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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 4 Standings and Analysis for Latest Polls

Not much changed atop the Associated Press Top 25 after the third Saturday in the 2014 college football season. However, a few teams with dreams of rising to the status of the elite hit major speed bumps.

Both the USC Trojans and the Georgia Bulldogs saw their hopes of an undefeated season go by the boards. The Trojans and Bulldogs weren't the only teams bitten by the upset bug. The Louisville Cardinals and Virginia Tech Hokies were toppled by Virginia and East Carolina, respectively.

The losses bounced both teams from the Top 25.

If this trend continues, it's going to be a wild and fun season. Here's a look at the most recent poll, per ESPN.com.

 

RankTeamRecordPoints 1 Florida State (37) 2-0 1,466 2 Oregon (17) 3-0 1,424 3 Alabama (1) 3-0 1,346 4 Oklahoma (2) 3-0 1,325 5 Auburn 2-0 1,252 6 Texas A&M (3) 3-0 1,195 7 Baylor 3-0 1,134 8 LSU 3-0 1,114 9 Notre Dame 3-0 917 10 Ole Miss 3-0 840 11 Michigan State 1-1 832 12 UCLA 3-0 807 13 Georgia 1-1 729 14 South Carolina 2-1 718 15 Arizona State 3-0 680 16 Stanford 2-1 560 17 USC 2-1 459 18 Missouri 3-0 446 19 Wisconsin 1-1 414 20 Kansas State 2-0 326 21 BYU 3-0 246 22 Clemson 1-1 209 23 Ohio State 2-1 204 24 Nebraska 3-0 172 25 Oklahoma State 2-1 126

 

Biggest Losers

Georgia

After looking sharp in its season opener, Georgia fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks by the smallest of margins. It wasn't just the three-point deficit in the 38-35 loss that we're referring to.

Late in the fourth quarter the Bulldogs couldn't find the end zone despite a 1st-and-goal situation on the Gamecocks' 4-yard line.

Matters became worse when Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard field goal that would have tied it.

The Bulldogs subsequently couldn't stop the Gamecocks from converting a clutch fourth down on the next drive, and South Carolina got the win.

Clearly the Gamecocks defense isn't as bad as some believed after it was lit up by the Texas A&M Aggies in Week 1.

While it did surrender 35 points to Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs offense, the Gamecocks defense stiffened when it needed to. The loss leaves Georgia in a rough position. This was not a gimme, but most would have expected the Bulldogs to win this one.

With games against Missouri and Auburn still on the schedule, it's going to be difficult for the Bulldogs to escape the dreaded second loss of the season. The way things are shaping up, another loss could leave Georgia outside of the four-team playoff at the end of the season.

 

USC Trojans

Fresh off a huge win over the rival Stanford Cardinal, the Trojans did exactly what they didn't want to do on Saturday: have a letdown.

Facing an unranked Boston College Eagles team that most would have expected USC would handle easily, Steve Sarkisian's squad suddenly couldn't stop the run or find its own success on the ground.

Led by dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy, the Eagles racked up 452 yards rushing and limited the Trojans to just 20 on the ground. That's a far cry from the performance on both sides of the ball against the Cardinal.

In Week 2, USC held Stanford to just 3.4 yards per carry. The Trojans' feature back, Javorius Allen, punished the Cardinal for 154 yards on the ground.

This loss showed the Trojans' immaturity on defense and lack dominance on the offensive line. You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who sees USC beating UCLA or Oregon head to head after this one.

 

Biggest Winners

South Carolina

Despite the fact that the Gamecocks didn't look especially good in Week 1 vs. Texas A&M or in Week 2 against East Carolina, the win over the then No.6-ranked Bulldogs put the Gamecocks in a new light.

Having lost Jadeveon Clowney to the NFL draft, most didn't see the Gamecocks as having a solid defense. The 52 points it allowed to the Aggies in Week 1 seemed to support that notion.

Allowing 35 points can't be considered shutting a team down, but South Carolina's defense proved it was clutch. The win keeps the team at just one loss for the season with three more major tests on the horizon.

Missouri, Auburn and in-state rival Clemson will all represent a significant threat. While running the table from here on out might be a stretch, the Gamecocks could still wind up with a favorable bowl selection outside of the college football playoff.

 

Texas A&M

The Aggies' schedule is brutal after Oct. 4. Four of their last six games are against teams currently ranked in the top 10. All Texas A&M did in Week 3 was beat a Rice team 38-10 that everyone expected it should defeat handily.

That win isn't what helped to move the needle. The Aggies became big winners this week because of the aforementioned Gamecocks win.

As of right now, the only big win Texas A&M has came over South Carolina in Week 1. With the Gamecocks beating the Bulldogs, it makes the Aggies' season-opening win look more impressive.

The final story will be told once Texas A&M gets into the heart of its SEC schedule, but for now, the team is looking really good.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 4: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

Three weeks of surprising results in college football have produced some early-season shakeups in the polls. Preseason hype has made way for reality with teams rising and plummeting in the rankings with big wins and dramatic losses.

But as with every college football season, nothing is determined after three weeks of play. Ahead of the first-ever College Football Playoff following the year, every week is important for programs looking to remain in the chase.

The early odds for the fourth week of the season are set, including ranked teams facing stiff tests. Here is a look at the odds and predictions for the Week 4 slate.

All game odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

The AP poll can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

 

Picks Breakdown

No. 5 Auburn at No. 20 Kansas State

One of the lone matchups between top-20 opponents comes before the weekend ever arrives.

The Thursday night game marks a chance for Auburn to solidify its program as one of the top five in the country. On the other hand, it gives Kansas State the opportunity to prove it's worthy of being ranked.

Auburn is used to the big stage after winning the Iron Bowl and SEC Championship last season before falling short in the BCS National Championship. But for the Wildcats, it's unfamiliar territory, as Bryan Fischer of NFL.com notes:

The Tigers offense runs through Nick Marshall, who has started the season just as consistent as his 2013 campaign. Marshall hasn't been asked to pass with regularity, but he has been nearly flawless when doing so, compiling a passer rating of 114 or higher in both games.

He is a huge part of what makes Auburn one of the best teams in the country, as Paul Finebaum of ESPN notes:

His strength is clearly in the running game, where Marshall compiled 103 rushing yards and a touchdown against San Diego State. But the cupcakes are over on Thursday night when Auburn takes on K-State.

Equipped with a stout defense and an offense capable of running the ball against anyone, expect War Eagle to fly to 3-0. Oh, and they'll also keep those College Football Playoff hopes alive for another week.

 

No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State

Despite a 51-14 demolition of Clemson last season, Florida State's home game against the Tigers will feature the cast of College GameDay prior to the contest. But Clemson plans to do things slightly different this time around.

Mistakes hurt the Tigers last season, as turnovers led to several scoring drives for the Seminoles in the blowout. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney referenced the issues, per Natalie Pierre of the Tallahassee Democrat:

The biggest things is, we've got to take care of the ball. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We turned it over four times last year and just put the ball on the ground on one of them, in just a scoop and score. Those are things where you just don't have that type of room for error when you're playing a great, great football team like Florida State.

We've got to play a clean game – take care of the football and give ourselves a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.

There is plenty on the line for both teams coming into the conference matchup. For Florida State, the stakes are obvious, as the team works toward making the College Football Playoff after going 14-0 last season.

