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Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: Game Grades, Analysis for Aggies and Gamecocks

The 2014 college football season's first full day of action already gave us what may end up being one of the year's biggest shockers.

Not so much that Texas A&M was able to win Thursday night at South Carolina, but in just how dominant the Aggies were in doing so in cruising to a 52-28 victory.

It was the first loss South Carolina has suffered at Williams-Brice Stadium since October 2011, a span of 18 games.

The 52 points were also the most the Gamecocks have allowed at home in 11 years and the most given up in any game since they lost 56-17 to Auburn in the 2010 SEC championship game.

Texas A&M was one of the most enigmatic teams heading into this fall, with experts split on whether it would be able to continue to perform well without quarterback Johnny Manziel and with a young defense.

But Kenny Hill and his Aggies teammates made a major statement that will likely sway a lot of skeptics into their corner.

Final stats from the game can be found here.

Check out our first-half and final game grades for both A&M and South Carolina, along with analysis of both teams' different position units and their overall team performances.



Texas A&M Aggies Game Analysis

Pass Offense: Johnny Manziel who? Quarterback Kenny Hill made Aggies fans forget quickly about their previous quarterback, as the sophomore had one of the best debuts of a quarterback in the past 20 years.

Hill completed 44 of 60 passes for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with 12 different receivers. After beating out true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting job, Hill needed only one game to become the early darling of the 2014 season.


Run Offense: When A&M went with the run, it nearly always worked. Whether it was Trey Williams (12 carries, 75 yards, one TD), Brandon Williams (11 carries, 57 yards) or Tra Carson (three TDs on seven rushes), the running back group methodically churned out 169 yards behind a dominant offensive line.


Pass Defense: There were some bombs given up in the first half, and the numbers overall won't look great, but improvement was definitely seen from a year ago.

True freshman safety Armani Watts had a breakout performance, making big plays all game that included a third-quarter interception when South Carolina was trying to make a late comeback.


Run Defense: A&M benefited from South Carolina's Mike Davis being limited, but its defensive line also looked solid for the first time playing together.

True freshman defensive end Myles Garrett was about as good as advertised, and all told Aggies allowed just 3.0 yards per carry.


Special Teams: Punter Drew Kaser showed why he will be a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, averaging 48 yards on his two kicks. Josh Lambo had 10 points thanks to seven extra points and a 33-yard field goal.


Coaching: Are people still doubting Kevin Sumlin's system? Even with Manziel and top receiver Mike Davis gone, the new players performed the same as their predecessors.

Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital drew up a near-perfect game plan.


South Carolina Gamecocks Game Analysis

Pass Offense: On many nights, Dylan Thompson's numbers (366 yards, four touchdowns) will have made him a candidate for player of the game. Instead, he was a distant second to A&M's Hill.

The senior quarterback's fourth career start included some big plays, but also a lot of overthrows. He finished 20-of-40 passing, and an underthrow of a deep ball in the third quarter was picked off to all but seal the loss.


Run Offense: Running back Mike Davis hardly played, only running six times for 15 yards, and substitute Brandon Wilds (45 yards on nine carries) didn't get enough touches to do much with South Carolina trailing from the outset.


Pass Defense: This was an area of concern coming into the season, and all of the fears were realized. The secondary was carved up for 511 yards and three scores, yielding 8.5 yards per passing attempt.


Run Defense: Carolina couldn't get any push on the Aggies' offensive line, which made it impossible for the front seven to do any damage to the run game. The loss of three defensive linemen from 2013 was very noticeable.


Special Teams: Elliott Fry missed a 54-yard field goal late in the first half, but that attempt was nine yards longer than any kick he made in 2013 as a freshman.

Punter Tyler Hull averaged 44 yards per kick, and the coverage team managed to contain Speedy Noil on returns.


Coaching:Steve Spurrier doesn't have much to do with South Carolina's defense, but even he might not have been able to call plays to slow down A&M the way his team's defenders played.

Spurrier tried to be tricky at times, like with an onside kick early in the second half, but nothing worked.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Boise State vs. Ole Miss: Game Grades, Analysis for Broncos and Rebels

The meeting between the Boise State Broncos and the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night featured two teams heading in very different directions.

The Broncos entered the 2014 season without longtime head coach Chris Petersen, who left Boise State for Washington after eight seasons and 92 wins .

Ole Miss, on the other hand, hoped to improve upon an already positive trajectory under head coach Hugh Freeze.  The Rebels won seven and eight games, respectively, in Freeze's first two seasons in Oxford; that marked quite an improvement from a 2 -10 season in 2011.

Despite a full offseason of expectation, the first three quarters of this game left much to be desired as turnovers and an on-going punting contest defined the battle.

Ultimately, however, a struggling Ole Miss offense woke up and gave way to a high-scoring Rebel fourth quarter and a 35-13 victory over the Broncos.

Check out the game's final stats here and take a look at first and second half game grades and analysis below.



