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Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State: Score and Twitter Reaction

The legend of Daxx Garman is alive and well.

Oklahoma State's gunslinging junior quarterback broke out in his third collegiate start, overcoming an offensive explosion from Texas Tech and inconsistent passing to lead his 24th-ranked Cowboys to a 45-35 win Thursday night over the Red Raiders in both teams' Big 12 openers.

Garman stole the show, going 17-of-31 with 370 yards and five total touchdowns. His two interceptions helped Texas Tech stick around, but he more than made up for his lapses with a number of huge completions down the field.

Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb had an impressive day of his own with 374 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw two untimely momentum-swinging interceptions and did not return after suffering a late injury. 

Texas Tech-Oklahoma State hasn't been a game circled by defensive traditionalists over the last decade, and it stuck to that narrative again Thursday night. Both teams surpassed 500 yards, and there was a grand total of 11 touchdowns. 

But it was almost always the Cowboys in front. Texas Tech was able to mount an early 14-7 lead, but that was quickly followed by a 21-0 Oklahoma State run, and late efforts to pull back into the game proved unsuccessful.

Take a look at the final box score:

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy conceded after the game that there's still plenty to work on for both his team and quarterback, per The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson and Fox 23's Martina Del Bonta:

Kliff Kingsbury, understandably, took a bit more exception to his team's performance, per KAMC-TV's Brian Holland:

The fireworks started early on Thursday night, with Webb leading the Red Raiders on a touchdown drive to start the game. Things slowed down until late in the first quarter, when Garman connected with James Washington on a 33-yard touchdown to tie things at 7-7.

Webb kept firing against the Cowboys' secondary heading into the second and rattled off an eight-play drive capped off by an 18-yard strike to Bradley Marquez that gave Texas Tech a 14-7 lead.

Early struggles from the Cowboys defense helped lead the way to Texas Tech's surprise lead; KFOR's Bob Barry Jr. noted what needed to change for Oklahoma State to get back in it:

But the advantage went as easily as it came. The Red Raiders turned the ball over on downs threatening to add to their lead, and after Desmond Roland drew the teams level on a one-yard touchdown run, Kevin Peterson picked off Webb to set up Oklahoma State in Texas Tech territory.

One play later, Garman hit Washington for a 39-yard score to make it 21-14, and the sudden offensive explosion prompted reactions like this one from Andrew Gilman of Fox Sports Southwest:

The Cowboys took that lead into halftime—a lead they were lucky to have after giving up a heap of passing yards to Texas Tech in the opening half. 

Early in the third, Oklahoma State extended its lead even further. And again, it was a splash play in the passing game as Garman hit Blake Jarwin for a 47-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 28-14.

The Red Raiders would never really go away, though. Despite the Cowboys making every effort to pull away, their defense just couldn't contain Kingsbury's air-raid attack. 

The Oklahoma State lead was 14, then seven, then 10, then 17. But even after Garman scampered for an eight-yard score that made it 45-28 with 7:39 left and Texas Tech's Webb left with an injury, backup Patrick Mahomes stepped right in to cut it to 45-35 with 5:52 remaining.

No matter what kind of fight Texas Tech put up, it didn't much matter when Oklahoma State would return fire so easily, as Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated noted:

The Red Raiders defense eventually gathered itself together enough to force some late stops and gave Mahomes the ball down 10 with four minutes left. But the Cowboys dialed up some pressure on the inexperienced quarterback and seemingly wrapped up the game by forcing a turnover on downs.

The struggles were there for Garman at times, constantly pushing the ball down the field in an effort that resulted in two picks. But when he connected, it was for long gains, as Big 12 noted:

As RJ Young of SoonerScoop.com put best, Garman had an all-or-nothing performance:

The loss marks the second straight defeat for Kingsbury's Red Raiders, as they're coming off a 49-28 drubbing at the hands of Arkansas. Despite that, there were obvious improvements from last week, and they should be feeling confident of their chances against other top Big 12 opponents.

The Red Raiders need that confidence immediately, as they travel to face No. 25 Kansas State next weekend before playing West Virginia. 

As for Oklahoma State, it's the third straight morale-boosting win for Gundy's squad coming off a 37-31 loss to No. 1 Florida State in Week 1. After getting their conference slate off to a promising start, the Cowboys will turn around to face Iowa State at home Oct. 4.


Follow Steven Cook on Twitter to chat about college football.

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Arizona State's Poor Tackling Leads to 80-Yard TD vs. UCLA

The Arizona State Sun Devils football team will not have fun watching this play in the film room next week.

During the second quarter of Thursday night's game against the UCLA Bruins, Eldridge Massington was able to run 80 yards for a touchdown because of some awful tackling from the Sun Devils.

Here's another angle of the play.

[SnappyTV, Vine]

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Davis Webb Injury: Updates on Texas Tech Star's Shoulder and Return

The Texas Tech Red Raiders will be without their starting quarterback as they attempt to claw back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday night.

Davis Webb landed awkwardly on his shoulder in the fourth, per Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday:

Red Raiders sideline reporter Chris Level (h/t RedRaiderSports.com's Aaron Dickens) reported that the sophomore quarterback suffered a dislocated left shoulder:

ESPN's Sam Ponder (h/t Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel) reported Webb's night was done at that point:

Losing Webb is a hammer blow to Texas Tech's offense. Before exiting, he had thrown for 374 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben believes that Tech made the right decision to take him out for the game, though, considering the unpredictable nature of the injury:

The road doesn't get any easier for the Red Raiders after Thursday. Next week, they travel to Kansas State to take on the No. 25 Wildcats. The week after that, they welcome in a dangerous West Virginia Mountaineers team.

