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Kentucky Wildcats Have Locker Room Dance Party After 1st Win of Season

The Kentucky Wildcats haven't had the best football team over the years, struggling in the SEC. However, they were able to get the 2014 season off on the right track with a 59-14 blowout win against UT-Martin.

After the game, some of the players had a dance party in the locker room. The Wildcats haven't had a winning season since 2009, so they've learned to appreciate a win any time they can get one.

[Instagram, h/t College Spun]

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A Healthy Georgia Backfield Is the Best Offensive Weapon in College Football

When healthy, Georgia running back Todd Gurley is the best running back in college football.

He proved it between the hedges on Saturday afternoon vs. Clemson, rushing 15 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns, scoring a touchdown on a 100-yard kickoff return and setting a Georgia single-game record with 293 all-purpose yards.

Gurley struggled with an ankle injury for the final two months of last season, but he looked like he was 100 percent in the 45-21 win over the Tigers. 

It was enough to vault Gurley to the No. 3 spot in B/R's weekly Heisman rankings—an award that's typically reserved for quarterbacks.

"Todd Gurley is obviously as good as it gets," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said in quotes released by Georgia. "He is a great, great football player. If you give him the ball in the position that we gave them he is going to do great things. Gurley, and all their backs, were special tonight."

They were indeed.

Junior Keith Marshall still looked slowed from last season's ACL injury, but freshman Nick Chubb (four carries for 70 yards and a touchdown) looked like a star-in-the-making, and fellow freshman Sony Michel (six carries for 33 yards) has the moves to be a dangerous weapon for quarterback Hutson Mason in a variety of ways.

Not only does Georgia have the best back in college football, they have quality depth, which makes the Bulldogs backfield the most dangerous weapon in college football.

"[Gurley] makes it easy for us," Mason said, according to Georgia's postgame quotes. "You just have to give him the ball every chance you get. We have some pretty good backups too. Sony and Nick Chubb are both really great. We knew Nick's skill set coming into the game today and he ran well. He reminds me a lot of Todd."

Talk about a "rich man's problem" for head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

The abundance of talent in the backfield allows the coaching staff so much flexibility with how they mix and match their running backs.

If they want to hold Gurley back in the first half like they did against Clemson—he had four first-half carries for 44 yards and a touchdown—use him on special teams and conserve his energy to shut the door in the second half, they can.

If they want to control the clock early and put the game on his shoulders to take pressure off Mason, they can.

If they want to get him out of the game a little earlier than normal and give some of the backups some meaningful carries to protect their star, they can.

That's not just a luxury for the coaching staff, it's a luxury for Mason—a redshirt senior who's in his first year as the full-time starting quarterback.

With only one shot for glory, Mason may have the urge to try to do it all himself—especially when receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell get back to full speed and join Michael Bennett and Chris Conley in that receiving corps.

He doesn't have to, thanks to the running, and it was clear in the opener that he knows it.

If the Bulldogs want to play ball control, the running game allows them to do it. If they want to put their best at more of an injury risk on special teams, the depth allows them to. If they want to mix in different looks with two star tailbacks in the same play, they can. If they want to open it up in the passing game, the threat on the ground will make the passing lanes for Mason the size of the Grand Canyon.

Georgia's top-end talent, depth and versatility at tailback makes the running back position between the hedges the most dangerous weapon in college football.

There isn't a close second.

 

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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Eastern Michigan's Cinder Block Wall Entrance Ends Poorly

The Eastern Michigan Eagles came up with a creative way to run out of their tunnel in their season opener against the Morgan State Bears on Saturday, but things didn't quite work out according to plan.

While most of the players waited in the tunnel, several Eagles players were given hammers to smash down a cinder block wall. Unfortunately, knocking the wall down proved to be far more difficult than they might have imagined, as you can see above. 

It wasn't all bad for the Eagles, though. Despite the entrance fiasco, they went on to beat the Bears, 31-28.

[YouTube, h/t The Big Lead]

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ESPN College GameDay to Attend Michigan State vs. Oregon Next Week

ESPN's College GameDay is heading to one of its favorite locations—Eugene, Oregon—for next week's game between the Oregon Ducks and the Michigan State Spartans.

The show's official Twitter account broke the news:

That GameDay will be in Eugene next week should come as a shock to no one. Oregon and Michigan State are both consensus Top 10 teams, and they're both among the five most popular expert picks to make the College Football Playoff. Even with USC at Stanford on the table, how could this not have been the Week 2 location?

Outside of its major CFP implications, Michigan State at Oregon is appealing for its contrast in styles. It's hard to find a more perfect collision between an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

Can Pat Narduzzi's big, strong, angry defense replicate what Stanford has done the past few seasons and stymie the Oregon attack? Or will Marcus Mariota and the speed of those around him "Win the Day?"

The Ducks and Spartans are both coming off easy Week 1 wins over FCS opponents: Oregon's a 62-13 triumph over South Dakota, Michigan State's a 45-7 win over Jacksonville State. Neither team had to play its starters long into the second half.