Boise State Broncos Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: It's hard to move the ball against a defense as talented as the Rebels'—especially when turnovers limit drives like they did for the Broncos on Thursday.  Quarterback Grant Hedrick was under pressure for most of the game and his receivers had very few opportunities to get loose thanks to smart, physical play by the Ole Miss secondary.  Four interceptions by this unit kept the Broncos out of contention in their season opener.

Run Offense: Boise State found some success early running the football by getting outside the tackles.  Jay Ajayi proved to be a hard-nosed runner and earned his keep with his ability to break tackles.  Unfortunately, the Broncos struggled to establish the run in the second half.  And after falling behind, the running game became less and less effective.

Pass Defense: The Broncos' defensive secondary was able to come up with three interceptions of its own in the first half, and in doing so kept the game close.  Opportunistic play by cornerbacks and safeties kept things interesting early, but Ole Miss receivers (Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core in particular) were able to get open in the secondary far too often.  All in all, the secondary's efforts were not attrocious, but an inability to consistently pressure Bo Wallace put the pass defense in a bind repeatedly as the game wore down.  Four of five Ole Miss scores came through the air.

Run Defense: Early on, it seemed as if Ole Miss had no interest in establishing the run game.  As the game progressed, however, it became clear that the Rebels were unable to do so.  Boise State's run defense forced the Rebels to throw the ball, which seemed like an ideal scenario at half-time.  Unfortunately for the Broncos, Wallace was sharper in the second half and shutting down the run game yielded minimal benefit.

Special Teams: With Boise State's first two scores coming on field goals, it's hard to knock the unit's efforts.  No large returns were surrendered and no major breakdowns occurred.  Overall, it was a solid evening for Boise State's special teams.

Coaching: Bryan Harsin will always remember his first game as Boise State's coach, but it won't be for his team's heroics.  In the second quarter, he left four points on the board after getting inside the five-yard line and having to settle for a field goal.  While it's hard to question many of his other decisions as Ole Miss clearly possessed a talent advantage, the offensive play-calling seemed generally bland—which was particularly surprising late in the game as the Broncos fell behind big.


Ole Miss Rebels Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: This was a first half that Wallace will hope to soon forget.  Based on his play in the game's final two quarters, he already has.  His three first half interceptions were countered by four  touchdowns through the air (three in the second half) and nearly 400 passing yards.  To be sure, first halves like the one tonight won't bode well for Wallace against better competition, but his ability to refocus and gain composure in the fourth quarter made the difference in this game.

Run Offense: Ole Miss struggled establishing a running game for most of the game.  No player on the Rebels' roster accounted for more than 30 yards on the ground and runs—both designed and improvised—were consistently snuffed out by a feisty Bronco defense.  This will certainly be an area of concern for the Rebels as they move into conference play.

Pass Defense: Much like Boise State, this Ole Miss defense established itself as extremely opportunistic.  However, consistent pressure on the quarterback combined with sound open-field tackling showed that this pass defense is stellar—even when not forcing turnovers.  The turnovers were certainly there, but the big hits by defensive backs and consistent pass rush were equally impressive.

Run Defense: Boise State had success on the ground early with outside runs.  But as the game progressed, the Rebels did a nice job of adjusting lanes of pursuit and keeping opposing running backs from bouncing outside for extra yardage.  There was certainly no cause for alarm on this unit, especially as the defense seemed more focused on stopping the pass.

Special Teams: Ole Miss placed one punt on the 1-yard line, but outside of that produced very little activity of note on special teams—which is probably a good thing.  Kick and punt coverage was solid and an onside kick attempt by Boise State was recovered cleanly by the Rebels late in the fourth quarter.

Coaching: Hugh Freeze had a talent advantage, but he also made better adjustments than his counterpart from Boise State.  Most noticeably, outside containment against the run was greatly improved as the game progressed.  Perhaps his best coaching move, however, was sticking with something that seemed to not be working—the passing game.  Wallace's strong second half showed that Freeze's confidence was not misplaced.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: Score and Twitter Reaction

Kenny Hill isn't the "next Johnny Manziel." He's the "first Kenny Hill."

The Texas A&M sophomore quarterback threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in a scientific decimation of the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks Thursday night in Columbia. The No. 21 Aggies dominated from start to finish, winning 52-28.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reports Kevin Sumlin's thoughts on his team, despite the gaudy offensive numbers:

Willie Smith of the Greenville News had Steve Spurrier's thoughts:

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin didn't sound like somebody whose team upset a top-10 opponent on the road, though, per Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com:

Hill broke Ryan Tannehill's school record for most passing yards in a debut start and Jerrod Johnson's passing record in a season-opener, per Aggie Football:

Hill also has bragging rights on Manziel in one area already, per Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel:

Some were surprised during the summer to see Hill beat out freshman phenom Kyle Allen for the starting job.

"I thought both guys really competed in a great way," said Sumlin, per ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. "There's not really one deciding factor; I think it's a body of work and a feel that you have through practice and with your team."