Clemson, on the other hand, is simply hoping to remain in the rankings. The Tigers have a chance to break a school record for the most consecutive weeks of being in the polls, per the Clemson Football Twitter page:

Beating the Seminoles is easier said than done, especially with the team not losing a game in the last two years. In order to remain in the polls, Clemson will likely need a victory or to avoid a blowout.

Currently, the odds are stacked against the Tigers in the form of being a 20.5-point underdog. Anything close to that will surely leave Clemson on the outside looking in for both of the polls.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Meet College Football's 2014 Dark Horse Group of 5 Playoff Contenders

When you mention Cincinnati, Marshall or BYU, do you say Football Final Four in the same sentence?

And in this new era of the College Football Playoff system, can you find any of those schools on any watch lists of contenders?   

No, you can't.   

None of them are from a Group of 5 power conference. BYU is barely in the latest AP rankings at No. 21, and Cincinnati and Marshall are in that dreaded "also receiving votes'' cast-off bin.

But with a collective 7-0 mark, the trio of playoff wannabes may all have much better credentials than their rankings.

BYU, led by another vintage BYU quarterback in Taysom Hill and a quality running back in Jamaal Williams, is 3-0 for the first time since 2008 following a 33-25 win over Houston on Saturday.   

Marshall is also 3-0 and has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 134-48. Quarterback Rakeem Cato, who comes from the tough Liberty City section of Miami, has already thrown nine touchdown passes in three games. Coach is Doc Holliday brings an approach not too unlike that of his bold namesake and has guided the Thundering Heard from the mediocrity of a 5-7 mark two seasonsago to a 10-4 record last season to the current role of favorite in the Conference USA race.

And Cincinnati opened its season on Friday with a 58-34 win over Toledo. Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel impressed at quarterback in his Bearcats debut by tying a school record with six touchdown passes.

Still, the task of making into the Final Four semifinals will be difficult, if not impossible for all three schools, who will have to turn in perfect or (at the most) one-loss seasons to fight their way through a list of contenders such as UCLA, Georgia, South Carolina, Stanford, and USC.

Cincinnati and Marshall have decent chances of playing in one of the three non-contract bowls (Cotton, Peach Fiesta), who have reserved one spot for the best team from the non-Power Five conferences. BYU, though, has no such guarantee as an independent.

Breaking through the Power Five barrier will be tough, yet both Cincinnati and BYU have lived in the neighborhood before. BYU even has a national championship (1984) as part of its resume. Cincinnati  finished third in the BCS rankings in 2009 while posting a 12-1 record, which got them to the Sugar Bowl but not the BCS title game. Marshall, for all of its history both tragic and uplifting (e.g. Randy Moss) is still writing its football legacy.

Recent history has not been kind to non-Power Five schools. Dating back to 2004, the record books are littered with unfulfilled dreams.

Boise State went 13-0 in 2006 and finished 8th in the final BCS standings.  In 2007, Hawaii went 12-1 and finished 10th. In 2008, Boise went 12-1 and finished 9th and went 14-0 in 2009 and finished 6th.

So who among these three teams has the best chance of emerging?

BYU's independent status has put the Cougars in a state of limbo in some ways.

The Cougars have been a well-established program for more than 30 seasons, but life as an independent in football if you are not named Notre Dame is a slippery slope.

The Cougars have flirted with joining the Big 12, but nothing has developed. Of late, the Big East and the American Athletic Conference have become regular suitors over the last few years. American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco has made it clear that the door to the AAC remains open to BYU if the Cougars change their mind.

"Our lines of communication remain open with them," Aresco told Bleacher Report, "but we respect their wishes to remain independent."

What happens this season could create a change of heart in Provo. Scheduling is part of the problem. A year ago the Cougars had Texas, Wisconsin and Notre Dame on their schedule. They have already beaten Texas and Houston this season, but there isn't a Top-25 team remaining on their schedule. It is possible the Cougars could finish 12-0, but end up ranked only No. 5 by the playoff committee and be left out of the major bowl mix.

The schedule will also be an issue for Marshall, which has breezed to its three wins, but the victims have been Miami (Ohio), Rhode Island and Ohio. Their next five games are against Akron, Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee, FIU and Florida Atlantic.

See any game there that will draw the attention of the voters or the committee? There's no one after that as well.  That looks like 12-0. But Marshall could win each game by 50 points or more and still not draw much attention since there wouldn't be one quality win on the entire schedule.

And then there is Cincinnati, which will get its spotlight dance chance in a few weeks when it takes on Ohio State in Columbus and then travels to the University of Miami two weeks later. If the Bearcats can come out of their first five games 5-0, they have a chance of becoming contenders for more than the AAC title.

Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville is not dancing in his first big time rodeo. Tuberville has an SEC pedigree, with stops at Mississippi and Auburn, as well as some time spent at Texas Tech in the  Big 12. He also knows about the inequities of the system. In 2004, he guided his Auburn team to a 13-0 record and a Sugar Bowl berth but was not part of the BCS championship game because the computers came up with USC and Oklahoma, which started the season ranked No. 1 and No. 2 and never lost or dropped  behind the unbeaten SEC champions.

The one-sided victory over Toledo was a nice start for the Bearcats, including the performance by Kiel, a sophomore transfer who originally committed to Notre Dame.

"He exceeded my expectations," Tuberville told reporters after the game. "I didn't think he'd play that well."

Kiel, who threw for 418 yards as well as the six TDs, conceded he had some butterflies, but had a point to prove. "For me, I think I silenced the critics," said Kiel. "People were bashing me."

If the Bearcats can beat Ohio State in Columbus, they will climb into the Top 25 and have the edge over Marshall, which is the only remaining unbeaten team in Conference USA. Northern Illinois  is the only unbeaten team left in the MAC and has no Top-25 opponents remaining and neither the Sun Belt nor the Mountain West has any unbeaten teams remaining.

The opening is there, but it won't be easy to squeeze through.

 

Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, the Dallas Morning News and the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 4

We've already seen upsets, top plays and Heisman-worthy performances over the past three weeks, but the 2014 college football season could see its most exciting slate of games yet in Week 4.

The rankings heading into Week 4 indicate that a drastic shakeup in the standings could occur at the close of play next Saturday. Several ranked teams are scheduled to square off, while the Oregon Ducks will hit the road for the first time during this young season.

Should the lesser-ranked teams knock off the higher-ranked teams, the polls will most certainly change drastically. Then again, there's a reason those teams are ranked as high as they are.

Below are predictions from two of the most compelling matchups of Week 4.

 

Auburn at Kansas State

Kansas State can be a deceptively strong opponent for Auburn, as the Tigers could easily drop this game if quarterback Nick Marshall misses similar throws to ones he muffed against San Jose State and Arkansas.

Overall, Marshall has looked pretty good during his senior season. He is 14-of-25 for 277 yards and two touchdowns through the air to go along with 142 yards and two scores on the ground. He hasn't been perfect, but he has definitely been dynamic enough to lead this team.

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee knows that Marshall, along with the rest of the offense, will have to play better than they did against San Jose State, via Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com

We look at what can be better? He knows, playing Kansas State, that he’s got to play better, the wideouts have to play better, the line, the running backs, everybody. We’re going to have to make a lot of plays in the passing game. We feel like we can do it. We just have to go out and prove it.

