threw multiple interceptions for only the third time, and unlike the other two instances (against Miami and Duke), his defense wasn't in peak form to bail him out.

He turned the ball over in situations that really countedAnd according to Brandon Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinelhe was man enough to admit that his two turnovers cost his team momentum.

These inconsistencies will hurt Winston in his bid to win a second Heisman Trophy, because—fair or not—there are voters looking for a reason to vote against him. He's contentious off the field, and voter fatigue is a real thing. It's one of many reasons Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com wrote a whole piece this offseason entitled "Jameis Winston Will Not Win a Second Heisman."

Last year, Winston efficiency ensured that would not be denied college football's ultimate individual honor. His rating of 184.85 was more than ten points higher than the second-place quarterback. He averaged 10.6 yards per attempt and threw four touchdowns to every one interception.

So it hurts for him to start this season with two interceptions to one touchdown, a quarterback rating of 140.95. Is this one game to start the season a sign of regression. Most likely not, but this performance will be used against him—and eagerly—in the Heisman discussion.

But as far as Florida State is concerned: Who cares?

Who cares about the politicking and stat-mongering that goes into winning a Heisman Trophy? All the Seminoles care about is winning.

And on that front, as he has so many times before, Winston came up big when it mattered most.

Leading by three late in the third quarter, and struggling to find an offensive rhythm, head coach Jimbo Fisher dialed up a designed quarterback draw from the Oklahoma State 28-yard line. Winston came to FSU with a dual-threat reputation, but he had hitherto rarely been asked to run. It seemed incautious exposing him to unnecessary contact, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

They also call for career-defining plays:

The longest run of Winston's career was also the best, and it came in one of the biggest moments. It was a put-the-team-on-my-back moment on par with Marshawn Lynch in 2010. It was "Beast Mode" through and through.

Later, leading by six with less than five minutes remaining, when all Florida State needed was a first down or two to ice away the game, Winston took it one further, zipping perhaps his best pass of the night to Rashad Greene for a 50-yard touchdown and 37-24 lead:

It's very possible that Oklahoma State is good. More than good. No matter how much talent they lost, the Cowboys have been one of the seven or eight most consistent programs over the past five years. Mike Gundy's teams usually show up to play. Glenn Spencer's defenses always show up to play. That was a good team that FSU beat.

And we shouldn't kill a team for beating someone good.

But, of course, we will, because the Seminoles were three-touchdown favorites, and they're used to beating teams by more than three touchdowns. After 13 consecutive games of looking invulnerable, this was the second consecutive matchup where they looked vulnerable. 

Still, 15-0 in the Winston era is 15-0 in the Winston era. He still has never lost a game. Florida State has a few minor things to worry about—the nonexistent pass-rush; the not-as-dominant-as-expected offensive line; the lack of receiving options outside of Greene—but its quarterback is not one of them.

In fact, he's the main reason those worries are only minor.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Leonard Fournette Debuts for LSU: Final Stat Line, Analysis and Twitter Reaction

Maybe college football fans should tone down Leonard Fournette's expectations in 2014. The freshman running back made his long-awaited debut for LSU, running for 18 yards on eight carries in the Tigers' 28-24 win. He also returned five kicks for 117 yards.

Fournette is arguably the most eagerly anticipated recruit in the Class of 2014. He's the No. 1-ranked player in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

The hype train wasted no time in running off the rails.

In his list of bold predictions for the 2014 season, Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman argued that the freshman phenom will win the Heisman Trophy.

"We will be talking about how LSU's freshman crop may be the best class in the past decade and the gem of it all, RB Leonard Fournette, will become the first true freshman to win the Heisman," wrote Feldman.

LSU head coach Les Miles was downright giddy when talking about Fournette in preseason, per ESPN.com's David Ching.

"That's kind of like having Tiger Woods on a golf course with a putter," said Miles. "You just want to see him tee off, don't you? Well, we have to put pads on before we can see him tee off."

Fournette's already being spoken of in the same breath as Adrian Peterson, which is the highest praise a running back can receive today.

How quickly is everyone gonna jump off the bandwagon now?

CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish made light of Fournette's sky-high expectations:

Bleacher Report's Jeff Risdon walked away less than impressed:

ESPN's Bomani Jones also felt that in Fournette's little time on the field, he looked nothing like a game-breaking running back:

Miles is under no obligation to put Fournette on the field, and that showed in the first half. NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan tracked five plays that featured the prized recruit:

Chris Singleton of BayouPreps.com thinks that riding Kenny Hilliard gives the Tigers the best option right now. The freshman's time will come later:

Obviously, Fournette shouldn't be judged by one bad game, especially his first game at the collegiate level. He didn't become the best running back recruit in the country by accident. His combination of speed, power, agility and elusiveness can't be ignored.

Over the course of the season, Fournette should see his role in the LSU offense grow.

With that said, fans likely won't see him fulfill his potential until at least next season, by which time Hilliard and Terrence Magee will have graduated.

Saturday night will merely be a bump in the road.

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Marcus Mariota vs. South Dakota: Final Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

First impressions are everything in college football, especially for Heisman hopefuls. While some failed to live up to the hype, Marcus Mariota did exactly what was expected of him against South Dakota—play consistent with flashes of brilliance he showed last season.

The Ducks quarterback passed for 14-of-20 for 267 yards and four total touchdowns in the season opener. He also tied a program record for passing touchdowns, as Andy McNamara, the Assistant AD for Communications, points out:

Despite losing to Jameis Winston in the Heisman race last season, Mariota has the clear upper hand after Week 1. While the performance came against a much weaker opponent, the Oregon signal-caller got started on a much better note.

Mariota dissected the South Dakota defense throughout the first half with just six incompletions. One of the best passes of the game came in the first quarter as he found Byron Marshall deep down field for a 41-yard touchdown.

ESPNU provides a look at the huge completion for Mariota:

But Mariota wouldn't stop with just showing off his arm, he also flashed his dual-threat ability.

The Oregon signal-caller notched an additional 43 yards on the ground with an average of 7.2 yards per rush. That number was slightly lower due to a one-yard score just before the end of the first half.

Oregon Football gives a breakdown of the drive that led to the touchdown for Mariota:

Granted, Oregon headed into the locker room with a 41-13 lead over an inferior opponent. But the precision and dynamic ability that Mariota possesses was on full display against South Dakota early on.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com passed along his analysis of the quarterback:

After his performance in the first half, Mariota would not return in the second half, per Jason Quick of The Oregonian:

Moving forward, Mariota will have much tougher defenses to contend with on his path to a potentially stellar season. That begins next week with a staunch Michigan State team coming into town.

The Spartans are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press and Amway Polls and expected to make noise this season. With both teams having aspirations of contending for a National Championship this season, Mariota will need to be on top of his game yet again.

As the season progresses, Oregon also has several tests along with the way in the Pac-12. If Mariota can continue to shine like he did in Week 1, a Heisman and National Championship might not be far out of reach.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Wisconsin vs. LSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

Wisconsin and LSU gave fans a star-studded treat for Week 1 of the 2014 NCAA football season. These two preseason Top 25 squads decided to forego a tune-up game against an FCS school and take each other to task from the get-go. It made for an entertaining back-and-forth game, with the Tigers pulling out a fantastic 28-24 come-from-behind victory.

This game was supposed to be the first chapter in LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette's legendary SEC story, but this contest may in fact be a footnote for the highly touted recruit. He finished with just 18 yards on eight carries.

Wisconsin sophomore running back Reggie Love kicked off the scoring with a 45-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Badger Football noted the unlikely hero had quite the career average after that play:

Love briefly upstaged featured Badger back Melvin Gordon, but his moment in the spotlight was short-lived as the latter back got to work carving up the Tigers defense for big gains.

LSU got their own highlight play toward the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Anthony Jennings found wide receiver Travin Dural streaking down the sideline for a spectacular 80-yard touchdown, a play highlighted by Bleacher Report's Twitter account:

Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune liked how Jennings bounced back from his early struggles:

Fournette struggled to gain traction throughout the game, but it wasn't just him. LSU struggled as a whole to gain any momentum on the ground in the first half. This fan noted toward the end of the game that the Tigers were missing a big talent in the backfield:

ESPN's Bomani Jones expected to see more from Fournette in his first game as a Tiger:

Wisconsin was forced to rely on defense and the rushing attack with quarterback Tanner McEvoy struggling to move the ball through the air. He certainly ran the ball well, carrying the pigskin six times for 40 yards. Unfortunately, he completed just eight of 24 passes for 50 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

As Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, he didn't meet the Saturday-night standards:

Despite his struggles, the Badgers remained in control of the game and went into the locker room at halftime with a 17-7 lead.