Whereas the competition was once extremely close, it now looks like Allen might want to choose new surroundings if he desires playing in the next year or two, as Newy Scruggs of NBC 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth half-jokingly tweeted out:

Hill needed all of nine plays to lead Texas A&M on its first scoring drive. He went 4-of-5 through the air, helping get the ball down to the South Carolina 1-yard line. Junior running back Tra Carson punched it in from there.

The biggest play of the drive was a 22-yard reception by freshman wideout Ricky Seals-Jones, via ESPN College Football. He and Hill formed a fruitful partnership on the night:

What often helps any debutant under center is making a couple of easy throws in order to build some confidence and comfort in the pocket. ESPN's Tom Luginbill praised Sumlin for setting up Hill for success with his play-calling in the first quarter:

After shutting down South Carolina on its next drive, the Aggies added a 33-yard field goal from Josh Lambo with five minutes and two seconds left in the first quarter to take a 10-0 lead.

Although the game was still very early, the Gamecocks were in need of an adrenaline shot, and they received one in the form of a 69-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Dylan Thompson to senior wide receiver Nick Jones.

Now, with 3:44 left in the first quarter, SC was down only 10-7 and slowly grabbing back the momentum. However, in what became one of the narratives of the game, the Gamecocks defense failed to give the offense any support.

On the Aggies' first drive of the second quarter, Hill completed six of his seven passes and moved the ball 85 yards, hooking up with Seals-Jones for a three-yard touchdown pass. ESPN's Louis Riddick felt that South Carolina had no answer for the wideout:

The Gamecocks quickly answered back with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to senior WR Damiere Byrd with 9:47 left in the half, making it a three-point game once again, 17-14.

The SC defense broke down again, giving up back-to-back touchdowns to Texas A&M, and all of a sudden, the Gamecocks were down, 31-14, at halftime in their home stadium. Not since 2009 had they surrendered that many points in a first half, per ESPN Stats and Info:

One of the biggest storylines coming into the game was how Texas A&M would replace Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans, all of whom were selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. Losing talent like that can set a program back at least a year or two.

As the best are wont to do, though, the Aggies simply reloaded, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out:

Hill was a revelation in the passing game, often looking to Seals-Jones for the big play, while Cedric Ogbuehi opened up holes for the running game and neutralized the Gamecocks pass rush.

By the end of the first half, Hill completed 27-of-35 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Mandel joked that Hill was nearly ahead of former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd already:

What also bears mention is the performance of the A&M defense. Last year, the unit was a massive liability. The Aggies almost had to score 30-40 points in order to just scrape by. Texas A&M won't be relying on its defense to win games this year, but no longer is the group an anchor holding the team back.

As NFL.com's Bryan Fischer tweeted out, a showing like the defense had in the first half takes a ton of pressure off the offense:

In the first half, South Carolina was held to 216 total yards. Star running back Mike Davis was a complete non-factor.

Knowing that a touchdown to start the second half would all but kill whatever spirit was left in the SC players, Texas A&M held the Gamecocks to a three-and-out on the first drive of the third quarter and followed with another Hill TD pass, this time going to sophomore wideout Josh Reynolds.

Fans inside Williams-Brice Stadium came to life again after Thompson made it a 38-21 game with 7:33 in the third quarter with his third touchdown pass.

Sensing a small window of opportunity, Steve Spurrier opted for a surprise onside kick; however, Texas A&M recovered, shutting the door on any comeback attempt.

Matt Connolly of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal figured Spurrier had little to lose since his defense probably would've given up a touchdown even with the Aggies offense backed up deep:

Working with a short field, Texas A&M quickly padded their lead to 24 points, 45-21, with a little over five minutes to go in the third.

The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, with South Carolina never getting closer than 17 points for the rest of the game. Sumlin was content to let his running game wear the clock down until the end of the game.

With such a decisive win on the road, Texas A&M could crack the top 15 by the time next week's rankings are unveiled. The Aggies head home for their next game, welcoming in Lamar on Sept. 6.

South Carolina could be in line for a precipitous drop in the polls. The Gamecocks looked well off the pace on Thursday night. Luckily for them, they have another opportunity soon to prove themselves. In a little over two weeks, the No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs come to Columbia.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kenny Hill's Record-Breaking Win vs. South Carolina Ushers in New Texas A&M Era

Let's just get this out of the way: Kenny Hill is not Johnny Manziel. 

And it doesn't matter.

The latter may be one of the most electrifying players in the history of Texas A&M—and possibly even college football—but the former is built to run head coach Kevin Sumlin's offense. 

He proved exactly that on Thursday night, going into a raucous Williams-Brice Stadium and trampling No. 9 South Carolina. After throwing for a silly 299 yards and a pair of scores in his first half as a starter, Hill finished 44-of-60 for 511 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies' 52-28 win, rewriting the record books in the process: 

Texas A&M entered the game as a 10-point underdog, per OddsShark, and while that seemed a little harsh for a team that has thrived under Sumlin, the spread was understandable. The Aggies lost a great deal of talent in the offseason, most notably Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans, while South Carolina had won 18 in a row at home and was expected to be in the mix at the top of the SEC East. 