Because Kansas State is a legitimate candidate to pull off an upset, Auburn's entire offense needs to be in sync and firing on all cylinders. They scored a touchdown on each of their first six drives against San Jose State, but some inconsistencies came about later on in the contest. Those will have to go away to be successful at Kansas State.

This won't be a blowout either way, but Auburn should be able to pull out a close win.

Prediction: Auburn 28, Kansas State 23

 

Clemson at Florida State

Florida State may have only played one game against a quality opponent (Oklahoma State), but the result wasn't great. Sure, the Seminoles grabbed the win, but it wasn't an easy one.

They had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter before the Cowboys stormed back to score 14 in the fourth. The defense's inability to hold the Cowboys in that quarter should concern the coaching staff. A team like Clemson—one that is much better than Oklahoma State—could exploit that defense.

Jameis Winston will be expected to light it up against the Tigers, as it could become a shootout. Of course, Winston is a great guy to get behind in a shootout.

Winston is still a top candidate for this year's Heisman, so the Seminoles are in good hands. Even if it's ugly, they should pull out the hard-fought win.

Prediction: Florida State 33, Clemson 20

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: Most Important Adjustments That Need to Be Made During Bye Week

Sitting at 1-2 heading into their early-season bye week, the Longhorns have plenty of adjustments to make and issues to address.

Above all, Charlie Strong and the coaching staff need to work on their relationship with the team.

Until the offensive line can come together, the Longhorns are going to have to work on getting explosive plays from their passing offense. The line needs to be reassessed after two tough weeks, but the Horns can help themselves by getting more playmakers involved in the offense while building on quarterback Tyrone Swoopes' success outside of the pocket.

As for the defense, which has suffered through two second-half letdowns, it's all about attitude and buying into the one Charlie Strong is trying to instill.

Any degree to which he can accomplish that during the extra week will go a long way toward turning this team around.

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Week 3 College Football Superlatives from Kramer's Korner

When Steve Spurrier’s voice met microphone moments after South Carolina’s 38-35 upset victory over Georgia—a game that will be remembered for the Gamecocks’ 4th-and-inches pickup by quarterback Dylan Thompson with only a minute remaining—he was asked about the decision to go for it rather than punting.

We are all well aware of this ritual by now. Someone asks the Ol’ Ball Coach a question, he responds with dry, hilarious truth—perhaps even a jab at a familiar football fixture—and then we proceed to laugh in unison. 

This response, however, was somehow above and beyond the typical Spurrier encounter. It was a dismissive shoulder shrug, a facial expression that required the cooperation of hundreds of muscles and raw, overwhelming confidence.

Lost in the chaotic nature of the win—along with the various pieces of wreckage left in Week 3—was the fact that South Carolina beat a Top 10 team only weeks after being dismantled and sold for parts against Texas A&M.

We assumed that recovery was impossible. Given what we saw, it was hard not to. But the Gamecocks bounced back, and one of the best football magicians to ever walk the Earth worked one of his most amazing tricks yet in just under three weeks. 

In doing so, the Ol’ Ball Coach reminded us he’s more than Stephen King-sized book of catch phrases. (Although he still delivered on that end, too, and you just knew he would.)

Is South Carolina perfect? Not by any means. In a way, however, it makes the performance on Saturday even more impressive.

As for awards and observations from Week 3, here they are.

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati

Remember this guy? Once at Notre Dame, once verbally committed to Indiana—no, really—and now at Cincinnati, Gunner Kiel appears to have landed in the right place. In his first start for the Bearcats, Kiel completed 25 of 27 passes for 418 yards. He also ran for 24 yards and found the end zone six times as Cincinnati beat Toledo 58-34.

Kiel threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter, and although Toledo made an interesting second-half push after being down early, it didn’t last long.

His debut was years in the making, although it was indeed worth the wait.

 

Dominant Defender: Shaq Thompson, Washington

For the second consecutive week, Washington takes home Dominant Defender honors. Defensive lineman Danny Shelton was selected after his four-sack performance in Week 2. This week, we’re moving back one level and highlighting Shaq Thompson, who is quickly becoming a superstar if he’s not there already. 

Thompson found the end zone twice, once on a 36-yard interception return and the other on a 52-yard fumble recovery. Linebackers are really not supposed to move as quickly as he does.

He also finished with four tackles in Washington’s 44-19 win over Illinois. Oh, and last week he found the end zone as a running back. (That doesn’t factor into this weekly award, but it serves as a reminder that you should be watching him.)

 

Video Game Box Score: 

-The entirety of West Virginia-Maryland was a video game. It featured 1,141 total yards, 795 passing yards and 77 points. The most glaring items to stand out on this game, however, came courtesy of the Mountaineers. Quarterback Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and WVU ran 108 plays. 108!

-Coming into its game against Texas Tech, Arkansas had run the ball 69 times. On Saturday, the Hogs ran it 68 (!!!) times for 438 yards. Yes, Bret Bielema’s team finished with more running plays than passing yards (61). You should get a plaque or something for that.

 

Anti-Video Game Box Score:

-It took USC—one of the nation’s more potent rushing attacks—29 carries to reach 20 yards on Saturday against Boston College. Flipping sides, the USC rushing defense allowed 452 yards rushing on 54 carries. Yes, college football is weird. (More on that in a bit.)

-Alabama’s O.J. Howard is arguably the nation’s most talented tight end. Through three games, however, he has zero catches. This is absolutely baffling and the most shocking stat through three games this season. Someone throw him a ball, please.

 

Biggest Surprise 

We expected USC to be mildly hungover after beating Stanford. We expected the Trojans to be somewhat sluggish due to jetlag. But we did not expect to see a talented USC defense allow 37 points and 506 yards... to Boston College. (I’m sorry, Boston College, but this part is important.)

Behold the power of an unpredictable sport and the difficulty that is the week-to-week grind. On paper, it always looks so easy, especially after we watched BC crumble to Pitt only a week earlier. And in reality, we gave the Trojans a win here long before that.

Then the season came and the unexpected showed up at our house with a six-pack. Kudos to Steve Addazio and the rest of the Eagles on the upset.

 

Best Moment

Rick Neuheisel did not expect for his son Jerry to see the field for UCLA on Saturday. After an injury to quarterback Brett Hundley, however, the redshirt sophomore was thrown into action against Texas. And he played well. His pump-and-go touchdown late in the fourth quarter secured the win for the Bruins.

Dad, who works as an analyst for the Pac-12 Network, watched anxiously. The network recorded him doing so—along with his joy, anger, stress and every possible emotion you could imagine—along the way.

We're certainly glad it did.

Well done, Jerry. Well done, Rick. 

 

For the Highlight Reel

The entire sequence looked far too easy and natural for Josh Doctson, which is why the TCU wideout is receiving appropriate highlight-reel love. 

Against Minnesota, Doctson ran a fade and the pass was all but certain to be heading out of play. Thanks to his Stretch Armstrong-like maneuver, however, he was able to haul in the pass with relative ease and make an arduous grab look somewhat simple.

 

If the College Football Playoff Started Today... (or Why I Hate Your Team)

Reminder: If you’re team is not included, it’s because I have a personal vendetta. There can be no other reasonable explanation.

Georgia and USC are out; Oklahoma and Texas A&M are in. There feels like some separation between the top two teams with our limited sample size, although that could change this weekend with bigger games looming.

