The USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are two of the hottest teams in college football.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you liked seeing both Blake Sims and Jake Coker get meaningful quarterback snaps on Saturday, you’ll get a chance to see it again against Southern Miss.
Alabama’s quarterback competition will continue into at least the third game of the season and could go into the Florida game.
“We're making those evaluations on a day-to-day basis,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “We're not really ready to make any kind of prediction on what we should do in the Florida game when we're playing Southern Miss this week. That's really kind of what we're focused on right now.”
We’ve seen good and bad from both players through two games this year. Let's break down some improvements that both players could make in their game performance.
Blake Sims: Open it up
Sims has done an excellent job of running Kiffin’s offense successfully up to this point. For him, that’s meant a lot of screens and quick throws to take advantage of the defenses Alabama has faced so far. That’s all well and good, as the offense has moved efficiently under his watch.
What we haven’t seen from him is consistent accuracy on downfield throws.
TideSports.com’s D.C. Reeves tracked Sims' throws through two games and found that his passes traveled an average of 2.3 yards in the air against Florida Atlantic and 5.3 yards against West Virginia before receivers took over after the catch.
Again, that’s worked against the teams Alabama has played so far. But he hasn’t shown much in the way of medium- or long-range throws.
Jake Coker: Control arm strength
Coker’s advantage in this competition is arm strength, so he was no doubt eager to show it off Saturday.
Now, he needs to get it under control.
Coker overshot a deep ball to ArDarius Stewart and underthrew one to Amari Cooper on his second drive. He had a screen pass to 6’4” Cam Sims that sailed well over his head. And on a fade to Cooper from the five, he gunned it to Cooper's back shoulder for an incompletion instead of floating it over the defender. SEC Network cameras caught Cooper pointing up after that play as if to signal he wanted the ball thrown up.
Later in the game, Coker hit a 43-yarder to Cooper and a 40-yarder to Stewart. The arm strength is clearly there, but it’s just a matter of consistency now.
Both: Game management
“Game manager” is a label that gets slapped on every Alabama quarterback, often with a negative connotation. But Nick Saban expects his signal-callers to understand the offense situationally, limiting errors as much as possible, which shouldn’t be considered a weakness at all.
Coker had a golden opportunity to show those management skills in the second quarter and failed.
He led Alabama from its own 22 to the FAU 4-yard line in about 50 seconds. But with a timeout remaining and only a handful of seconds left to try one more shot to the end zone, he scrambled around trying to find an open receiver and took a sack after time had expired, rather than getting down and settling for a field goal.
That drew the ire of Saban and rightfully so. He’s not going to turn his offense over to a guy who can’t properly manage a situation like that and leave easy points on the field.
Sims had a similar goal-line outcome as Coker but with a different cause.
Early in the third quarter on the 1-yard line, Sims went to handoff to T.J. Yeldon. Only Yeldon wasn’t expecting it.
Yeldon appeared to be setting up to pass-block and the result was a lost fumble that cost points. Judging by Saban's reaction, it was Sims’ fault, whether it was a communication issue or otherwise.
That’s another management issue that makes Saban pull his hair out.
Taking care of the ball and maximizing offensive output, even if that means settling for a field goal or taking a punt, are two critical factors Saban looks for in his quarterback and could be what eventually settles this competition.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.
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Life is good for LSU fans.
The Tigers are a somewhat lucky 2-0 this season. Head coach Les Miles had one of his patented comebacks against Wisconsin in the season opener. Last week, the team dominated Sam Houston State in its first shutout since 2010.
Two games is a small sample size to judge how good the Tigers will be in 2014.
With that said, there are some clear causes of concern going forward Miles must address. On the other hand, there have been some bright spots Miles should feel comfortable about as well.
Here is what LSU fans should and shouldn't be concerned about going forward.
There will be more glamorous weeks in the not-too-distant future. That’s an ominous way to preview Chapter 3 of the college football season, although it requires no real confirmation if you glanced at the slate of games. Chances are, you’ve done your homework.
That’s not to say there aren’t impactful matchups. Take Georgia and South Carolina, for starters. The winner of this game will immediately vault to another level in the SEC; one could quickly become a national-championship contender, the other could continue its climb back upward.