Yet Hill and this offense made Steve Spurrier's defense look like Abilene Christian. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put it simply after Hill's incredibly easy-looking first-half performance: 

It was the perfect game plan from Sumlin because, for the most part, it was simple. A number of Hill's completions came on quick throws and short pitch-and-catches, allowing his wide receivers and running backs to do the rest. 

That seemed to help get him into an early groove. Hill's first drive went 67 yards on nine methodical plays, resulting in an emphatic statement that quieted a crowd that was absolutely electric just minutes earlier. 

ESPN's Sam Khan Jr. summarized that drive, while the nickname jokes already began surfacing, via CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd:

Hill's unforgettable starting debut was not just the result of conservative play-calling, though. He looked incredibly poised and confident. When he had time, he threw lasers out of the pocket. When he was pressured, he showed the quickness to escape easily, but instead of tucking the ball and running, he kept his eyes downfield and delivered accurate throws.

“You can tell he was raised in a spread, no-huddle system,” Texas A&M quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said before the game, per Khan. “That comes pretty much second nature to him.”

Clearly. He moved the ball flawlessly, surgically cutting up the defense at a breakneck pace. 

He looked nothing like an inexperienced sophomore, let alone one playing on the road against a quality SEC opponent. 

You can say what you want about South Carolina's young defense, but this performance should put the rest of the conference—and the country, and the Heisman voters—on notice. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer offered his assessment of A&M's showing:

With the size and talent of Ricky Seals-Jones, the electrifying quickness of Speedy Noil, the reliability of Malcome Kennedy, the three-headed rushing attack and the dominant offensive line, Hill doesn't have to be perfect. 

He just has to push the pace, take what the defense gives him, play with poise and know when to make plays with his legs. 

Judging by just four quarters of scintillating play Thursday night, he clearly knows how to do all of those things. This is a special offense, and it's being led by a special player with a special blend of physical gifts and mental aptitude. 


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Maryland to Sell Massive 1.5-Pound Pretzels at Byrd Stadium

That's one big pretzel.

The Maryland Terrapins are planning on selling this massive 1.5-pound pretzel at Byrd Stadium during the football season. Named the "Chessie," this is a gigantic soft-baked pretzel that's baked with melted cheese and crab dip. The pretzel serves four people and can be bought for $17.50 at the stadium.

[Washington Post, h/t Deadspin]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rebels' Keith Lewis Levels Boise State's Jay Ajayi with Big Hit in Open Field

Ole Miss senior linebacker Keith Lewis looks like he's pumped to be back on the field for the Rebels.

In the first quarter of their opener against the Boise State Broncos, Lewis made a big hit in the open field on running back Jay Ajayi to force a fourth down.

The hit was an early statement for Lewis and the rest of the defense as they look to help Ole Miss make a run in the SEC this year.


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Twitter Reacts to Kenny Hill's Breakout Performance vs. South Carolina

Johnny Football? Try Kenny Football.

The Texas A&M Aggies may be without Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but their offense appears to be just fine under the guidance of succeeding quarterback Kenny Hill.

During Thursday's college football season opener, Hill torched the No. 9 South Carolina defense through the air in a 52-28 victory.

Hill completed 27-of-35 passes for 299 yards and two scores in the first half. That would be a respectable full-game stat line against a top-10 SEC foe, much less 50 percent of a day's work.

But Hill wasn't finished there. Far from it.

The sophomore signal-caller kept the Aggies rolling on the road, finishing 44-of-60 passing for 511 yards and three scores. ESPN Stats & Info observed just how amazing Hill was in his electrifying first start:

Twitter had plenty to say throughout Hill's breakout performance against the Gamecocks, which supplied the 21st-ranked Aggies with a wave of optimism in the post-Manziel era.

SEC Sports highlighted the elite company Hill already joined:

ESPN Radio's Ian Fitzsimmons opted for a Manziel reference in light of recent events:

Todd Fuhrman of Fox Sports 1 put Hill's numbers in excellent context:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller opted for a different Hill nickname than the one in this story's lede:

ESPN's College GameDay captured a fitting quote from commentator Brent Musburger:

Check out this number from ESPN Stats & Info:

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer observed how Texas A&M's relentless energy was too much to handle even in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia:

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman alluded to the Gamecocks' stellar home record:

Jason King of Bleacher Report added an interesting anecdote:

CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd—along with others who become privy to this knowledge, to be sure—was perplexed as to how Hill's counterpart, Dylan Thompson, technically fared better in the opening half:

Thompson had a fine, explosive game himself (20-of-40, 366 yards, four touchdowns and one interception), but it paled in comparison to the heights Hill reached. As for the comparisons between Hill and Manziel, how about this one from SportsCenter:

Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy knows what it takes to succeed in the SEC, and he praised Texas A&M's entire offensive unit:

As TAMU Gameday put forth, all contributors on the Aggies side did indeed warrant credit—even with Hill as the clear tone-setter:

The Aggies actually wound up with 680 total yards after that tweet.