1. Oregon

2. Oklahoma

3. Florida State

4. Texas A&M

 

Five Leftovers to Chew on 

1. James Franklin won’t receive dramatic applause for beating Rutgers in his first Big Ten game, but I was impressed. Yes, it came against a turnover-happy Scarlet Knight team, and this is a game PSU should win. But with so much attention on the NCAA’s decision last week, you expected the focus to be off. This was a huge, impressive victory given the bizarre circumstances.

2. How about a little love for Bret Bielema and Arkansas? Bielema, of course, has been an easy target this year, but it’s obvious to see how much better Arkansas has gotten in one offseason. It’s not flashy, but when you run for 438 yards and score 48 points on the road, it doesn’t have to be. Good luck stopping those two backs.

3. On the topic of improving teams, let’s talk Colorado. After watching the Buffs and Arizona State in its entirety, I’ll say this: Colorado still has a long way to go before they’re a team the Pac-12 has to be worried about, but the progress is both impressive and obvious. Mike MacIntyre is doing an underrated job there; I hope he stays around long enough to see it through.

4. Bold uniform attempts, particularly with historic programs, typically fail. But the Shamrock Series uniforms Notre Dame wore against Purdue on Saturday night were absolutely lovely. The game itself wasn’t all that watchable, but at least both teams looked nice. Bright side, indeed.

Notre Dame uniforms😻🍀🔥 pic.twitter.com/dGhsVUkMDN

— Daquan Davis (@ShowtimeQUAN_) September 14, 2014

5. Myles Garrett is already must-see television for Texas A&M, and the true freshman has only played in three games. His five-and-a-half sacks are second in the country overall, and he has quickly become one of the more dynamic defensive ends in the SEC. With Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama coming up, it will be fascinating to see what he does next.

 

Fan of the Week: This Guy

This game is attracting all types of fans. This guy put tape on and then went to the beach. 90 minutes later: voila pic.twitter.com/9av2AfI7h2

— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) September 13, 2014

Wait, there’s more.

Guys, I didn't even tweet out that fan's back earlier: pic.twitter.com/cfUILqrTWz

— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) September 13, 2014

I have only one complaint, and it’s not the hat. If anything, the head accessory adds to this scene.

With that said, sir, you have to take that “I” and make it a “1.” I understand you might be new at this—it was taken at Rutgers, after all—but we take our pointless conference abbreviations seriously and you look like a serious man.

 

Your “Weird Football” Game of the Week

Thursday nights oftentimes deliver weird, entertaining games. These are not necessarily “good” games, but you will likely see something you've never seen before. If you watched BYU beat Houston on Thursday—staying with it beyond BYU-s 23-0 lead—you were treated to a luxury spread of weird. 

There was a Madden-like glitch from a Houston cornerback. I hate it when you press the triangle button too early.

There was an ejection for a punch that landed air.

Air punch http://t.co/xr3DHSuRix

— Michael Shamburger (@mshamburger1) September 12, 2014

There was this extra-point attempt.

And yes, there was a Hail Mary.

As always, thank you, weird football.

 

The Best, Worst Incompletion of the Year

Kent State's performance against Ohio State on Saturday could be summed up in one play. Colin Reardon will undoubtedly have better passes than this, although I feel like this should come with bonus points for creativity.

 

The Best, Worst Touchback of the Year 

East Carolina delivered an enormous upset on Saturday against Virginia Tech. It also gave its special teams coach a blunder that he can hang on his bathroom wall for guests to see. It's actually quite hypnotic.

 

Sometimes You Just Need a Hug

Kicking is football’s most unappreciated trade. When you make a kick, you are patted on the head and then forgotten. When you miss, you are the world’s largest goat in a spotlight the size of a swimming pool. 

UMass kicker Blake Lucas had the opportunity to tie Vanderbilt late in the game with a short field. Unfortunately, he was unable to deliver. As the spotlight kicked on, however, Lucas got a kind embrace from an expected place. Vanderbilt’s Adam Butler cut his celebration short to offer up a hug.

Sometimes, especially times like these, we could all use one.

 

Let's Play a Game: What is Will Muschamp Saying?

1. "I hate goat spit."

2. "Goals, kids!"

3. "Mulch it!"

4. "I feel like I'm doing a good job and there's no need for the hot seat talk."

 

From the Peanut Gallery (Best Tweets of the Weekend)

We are still waiting for the UK team to find the stadium. Other teams are usually here by now. Wonder if they will be as lost on the field.

— Gainesville Police (@GainesvillePD) September 13, 2014

What did Holgorsen say to Lambert before game-winning kick? "I haven't talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus."

— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) September 13, 2014

@mitch54@CorkGaines@daynperry omg pic.twitter.com/AiV4kkdtLK

— nick pants (@nick_pants) September 13, 2014

So is this good or nah? pic.twitter.com/SQGLyxqoMe

— Austin Steele (@AustinSteele) September 15, 2014 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M vs. SMU Complete Game Preview

The Texas A&M football team is 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in the country in the latest AP poll. The Aggies will take on the 0-2 SMU Mustangs on Saturday in Dallas. 

The Aggies are one of five teams from the West division of the SEC to earn a Top 10 ranking this week. They will be attempting to improve their record to 4-0 before they enter the meat of their SEC schedule. 

The Mustangs are coming off of a rather eventful bye week. SMU head coach June Jones resigned, leaving defensive coordinator Tom Mason in charge as the interim head coach. 

The Mustangs have been one of the worst teams in college football during the 2014 season. They have been outscored 86-6 in their previous two games. 

This is a look at how the Aggies and Mustangs match up with each other for their contest on Saturday.

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Five Oregon Football Players with the Most NFL Potential

Ever since Chip Kelly took over as the head coach in 2009, the University of Oregon program has turned into an NFL factory.  

The Ducks have had a phenomenal 13 players drafted in the past three years, most notably running backs LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and De'Anthony Thomas.

This year is no different, as the Oregon roster is filled with players who have the potential to play on Sundays.

It is one of the most talented teams in the nation, and you can assume that once the 2015 NFL draft comes around, there will be plenty of Oregon players called to the stage.

In this slideshow, I lay out my thoughts on the Oregon players with the best chance to succeed in the NFL. Check it out and see what you think.

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Five Oregon Football Players with the Most NFL Potential

Ever since Chip Kelly took over as the head coach in 2009, the University of Oregon program has turned into an NFL factory...

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College Football's All Week 3 First-Team: Top Performers at Every Position

While it wasn't the greatest slate of games in college football history, Week 3's schedule still managed to provide us with great finishes, big surprises and outstanding efforts, both individually and by teams.

Just how we like it.

With the possibility that every game can be a great one, each weekend we're glued to our couches, laptops and mobile devices hoping to catch a glimpse of the next amazing performance. But you can't catch them all live, not without risking a blown synapse or two in the brain, so we've culled through all 58 games from Week 3 to find the best individual efforts.

While statistics play a big role in determining top performers, sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story. We looked at the numbers, but also the way players impacted their game's outcome from an overall standpoint.

Take a look at Week 3's top performers, then let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Freshmen Power Rankings of the Week: Top 5

Another week of college football is behind us. It was another opportunity for freshmen across the country to make an impact for their team.

That's why the B/R freshmen power rankings are back. 

The freshmen on this list didn't technically have to start—as in, they didn't have to be the first player on the field at their respective position—but they did have to play at least a complementary or rotational role with at least one recordable stat. 

These rankings are also subject to change from week to week depending on who shines. As the season progresses, power rankings should even out more. 