They continued to pound the ball with Gordon in the third quarter. The junior back repaid his team's faith, punching the ball into the end zone to cap off a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive early in the third quarter.

Bucky's 5th Quarter noted the Badger backs have quite the touchdown celebration in store for this season:

The Tigers did well to refocus after that demoralizing drive. They strung together two nine-play drives that ended in Colby Delahoussaye field goals to cut the Badgers lead to 11.

McEvoy and Wisconsin struggled to move the ball efficiently, allowing LSU to maintain its momentum. Jennings finally put the Tigers within striking distance early in the fourth quarter, completing a 35-yard pass to John Diarse for the critical touchdown.

McEvoy then made a critical error early in the fourth quarter, throwing a costly interception that gave the Tigers excellent field position.

The Tigers eventually found their workhorse back in the form of Kenny Hilliard. He gave the Tigers their first lead of the game with a gut-busting 28-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. ESPN SEC noted just how well Hilliard carried the rock on that drive:

Hilliard finished the game with 18 carries for 110 yards and one touchdown.

Observers were perplexed as to why Gordon didn't see more of the ball down the stretch. Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel thought he was clearly what the Badgers needed:

Gordon finished the game with just three carries in the second half, a perplexing development considering how dynamic he looked in the first half. As SportsCenter noted prior to the contest, Gordon gave up a chance at the NFL to return to the Badgers this season:

LSU will be happy to pull out the victory, despite not getting the expected production from Fournette. Hilliard can continue to carry the load in the early going, but the Tigers will need to find ways to work in their young back who has so much potential.

The Badgers clearly have a potent rushing attack, but head coach Gary Andersen will face questions about the team's balance on offense and the disappearance of Gordon's touches.

Wisconsin should still be a Top 20 team and showed that it has a strong enough defense to carry it through tougher contests, but McEvoy remains a work in progress and could struggle to deliver high-profile victories in the future.

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Florida State vs. Oklahoma State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Seminoles

Final Stats: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31

It wasn't pretty but it still resulted in a familiar outcome for No. 1 Florida State; the Seminoles were once again victorious Saturday night, knocking off Oklahoma State, 37-31.

The triumph extended the Seminoles winning streak to 17 games. FSU was tested in just two games a season ago (at Boston College and in the national championship game against Auburn), but in the 2014 opener, the Cowboys and adversity proved to be worthy foes, as the defending national champs had to sweat one out at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

How FSU responds moving forward will be critical. The 'Noles could not establish a running game against the Cowboys, and that vaunted all-senior offensive line struggled mightily. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had a couple brilliant moments, but Rashad Greene, who had 11 catches for 203 yards and touchdown, was the only receiver he appeared confident in targeting.

The Seminoles have to improve across the board if they want to go wire to wire as No. 1 and finish the season on the same field they started it on Saturday night.


Florida State Seminoles Game Analysis

Passing Offense

Winston forced some throws for sure (he had two interceptions on ill-advised passes), but the Seminoles signal-caller still made plays through the air when he had to.

After losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw in the off-season, it's understandable Winston's timing and confidence is still a work in progress with every receiver not named Greene, who accounted for 203 of Winston's 370 passing yards and key fourth-quarter score.

Christian Green showed some flashes early in the game but his 73 yards on two grabs all occurred in the opening half, and he was a non-factor in the final two quarters. Can Kermit Whitfield build off his three catches for 30 yards moving forward?


Running Game

The Seminoles were supposed to dominate teams on the ground in 2014 behind an all-senior offensive line and a home-run hitting tailback depth chart. But Saturday night Oklahoma State ate up that offensive line and bottled up running back Karlos Williams, who was held to just 2.9 yards per carry.