South Carolina lost No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney this last year, though it likely wouldn't have fared much better even with him.

An uptempo, air raid offense coveted by Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin has produced prolific passing attacks in both his stints at the helm of the Houston Cougars and now in College Station. Hill, the son of a former MLB pitcher (h/t Brendan Wilhide on Twitter) drove Texas A&M down the field at will.

Save for one three-and-out on the last first-quarter possession and one play just before the halftime intermission, the Aggies scored every time they possessed the ball in the first half, putting the game out of reach early. With a rather weak defense supporting him and the Gamecocks producing plenty of big plays of their own, there was no lack of composure from Hill, who looked like a veteran despite the immense pressure he was under to replace Manziel.

Perhaps another Texas A&M QB will be striking the Heisman pose soon enough if this electric debut by Hill is any sign of what's to come. However, the hype will only increase, along with the expectations. It remains to be seen if Hill can handle that, particularly after Manziel, a larger-than-college-life personality.

Since the Aggies held on to win this one in such dominant fashion, they ought to receive quite a boost in the rankings. A similar springboard effect should hold true for the surprising Hill's Heisman stock.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

South Carolina's Abysmal First Half Has Steve Spurrier and Fans Devastated

The South Carolina Gamecocks were excited to open the college football season at home against the Texas A&M Aggies, but things didn't quite go according to plan.

At halftime, the Gamecocks were down 31-14, and fans were clearly devastated. Actually, fans weren't the only ones upset, as head coach Steve Spurrier vented his frustrations by throwing off his headset.

[Vine, h/t SB Nation]

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Jacob Coker Should Start Season as Alabama's Full-Time Quarterback

As the Alabama Crimson Tide look to return to the championship spotlight this season, they should end the charade of a quarterback controversy and trust Jacob Coker with regular snaps from the get-go.

The Florida State transfer is the clear superior talent who will take the reins under Nick Saban's offense before the season ends. Yet Coker will have to work longer before winning the job outright. According to CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler, fifth-year senior Blake Sims is the top candidate to start, although the junior will receive snaps as well.

Alabama's early-week plan is to play two quarterbacks on Saturday against West Virginia , with fifth-year senior Blake Sims the current favorite to start, CBSSports.com has learned.

Touted Florida State transfer Jacob Coker will play in the Georgia Dome, but he failed to create significant separation in Bama's quarterback race, and is expected to come off the bench.

Such a decision likely boils down to experience and familiarity. Sims spent the last three years sitting behind former signal-caller A.J. McCarron. He rarely played, but he made a strong showing for himself during a rout over overmatched Georgia Tech, completing 14 of 18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.

While Coker is learning the ropes, Sims knows Saban's system well. The Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles also noted that Sims has support throughout the squad.

Those factors make it easy to defer to Sims, even if just for the first few games. Coming off a 4-8 season, West Virginia exists this weekend with the sole purpose of taking a beating from the Crimson Tide. Such is often the ugly nature of college football.

The No. 2 Crimson Tide should win games either way, but Coker puts the better product on the field. He could have started at most schools last season, but he found himself stuck behind eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. According to USA Today's Paul Myerberg, Florida State's quarterback position was far from an open-and-shut case last season.

He didn't win the job, but the 6'5", 230-pound passer certainly opened some eyes at FSU. Last January, in a story published on CBS Sports the day after Winston led the Seminoles to a BCS National Championship, quarterback coach Ricky Sanders compared Coker's arm favorably to his champion leader.

"Coker's arm is kind of at a different level," Sanders told Bruce Feldman. "Jameis has a very special arm, and this isn't any knock against Jameis, but Jake's probably the best I've seen in 25 years at throwing it."

Former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman, who will now suit up for the Atlanta Falcons, also sung Coker's praises to Bleacher Report's Ray Glier.

I will not be surprised if Coke-boy is in the middle of the Heisman thing before the season is over. He’s my guy, will talk about Coke-boy all day. If Jameis Winston is a first-round pick of the NFL, then Jake is a first-round pick. If they came out next year, they would be the top two quarterbacks. I tell you no lie.

With Lane Kiffin joining the Crimson Tide to call plays, Simms sees his familiarity advantage dissipate. Last year's playbook has undoubtedly experienced serious renovation, and they'd be remiss not to consider what they could achieve with Coker slinging the ball around.

Coker is the obvious future, so why waste time during the fall when he could compile critical reps that will serve him well later? Saban can bide his time with a two-quarterback approach, but that's merely a stalling tactic that could create a divide while robbing everyone of clarity.

The top case for easing in Coker comes from a fictional television show, which isn't the best guideline to making important decisions. In Friday Night Lights, Matt Saracen constantly led Coach Taylor's Dillon Panthers to miraculous victories on grit and heart.