So which freshmen stood out in Week 3? Which ones had the most jaw-dropping highlights? Which ones underwhelmed? The answers are in the list below.

 

The Standout 

I keep coming back to a pair of freshman defensive ends: Myles Garrett for Texas A&M and Malik McDowell for Michigan State. Since Sparty was off this week, the attention was solely on Garrett. And he didn't disappoint.

In a 38-10 win over Rice, Garrett had two-and-a-half sacks. That gives him five-and-a-half three games into the season, which is already a school record for a freshman, according to the Associated Press. A&M has a few key freshmen contributing this season, but Garrett has been a force since the first game. 

Through three games, he's second in the country in sacks and is closing in on Jadeveon Clowney's single-season record. 

Think about how good he's going to be when he gets better. It's terrifying. 

 

The Highlight

Duke running back Shaun Wilson had nine carries for 89 yards—averaging just a touch under 10 yards per carry—heading into the Blue Devils' Week 3 game against Kansas.

If you can believe it—and against Kansas, perhaps you can—Wilson doubled his yards per carry. Twelve rushes, 245 yards, three touchdowns. That's what Wilson recorded in a 41-3 win. Through three weeks, Wilson is the No. 18 rusher in the country on just 21 carries (h/t Ben Swain). 

 

Who's Rising?

How much longer can you overlook Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon? The competition to date has been sub-par, but Cannon nevertheless leads the nation with 471 yards. 

Following his 223-yard, three-touchdown performance against Northwestern State, Cannon had 189 receiving yards and a score in a blowout win over Buffalo.

Without a doubt, he's the Bears' best deep threat, filling in the role that Tevin Reese had last year. Like all true freshmen, he's still learning, but it's been mostly a seamless adjustment to college for him. 

"I've watched a lot of receivers, seen a bunch over 30-something years in coaching," said head coach Art Briles about Cannon after the Week 2 win against Northwestern State (via ESPN.com). "I came back and said that's the best guy I've ever seen as a high school receiver, no doubt. He's good. He's different."

 

Who’s Falling?

USC wide receiver/defensive back Adoree' Jackson. Look, everyone's going to have freshman moments and Jackson had them at the wrong time in an upset loss to Boston College as noted by the Los Angeles Register

Adoree’ Jackson set up USC’s second touchdown with a 50-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter. On the next BC kickoff, Jackson muffed the ball, returning it just 3 yards to the USC 10-yard line. That tilted field position in the Eagles’ favor.

Jackson also had a reception of the game, but it was for a loss of four yards. It just wasn't his best game. It wasn't USC's best game. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Auburn Ready for First National Test vs. Kansas State?

Is Auburn a contender or pretender?

Through two games, that question remains largely unanswered.

Sure, Auburn's defense buckled down in the second half against Arkansas and San Jose State, and the offense generally looks unstoppable—which is, for the most part, exactly how it looked last year.

If you thought Auburn was more of a contender heading into the season, the first two games confirmed your thoughts. If you thought last season's run to the SEC title was founded more on luck, you probably have spent the first three weeks of the season picking apart what you perceive to be the team's holes.

The world will find out who's right on Thursday night, as head coach Gus Malzahn will lead No. 5 Auburn to the "Little Apple" to take on 20th-ranked Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas. Not the easiest task. According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, the Wildcats are 130-31-1 at home since 1990.

But not all opponents are created equal.

The national broadcast on a Thursday night between two contenders will provide a big-time barometer for each team, and define the national landscape.

Is Auburn ready?

It certainly looks like it.

Replacing running back Tre Mason and offensive tackle Greg Robinson didn't seem to be an issue for these Tigers. All running back Cameron Artis-Payne has done is top the century mark on the ground in his first two games and averaged 6.88 yards per carry. Quarterback Nick Marshall joined him last week against San Jose State, when the senior signal-caller rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown. Speedster Corey Grant has settled back into his role off the edge with an eye-popping 8.8 yards per carry.

As I wrote last week, Marshall's progress as a passer—which was discussed at length during the offseason—isn't a necessity, it's a luxury.

This isn't a wide-open spread offense the Wildcats are accustomed to seeing in the Big 12. This is a smashmouth, two-back, run-it-right-down-your-throat rushing attack that will challenge Bill Snyder's crew at the line of scrimmage and test it endurance with tempo.

It's a philosophy which helps the Tigers on both sides of the ball. That brings me to a question that was asked of me and my co-host Michael Felder on the College Football Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sirius 93 XM 208) on Sunday morning.

Not really.

In fact, Arkansas' performance against Texas Tech actually makes me more impressed with Auburn's offense than anything else. This, admittedly, doesn't make a ton of sense on the surface.

Arkansas didn't get out of its game plan against Texas Tech. It imposed its will on the Red Raiders, who couldn't hang.

This is exactly what Auburn did to it Arkansas the week before in the season opener. The Tigers offense just kept coming, and one mistake—in this case, a pick-six thrown by Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen—forced the Hogs out of their game plan, which ultimately led to a Tigers' blowout win.

Business as usual for Auburn's defense, which has been successful in the second halves of games under Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. The Tigers have given up only three total points in the second half this year, and allowed just 11.2 points per game in the second half of games last year.

Auburn is so efficient with its offense that it almost always forces the game to be played at the pace head coach Gus Malzahn wants it to be played. When you have the opponent playing your game, it's usually "game over."

The Tigers are playing their brand of football, which will make them tough to beat anywhere.

Manhattan included.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and 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. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 3

Well, that was interesting. 

Week 3 is in the books, and now the college football landscape appears even more confusing than ever. It's certainly tough to put together a top 25 after Saturday's action.

South Carolina showed it wasn't, in fact, dead (a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and busted the SEC East race wide open with a 38-35 win over Georgia. 

Meanwhile, USC was unable to overcome a trip to Boston College in a stunning 37-31 upset. Virginia Tech couldn't capitalize on its win over Ohio State in Week 2, falling at home to East Carolina 28-21. 

Now The Associated Press, USA Today and Bleacher Report have the unenviable task of ranking the top 25 teams. The top 10 seems pretty set, but beyond that, it's a bunch of guesswork.

How did the polls look? Which teams are the hits and misses? The answers are in the following slides. 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 4 Polls

What a difference a week can make in college football.

Last weekend, USC was riding high after a 13-10 win over Stanford and entered the Top 10 in both the Associated Press and Amway polls. On Sunday, the team plummeted after losing to Boston College on the road.

South Carolina and Georgia both had their roles reversed in the eyes of SEC followers. The Gamecocks pulled off the upset at home to heal the wounds from a blowout loss to Texas A&M, while the Bulldogs likely dropped out of the College Football Playoff picture.

Here's a look at the full AP and Amway Week 4 polls following yet another enthralling weekend. The Amway Poll can be found here and the AP Poll can be found here.

 

Reaction

A loss to Boston College meant a huge drop for the Trojans, but just how far?

The loss knocked USC outside of the Top 20 in the Amway Poll. As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the loss was a huge shock this early in the season:

The numbers were staggering for USC, as its defense allowed 452 rushing yards. A nonconference loss hurts the Trojans in the national landscape, but Josh Furlong of KSL.com points out how much it hurt the Pac-12:

Georgia shared USC's upset woes, as the Bulldogs also dropped out of the Top 10 in both polls.