And even if that game doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are point spreads in place to level the playing field in each and every Week 3 matchup. When you factor in these handicaps—some of which are substantial—all games become competitive. That’s one way to sell it.
Using the most recent AP Top 25 Poll, all games featuring Top 25 teams have been picked. In our new format, the 10 most intriguing matchups of the week will have their own breakdown. The remaining games will be broken down, briefly, on the final slide.
Thanks to a rain-shortened Alabama-FAU game, we were above .500 in Week 2. The plan is to elevate the results as we go. So, let’s go.
All spreads are courtesy of Oddshark.com unless noted otherwise.
The first two weeks of the 2014 college football season brought significant shake-ups to the nation’s Top 25 polls. In this week’s Associated Press poll, the Top 10 features four teams—Georgia, Texas A&M, USC and LSU—that did not begin the season in such rarefied air.
While Week 1 and Week 2 generated plenty of headlines, Week 3 looks more like a table-setter for the weeks to come. There is only one matchup of Top 25 teams, with No. 6 Georgia traveling to No. 24 South Carolina.
Only three teams are less than double-digit favorites against their opponents, per OddsShark.com. ESPN’s popular College GameDay show is straying off the beaten path, making a stop at FCS power North Dakota State for the second consecutive year.
Odds are that when the Week 4 polls are released Sunday afternoon, they’ll look much the same as they do now. But that attitude could also portend a crazy week of upsets and strange finishes. Who knows?
Read on to find out the projected Top 25 for next week.
There have not been wholesale changes to our (or anybody's) ranking of the best players in the country two weeks into the college football season. But enough has happened in the past 20 days to shake up the list here and there.
Specifically, we have gotten our first material look at who has improved and regressed this offseason. No more relying on beat reporters. No more unsourced tidbits out of camp. We finally get to see it with our own eyes and make our own, singular judgements.
This updated list is a reaction, but not an overreaction, to what we have seen through two weeks of the season. It doesn't stray too far from the lists you probably read in the preseason, because it, like those, is based mostly on the performances of last year.
But what of the high-upside sophomore who has finally put everything together? What of the breakout star who may or may not be for real? We can't pretend the first two weeks are a representative sample, but there's more data now than there was two weeks ago, right?
Here is your updated top 50.
Note: Recruiting information provided by 247Sports.
Establishing a consistent and multidimensional run game is vital for UCLA football in its pursuit of the 2014 Pac-12 Conference championship. The No. 12-ranked Bruins can take a big step to that end Saturday in their final nonconference date, a showdown with Texas.
The multidimensional part of that equation is a given for UCLA heading into AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as Bruins head coach Jim Mora explained on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference.
"We go into every game with the plan of playing multiple backs," Mora said. "You have to be able to do that, just to take the load off guys."
Running backs Jordon James, Paul Perkins and Nate Starks factored into the plan in Week 2 against Memphis and will share the load in Week 3 against the Longhorns.
A diverse ground game is a proven road map for success against this Texas team. Its Week 2 opponent, Brigham Young, flourished employing multiple rushers. Six Cougars combined to rack up 248 yards on the ground.
A multifaceted and potent running attack is also a common theme for recent Pac-12 champions: Four of the conference's last five winners ranked No. 22 or better nationally in rushing offense.
Expect UCLA to bring its most varied approach of this season into action Saturday.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has certainly shown no qualms about throwing a variety of ball-carriers at opposing defenses. The Bruins had one of the most unique run games in college football a season ago—though more out of necessity than strategy.
James opened the 2013 campaign with three consecutive games of more than 100 yards on the ground, capably taking up the mantle UCLA's all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin left behind after 2012.
James has yet to duplicate that same level of production since injuring his ankle in Week 4 of 2013. His yards per carry in three games after the injury were 1.3, 1.8 and 3.4. This season, James has had outputs of three yards on five carries against Virginia and two yards on two carries against Memphis.
James will still see touches as the Bruins try to establish a multifaceted running attack.
"We want to still see Jordon James be productive," Mora said.
But UCLA has had to adjust without him before. Last season, the Bruins filled the void James' injury left with quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Myles Jack, who led the Bruins in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, respectively.
Both Hundley and Jack have had ball-carrying opportunities in 2014: Jack has a touchdown, and Hundley's 65 yards are second most among all Bruins through two games.