In theory, that should mean both squads are healthy and rested. However, Oregon is still breaking in Jake Fisher at left tackle after Tyler Johnstone tore his ACL in spring camp, and the Spartans are not the ideal opponent for a jumbled offensive line.

Can Fisher hold up on the left after playing so long on the right? Can Andre Yruretagoyena hold up in Fisher's old spot?

"Andre has come along," said offensive coordinator Scott Frost, per Chantel Jennings of ESPN.com. "I think he was really raw when he got here. He has grown up a lot."

He'll need to play like he's grown up Saturday when Shilique Calhoun, Marcus Rush, Demetrius Cooper, Lawrence Thomas, Malik McDowell and the rest of Michigan State's defensive line come bearing down on him.

As has been the case against Stanford the past few seasons, Oregon's ability to win—or at least mitigate how much it loses by—in the trenches should be what ultimately decides the outcome.

Either way, this will be the sixth consecutive season that GameDay has packed up for Eugene. It's the first non-Pac-12 game in that stretch.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Texas' Stout Defense in Week 1 Perfect Start for Charlie Strong Era

For the last several months, head coach Charlie Strong has promised Longhorn faithful that he would bring toughness back to Texas football.

The Longhorns delivered with a dominant defensive performance that produced four interceptions in a 38-7 victory over North Texas on Saturday night. 

North Texas' lone touchdown came on a David Ash end-zone fumble that the Mean Green defense recovered. 

In other words, the Longhorns defense shut out its opponent's offense. The defense held the Mean Green to 94 total yards of offense, and the longest play it gave up was eight yards. 

"You have to be very pleased with that on defense," Strong said of the defense not giving up a play longer than 10 yards. "If you're ever going to win a championship, you have to play great defense. And the defense kind of sets a tone for the whole game."

Some critics will look at this game and say the defense was only good because North Texas' offense had a lot of holes. But when was the last time a Texas defense held a Division I offense to 15 passing yards?

Better yet, when was the last time Texas held an opponent to less than 100 yards of total offense?

No matter who the opponent is, Texas' defense deserves a lot of credit for the performance it put up Saturday night.

"Keeping a team under 100 yards and shutting out its offense is what we are looking for," senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "They had just as much time to prepare for us as we had to prepare for them. They're Division I college football players as well, so I think we played well."

This increased toughness is something the Longhorns defense has lacked since 2011. Let's not sugar coat it: Texas' defensive performances in 2012 and 2013 were downright atrocious at times. And giving up big plays was a constant issue.

But the defense came out of the tunnel with fire in its eyes and will need to maintain that fire moving forward.

Next week, Texas will face a BYU team which embarrassed the defense in stunning fashion last season.

"I told them to enjoy this one, be ready and come back to work tomorrow," Strong said. "We are going to face a team that played well in their opener. And they are a team that embarrassed us last season with a quarterback who ran the ball all over our defense."

The Cougars return junior quarterback Taysom Hill, who was responsible for 259 yards of BYU's 550 total rushing yards against the Longhorns in 2013. Hill led the Cougars with 97 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a win over Connecticut on Friday night.

But the Texas defense is determined to shut down the talented quarterback and has been preparing to seek redemption since last year.

"It's one of those games that will go down in history," defensive end Cedric Reed said of last year's BYU performance. "We've had BYU marked on our calendars." 

The Longhorns will be able to silence any critics if they keep this momentum going, which is something Texas desperately needs to do to shed the "soft" label that has haunted the Longhorns defense since 2012.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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

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Anthony Jennings Shows He Is Capable Leader for LSU with Gutsy Second Half

HOUSTON, Texas—LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings is clutch.

Jennings' showed character in his performance against Wisconsin on Saturday, which was not the prettiest. He was 9-of-21 through the air and was sacked twice.

But Jennings got the job done when it mattered the most.

Jennings was 4-of-6 for 119 yards in the second half, leading LSU to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory against the Badgers. The Tigers scored 21 unanswered points to close the game, thanks in large part to clutch throws from the sophomore gunslinger.

Jennings said after the game he addressed his team when they were down by 24-7 in the third quarter. 

"I just kinda talked to them and told them to calm down," said Jennings. "We are going to execute. With the backs we have and our offensive line, I knew we were going to get on a roll."

LSU head coach Les Miles gave a stamp of approval to his sophomore quarterback's performance. 

"I felt like Jennings managed the game pretty well," said Miles.

Jennings won the starting job against Wisconsin after an offseason battle with freshman early enrollee Brandon Harris. Harris played one series against Wisconsin that resulted in a three-and-out. Miles said after the game he would like to have given him more snaps. 

The question remains if Jennings can continue his success that will probably keep the freshman primarily on the sidelines. He said after the game he is willing to do whatever it takes for his team win, even if that means splitting more time with Harris. 

But Jennings made it clear he can be the guy that leads LSU to continued success.

"I believe I can be this team's leader. I am a leader now," said Jennings. 

Jennings has the backing of his teammates after his career-high 239-yard performance against the Badgers. Receiver Travin Dural, who hauled in a personal best 151 of those yards, said he has seen it all offseason from his quarterback. 