In order for Texas Tech to be a serious threat in the Big 12, Webb will need to make a speedy recovery.

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Nebraska Football: How the Cornhuskers Can Avoid Looking Ahead to Michigan State

Nebraska football fans will still be savoring the Cornhuskers’ win over Miami last week, but by this stage will already be worrying about facing Illinois on Saturday. Not about the Illini themselves, of course, but about how Nebraska could be overlooking Illinois in preparation for a monster game against Michigan State the following week.

Of course, if Nebraska stubs its toe against Illinois on Saturday, that game in East Lansing won’t be nearly as monster as it would be otherwise. So how will Nebraska stay focused and get the job done on homecoming against Illinois?


Remember Wes Lunt and Josh Ferguson

Yes, Illinois is 3-1, but that’s with needing comeback wins over football powerhouses like Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. So it would be easy to dismiss Illinois as a cakewalk for Nebraska after a big win against a talented (if under-coached) Miami squad.

But Illinois has talent. Quarterback Wes Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has a big arm—maybe the best raw talent at quarterback Nebraska will face all season. While Illinois has much poorer talent at both receiver and offensive line than Miami, Lunt will make throws and ask questions of Nebraska’s secondary.

And Josh Ferguson has the potential to be a big-time back in the Big Ten. The junior is averaging 6.38 yards per carry with three touchdowns in four games (courtesy of cfbstats.com). He’s no Duke Johnson from Miami, but Ferguson has plenty in the tank to give the blackshirts problems. And when combined with Lunt’s arm, Illinois’ offense can carry a one-two punch that could threaten Nebraska if given an opportunity.

Bo Pelini and the coaching staff will surely point this out to the blackshirts this week in practice, which should get their attention.


Remember McNeese State

In fairness, other than Miami, McNeese State might be the most talented team Nebraska has faced in 2014. And yes, that is as much an indictment of Florida Atlantic and Fresno State as it is a compliment to the Cowboys.

But at the end of the day, McNeese State and Nebraska were tied with 20 seconds to go in the game, and it was only a miraculous (perhaps Heisman-esque?) play by Ameer Abdullah to spare NU’s blushes at home.

After the contest, Nebraska knew it dodged a bullet. Abdullah said that the team “didn’t respect the game” in preparation for the Cowboys (as quoted by Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star). And in the next two games, against Fresno State and Miami, Nebraska has looked sharper and more focused, perhaps taking Abdullah’s advice to heart.

“I was reluctant to say something,” Abdullah said about his concerns regarding the team’s preparation for McNeese State, “but I promise that is the last time it will happen.”

After his performance against Miami, Abdullah and the coaching staff should have the team’s full attention, making a letdown against Illinois less likely.


Remember Red Rising

In addition to a bizarre 8 p.m. kickoff time, Nebraska will be breaking out the alternate “Red Rising” uniforms against Illinois. While the alternate uniforms haven’t always been a success (see UCLA last season), as a fan of the superhero costumes I can only hope that Nebraska will find success with the cool threads and avoid further superstitions.

After all, it took seven years for Nebraska to break out the “Stormtrooper” all-white look against Fresno State this year. The convincing win should, hopefully, wash away the taste of the “surrender white” look Nebraska had in Bill Callahan’s last game, a loss to Colorado in Boulder.

One can only hope that the extra juice of coming onto the field in alternate uniforms will help sharpen Nebraska’s play on Saturday night.

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Oklahoma State Football Fan Is Very Confused During Game vs. Texas Tech

This face is the definition of complete confusion.

During Thursday night's game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Tech Red Raiders, this Cowboys fan was left speechless just before the end of the first half.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Texas Football: Charlie Strong Shows a New Side After Recent Dismissals

It should be a requirement for anyone with the last name "Strong" to maintain a tough image. 

And Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong has gone above and beyond to emulate a strong persona.

When the former Louisville head coach was hired to take over the Longhorns, two of his most notable goals were to return Texas football to national prominence and to ingrain toughness within the program.

Bringing the Longhorns back to the top of college football will be an arduous task that takes time. But how soon could Strong instill toughness on his team?

In one word: immediately.

During his first meeting with the Longhorns, Strong laid out his five core values: Be honest, treat women with respect, no weapons, don't use drugs, and don't take something that does not belong to you.

Anyone who violated those rules would face significant consequences.

"I told the team right away: If you don't want to be a part of this program, break a core value. That's you telling me you don't want to be here. Starter or no starter."

He has remained true to his word.

Since January, Strong has dismissed nine players for violating his core values. The most recent dismissal occurred Tuesday.

Strong has oftentimes come off as a hard-nosed, my-way-or-the-highway type of coach when it pertained to his team abiding by his rules.

He has publicly shown little remorse for the dismissals.

But his demeanor changed this week.


The Softer Side of Strong

In an impromptu meeting with the local media, Strong expressed the pain and sorrow he has felt in having to make such difficult decisions. And he also gave some insight on what has occurred behind closed doors.

"I'm sorry that another player had to be dismissed. Any time a player is dismissed from this program, it hurts me, because we are here to help young men. We are not here to run young men off; that's not our job. We're here to help them, and it just bothers me," said the emotional coach.

"I feel like somehow I failed them because I wasn't able to grab them, take them under my wing and provide the right road for them to go down. Whenever I've had to dismiss players I think, 'What could I have done better to help this young man and help him with his future?' That's why they're in college, to provide a better life for the future."