Hundley's running ability injected much-needed life into the UCLA offense in the Week 1 win over Virginia. He scored the team's only offensive touchdown that afternoon on a six-yard rush, carrying a Cavaliers defender with him into the end zone.
He showed off a blend of both straight-ahead power as well as a particular knack for misdirection via the zone read:
Look for Hundley to establish himself as a running threat much earlier in Week 3. The Texas defense is a week removed from surrendering 99 yards and three touchdowns to BYU quarterback Taysom Hill. The Longhorns also closed 2013 by allowing Hundley's Pac-12 counterpart Marcus Mariota 133 yards on the ground.
The designed Hundley runs that buoyed the Bruins in Week 1 can exploit deficiencies in the Longhorns front seven. Meanwhile, another Bruin who played a critical role in the second half at Virginia will again be central to Saturday's effort.
Perkins' helped jump-start UCLA at Virginia, with the bulk of his 80 yards coming in the second half.
"The start of the second half against Virginia, he just came alive," Mora said. "He's got that slashing style. He's got really good vision. He's got patience behind the line of scrimmage to let the hole open, and then when he sees it, he's able to put his foot in the ground and go.
"Paul's really stood out to us," he added.
The coaching staff's confidence in Perkins now is evident. Used primarily as a change-of-pace back in 2013, he was the Bruins' featured ball-carrier against Memphis.
Perkins capitalized on the opportunity with 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Perkins should head the Bruins rushing attack again at Texas, but Mora said they won't hesitate to give James and Starks carries, as well.
"If one of those guys gets hot, then we're going to work the ball to them," Mora said. He laughed and added: "Hopefully, in an ideal world, they'd all get hot."
Should UCLA go into Pac-12 play with more than one hot hand in the backfield, the Bruins could be running to a conference championship.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com.
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College football's Week 3 slate lacks some of the firepower the opening two weeks brought to the table, but that is no excuse to miss out on the action.
After some brave scheduling by those in charge the first two weeks, only a notable few games will impact the polls in a major way this upcoming weekend. Heavyweights such as No. 1 Florida State have the weekend off before getting into the real meat of the schedule.
Highlighted by one key marquee matchup, let's take a look at the full weekend's slate and the viewing info when applicable. Fans on the hunt to watch their favorite team, like always, can also fire up a live stream.
2014 College Football Week 3 Schedule
Live Stream Resource
Below is a database for the biggest streaming services out there for fans on the go or who do not get a game on the old-fashioned television.
Fox: Fox Sports Go
ABC: ABC Live
Matchups to Watch
Rice vs. No. 7 Texas A&M
Alright, so this is not exactly some ground-breaking contest that will be close in any sense of the word.
After all, the Rice Owls out of Conference USA are already 0-1 after acting as the punching bag for Notre Dame at the end of August. In that 48-17 loss, star quarterback Driphus Jackson threw for just 163 yards and a touchdown and interception, but he also led the team in rushing with 61 yards on 11 totes.
The Owls must now travel to College Station.
No, the interest here has to do with Texas A&M. Some may know them as the team doomed by the departure of a guy named Johnny Manziel, inaugural playoff surely a dream at best.
Except not really. The Aggies are arguably the biggest surprise in the collegiate football landscape at this juncture. They are 2-0 after a season-opening upset of then-ranked No. 9 South Carolina 52-28 before a blowout of Lamar with a score of 73-3.
The reason can be traced to one man—coach Kevin Sumlin. Numbers provided by College GameDay do all the talking:
Despite the gaudy numbers through two games of the post-Johnny era, Sumlin wants more.
"I told them after the game: `That wasn't our best football. We could play better," he said, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "We left some things on the table. We had some penalties that were needless. Turnovers."
For those rolling the eyes, Sumlin does point out that the team lost the turnover battle 3-2.
The main attraction remains under center when it comes to the Aggies thanks to sophomore Kenny Hill. He's an entrant in the Heisman sweepstakes at this point after 511 yards and three scores at South Carolina and another 283 and four before hitting the bench against Lamar.
Saturday's late contest won't provide much competition, sure, but don't tell that to the perfectionist who is Sumlin.