South Carolina was able to pull off a thrilling 38-35 win over UGA, moving to 2-1 on the young season. It wasn't all bad news for the Bulldogs, though, as they remained ahead of the Gamecocks in the Amway Poll.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports shares his thoughts on the change for the two programs:

Both are talented teams and remain contenders in the SEC. Unfortunately for both teams, early losses have likely dashed their hopes of participating in the College Football Playoff.

One team that has now entered the Playoff discussion is 3-0 Notre Dame. The Irish followed up a 31-0 win over Michigan with a decisive 30-14 victory against Purdue.

The early results have pushed the Irish into the Top 10 in the Coaches poll, per Comcast SportsNet:

With Everett Golson back under center, Notre Dame has looked strong thus far. But opponents such as Florida State, Arizona State and USC await them.

One trend that continued was the fact that preseason favorites in the Amway Poll have been underwhelming. The Gamecocks and Cardinal bounced back in Week 3, but were among teams that fell early.

But they weren't alone, as Jon Solomon of CBS Sports points out:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports also notes just how rare the occurrence is this early in the year:

Another wild week in college football means the rest of the season promises to bring more shakeups. Notre Dame and South Carolina may be on the rise for now, but each has a tough road ahead.

Several shocking results in Week 3 appear to be setting the stage for an interesting stretch leading up to the first College Football Playoff. The class of the country remains Florida State, but the season is far from over.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 4 Rankings Released

Most probably looked at the Week 3 college football schedule and expected a mundane, breezy slate of games in which the elite of the elite went on one last cupcake-mashing spree before conference play begins. 

Most would have been wrong.   

While the majority of the Top 25 was able to sneak through unscathed, Saturday's games were defined by a couple of notable upsets and closer-than-expected outcomes. The five teams atop the standings were able to avoid the wreckage, with idle Florida State retaining its No. 1 spot. 

Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma—all big winners on Saturday against unranked opponents—stay in the same order. Auburn, which was off this week, rounds out the Top Five. Here's a full look at the latest AP rankings along with Bleacher Report's Top 25.

The notable changes begin at No. 6, with Texas A&M ascending after Georgia's slight upset loss to South Carolina in Columbia. Spurred by Dylan Thompson's 271-yard, three-touchdown performance, the Gamecocks held a consistent lead throughout, staving off multiple Georgia comeback bids.

Their last game-saving play was one of the most memorable quarterback sneaks of 2014. Facing a 4th-and-inches and attempting to ice the game, Thompson barreled forward on a designed run—only to seemingly be stopped right at the first-down marker. A measurement gave South Carolina the first down by the tip of the football, and Thompson sealed the 38-35 victory.

“Some wins are better than others,” Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier, whose team moved up from No. 24 to No. 14, told reporters after the game, via Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. “This one was better than most others.” 

The win keeps South Carolina's hopes of an SEC East championship alive. A Top 10 outfit coming into 2014, the Gamecocks' national title chances were probably dashed with a 52-28 shellacking at the hands of Texas A&M in Week 1.

A couple of weeks later, Spurrier handed a similar fate to Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose play-calling was questioned during the fourth quarter. Richt gave star running back Todd Gurley 20 carries, which he promptly took for 131 yards. But Richt didn't give Gurley the ball on a 1st-and-goal at South Carolina's 4-yard line, quarterback Hutson Mason was called for an intentional-grounding penalty and three plays later, Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard field goal that would have tied the game.

"If I had to do it again, I'd have hammered it," Richt told The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

Richt's decision not to "hammer it" results in the Bulldogs dropping to No. 13.

Also on the losing end of an upset was USC, which saw its run defense implode in a 37-31 defeat against Boston College. Tyler Murphy rushed for 191 of the Eagles' 452 yards on the ground, leading a comeback from an early 17-6 deficit. Boston College averaged 8.4 yards per carry, as Myles Willis, Jon Hilliman and Sherman Alston each rushed for more than 50 yards. 

USC, meanwhile, couldn't muster 50 rushing yards total. Javorius Allen had 31 yards on 15 carries and Justin Davis gained only 10 on his six rushes, leaving quarterback Cody Kessler essentially on an island by himself. Kessler threw for 317 yards, four touchdowns and didn't turn the ball over, but it wasn't enough against an Eagles team that frankly just looked better.

"We had a great game plan to run the ball, but Boston College did a great job of loading the box," Kessler told the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "They did a good job of getting to me. We missed some assignments up front, and we should have made some better calls both offensively and by me."

The Trojans, who came into Week 3 ranked ninth, moved back to No. 17. Boston College, which a week ago lost to a shaky Pitt team, remains unranked.

The other notable upset of the week struck a team that was celebrating its own triumph just seven days prior. Virginia Tech's toppling of Ohio State last Saturday vaulted the Hokies to No. 17, sparked talks of a Beamer Ball revival and made Columbus again bemoan the loss of Braxton Miller. This Saturday, they were on the other end, as East Carolina scored a touchdown with 16 seconds remaining to give the Pirates a 28-21 win in Blacksburg.

Shane Carden accounted for all four East Carolina touchdowns, highlighted by a 21-0 run in the first quarter. The Hokies slowly chipped their way back into the game and scored a touchdown with 1:20 remaining that seemingly signaled overtime. But Carden came through once more in the clutch, completing two downfield strikes and then sneaking the ball in from one yard out.

"Just believing," Carden told the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, of how his team fought back after the Virginia Tech score. "Just continuing to believe. We just made some routine plays. They were playing some good defense there in the second half and we couldn't get a lot going. But we just kept believing, believing in our coaches."

East Carolina has become a popular foil. It nearly knocked off South Carolina on the road last week, and will have an opportunity to take down North Carolina at home next Saturday. The American Athletic Conference outfit is establishing itself as an early conference championship favorite.

The Tar Heels will have to be on upset alert next week after watching their conference foes fall on Saturday.

Louisville was the only other Top 25 team to lose in Week 3, as Virginia's defense sent a strong reminder that Teddy Bridgewater is irreplaceable in a 23-21 win. Will Gardner completed only 14-of-34 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. Cavaliers quarterback Greyson Lambert also struggled, but he accounted for two critical touchdowns during Virginia's 20-7 run through three quarters.

The Cardinals and Hokies are the two teams to drop outside the Top 25 this week.

Replacing them at No. 24 and No. 25, respectively, are Nebraska and Oklahoma State. The Cornhuskers atoned for their near upset loss to McNeese State last week with a 55-19 domination of Fresno State on Saturday. Oklahoma State has beaten up on cupcakes the past two weeks in Missouri State and UTSA, but its only loss of the season was a nail-biter to Florida State.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 4 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

Not many upsets were on the forecast for Saturday's slate of games, but that all changed when said games were played. A handful of surprising outcomes shook up the Week 4 Associated Press and Amway coaches polls that were released Sunday.

Week 3 only featured one game between two Top 25 teams, as No. 24 South Carolina hosted sixth-ranked Georgia and mounted the upset over the Bulldogs. But that doesn't mean that the rest of them were safe—a few were anything but.

With unpredictable upsets on one hand, and touted schools taking care of tests elsewhere, the Top 25 jostled around again in a big way.

Here's a look at the new Week 4 Amway poll courtesy of USA Today, the newest AP poll per The Associated Press and the Week 4 Bleacher Report Top 25. 

 

The biggest loser from the new Top 25 has to be the Georgia Bulldogs.

A convincing, season-opening win over Clemson was all washed away with a trip to the SEC East-rival South Carolina Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier's crew took a 24-13 lead into the locker room and rose up with a late goal-line stand to help seal the victory.