Strong's emotional presence initially came as a surprise, because it was one of the first times the head coach had openly displayed compassion about the situation.

But it did not surprise his assistant coaches. Quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson has seen how painful it has been for his boss when he has been left with no choice other than to kick players off of his team.

"It kills him," said Watson, who appeared to be choked up about the dilemma. "I've seen this guy believe in so many people. I can remember times at Louisville; I knew there was something bad for the team. But he saw something in certain individuals, and he changed people's lives. 

"But here's the key: They wanted their lives changed. Sometimes it doesn't work, and it's unfortunate. But he's the last guy to ever give up on a kid. The last."

Watson was Strong's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Louisville before he was hired at Texas. One of the main reason's why he moved his family across the country to follow Strong was that he respects his boss's goals, which include leading young men down the right path to achieve success throughout their entire lives.

"He believes in the things it takes to be a successful human being," Watson said. "Unlike a lot of people I have been around in this profession, he takes a role as a father figure. He really cares about what a player becomes in later life. He's an outstanding role model."


Dismissals, Early-Season Record Causing Criticism of Strong's Approach

It's extremely important for parents to set a positive example for their children.

The same could be said for coaches, who often play a parental role in the lives of their athletes.

People love feel-good stories, especially college football fans. Those fans applaud their favorite team's coach for changing the lives of his athletes by simply taking them under his wing and leading by example.

As long as the team is winning on the field, that is—which has not been the case for the Longhorns.

The 1-2 start to the season has caused discussion of whether Strong has been too quick to dismiss and way-too-early questions of whether Strong is the right person to lead the Longhorns.

And the criticism has reached the national level.

ESPN college football reporter Danny Kanell asked whether Strong's actions are causing him to lose his locker room.

But questioning Strong for losing his locker room three games into the season is a little extreme. 

The head coach is not asking for anything out of the ordinary, except that players follow the same rules most people grow up with.

And his decision to kick players off of his team did not happen after single slip-ups. Multiple, recurring violations of the same rule is what led to these dismissals.

At some point, the coach has to drop the hammer. Not because he is giving up or trying to be a tough-guy.

But because he has to show the 90 percent of his players who follow his rules that he means business and will hold everyone accountable for their mistakes.

"You lose your locker room when you tell someone to do something, and they don't do it. You tell them again, and they don't do it," Strong said. "Then the players look at you and say, 'You're not going to do anything, coach.'"


Only the Strong Will Survive

Many Longhorns have welcomed Strong's tactics with open arms, including senior cornerback Quandre Diggs.

"I don't sugarcoat things, just like coach doesn't sugarcoat anything," Diggs said at Big 12 media days. "That's how I am. That's how I was born and how I was raised. I love the way he's taking the approach and getting guys out of here that don't belong. Heck, if it was up to me, or if Coach Strong asked me, I would help him weed guys out."

Criticism comes with the job of any major college football coach. But it's a whole different ball game at a school like Texas.

Fans and boosters have expectations which are way too high and almost impossible to reach. The outcry of fans following a home loss can probably be heard from Austin to El Paso.

The criticism and speculation will continue until the Longhorns return to the top of the college football ranks.

But the difference between Strong and the Longhorns' former head coach is that Strong is not the type of person who seems to care what outsiders have to say.

He's going to continue to do it his way, the right way, and set an example of what it takes to be a successful person after football.

And in his opinion, the guys who follow his rules do not find his approach to be too extreme.

"Young people want discipline in their lives, and it's our job as a coaching staff to make sure that we provide them with discipline," Strong said. Right now, we are laying a foundation for their future. I'm not hard at all. Those guys have more fun around me then they probably will around any coach. That's just the atmosphere I provide for them. I give them a lot of chances to get it right, because I want to see them be successful."


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Live Score and Highlights

UCLA 20, Arizona State 17 ; Late Second Quarter

A massive Pac-12 South Division contest takes place tonight at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, as the No. 11 UCLA Bruins take on the host No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils. 

The contest will begin at 7:00 p.m. PT. It can be seen on Fox Sports 1. 

Odds Shark has UCLA as a three-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com


Bleacher Report appreciates you tuning in with us. Stay here for score updates, analysis, social media and much more! 

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Live Score and Highlights

UCLA 27, Arizona State 17 ; HALFTIME A massive Pac-12 South Division contest takes place tonight at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, as the No. 11 UCLA Bruins take on the host No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA Player Etched Name in Arizona State Logo on Field Before Game

The UCLA Bruins have a big Top 25 matchup against the Arizona State Sun Devils, and they might have been trying to get in their opponents' heads before the game.

Prior to Thursday night's contest, the Bruins wrote "UCLA" on the trident logo at midfield. If the Sun Devils see this before the matchup, things could get a little heated once it begins.


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6 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 5

The final weekend of September presents another compelling slate of college football matchups on campuses across the country. Recruits will be on the move again as another wave of official visits provides the latest stepping stone toward national signing day.

In the coming days, elite Texas talents will journey beyond state borders and a marquee Miami commit heads north. Continue reading for our weekly look at the most important prospect trips set to take place Saturday.

Begin Slideshow

Cincinnati RB Chamoda Kennedy-Palmore Dies in Motorcycle Accident at Age 19

Chamoda Kennedy-Palmore, a redshirt freshman running back at the University of Cincinnati, was killed Thursday afternoon after a vehicle crashed into his motorcycle. He was 19.