No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina
Buried in the depths of Week 3 is one of the year's most underrated matchups.
The aforementioned Gamecocks essentially have their season on the line Saturday against Georgia, a team that turned many heads with its triumph in the opening week over then-ranked No. 16 Clemson 45-21.
South Carolina stumbled out of the gates with that loss to the Aggies and really did not look so hot against East Carolina in a 10-point win, either. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson actually regressed in his second game, throwing for just one touchdown and interception. Star running back Mike Davis has been relatively quiet in the first two contests of the year, too.
It has been the exact opposite for Georgia.
Hutson Mason took the reins from the now-pro quarterback Aaron Murray and was sound enough in the win over Clemson. More importantly, star running back and Heisman contender Todd Gurley already has 198 yards and three touchdowns—on 15 carries.
Per Seth Emerson of The Telegraph, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is one of many who respects what Gurley is capable of, saying, "Hopefully we can slow him down a little bit. But he's gonna get his yards, there's no question about that. He's going to get his yards against everybody."
It gives you a chance to take a little bit of a break and see what you’re doing, see if you think you’re on the right path. The whole key is that you want to get better fundamentally during the open date and maybe even get stronger during the open date. You also want to get far enough ahead of the game plan so you can get the repetitions of it. We had what we thought was our plan going into this week and we got more information from the East Carolina game so it’s just comparing notes and making sure we are on the right track. Hopefully it’ll help us.
In a matchup that will likely decide the SEC East, Richt will surely take any advantage he can get.
Sure to be a run-first, gritty affair, fans will want to set aside time for this one.
Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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Exposed. Unprepared. Disappointing.
These were all used to describe Ohio State's lackluster offensive performance against Virginia Tech Saturday night. The 35-21 loss showcased a woeful outing from a team stocked with 4- and 5-star talent.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett only completed nine of his 29 pass attempts and threw three interceptions. The Buckeyes rushed for just 108 yards, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. The offensive line surrendered six sacks in the game's final nine minutes—and seven total—while failing to open any consistent lanes for the running backs.
Virginia Tech's Cover 0 scheme and bear front surprised Ohio State, and when looking back, Urban Meyer lamented what could have been.
“Pain of regret is phenomenal, and there is so much regret about things we could have done better to win that game,” Meyer said, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. “But there are positives and we'll address those in great detail tomorrow.”
With the memory of Virginia Tech's defense swarming through the minds of Buckeye fans, it's hard to fathom what positives Meyer drew from Saturday's upset loss.
But Meyer is right. Despite the inefficiency Ohio State showed against Virginia Tech, there is still a lot of potential for this offense.
It starts up front.
For the Buckeyes to establish a rhythm, they have to get better play from the offensive line. That's easier said than done—Ohio State is replacing four multiyear senior starters along the unit, and that process is clearly behind schedule.
That much became clear right out of the gate, when the Buckeyes struggled against an undersized and overmatched Navy defense.
“I’m very disappointed," Meyer said after the season opener, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone. "There is a standard set for offensive line play for many, many years and it’s been enhanced by our line coach Ed Warinner over the past few."
Warinner, though, is the biggest reason for optimism. Under his guidance in 2012, Ohio State's offensive line transformed from one of the team's greatest weaknesses into its biggest strength. The turnaround was noticed nationally, as Warinner was named FootballScoop's Offensive Line Coach of the Year.
If he can work that same magic this year, the Buckeyes offense could utilize their many playmakers.
Even during the dreadful performance against Virginia Tech, Ohio State showed flashes of potential. Barrett showed some elusiveness in back-to-back 20- and 25-yard runs midway through the first quarter. Dontre Wilson hauled in a circus catch to start the second quarter despite blanket coverage. Michael Thomas gave the Buckeyes a spark early in the third when he took a quick slant 53 yards to the house.
Things unraveled in the fourth quarter, though, when Ohio State managed just 33 total yards. The offensive line collapsed, stifling any chance of a Buckeyes rally.
It also prevented Ohio State from getting its running backs involved.
Much has been written about the Buckeyes' deep stable of backs, but through eight quarters of play, Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and Rod Smith have failed to produce at half the level Carlos Hyde did for the Buckeyes a season ago.