Outside of Mario Pender's 11-yard dash to the end zone and Winston's career-long 28-yard highlight-reel run to pay dirt, FSU's running game was a disappointment. 


Pass Defense

FSU led the nation in interceptions a season ago and nabbed one Saturday night when Nate Andrews took pick back for an early score. FSU held Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh to 15-of-27 passing for 203 yards and one long score on a busted coverage. Cornerback P.J. Williams made the play of the game when he forced Walsh into a fumble late in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory.


Run Defense

The Seminoles are clearly still looking for a quality replacement in the heart of the defensive line for Timmy Jernigan, who moved on to the NFL. The absence of the All-American tackle was evident at times against the Cowboys, who had some success running up the middle. Walsh reeled off 51 yards rushing with two scores, though Oklahoma State did manage just 3.8 yards per carry.

FSU got some great play from linebackers Terrance Smith, E.J. Levenberry and Reggie Northrup, its secondary and ends Mario Edwards Jr. and DeMarcus Walker but needs its defensive tackles to step up and replace Jernigan.


Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com.

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SEC Headed for Season of Chaos in 2014

Remember when Alabama (154 votes) and Auburn (75 votes) were the picked as the odds-on favorites to win the SEC title by the assembled members of the media in Hoover, Alabama, in July?

Yeah, about that.

Week 1 in the SEC taught us one thing: We're in for a wild season.

SEC East favorite South Carolina was upended at home in the opener 52-28 by a Texas A&M team led by first-year starter Kenny Hill that was picked to finish next-to-last in the SEC West.

Alabama was pushed to the limit in a 33-23 win over a West Virginia team that committed a litany of unforced errors in the second half, including dropped passes by receivers, bone-headed penalties and a snap over quarterback Clint Trickett's head in the red zone.

Defending SEC champ Auburn's defense looked like it was playing without a defensive line in the first half, as Arkansas' running game sliced and diced the Tigers before head coach Gus Malzahn's crew pulled away to win 45-21.

Not many people predicted any of those things happening.

The most impressive team of the week was No. 12 Georgia, which topped No. 16 Clemson 45-21 between the hedges in Athens. Yeah, running back Todd Gurley scored four touchdowns and generally looked like a freak. But what was more impressive was the Georgia defense, which shut down Clemson in the second half.

Georgia scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. Clemson gained 15 yards in the second half.

— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) August 31, 2014

Not bad for new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Those Aggies weren't so bad either.

Hill established himself as a true Heisman candidate, setting Texas A&M records for passing yards (511) and attempts (60) in his first career start. What's more important is that the defense gave up "only" 433 yards—which isn't great, but certainly enough to keep the Aggies competitive if the offense plays the way it did against the Gamecocks.

"That team is so much better than us, it wasn't funny," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said, according to Texas A&M's official website.

The SEC will bring the weird this year because, while many teams are talented, they all have pretty glaring holes that will lead to inconsistency, uncertainty and a lot of fun.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore, just enough defense does.

What we learned in Week 1 is that Texas A&M and Auburn probably have "enough."

LSU's passing game and offensive line were both hit-or-miss in the 28-24 win over Wisconsin, which will put a ton of pressure on that defense as the season progresses. Sure, quarterback Anthony Jennings displayed big play ability and helped guide the team off the deck, but 9-of-21 passing won't cut it on a week-in, week-out basis.

Ole Miss' defense was all over the place in its season-opening 35-13 win over Boise State, but will it show up to overcome quarterback Bo Wallace's inconsistencies on a regular basis? Probably not, at least at that level.

Alabama's defense is spotty at best, which isn't a good situation for the Tide, considering the offense—while effective—was conservative under Sims.

That wasn't a surprise to head coach Nick Saban.

"Are we as talented as some of [Alabama's] previous teams at critical positions? We don't have the experience," he said. "So we're going to grow into those things. I knew going in. You knew going in, but you just ignored it. I couldn't."

Does that mean the SEC won't make the College Football Playoff?

It's unlikely, because one team is bound to get hot and produce a strong resume for the selection committee.

If Week 1 is any indication, though, it's going to be a wild ride getting there with favorites having just as many holes as the midlevel teams.

Buckle up your chin strap. It's about to get fun.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.  


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