Georgia has never posted back-to-back wins over ranked teams to start the season, and failing to do so in 2014 has made it an uphill climb to get back into College Football Playoff contention. The Bulldogs fell to No. 14 in the Amway rankings. 

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks—who know all about discouraging defeats after a season-opening loss to Texas A&M—shot back up the rankings. It's safe to say they were tired of hearing about their fellow SEC East contenders, per Josh Kendall of The State (Columbia, South Carolina):

The Gamecocks had fallen all the way to No. 24 in Week 3 after escaping East Carolina but have nearly pulled ahead of previously No. 6 Georgia in Week 4. 

Speaking of East Carolina, the Pirates got in on the action Saturday by surprising Virginia Tech. The formerly 17th-ranked Hokies were upset at home 28-21, forcing them to plummet out of the Top 25 altogether.

The Pirates notched 35 top-25 votes in the coaches poll, good for 33rd overall, and could sneak closer by beating North Carolina at home next weekend. 

The upsets continued with the previously 21st-ranked Louisville Cardinals falling to Virginia, which slipped Bobby Petrino's team out of the Top 25 after a brief two-week stay. 

The USC Trojans know something about a deflating upset. After climbing up to No. 9 coming off a road win over Stanford, the Trojans headed east to face Boston College and fell in a 37-31 affair.

The Trojans were in the Top 10 in all three aforementioned polls last weekend but now fell to No. 17 in the AP and all the way to No. 21 in the coaches poll. 

The Oregon Ducks, on the other hand, continue to prove why they can't be overlooked as one of the top teams in the standings. Marcus Mariota led the Ducks to a 48-14 win over Wyoming, allowing them to slide into No. 3 in the Amway poll and remain No. 2 in the AP.

Alabama took care of things once again at home Saturday, toppling Southern Miss 52-12 behind a big day from quarterback Blake Sims and another huge day from Amari Cooper, as ESPN SportsCenter noted:

The win allowed the Crimson Tide to remain No. 2 overall in the Amway poll, but they couldn't climb past Oregon in the AP and will look to make a statement next weekend against Florida.

It's no surprise that all of them are still looking up at Florida State. The Seminoles were on a bye this weekend but face Clemson on Sept. 20, and a big win there will further validate their No. 1 spot for the defending champs.

Analyzing the Week 4 standings too much can be counterproductive with so many games on tap in upcoming weekends that will shake things up even more. The only guarantee is change, and that is being proven in 2014 yet again.

Whether it's USC slipping up after a big upset of Stanford, Virginia Tech losing following the Ohio State win or South Carolina bouncing back to beat Georgia after their early-season shortcomings, early signs for many teams have been up-and-down. 

If those trends continue, we could be in for one of the craziest college football seasons yet—and that's saying something.

 

Stats via ESPN

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff 2014: Updated Outlook After Release of Week 4 Rankings

There was a whole lot of offense in Week 3 of the 2014 college football season.

Ohio State dropped 66 points on Kent State in a shutout. Baylor notched 63 against Buffalo. Alabama torched the Southern Miss defense for 52. And those results were just the tip of the iceberg.

Ranked teams were largely successful in Week 3. Georgia, USC, Virginia Tech and Louisville were unable to beat their opponents, though the Bulldogs loss came at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

With Week 3 now in the books, it's time to look ahead to Week 4. The college football season is in full swing. While the standings will continue to shift week to week, each passing game day will bring more clarity to the playoff picture.

Below are the updated rankings after Week 3.

 

Outlook

The Florida State Seminoles weren't in action during Week 3, but that doesn't mean they need to be bumped from the top spot. There's plenty of reason to love this squad just as much as last year's national championship team.

Jameis Winston is a Heisman candidate, and the offense has looked solid through two games—granted, Oklahoma State and Citadel aren't exactly the cream of the crop of college football.

Another Heisman candidate, Marcus Mariota, put on an absolute show on Saturday. The Oregon Ducks signal-caller completed 19-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns against Wyoming. He also ran five times for 71 yards and another two scores.

Mariota drew rave reviews from Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, who spoke to reporters after the game.

"I don't know if anyone in this room has a vote for the Heisman Trophy, but I encourage you to take a look at your ballot there for [this] quarterback. He's a tremendous player and I thought he played extremely well."

Oregon's fast start to this season is reminiscent of its dominant stretch to start last year. Beating up on South Dakota and Wyoming isn't all that impressive, but dropping 46 points on a stellar Michigan State defense is noteworthy.  

It's worth considering that all three of Oregon's wins have come at home. It'll be interesting to see if the Ducks can keep this blistering pace up when they hit the road in Week 4 against Washington State.

The Alabama Crimson Tide were dominant on both offense and defense against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The defense allowed just three points in each quarter, stifling Southern Miss's offense and holding it to just 263 total yards.

Their offense more than doubled that mark (547). Quarterback Blake Sims was 12-of-17 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. It was a pretty pedestrian performance, as the running game took center stage. 

Eight rushers, including Sims, combined for 333 yards. Derrick Henry led the way with 73 yards, but Kenyan Drake totaled three touchdowns on his nine carries (59 yards).

In this offense's first season without AJ McCarron, the running game has really stepped up. This will keep the Crimson Tide in contention for the playoffs and 2014 title.

Week 4 presents fans of college football with incredible matchups. Auburn and Kansas State kick off the week on Thursday night, while Clemson and Florida State square off in one of the final games on Saturday.

The rankings could see a significant shakeup following the results of Week 4.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

The SEC East Favorite Might Not Be Georgia or South Carolina Anymore

Do you hear that noise coming from the "Show Me State?"

That's the defending SEC East champion Missouri Tigers cruising right along, doing exactly what they were doing last year when they finished the regular season with one SEC loss and played Auburn tough in the SEC Championship Game.

With South Carolina and Georgia—the two preseason favorites in the division—each having conference losses, and Florida looking less-than-impressive against Kentucky, is it time to start thinking about Missouri as the SEC East favorite?

Yep, and it has more to do with how the Tigers are playing than anything else.

Missouri topped UCF 38-10 on Saturday afternoon to run its record to 3-0 and has looked very impressive in the process. 

Maty Mauk completed just 51.1 percent of his passes last season as a backup and fill-in starter with three wide receivers who resembled NBA power forwards. All three of those players left after the 2013 season, and all Mauk has done is complete 62.3 percent of his passes (48-of-77) for 647 yards, an SEC-best 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions, while adding 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The best is yet to come.

“Wait until he gets good," head coach Gary Pinkel said after the game, according to Missouri's quotes. "There are a lot of things out there that he can do to improve and he knows that. He’s a great, gamey player, he can make plays, he does those things and he’s got some players making some plays for him. But he can get considerably better.”

That's scary. 

Part of the reason Mauk has been successful early on has been the connection he has established with wide receiver Bud Sasser.

The senior has a team-high 12 catches for 215 yards and four touchdowns, leading a talented wide receiving corps that includes Darius White and Jimmie Hunt. All three of Mauk's primary targets have double-digit receptions and have helped him transition into the role as a full-time starter.

No Henry Josey? No problem.

Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have picked up right where Josey left off on the ground. Hansbrough is averaging 86 yards per game through three games, and Murphy is adding 68 himself as more of a changeup, home-run hitter.