It's not a lack of talent that's bogging down the Ohio State offense, though. With Barrett, Wilson, Elliott and a host of others, the Buckeyes are brimming with potential.
All they need is some blocking up front and a clear identity to be established by the coaching staff. If that happens, Ohio State could be lighting up Big Ten scoreboards in the coming weeks.
That's the message Meyer preached to his team after the Virginia Tech loss—the Buckeyes can still have a special season.
"Coach Meyer let us know in the locker room that 11-1 isn't bad," Adolphus Washington said, according to Bill Landis of The Plain Dealer. "We just have to come back hungry next week."
All stats via OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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ATLANTA — Down here in the South, we didn't mind so much that previous Oregon coach. He had a good ol' boy name, Chip. He wore a visor, just like the Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier. Chip Kelly had a bread basket on him, too, as if he had been through the routine a few times of mopping up what was left of the ribs with a loaf from the Piggly Wiggly. He dueled with the NCAA and, well, we won't get into all the programs down here that did like Chip, or worse, with regard to rules violations.
We sure liked Chip, mostly because we could thump him in the big games.
We didn't think much of Chip's football. His teams were more slick than stout. We prefer 18-wheelers and Chip came at us with scooters, and we ran them into a ditch. Auburn, with a below-average SEC defense, held the Ducks 30 points under their scoring average in the 2010 title game. LSU toyed with Chip's Ducks eight months later to start the 2011 season (40-27).
This new guy, though. He's a threat. We better keep an eye on Chip's replacement.
This column is supposed to be about Oregon coach Mark Helfrich getting out from under the shadow of Kelly, who had 46 wins in four years and got the Ducks to a national championship game before leaving for the NFL. Helfrich is two games into his second season and is 13-2, so he has some work to do for affirmation from the Oregon faithful.
But last Saturday's 46-27 win over Michigan State could be epic for Oregon and Helfrich...and bad news for Southern fried football. The Ducks displayed two running backs who are thick enough at 229 pounds and 215 pounds to muscle their way into an SEC backfield rotation. The other Ducks look a little different in their uniforms, too, a little thicker on the O-line than three years ago when they lost to Auburn. That's what it looks like on tape anyway. The Ducks have some blub to go with the Blur, which is what they call their offense.
We like to say down here that the national championship trophy has been in the South so long it has a sunburn, but Helfrich could be out from under Kelly's shadow sooner than you think and hijack our trophy back to those northwest rainforests using all that shoe company money and the conniving offense he runs with quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Here is what Helfrich's 18-month stamp on the program looks like: His talented team went toe-to-toe with brawny Michigan State for two quarters, got whacked pretty hard, and didn't crumble. From the looks of things, Helfrich's teams learned from losses to Stanford and Arizona last year and kept their wits. It looked like some coaching chemistry at work at halftime and no sign of a second-year head coach wound too tightly. That was cool.
Here is the worry part for fans in the opposite corner of the country: Helfrich does not seem ambitious like Kelly. He is 40 years old and he is from Oregon and he is going to stay at Oregon for a while. He is as smart as Kelly, and maybe just as adept at recruiting. Dirk Koetter, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, gave Helfrich a job when he was 24 and watched him become the youngest offensive coordinator in Division I (32) in 2006 and blossom into the head coach of the No. 2 team in the country in 2014. Koetter will tell you the SEC is in for it.
"He can do it all in his head, he doesn't have to draw the pictures on the board," Koetter said. "Not many people can do that.
"He sees the game through the quarterback's eyes. We all have ideas, but if your quarterback can't execute those ideas, they are lines on a paper. Mark is as smart a football guy as I know."
Koetter took Helfrich with him from Oregon to Boise State and then Arizona State. Record-setting quarterbacks followed.
When the Falcons went into a staff meeting Saturday to prepare for their season opener, the Ducks trailed Michigan State. When they came out, Oregon was romping to a 19-point win.
"I texted him and asked him to send me the halftime speech so we could use it, but he deflected any praise and took no credit," Koetter said. "Mark has always been able to keep his cool, think on his feet, and call plays under pressure. It doesn't surprise me his team responded to him."