"It's a tragedy," Cincinnati associate athletic director Ryan Koslen said, per Keith BieryGolick of The Cincinnati Enquirer

According to police, Kennedy-Palmore was driving on Cincinnati's Vine Street when another vehicle swerved across two traffic lanes and struck his motorcycle. He was then taken to UC Medical Center by paramedics but was declared dead as the result of his injuries. Koslen said Kennedy-Palmore was wearing proper safety gear at the time of the crash. 

Kennedy-Palmore, who is originally from Liberty Township in Ohio, was in his second year as a walk-on with the program. In a statement confirming his passing, Cincinnati indicated that he was part of a "school-start tryout group" of players who joined the team for 2014 earlier this month.

"Our football program and university has suffered another great tragedy," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I'm a father first and a coach second and it's always hard to put your thoughts into words during times like these. Chamoda was a talented non-scholarship player and a key member of our scout teams. He worked hard and earned his spot on the roster. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

The previous tragedy to which Tuberville alludes is the death of former offensive lineman Ben Flick, who died in an automobile accident on Sept. 21, 2013. Teammates Mark Barr and Javon Harrison were also injured in the crash.

Kennedy-Palmore graduated from Lakota East High School in 2013, where he was the team's top running back. BieryGolick's report indicated that he originally committed to Georgetown College before deciding to walk on locally at Cincinnati. Lakota East head coach Rick Haynes indicated he was well-liked by teammates and coaches.

"Chamoda definitely led by example by how hard he worked. His teammates definitely thought highly of him," Haynes said.

The identity of the driver who hit Kennedy-Palmore's motorcycle has not been released at this time. According to Fox 19, the driver was taken to a local hospital, but there is no word on his or her condition.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State: Live Score and Highlights

Texas Tech 7, Oklahoma State 0—Middle of the 1st Quarter

The Oklahoma State Cowboys, clinging to a spot in the Top 25 at No. 24, will host the Texas tech Red Raiders in a Thursday night showdown that also serves as the Big 12 conference opener for both teams.

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Texas Tech Unveils 'White Ombre' Uniforms for Game vs. Oklahoma State

The Texas Tech Red Raiders have a big game on the road Thursday night against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, so they made sure to dress for success.

The team's official Twitter account unveiled their "White Ombre" uniforms courtesy of Under Armour, which feature an alternate logo on the helmets, jersey and pants.

The Red Raiders will try to take down the No. 24 Cowboys at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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The Changing Identity of the SEC

"Is this what we want football to be?"

Those were the words of Alabama head coach Nick Saban in early October 2012 when preparing for Ole Miss' hurry-up, no-huddle offense led by head coach Hugh Freeze, according to AL.com's Andrew Gribble.

Fast-forward two years, and the "three yards and a cloud of dust" label synonymous with the SEC has been replaced with another—"wide open." Eleven of the conference's 14 teams are currently averaging more than six yards per play, as opposed to two in 2011.

Even Saban's team—with a little help from new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin—is lighting up the scoreboard. Through four games, the Crimson Tide are averaging 7.6 yards per play and, while not running a true hurry-up, no-huddle offense, still managing 78 plays per game.

The SEC has become a conference where defense doesn't win championships anymore; "just enough defense" wins championships. The definition of "just enough" changes based on the versatility and explosiveness of each individual team.

How did it get to this point?


The Introduction of the Spread

When Florida hired Urban Meyer from Utah prior to the 2005 season, critics said his offense wouldn't work in the SEC. Meyer himself even had concerns after getting trounced 31-3 at Alabama that year. 

“I was very concerned,” he told Ray Glier, then of The New York Times and now of Bleacher Report, in 2009. “I started believing what I was hearing."

All he did after that was win national championships in 2006 and 2008, help quarterback Tim Tebow win the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and win another SEC East title in 2009.

Sure, it helped Meyer that Tebow—a quarterback who is built perfectly to run his offense—decided to choose the Gators over Alabama in February of 2006. Since that time, though, spread elements have been injected into the SEC.

Auburn hired Gus Malzahn—a versatile offensive mind whose spread is more of a blend of old-school and new-school style—as its offensive coordinator in 2009 and then its head coach prior to the 2013 season. Ole Miss selected Hugh Freeze—a coach with a similar style—to replace Houston Nutt prior to the 2012 season.

That same year, Texas A&M brought first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin's flexible, pass-happy style into the conference along with Missouri, which finished ninth in the nation in rushing out of a spread attack the previous season.

The offenses have evolved from the read-option attack Meyer won with to variable attacks that blend power with open space.

When then-new head coach Gene Chizik told Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs that he was thinking about bringing Malzahn in as offensive coordinator in 2009, Jacobs wanted to make sure he wasn't just bringing in the spread, but the right kind of spread.

"What was important to me, as a spread offense like this, is it all throwing and how does the rush balance out?" Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said. "What I quickly found out from talking to a lot of people and watching Gus' bowl game is that it's a lot of throwing, but it's a downhill football style. In this league, you have to run the ball to win."

That's exactly why Sumlin has been successful at Texas A&M. 

He came in with the reputation of being an air-raid coach who slings it all over the field. In his first year in the SEC in 2012, Sumlin's Aggies led the conference with 5.90 yards per rush and followed it up with 5.17 in 2013.

"With what we do, it's probably a little bit different than most people," Sumlin said. "Even though everybody lumps all spread offenses into one boat, that's not necessarily the truth. You have spread offenses that lead with the run that are misdirection-type offenses. You've got all kinds of different things. Certainly, no-huddle may be the contrasting factor."

It is, which brings us to the next point.