Then freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy came along with a magical arm that forced the reluctant coach to make the obvious move. Sure, the arrogant McCoy crumbled during the state championship game, but the Panthers didn't have Saban's army of 5-star recruits roaming the field.

In the real world, skill beats out seniority. Coker is ready to dazzle in Tuscaloosa now, so why keep delaying the inevitable?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA College Football Picks: Week 1 Against the Spread

The collegiate football season's kickoff has officially launched. And if two schools that I probably couldn't find even with a GPS can make the inaugural game thrilling, it can only mean that a fascinating fall awaits!

Adding to the excitement is the return of an occasion that we have not experienced since the madness of March: betting on games!

And there are indeed some killer matchups.

Although some top teams chose a creampuff dessert as their first meal, there are three games between ranked teams in Week 1: No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 12 Georgia vs. No. 16 Clemson and No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 LSU at a neutral site in Houston.

Earlier this week, I discussed Week 1's previews. Now let's take a look at these same matchups against the spread, as listed on CoopersPick.com.


No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 South Carolina

South Carolina (-10), Over/Under 58

Pick Against the Spread: The Gamecocks are home and will cover in their house in the season opener. Why? Their defense is simply too good, and Texas A&M has failed to cover the spread in its last four games on the road. And, well, it's South Carolina's house in a season opener. 


Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss

Ole Miss (-10), Over/Under 54.5

Pick Against the Spread: Ole Miss will show who's the ranked team with a win and also cover. The offense has too many weapons, and the D will keep the Broncos from racking up the rushing yards. On top of that, Boise State is only 2-5 in its last seven games, while Ole Miss is a legit 19-7 in its last 26 nonconference games.


No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State

Florida State (-17.5), Over/Under 63 

Pick Against the Spread: Florida State wins big and covers, as it will dominate on both sides of the ball. In their last six nonconference games, the Seminoles have covered five times.


West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama

Alabama (-26.5), Over/Under 55.5

Pick Against the Spread: A spread of 26.5 points is a lot to give, but add T.J. Yeldon plus the Tide defense, and Alabama will win and cover. WVU has failed to do just that in its last six nonconference games.


Arkansas vs. No. 6 Auburn

Auburn (-21), Over/Under 57.5

Pick Against the Spread: Auburn will extend its streak of covering the spread in its last eight SEC games. Last season, the Tigers beat Arkansas by 18 points, and that game was on the road.


No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia

Clemson (+7.5), Over/Under 57.5

Pick Against the Spread: Interesting betting trends pick Clemson to win this game, which it will. The Tigers have covered the spread in eight of their last 11 road games, while Georgia is only 1-4-1 ATS in its last six home games. Vegas Insiders' conference betting odds for Georgia to win the SEC is 7/2 this year, but how it plays in the first four weeks will be telling to how the season will pan out for the Bulldogs.


No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU

LSU (-4), Over/Under 50

Pick Against the Spread: While it has only covered the spread in two of its last seven nonconference games, LSU's new talent will carry the squad to a win against Wisconsin and cover the narrow spread to boot.


SMU vs. No. 10 Baylor

SMU (+33), Over/Under 73

Pick Against the Spread: To the surprise of few, SMU will not win, but it will cover. The Mustangs are 0-4 ATS in their last four nonconference games, but last season they lost by 29 points against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. In perhaps a slight moral victory, expect a similar result against Baylor. 

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South Carolina's Dylan Thompson Finds Nick Jones for 69-Yard TD vs. Texas A&M

The South Carolina Gamecocks faced an early 10-0 deficit in the college football season opener against the Texas A&M Aggies on Thursday, but senior quarterback Dylan Thompson helped his team get back into the game.

With less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Thompson found senior wide receiver Nick Jones for this 69-yard bomb, pulling the Gamecocks within three points of the Aggies.

[YouTube, h/t Saturday Down South]

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Boise State vs. Ole Miss: Live Score and Highlights


Early Third Quarter

Ole Miss 7, Boise State 3

Turnovers have held both teams back thus far.  This game may come down to which team plays the cleaner second half.

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Jameis Winston Will Struggle to Repeat as Heisman Trophy Winner

Only one person in history has ever won the Heisman Trophy twice, and Jameis Winston will have a hard time becoming the second.

Since the award was first given out to the most outstanding college football player in the nation in 1935, only Archie Griffin has been fortunate enough to bring home the award in two different seasons. Winston can join this club after winning in 2013, but a number of factors will prevent this from happening.

Based on talent alone, it is clear the Florida State quarterback is one of the best players in the nation. He finished his redshirt freshman season with 4,057 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and the No. 1 passer efficiency in the country at 184.8.

ESPN's NFL draft guru Mel Kiper believes he is the best prospect available for 2015:

However, talent alone does not necessarily guarantee winning the most prestigious individual award in sports. 

One of the biggest problems Winston will face this season is increased expectations. While many had high hopes for the talented player coming into last year, no one thought he would become one of the best in the country right away. This changed in his first start when he went 25 of 27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

As he continued to put up incredible numbers throughout the year, fans watching along could not help but be impressed.