The folks in Oregon, I'm sure, still follow Chip in Philadelphia and plenty probably still have Mat Kearney's ballad "Chip Don't Go" on their iPod. Kelly's teams finished No. 11, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 2 in the final polls and Kearney pleaded with him by song in January, 2013 to stay a Duck.
Chip may not be missed for much longer. Helfrich, who is the first native of Oregon to be the Ducks' head coach, is looking comfortable in Chip's old chair. You hear less and see less of Chip's slogan "Win the Day" which was pasted all over Autzen Stadium. Perhaps it's a new sort of day for the Ducks.
Kelly had a rock star persona about him. Helfrich acts more like the biology major he is. Somebody tried to ask him if the win over Michigan State was his signature game and he said he would never make the program about him, or something like that. Kelly seemed aloof, even phoned in by satellite for some booster events. Helfrich seems a little less the jockey. He also must be a decent fellow because Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu who could have left school for the NFL following the 2013 season and stayed.
Helfrich has kept the wheels on with Kelly gone to the NFL. He has been hauling in recruiting classes to match what Kelly harvested, and when you can win with yours and win with somebody else's that's good work.
Helfrich, it figures, doesn't believe in stamps or legacies or riding in on a white horse as hero.
"I don't own a stamp," Helfrich said in a news conference. "If we're that group and team that kept on winning after Chip Kelly left that's good enough legacy for me."
I'm still not convinced Helfrich gets out from behind the Kelly shadow this year and wins a title. The offensive line has a couple of weak spots. Watch the tape.
Georgia, Texas A&M, Alabama and Auburn don't have as many burners offensively as the Ducks, but they have offensive lines that maul consistently better than Oregon. The Ducks also do not have Todd Gurley, the Georgia running back, or the stable of backs Alabama has, but Oregon has some approximations, the 215-pound Thomas Tyner and the 229-pound Royce Freeman.
What Helfrich has over the SEC is a more well-rounded, seasoned quarterback. None of the SEC teams have a quarterback like Mariota. (No, A&M, Kenny Hill is not Mariota after two games.) The quarterback and the coach work together to dissect defenses and many feel if Mariota had not gotten hurt last year, Oregon would have played for the title again.
"Since he got with Chip, Mark won't give me all their spread secrets," Koetter said. "They definitely know what they are looking for in how defenses adjust to their spread."
We'll see how far Mariota and the second-year coach can go. When Oregon can beat an SEC team, or Florida State, to the national championship trophy and do it on a neutral field, then maybe the Ducks will be anointed as a true national power and Helfrich can cast his own shadow.
For now, the second-ranked Ducks own half of the country. They have 59 wins the last six years and zero national titles.
Helfrich is still an obscure guy here east of the Mississippi and will stay that way until he wins the big one.
We'll get a chance to see the Oregon machismo against Stanford on Nov. 1, perhaps against Southern Cal on December 5, and maybe against an SEC team or Florida State in the College Football Playoff, maybe even in a rematch with Michigan State. We'll see. I saw the Ducks offensive line getting handled by the Spartans on some snaps. The idea they were more slick than stout was not a made-up narrative. But the narrative is being recrafted as the Ducks add power.
Who knows, in three months, if Helfrich does damage to our rep here as Kings of College Football For All Time, we might have to plead with the great Kearney to write a song for us.
"Chip, You Good Ol' Boy, Go Back to Oregon" or something like that.
Ray Glier has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA Today, the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013).
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With two weeks in the books, the only team without a win in the Big 12 is Iowa State following Saturday's loss to Kansas State, their second of the season.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech escaped El Paso with a win over UTEP, K-State needed a late rally to waltz out of Jack Trice Stadium with a win and West Virginia looked polished with a 54-0 drubbing of Towson. So this conference is wide-open.
The loss of David Ash hurts Texas' chance to make a run at a league title in Charlie Strong's debut campaign, while Baylor showed off its depth with Seth Russell torching Northwestern State in the absence of Bryce Petty.
With that, let's predict how the conference will finish with two weeks in the books.
Penn State football was supposed to be buried for at least the better part of a decade. Unprecedented monetary penalties, severe scholarship sanctions and a four-year bowl ban handed down in 2012 reverberated like a death knell across the collegiate athletic landscape.