Tempo, Tempo, Tempo

FBS instituted a rule change prior to the 2008 season that gave us a 40-second play clock that resets when the previous play ends, similar to the NFL. It replaced a 25-second play clock that wouldn't start until the umpire spotted the ball—whenever that was. 

The result allowed teams that ran no-huddle offenses to not only sprint to the ball as they have in the past, but get the snap off quicker because officials wanted to keep play moving.

"The biggest change is tempo," said Florida head coach Will Muschamp. "With how quickly people are getting on the ball, snapping the ball and getting more snaps in the game, that to me is the most challenging aspect from a communication standpoint defensively. It effects technique, it effects fundamentals and creates fatigue, which creates cowards of us all."

In the SEC, that has led to a steady creep of offensive prowess as coaches and programs realized the benefits of tempo.

"Five years ago, if you look at what teams were averaging in yards per game and points per game, the game has certainly changed," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

Now programs can blend traditional smashmouth elements with wide-open elements found in spread offenses to keep opposing defenses on their toes while still wearing them down through speed and strength.

The rule change in 2008—Muschamp's first year as Texas' defensive coordinator—was something that created a perfect storm.

"It was an eye-opener for me in 2008 going to Texas," he said. "With some of the talented quarterbacks in the league at the time. Sam Bradford, we had Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell was at Texas Tech, Robert Griffin III was at Baylor, [Todd] Reesing was at Kansas. There was a bunch of really good quarterbacks, and the tempo of the league was really fast."

That served as a precursor to what was to come in the SEC. 

The ability to play fast, the evolution of the spread, quarterbacks recruited specifically to run it and an injection of creative play-callers have put defensive-minded SEC coaches into a bind.

"I think the fast pace of play and the way college football is right now definitely favors the offense, that’s why we see the points that we see," Saban told my B/R colleague Marc Torrence. "I think you have to have a lot more patience on defense. I think the whole approach to how you prepare for a game has to be completely different than what it used to be."

The more things change, though, the more they stay the same. 

"The tempo has changed," Jacobs said, "but the 'ball' is still the same."



Increased tempo in college football has simplified the game for everybody. Instead of complicated play calls, a focus on running a high number of plays has simplified the play-calling process.

Instead of wordy play calls in a huddle, teams signal in plays quickly through hand signals, pictures and numbers. This was a point of criticism while former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was going through the draft process.

"Our method is ‘simplistic equals fast,'" he told ESPN.com's Jon Gruden (via ProFootballTalk.com) in 2011. "It’s so simple as far as, you look to the sideline [and] you see 36 on the board. And that’s a play. And we’re off.”

While that may hurt players moving on to the next level, it also presents challenges to defensive coaches at the college level.

Take Saban, for example. Instead of scheming to stop an offense, his No. 1 goal is simply to get his team lined up properly, which means plays that aren't exotic and an advantage that the offense has neutralized.

It goes beyond the game itself, though.

"It's been a little bit of a work in progress," Saban said. "When you have the new offenses, on defense, you have to be realistic about what you can implement and play in the games. We've always been more of a pro-style, match personnel and have a lot of different packages of things we can do on defense. You waste time practicing because you can't get it in the game when they go fast and don't substitute."

The Crimson Tide offense is actually going more uptempo itself these days, which has benefited its defense.

"We actually forced our offense to be a no-huddle team too has helped us on defense," Saban told Torrence. "Even though we don’t go fast all the time, just the fact that we can practice against a no huddle-type team rather than huddling up. Then, all the sudden, here’s a game where you have to go no-huddle and the players are used to that routine and how they have to play."

Exotic offenses have forced defenses to simplify. As is the case in the game itself, when you force the opposition to play your game, you have the advantage.



Size doesn't matter anymore; speed does.

Sure, having a 330-pound monster in the middle of the defensive line will certainly help teams that run 3-4 defenses, but even those ends can't simply be space-eaters anymore. 

Defenses need speed outside—like Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen—in order to get off blocks and make plays, not just free up room for linebackers. 

New offenses that force defenders at all levels to run have changed the way SEC teams recruit defensively.

"We want to get longer and faster," Freeze said. "We're not so much concerned with defensive linemen or our backers being a certain weight. We think we can add weight once they get there. You have to recruit speed. If you can't run on the defensive side, it makes for some long afternoons. People are so good now at exploiting matchups and putting their guys in space with these offenses."

Instead of having outside linebackers who can go into the hole and stand up powerful running backs, you need outside linebackers who can do that and go east and west to track down speed-rushers and quarterbacks off the edge and, at the very least, occupy those lanes and turn plays back inside.

Freshman Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans is a perfect example of teams adjusting to the speed of the game. Playing the same "Jack" linebacker position as 265-pounder Courtney Upshaw played in 2011, the 225-pound Evans has already made an impact for the Crimson Tide this year, notching six tackles and one sack through four games.

“Rashaan is a freak,” fellow linebacker Reggie Ragland told Torrence, B/R's lead Alabama writer, earlier this season. “And when you’re a freak, you deserve to be on the field. He’s putting that time in to be that player that Coach Saban and Coach Smart and (outside linebackers) Coach (Lance) Thompson want him to be.”

The injection of speed and creativity has forced coaches to react in the recruiting game, which has allowed a guy like Evans to make an immediate impact in the toughest conference in the nation.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Information from B/R's Alabama lead writer Marc Torrence was used in this story. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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5-Star DE Byron Cowart Sets Visits: Where Does He Fit Best?