The problem is this year the perception has changed. We have seen what Winston is capable of, and anything less would seem like a disappointment. Johnny Manziel actually posted better passing numbers last season but only finished fifth in the Heisman voting because voters were no longer impressed by his highlight-reel plays.

In reality, fans should expect a bit of a drop in production this season. Coaches have now had an entire offseason to study the sophomore and should be able to come up with ways to defend him. 

Additionally, Winston might have to be more conservative in his approach after losing a few major weapons like Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Devonta Freeman this offseason.

The quarterback also is putting the team first, saying, "I haven't set any individual goals. Just team goals. And the first goal is winning the national championship," via Danny Aller of Yahoo Sports.

This could mean a lot more running plays for Florida State to control possession, especially with the team likely having a lot of big leads in the second half.

However, this brings another problem heading into the season. Even though it was an individual award, voters care about how the team performs. This is another reason Manziel or Mark Ingram were unable to get legitimate consideration.

While Florida State comes into the year as the No. 1 team in the nation, even one loss could prevent the team from getting a bid to the first-ever playoffs. Losing seven NFL draft picks will certainly make things difficult.

If the Seminoles fail to be legitimate contenders for a national championship, voters will be happy picking someone else. With Marcus Mariota, Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley and others expecting big years, we will not be short on alternatives.

Fans are always looking for something new, which was good for Winston last year but will not help him this time around. He is expecting a great season, but winning the Heisman for a second time will be too difficult to accomplish.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Texas Football: What to Expect from QB David Ash in 2014

The 2014 season is a chance for Texas quarterback David Ash to make up for 2013.

Ash entered last season with high expectations. He was named to multiple preseason watch lists and was poised to have a breakout junior year following the bumpy start of his college career.

But things took a turn when the Longhorns faced BYU on Sept. 7. Ash left the game in the fourth quarter after taking multiple, harrowing hits, which resulted in a concussion.

After sitting out the following week, Ash returned to the field in time to kick off Big 12 play, but his stay did not last long.

Ash suffered recurring concussion symptoms against Kansas State, and Texas fans did not see him under center for the rest of the season.

"It was hard," Ash said. "A concussion is something where nobody sees a cast, nobody really knows what is going on. It's a tough deal. But, that's past, and we are moving on to the future now."


Playing it Safe

The expectations for 2014 are nowhere near those of last season. But head coach Charlie Strong does expect Ash to protect his body and avoid contact as much as he can.

Strong put together a lowlight reel for all of his players. When he went through the film with his quarterback, he asked him what he was trying to prove in taking such hard hits.

"I don't need to see how tough you are. If you can outrun him, outrun him, but run out of bounds or slide or something. Just don't take a hit," Strong said of his conversation with Ash. "He took like three or four hits and I just stopped it and asked what he was trying to prove."

The redshirt junior has taken his coach's words to heart and plans on playing a smarter brand of football this season.

"He told me I have to get down. He's right. I have taken hits that were not necessary," Ash said of his talk with Strong. "Sometimes you are just trying to get that mojo going. But there are other ways rather than taking hits like that. He just made it clear that is not what I have to do or how I have to play. I'm going to start being smarter, doing a little baseball practice with sliding and getting out of bounds. I can't be taking those hits anymore."


Managing the New Offense

The Longhorns have installed a new offense under quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline. There was an obvious learning curve when the team was first taught the offense, but Ash has done consistently well throughout fall camp and has the confidence of his position coach.

"In what we do and what we ask him to do, to be honest with you, he's been outstanding. He's been awesome," Watson said. "Everything is done through the eyes of the quarterback. David has allowed our whole team to move fast because he's moved so fast."

Watson said the ideal situation is to be balanced on offense, but nobody is expecting Ash to win games by himself. The Longhorns have potential for a solid ground attack between running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, which will take a lot of pressure off of Ash from trying to make too many plays on his own. 

Strong has constantly said he doesn't need Ash to be a great player. What the coaches want to see is his ability to manage the game and get the offense in the right place to make plays.

"When you get a quarterback in a new offense, it's just how much he can press that offense and how much he's willing to learn and study," Strong said. "That's what he's been able to do, just learn the offense and study. I always tell him this, 'I don't need a great player, I just need you to manage and do what we ask you to do. I don't like to see the ball turned over.' He's been able to make the throws at practice, been able to get us in the right checks and get us in the right place."

Ash will likely experience some hiccups this season. When Texas takes the field against North Texas on Aug. 30, 342 days will have passed since Ash has seen contact. The concerns surrounding his frightening injury history will likely continue throughout the 2014 season, and a lot of Texas fans will cringe anytime he hits the ground.

But what's most important for the Longhorns, aside from his health, is for Ash to be the game manager his coaches expect him to be. 

As Ash told Anwar Richardson of Orangebloods.com (subscription required):

You have to manage the game. You have to be a general on the field. You have to be a coach on the field. You have to distribute the ball. You have to give your team the right play. You have to know when to take risks and when not to. Does that sell my talent short? No. I feel like I'm very talented at managing football games. That's why I play quarterback.