Both of those players were banged-up in the win over UCF, but according to Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, they should return quickly.

Defensively, it's the same recipe as last year.

Markus Golden and Shane Ray are tied for second in the SEC with four sacks each, and Ray leads the conference with 7.5 tackles for loss. They're generating pressure with four, and then capitalizing with a conference-best nine turnovers gained and four fumble recoveries.

“Each week me and Marcus just go out and try to play to the best of our abilities, make as many plays as we can," Ray said in postgame quotes released by Missouri. "Just play how we are expected to play by [defensive coordinator] coach [Dave] Steckel, run to the ball and be physical. It doesn’t really matter if Marcus is in the spotlight or I’m in the spotlight as long as we are doing what we are supposed to do as a defense.”

This is the same Missouri team that was picked to finish fourth in the division at SEC Media Days. 

Pinkel doesn't care, he just goes about his business playing "Missouri football."

"I don't get into what is said or what's predicted," he said at SEC Media Days in July. "Someone apologized to me a little while ago the way they voted after this thing. I said, I don't know how you voted for us, I don't really care."

In an SEC East, why not Missouri?

Because the Tigers haven't played anybody?

UCF isn't exactly a "nobody," but that argument can certainly be made to a point. It'd be cancelled out, though, by the ability of Missouri to play the same old brand of football it was successful with last season with several new pieces in place of last year's stars.

It's about to get tricky, though.

After hosting Indiana this week, the Tigers visit South Carolina, get a needed bye week, host Georgia and visit Florida. By the end of October, we're going to know full-well if Missouri is a contender or pretender.

So far they've looked like a contender while flying under the radar. Which is, not surprisingly, the same path Missouri took early last year during its run to the SEC East title.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and 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. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 4 Rankings Released

Even in a week without many big-time showdowns, the college football slate provided plenty of surprises.

There was only one game in Week 3 between Top 25 opponents as South Carolina pulled out a win over Georgia. However, four ranked teams went down in total this weekend, including two in the Top 10. None of them was more surprising than USC's loss to Boston College.  

This has caused a relatively notable shift in the rankings heading into Week 4. Here is a full look at the latest Amway Coaches Poll from USA Today, along with Bleacher Report's Top 25.

Arguably the best battle of the past week went to the SEC as South Carolina came through with a narrow 38-35 win over Georgia.

This was an exciting game that featured huge performances from Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson and Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley, but after all the scoring it came down to a quarterback sneak in the middle of the field.

Holding a three-point lead in the closing minutes, South Carolina went for it on fourth down with Thompson running it up the middle. After the spot was placed, the call was a first down by this much:

ESPN's Michele Steele interviewed head coach Steve Spurrier about the decision to go for it after the game:

His team dropped in the rankings after a Week 1 loss to Texas A&M, but this latest win puts it right back in the discussion for the best teams in the SEC East. South Carolina moved up to No. 16 in the latest rankings while Georgia fell to No. 14 as a playoff berth now seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, USC is also trending downward after a shocking loss at the hands of Boston College. The Pac-12 team was coming off a huge win over Stanford and was once again looking like a national title contender. However, this no longer appears to be the case after a classic letdown game.

Boston College rushed for 452 yards and five touchdowns, including 191 yards on the ground by quarterback Tyler Murphy on just 13 attempts. The Trojans defense simply had no answer for the rushing attack and fell 37-31.

Eagles coach Steve Addazio explained it all by saying, "We out-desired them," via Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.

USC fell to No. 21 in the latest poll, but more importantly might have taken itself out of the national title picture. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead provides an updated look at the College Football Playoff:

While there is clearly a lot of time left in the season, these types of disappointing losses end up becoming huge down the line.

Week 3 also featured a letdown performance from Virginia Tech, which lost at home to East Carolina after defeating Ohio State a week earlier. Louisville also fell from the rankings after a loss to Virginia. 

The good news is the top teams remained undefeated as Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma took care of business against unranked opponents.

UCLA also had a notable win over Texas after starting quarterback Brett Hundley was injured early, as Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com reported. While Jerry Neuheisel helped the Bruins improve to 3-0 with a 20-17 victory, they will certainly hope Hundley is able to return soon.

The action continues to pick up next week as No. 1 Florida State welcomes its first real test of the season in No. 24 Clemson. The Seminoles embarrassed the Tigers 51-14 last season, but this is a new year and there is always the chance at revenge.

Auburn also takes on Kansas State in an intriguing non-conference game, while Oklahoma has a potentially tricky road battle in West Virginia.

In a sport where one bad game can ruin your season, there will be plenty to watch in the coming week.

 

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

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Everett Golson's Ability to Carry Notre Dame Is Key Difference in 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — On a night when Notre Dame football quarterback Everett Golson wasn’t at his best, he showed how far he has come.

A quick glance at Golson’s stat line tells one story. He completed a career-high 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for a team-best 56 yards and a score. He didn’t turn the ball over.

A conversation with Golson and Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly tells another.

“Offensively, missed opportunities for the most part,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s 30-14 win over Purdue in the Shamrock Series at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We needed to play better. Everett is going to get a lot of the blame. Obviously, he's the quarterback. He'll tell you he needs to play better.”

While Kelly went on to say it’s the entire offense that needs to improve—from the offensive line to the wide receivers to the running backs—Golson agreed he wasn’t at his best.

“We didn’t play to the best of our abilities,” Golson said. “There’s still things that we have to correct. We have to execute better obviously. We have to communicate better.”

But with the Irish defense lethargic in the first half and the rushing attack anemic throughout the contest, Golson proved he could carry the team. And that was one major difference in an otherwise standard Purdue-Notre Dame matchup of recent years—when the Irish play a little below the expectation and the Boilermakers rise above. Golson, however, made sure the meeting point wasn’t all that central in the end.

After Notre Dame fell behind for the first time this season with three minutes to play in the second quarter, Golson went to work. He maneuvered the offense in slow, choppy bits—eight yards here, seven there, five here and six more there—before Notre Dame burned a timeout with 51 seconds remaining in the half. With an empty backfield, Golson fired a 32-yard strike to Corey Robinson over the top of the Purdue defense. Two plays later, Golson ran 15 yards around the right side to put the Irish ahead 17-14, a lead they would never relinquish.

It was sometime right around then—Golson and his teammates didn’t remember the exact moment—that the senior leader called the offense together.

“He just said, look guys, we need to focus,” Robinson said. “I know we’re going through some really tough adversity right now. It’s not going our way, but we’ve got to pull together—not for anyone else, just for us. We put too much work in for us not to succeed.”

With the defense holding stronger in the second half, Golson started moving the chains as the offense looked to pull away. He converted four of five third downs through the air on the first two drives in the second half. With relative ease, Golson made the right reads, and Notre Dame kept driving. The Irish soon padded their lead and rolled to the victory.

It wasn’t a perfect Golson on display Saturday—and it was only Purdue—but it was a different Golson from his redshirt freshman season in 2012.

“He just understands the game,” Kelly said. “The game is slower for him than it was when he was here in his first year. The game has slowed down. He sees the field better.”

And it adds up to a much-improved Golson and a much-improved Irish offense. Despite the first-half stupor, Golson is good enough to key a Notre Dame victory—even when he doesn’t play exceptionally well.

“I had confidence through it all,” Golson said. “For me there never was a point … that I thought we were going to lose.”

If Golson keeps developing quickly, Irish fans could start feeling the same way.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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