The final stretch of 5-star prospect Byron Cowart's recruitment will feature four official visits to campuses across the country. He announced his intentions Thursday to spend time at Florida State, Florida, Alabama and Oregon:

Cowart, rated the nation's No. 1 strong-side defensive end in 247Sports' composite rankings, holds dozens of scholarship offers. He used his first official visit at Maryland earlier this month.

The 6'4", 250-pound prospect is among the most physically impressive recruits in the 2015 class. Cowart combines immense raw power with rare speed (clocked at 4.60 seconds in the 40-yard dash), covers the run and chases down quarterbacks.

He tallied 72 tackles and 13 sacks last season at Armwood High School in Seffner, Florida. Cowart has collected 23 tackles and three sacks through four games as a senior.

Now that we know where he's headed this fall, let's break down each visit and explore which option appears to present an ideal opportunity for the devastating Sunshine State defender.



The Gators have been viewed as a prohibitive favorite in this pursuit for a while, and that perception remains predominately steady through September. Cowart is projected to sign with Florida by 90 percent of predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

He's already spent significant time on campus and returned to Gainesville for game action earlier this season. Cowart plans to attend the team's Nov. 15 showdown with South Carolina.

Though the cause of Florida's woes under head coach Will Muschamp is often an anemic offensive attack, the team's latest defeat at Alabama proved there are plenty of holes to fill on defense. The Gators picked up some quality pieces last signing day, headlined by 5-star New Orleans defensive tackle Gerald Willis, but they could use a high-impact pass-rusher off the edge.

Cowart could immediately improve the program's 3rd-and-long defensive group and work his way into the rotation as a true freshman. He's been at or near the top of the list for Florida in this recruiting cycle since its early stages, but uncertainty swirling around the coaching staff doesn't exactly create a stable environment for high school prospects.

"The scary thing about it is I'm really comfortable with Florida," Cowart told Bleacher Report's Kynon Codrington. "The reason I say scary is the stability in the coaching staff. 



Oregon naturally stands out on this list due to lack of proximity, but this visit shouldn't surprise those who've followed Cowart's recruitment. Earlier this year, he told 247Sports reporter Justin Hopkins (subscription required) the Ducks are a mainstay among his favorites.

"Oregon has always been up there for me on my list of schools," Cowart said.

Oregeon is competing with three teams that have won national championships in recent years and allow him to stay in a familiar region. Despite those challenges, don't discount Oregon in this race.

The Ducks are known as an offensive juggernaut, but equal talent on the other side of the football could vault Oregon into a new level. Cowart could quickly become the face of an improved Oregon defensive unit.

The team has struggled to sign top-tier defensive linemen and is still searching in this cycle. Cowart, who will be in attendance for an Nov. 22 game against Colorado, would be one of Oregon's most important signings in program history.

His biggest fan is willing to follow him to the West Coast.

"My mom and I were discussing that we've never really lived in the same place for more than five years," Cowart told Codrington. "Wherever I go she is probably going to go with me. She said she wouldn't have a problem moving to a place like Oregon, so that gave me the green light to visit them and see what it's about."


Florida State

The Seminoles have come on strong in recent months, giving the Gators a fight for his top in-state destination. Florida State, like Florida, has enjoyed recruiting success when it comes to addressing the defensive front. 

Jimbo Fisher and company are still firmly in the picture for top overall prospect Josh Sweat, the No. 1 weak-side defensive end in this class. Seminoles fans would be celebrating wildly if the team manages to bring both elite defenders to campus next year.

Cowart could ultimately decide to stay in his home state after surveying the options, and if the choice comes down to coaching staffs, it's difficult to see him choosing the Gators over Florida State. Fisher has the best job security in college football for anyone not named Nick Saban and is putting out an on-field product that's far superior than what Muschamp can muster at the moment.

The Seminoles are set to host Cowart on campus for an annual battle with Florida. It's the ideal time for Florida State to showcase where it stands in comparison to the Gators.



Cowart, like all athletes interested in Alabama, must accept the fact that playing time could be hard to come by as an underclassman. Saban has assembled five straight top-rated recruiting classes, packing the roster with an array of blue-chip prospects.

Despite the presence of so many standouts, especially along the defensive line, Cowart is a talent who shouldn't shy away from elite competition. He is, after all, elite himself.

"People tell me that Alabama is too big and that I'll never play if I go there, but only you know what you are capable of based on what you see," Cowart told 247Sports reporter Charles Power (subscription required). "You can't tell me I can't play at Alabama, because I know what I saw. They compete and they work hard. That's what Alabama is about and that's what I'm about."

Cowart traveled to Tuscaloosa for spring game festivities. He'll return in October to watch the team take on Texas A&M in one of the most anticipated college collisions this season.

It will be interesting to see how his experience at Alabama holds up against the three Cowart has planned for November.



Given the question marks surrounding Florida's staff right now, it's difficult to view the Gators as his best fit. If Muschamp stays on board, Cowart is more likely to land in Gainesville. 

Oregon offers him a chance to become an immediate program-changer, whereas he'd just be the latest 5-star recruit to sign with his other options. The Ducks are in dire need of young, dynamic defensive linemen to contend with an incredible stockpile of Pac-12 passers for years to come.

Florida State and Alabama both have a wealth of talent on their rosters. While there won't be a clear path to playing time with either program, the Seminoles aren't nearly as loaded along the defensive edge as Saban's squad.

Accounting for program success and stability, along with positional need, Florida State seems to be the strongest fit for Cowart at this stage. Still, there's a long way to go until his recruitment comes to end.