One area his teammates have commended Ash for is his increased leadership role. The quarterback has previously been labeled as a shy person who would not speak up in the huddle. He is also a man of few words in media settings.

But Ash has taken notice of the way great quarterbacks lead their teams and plans to do the same for the Longhorns. As he told Richardson:

Leadership, a large part of it is your teammates believing in you, but that belief they have in you comes in you showing up and making plays consistently in practice, and not rolling over in game situations. That's the reason you believe in most of the great quarterbacks you see because you see them execute. You see them execute in tough situations. You see Tom Brady execute consistently. His teammates believe in him. You see Aaron Rodgers execute consistently so his teammates believe in him.

It's all about your actions, and I think that's what shows up. Great play comes from great preparation. Great play comes from team effort. Great play comes from coaching. There's a lot of things that go into that, but that team togetherness and unity comes when we all believe in each other, we're all going to do our jobs, and it's all going to pay off. That's how good team ball works.

Comparing his style of play to Rodgers and Brady is a bit of a stretch, considering they are two of the most consistent and reliable quarterbacks in the NFL.

Ash's career has seen a lot of ups and downs. When he was up, he played very well. When he was down, it was the complete opposite.

Consistency is something Ash will need to prove early this season, especially since Texas will face three preseason AP Top 10 teams in its first six games.

But one thing nobody can question is the quarterback's determination.

There are a lot of people who would have considered giving up football after going through what he experienced in 2013.

For Ash, quitting was never an option.

He believes he is meant to be on the football field and is determined to prove that to his team and to all of his critics.

"He really wants to be a great player," Watson said. "I think he has unsettled affairs after the kind of year he went through last year. I respect that. He has worked really hard and has played very efficient football."

He obviously has the drive to be a great player, but only time will tell if he can show that greatness on a consistent basis.

His coaches have praised his work over the last eight months. Now is the time for him to prove it.


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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Tim Tebow Does His Best Steve Spurrier Impression While Telling Recruiting Story

While setting the stage for the Texas A&M-South Carolina game on Thursday, SEC Network analyst Tim Tebow shared an interesting tidbit from his past.

The story itself was interesting, but it was Tebow's impression of Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier that stole the show. Hopefully, he is able to show Spurrier his impression at some point during the season.


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8 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 1

The arrival of college football season means anticipation for games rises among every team's fanbase. However, there's plenty more going on beyond the field during game-day festivities.

Recruiting departments spend the entire offseason coordinating plans for every matchup. Teams welcome recruits in an effort to show off program facilities and tradition and provide opportunities for personal interaction with the coaching staff. Each week, we'll take a look at top-tier prospects expected on campuses across the country and dissect how the development factors into their overall recruitment.

As the 2014 campaign kicks off across the country, here's a look at notable game attendees who will be taking in the action on opening weekend.

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Throwback Thursday: Nick Saban Gets Destroyed by a Block in High School

Alabama's Nick Saban is known for being a great defensive coach, but back when he was a high school football player, things didn't always go smoothly for him.

In the clip above, you will see Saban—playing for Monongah High School (West Virginia)—get destroyed by a block while on special teams. 

Below are some more clips of Saban's senior season. (The block above is in the video at around the 2:08 mark.)

[TideSports.com, Yahoo Sports, Rivals]

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UCLA Football: 3 Stars Who Will Break out in 2014

The UCLA football team has three players poised for breakout seasons in 2014.

A veteran wide receiver is now thrust into a starting role. Talent has never been an issue, but a lack of consistency hasn't allowed for a breakthrough season. Now seemingly matured, he will take the mantle of UCLA's top receiver.

The other two players in this piece are true sophomores. Both started last year as freshmen and played big roles.

This year, the duo will take the next steps in potentially becoming all-conference selections. In the process, each will become a known commodity in the Pac-12.

Here are three stars who will break out in 2014 for Jim Mora and the Bruins.

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UCLA Football: 3 Stars Who Will Break out in 2014

The UCLA football team has three players poised for breakout seasons in 2014. A veteran wide receiver is now thrust into a starting role. Talent has never been an issue, but a lack of consistency hasn't allowed for a breakthrough season...

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Biggest Question Facing Each Top 25 Team Heading into the 2014 Season

Ahem: Football's back! 

Technically, it was back last Saturday, when Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State faced off on the red field, but it's not real football unless the SEC is involved. 

(That's only half joking.) 

Digressing, Week 1 is upon us and each Associated Press Top 25 team has a silo of offseason questions just waiting to be answered. It's likely, if not guaranteed, that most of those questions won't be answered after one game.

But we can focus on the overriding storyline for each top-25 team as the season gets underway. What will Texas A&M look like in the post-Johnny Manziel era? Who will win Alabama's quarterback battle? Will Florida State win another national title?

Let's try to predict some answers. And not be horribly, horribly wrong in the process. 


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