Instead, Penn State is in position to land a top-10 recruiting class and could stretch its first campaign under head coach James Franklin beyond New Year's Day. The latter became a possibility Monday when the NCAA announced a stunning reversal, immediately lifting postseason restrictions and restoring a stockpile of previously stripped scholarships.
"Big day for Happy Valley," 4-star wide receiver commit Juwan Johnson said.
The New Jersey native pledged to the program this spring, when the Nittany Lions briefly replaced Alabama atop national 2015 recruiting class rankings. The group, currently rated seventh in 247Sports' composite class rankings, appeared to be nearly tapped out due to a lowered allotment of scholarship spots.
That's no longer the case. Penn State, 2-0 with victories over Akron and UCF, suddenly has a longer leash in this cycle and can explore opportunities that seemed out of reach until Monday.
"This impacts the recruiting process a lot," Johnson said. "No more worrying about sanctions."
The burden created by Jerry Sandusky's crimes and ensuing improprieties by university administrative officials will never be fully removed, but that weight has at least been lessened. The record books still show Joe Paterno with 111 fewer wins than the day his tenure came to an end, and heinous actions that took place within football facilities can't be forgotten.
It's a sizable and damning chapter in Nittany Lions history, but that's all it is now—history.
"I think that this is great for everyone involved with PSU," linebacker commit Ryan Buchholz told Nick Polak of SB Nation. "I know they've been working on this for a little and it surprised me it got lifted this early. But I can't wait for later this season and seeing PSU compete for the Big Ten Championship."
Steven Gonzalez, a 4-star offensive lineman pledge, expressed similar excitement.
"I'm stoked about it," Gonzalez told Braulio Perez of NJ.com. "We are back into bowls and now we get to recruit heavier talent without worries."
It quickly became clear the students of Happy Valley were feeling significantly less worrisome in the aftermath of Monday's announcement. A large crowd gathered on campus to celebrate, creating a rally that lasted deep into the evening.
Defensive tackle commit Adam McLean, considered one of the top Mid-Atlantic linemen, appreciated the reaction and atmosphere in Happy Valley:
Given the enthusiasm generated by Franklin and a fresh start for on-field matters, momentum certainly appears to be pushing Penn State in a positive direction.
"It's about the vibe at Penn State," 4-star wide receiver commit Irvin Charles said. "I know they're going to do big things. Everyone wants to be a part of the next big thing."
Now with more scholarships available, the team has an opportunity to capitalize on those good vibes during the final five-month stretch toward national signing day. Expanded possibilities have created a newfound sense of optimism in and around the program.
"They're definitely jacked up right now," Gonzalez told NJ.com. "Especially coach (James) Franklin because he's going to be a recruiting mastermind at the rate he's going."
Even before sanctions were withdrawn, prospects showed serious intrigue about the new regime.
"There's a lot of things to like about Penn State," 4-star Philadelphia cornerback John Reid said in April, four months before he committed to the program. "They're coming off difficult stuff that happened with the program, and Coach Franklin is rebuilding it. It's a great situation."
If that was the outlook of top recruiting targets earlier, imagine how uncommitted prospects could begin to view this team. Even players committed elsewhere could reconsider their decision with additional slots up for grabs in Franklin's 2015 class.
"We have a good class now, but to be able to add more guys in the future is even more exciting for us," defensive back commit Myles Hartsfield told NJ.com. "We're going to be able to bring in more great players."
Quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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Recruiting misses have been rare for Tennessee coach Butch Jones during his first two years on the recruiting trail, as he has turned the Volunteers into one of the hottest names among prospects.
But Tuesday's news that Memphis University School 4-star offensive tackle and top UT target Drew Richmond chose Ole Miss certainly qualifies as a big whiff.
Richmond picking the Rebels is a considerable loss for the Vols in what is shaping up to be another otherwise exceptional recruiting class.
Any time the state's top-ranked player in the 247Sports Composite elects to attend another school, it stings. Since he plays a position that is Tennessee's greatest need in recruiting, it only magnifies the miss.
The Vols are struggling at offensive tackle early this season, already losing fifth-year redshirt senior Jacob Gilliam to a season-ending injury.
Redshirt freshman Brett Kendrick has been thrust into action before he's ready, and junior Kyler Kerbyson—a player who is more of an ideal fit at guard—is playing out of position at right tackle.