"He (Jennings) has grown a lot as a leader, as a quarterback and as an individual. From fall camp to now, he is a totally different person," said Dural. "He's more mature. He is taking football a lot more serious. Just watching film. All day. Every day."

Running back Kenny Hilliard, who rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown against Wisconsin, feels the same way. 

"He's (Jennings) vocal. He has a voice that catches everybody's attention. That's what a quarterback is supposed to do," Hilliard said. "I feel like he is going to lead this team to where we want to be."

LSU's locker room believes Jennings has the leadership skills needed to win at the highest level. Yet he must play better if he wants to cement his status as the lone quarterback for the Tigers. 

"We have great expectations for this season. We must continue to work hard and get better everyday" said Jennings. 

Intangibles, though, are impossible to quantify. Harris could be the more talented of the two and win the job.

But there is one stat that is hard to argue against, which is Jennings' record as a starter.

Two. And. O. 

And that is music to Miles' ears. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower  

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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. His performance should be a welcome sight for Trojan fans, as it appears the teams has the calm, competent signal-caller it needs to restore the program to its former glory.

While Oregon and Stanford duke it out for supremacy in the Pac-12 North, Kessler displayed the type of poise and telepathic rapport with his wide receivers that could lead the Trojans to a shocking appearance as the top team in the Pac-12 South.

USC dominated Fresno State in Week 1, rolling to a 52-13 victory. Kessler was superlative, completing 25 of 37 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. There were few misfires, and even fewer miscues.

Kessler completed passes to 10 different Trojan players on the day, with true freshman Juju Smith emerging as his favorite target (four catches, 123 yards).

Junior standout Nelson Agholor caught two touchdown passes during the game, and Kessler got freshman Adoree' Jackson his first touchdown as a Trojan during the contest.

In fact, Kessler kicked off the scoring by carrying the ball into the end zone himself, as if his arm wasn't going to be enough to beat Fresno State.

ESPN's Arash Markazi noted Kessler looked very comfortable on Saturday:

It's just one game, and Kessler will have to come back down to earth—which could be as early as next week against Stanford. However, those stats against Fresno State aren't misleading, even if they are unlikely to be duplicated.

Kessler confirmed that he has a firm grasp of what head coach Steve Sarkisian and offensive coordinator want out of him in this new, no-huddle offense. ESPN.com's Garry Paskwietz noted that Kessler does have some experience with this type of system:

When transitioning to a new system, it’s always good to have an established veteran at quarterback, and the Trojans have that in Cody Kessler. The no-huddle, shotgun elements of the offense are familiar to Kessler after playing in that system in high school. He has made a smooth transition through spring ball and fall camp.

Kessler is well aware the offense is predicated on speed to keep defenses off balance.

"That's a huge emphasis, first and foremost, pretty much of this offense," he said in early August, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. "Make sure you're lined up right, but at the same time be fast and get the ball off."

The Trojans came into Week 1 with a No. 15 ranking in the preseason AP poll, and they should get bumped up a couple of spots after this performance.

This is despite the fact that they featured nine true freshmen against the Bulldogs, per the team's official Twitter account:

Youth will carry the team, placing the onus on Kessler to become a commanding leader and an example for the younger players.

The pressure Kessler will face this season could be a breeze compared to the onslaught of chaos he faced during 2013. The Trojans went through three different head coaches last season, and yet Kessler still managed to guide his team to a 10-4 record. He threw just 20 touchdowns against seven interceptions last year but should easily surpass the former total.

Kessler won't be the sole reason for USC's rise. The Trojans return several key players on defense, including defensive end Leonard Williams and safety Su'a Cravens.

If he can avoid the (mostly) uneven performances he put up in the team's three conference losses from last season, the Trojans should be all set to surprise many observers and re-establish their dominance in the Pac-12.

Of course, for Kessler to take the Trojans to the top of the Pac-12 South, he will (almost certainly) have to beat UCLA. The Bruins are in the midst of a resurgent period with head coach Jim Mora at the helm and have featured a number of defensive stars over the years.

The UCLA secondary will be one of the toughest Kessler faces in the Pac-12, and the team as a whole is a strong bet to finish atop the Pac-12 South, if not the entire conference. In fact, it was this very unit that led the Bruins to their opening win over Virginia. Eric Kendricks and Ishmael Adams both returned interceptions for touchdowns in that contest.

Luckily for Kessler and company, they don't face the Bruins until November, and by then freshmen like Smith and Jackson will look much more like experienced collegiate threats.

Finishing atop the Pac-12 South will be a Herculean task in and of itself under a first-year head coach. A run at the conference championship or the newly installed playoffs are likely well out of reach for the Trojans this season, especially with the Ducks' explosive offense lurking and talented teams like Florida State and Alabama set for their usual winter success.

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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...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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."

Coaching

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.

Thankfully.

 

Alabama

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.

 

UCLA

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...

Georgia

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.

 

USC

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.

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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.

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...

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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.

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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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