Recruit ratings and stats courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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Why a Florida State vs. Oregon Title Game Would Be Perfect Start to Playoff Era

We asked for a playoff, and we got it. Now let's hope we get a title-game matchup worthy of being determined by a postseason tournament.

And since this is the dawn of a new era, there's no better way to bridge the gap from the past to the present by having the old guard take on some fresh blood for the championship. That's why having a Florida State-Oregon title game would be the best way for the College Football Playoff age to begin.

We're not alone in this view. NFL.com's Mike Huguenin has the Seminoles and Ducks meeting Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, while USA Today worked with an analytics website and ran 50,000 projections that came up with FSU-Oregon as its most likely title game.

But this isn't so much about who will be in there as it is who should participate in the first-ever championship game determined be an actual, 100 percent real playoff. FSU-Oregon makes the most sense, because it will give us everything we want for a title bout.

Florida State is the reigning national champion, the last one crowned through the BCS system that worked (mostly) well for 15 years but was scrapped in favor of a four-team playoff. This new system, according to the sound bites put out by the 13-person playoff selection committee, is meant to pit the four best teams against each other in a winner-take-all format.

Just exactly how all that gets established is a mystery at this point, because the first CFP rankings don't come out until late October and the specific criteria that each committee member will use to rank teams is as proprietary as a blue ribbon-worthy barbecue sauce. We've heard a lot of talk about strength of schedule taking precedence over how good the wins look, as well as factoring in things like injuries (maybe even suspensions of star players who decide to jump on a table and blurt out obscenities?) into who really is playing best at the end of the year.

As the defending champs, FSU's presence in the first CFP final would help pass on the torch from the BCS, because it would give weight to what the Seminoles did last year but also credit them for being able to sustain that success in this new playoff-centric environment even while weathering outside factors like Jameis Winston's off-field actions and constant media scrutiny.

The team that currently wears the crown should be given the chance to take on the best challenger out there. You won the last game of pool at the neighborhood bar? Who cares that it was eight-ball and now the game is cutthroat, you get dibs on all comers by owning the table until you lose.

As for Oregon, what other team in college football better epitomizes the idea of the here-and-now than the Ducks? The program has been a fashion trendsetter in the game for years, to the point that its weekly updates on what uniform combination out of 47,365 different options is going to be donned is one of the most retweeted items.

Oregon also features maybe the best individual player in the game in quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has transcended the dual-threat passer position into one that's truly an asset through both forms of offense. Mariota runs when he needs (or wants to) and throws when that works best. And unlike Winston, who has become an extremely polarizing figure even before winning the Heisman Trophy, Mariota doesn't have any notable character blemishes.

This would set up some classic story-script pairings, such as the incumbent-challenger and the villain-hero plot lines. Realistically, any team other than Florida State could play the challenger/hero role, but Oregon passes the eye test more in terms of national image and the likelihood it would be more backed than other teams.

An SEC team, while likely just as worthy from a performance standpoint—whoever emerges from that hellacious West Division, assuming they don't trip up in the SEC title game, will be as battled tested as anyone else and certainly would make a case for being one of the best in the country—faces the stigma of being from a league that all non-SEC fans would root against, regardless of whom it is.

Teams from the Big 12 also don't have as much of a sport-wide pull, aside from maybe Texas, but that's not happening this season. And the Big Ten? Well, that's nice to think its best team is even going to get a semifinal bid at this point, let alone be worthy of playing for a championship.

Florida State-Oregon is the best-case scenario, image-wise, for the initial College Football Playoff. The court of public opinion has a big influence, and this first version will be scrutinized more than the latest iPhone. Therefore it needs to have the best and most user-friendly features and apps.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Why the 2014 Alabama Crimson Tide Offense Is Nick Saban's Most Explosive

The Alabama Crimson Tide have been one of the most dominant teams in college football since head coach Nick Saban took over the program.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee explain why this incarnation of the Alabama offense is its most explosive.

Do you think Alabama's offense is the best it's been in the Saban era?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Will Stud Michigan QB Commit Alex Malzone Challenge for Starting Spot as Frosh?

The Michigan Wolverines have gotten off to a rocky start to the College Football season but there is much hope in their highly touted 2015 QB Recruit Alex Malzone. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder explains what he can offer the Wolverines in the years to come.

Do you think Malzone can resurrect Michigan's' offense?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Oklahoma Football: 5 Things the Sooners Need to Improve During Their Bye Week

The Oklahoma Sooners are heading into a bye week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.

Although the Sooners are sitting pretty at 4-0, some of the team’s vulnerabilities have been exposed in recent weeks. These vulnerabilities will need to be corrected if Oklahoma hopes to keep its march towards a national title intact.

Here are five things upon which the team needs to improve.


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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes Have Plenty to Prove in Showdown with Cincinnati

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jalin Marshall is just a redshirt freshman, a second-year player who has only seen the field for three games in his college career.

So it's telling that even as one of the youngest players on the Ohio State roster, he is well aware of what's at stake for the Buckeyes in this weekend's showdown with Cincinnati.

"It’s a big game for us. It’s a statement game for us," Marshall said on Wednesday. "We have to come out there and play hard, play fast and play together, and I feel like we’ll come out there and get a win. Cincinnati’s definitely not gonna give it to us."

The same couldn't have been said about Ohio State's opponent two weeks ago, Kent State, which rolled over and watched the Buckeyes head into their bye week with a 66-0 blowout victory.

OSU's thrashing of the Golden Flashes gave it some much-needed confidence following a Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech, but the Buckeyes know that the Bearcats will bring much more talent to Columbus than KSU did before their bye.

The challenge of facing UC, however, will be a welcome one for an Ohio State squad still unsure of where it stands after having already completed one-quarter of the 2014 season.

With arguably the best quarterback they will see all season and and one of the most talented teams on their schedule coming to town for a final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play, there will be no shortage of points for the Buckeyes to prove this Saturday.

Exactly what does Ohio State hope to make a statement about?


Can the Buckeyes Beat the Bear?

Not the Bearcats, just the Bear—although doing the former will likely include accomplishing the latter.

During the Hokies' win in Columbus three weeks ago, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer laid out what at the time appeared to be a blueprint of sorts for beating the Buckeyes.

Employing a 46 Bear defense that loaded the box and forced freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett to make plays through the air, the Hokies stifled the Ohio State offense, which was unable to make enough big plays to walk away with a win.

Unsurprisingly, a week later, Kent State came out with a similar look, although that quickly changed when the Buckeyes' talent advantage proved to be too much for any Golden Flash scheme to handle.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, could potentially hold its own with a similar approach, which is why Urban Meyer is fully expecting to see the Bearcats attempt to run the Bear on Saturday.

"There's no question," Meyer answered on his radio show when asked if he anticipates UC emulating Virginia Tech's defensive approach. "The good thing is that you can do some things to take them out of it."

As the Buckeyes learned against the Hokies, saying and doing are two different challenges.

But with two weeks to prepare for Cincinnati, Ohio State players insist that they're better prepared now to handle the 46 Bear than they were back then, which is something that they'll likely have to prove against the Bearcats.

"If they bring more than we can handle, we just gotta get the ball out quick to our playmakers and make plays," said junior tight end Nick Vannett. "Whatever they show us, we're confident that we're going to do well against their look."


What Is Ohio State's Offensive Identity?

Speaking of the Ohio State offense, with one game to go until the start of conference play, the Buckeyes are still unsure of what their bread and butter will be when they're in possession of the ball.

Two years ago, it was Braxton Miller's big-play ability with his legs. Last season, it was Carlos Hyde and a power run game behind Ohio State's equally experienced and talented offensive line. Now? The Buckeyes have plenty of options, but not a lot of answers.

Ideally, Meyer would like to blend together a balanced approach that mixes Barrett's ability as a distributor with a talented running back stable consisting of Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and Rod Smith.

While such identity has yet to manifest itself for Ohio State, Meyer has seen positive signs that it could be on its way.

"I get confidence from what I see, not what I hope," Meyer said. "I see it on the practice field, I see it in the games. I see the maturity of a quarterback happening and most importantly, the offensive line's starting to get a little savvy to them too."

It also appears as though the Buckeyes experimented with wrinkles to add to their offense during the bye week, as evidenced by Marshall's revelation that he's spent time practicing as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation.

A signal-caller during his high school career in Middleton, Ohio, Marshall was offered scholarships by the likes of Tennessee and Cincinnati to play quarterback at the college level, and could soon again find himself behind center.

"We've done a little bit of it," Marshall said when asked if he's practiced as a situational quarterback. "We walked through it a lot, so hopefully on Saturday we can start some of it."

Whether or not the offense will use this look remains to be seen, but one way or another, this weekend could go a long way toward telling us what the OSU offense will pride itself on moving forward.


Where Does the Buckeyes Defense Stand?

By now, you already know the numbers: Out of 125 teams a season ago, Ohio State ranked 118th in the nation in pass defense, allowing an average of 286.3 yards per game through the air.

After being largely untested in that facet through the first three games of the season, the Buckeyes will now take on a Cincinnati passing offense that ranks ninth in the nation with an average of 353.5 yards per game through its first two contests of the year.

The storyline being beaten into the ground—can Ohio State's revamped pass defense withstand the Bearcats' aerial assault?—doesn't make it any less important.

After all, it was just a year ago that the Buckeyes had their national championship aspirations dashed when Connor Cook and Michigan State's passing attack proved to be too much for Ohio State to handle.

In Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati possesses what could very well be the best quarterback that the Buckeyes will face all season, which is why Ohio State won't be caught off guard by the Bearcats' game plan on Saturday.

"They're one of the top throwing teams in America," Meyer said. "There's not a mystery to this one at all."

But just because the Buckeyes know what's coming doesn't mean that they'll be able to stop it. Although the Ohio State secondary remains a question mark at this point, sophomore safety Vonn Bell insists that it's no longer the Achilles' heel for the Buckeyes that it was a season ago.

"We're all on the same page," Bell said of the OSU defensive backs. "You just gotta keep communicating. We're the back end and everyone knows who it is who gave up that touchdown, but we just stay on the same page and stay as one."

As for the rest of the Buckeyes defense, there will be plenty for it to prove this Saturday as well—especially with All-Big Ten defensive end Noah Spence out indefinitely following a second failed drug test.

Meyer has mentioned freshmen Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes as well as linebacker turned tight end turned defensive end Sam Hubbard—who had the best practice of his young college career on Wednesday—as players who could step up in Spence's absence.

"We're playing a back-and-forth game with him just because we're down with numbers," Meyer said of the 6'5", 244-pound Hubbard, a former 4-star prospect.

Like Marshall, seeing will be believing when it comes to Hubbard's new role taking shape on Saturday. But for a unit—and team—looking to prove itself, the Buckeyes will use all the help that they can get in one of the most pivotal games of the 2014 season.


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

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