Last year's key signee, junior college transfer Dontavius Blair, has not yet panned out, and Coleman Thomas hit a freshman wall. He lost the right tackle spot he held through much of spring and the early parts of fall camp and hasn't seen much game action.
The Vols need tackles, and they need them en masse.
"Drew Richmond has been one of Tennessee's top targets in the 2015 class for more than a year-and-a-half, and the Vols really could use an elite offensive tackle, so it's obviously a big loss for them to miss out on Richmond," GoVols247 recruiting analyst Ryan Callahan told Bleacher Report.
"They already have at least four offensive linemen in their class, and two of them could end up being tackles, so they're still not in bad shape. But they definitely could have used Richmond, who might be good enough to come in and play right away next year."
Jones has excelled in recruiting during the past two cycles, landing the nation's seventh-ranked class a season ago with one that currently ranks eighth in the 247Sports Composite rankings this season.
But those classes have been short on true tackles.
Another candidate to be a future tackle is UT strong-side defensive end commit Dylan Jackson, who possesses the necessary frame at 6'6" and 250 pounds to grow into that role, though he also could stay on defense.
It's been a difficult week of news for Vols' tackle prospects, as Hall found out he will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, according to WDBJ7's Brad Zahar. Though he'll be ready by next season, that injury could stunt his development as a tackle.
So with Richmond currently off the board, where do the Vols look next?
Callahan (subscription required) mentioned several potential tackles UT could recruit moving forward, including Nashville's Alex Givens, North Carolina commitment William Sweet and former Tar Heels commit Emanuel McGirt, among others.
Though Richmond was an integral piece to UT's future along the offensive front, there are five months to go until national signing day, and plenty of viable targets will emerge.
The Vols won't stop recruiting Richmond, either.
Upon pledging to the Rebels, the 6'5", 320-pound tackle told Rivals.com's Woody Wommack (subscription required): "I'm not 100 percent sure. I tell people you're not 100 percent sure until you sign your name on that paper. That's how I feel."
That wasn't the only noncommittal thing he said, either.
Does that sound like somebody whose word is oak?
If UT continues to make him a priority, the Vols (among other suitors) will have a chance to change his mind.
"The good news for Tennessee is that signing day is still almost five months away, and Richmond's recruiting isn't over by any stretch of the imagination," Callahan said. "I don't expect Tennessee to slow down its recruitment of him, and he probably will visit the Vols again at some point."
It's extremely difficult to nitpick a recruiting class that's ranked in the nation's top 10, but the Vols haven't fared as well within state boundaries as they did a season ago.
During UT's historic 2014 recruiting cycle, the Vols nabbed nine of the state's top 11 prospects, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Out of that group, Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone, Todd Kelly Jr., Derek Barnett and Jashon Robertson all have seen significant playing time as true freshmen. The in-state players were the glue and are now the backbone of the class.
That hasn't been the case this year.
Thus far, UT has just two of Tennessee's top 10 players. That number is skewed because the Vols didn't recruit as many in-state players as they did a season ago.
But the Vols were actively involved at one point in recruiting Richmond, Rico McGraw (Alabama) and Van Jefferson (Georgia), who chose other schools.
Kyle Phillips is the only undecided player in the top 10, and the Vols desperately need to get him in the fold at strong-side defensive end.
Jones has made recruiting the state a major priority, but the Vols have met needs elsewhere during this particular cycle.
However, an argument also can be made that Richmond was the biggest remaining priority left in this class.
With UT's quarterback of the future Quinten Dormady secured along with several impact prospects such as Kahlil McKenzie, Preston Williams, Alvin Kamara and Jauan Jennings, left tackle was the last piece of this year's puzzle.
That's what makes Richmond's decision to go to Ole Miss Jones' biggest recruiting miss to date.
Memphis is always going to be a geographical obstacle for UT to overcome, with seven SEC schools closer, but it seemed the Vols were in good shape with Richmond not long ago, just fading recently.
With a lot of time left before prospects become official college players, Jones still has plenty of time to secure an impact player to help UT solidify its tackle turmoil.
Given his track record in recruiting, he deserves the benefit of the doubt that he'll get a quality player on board.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics gathered from CFBStats.com and quotes as well as observations obtained firsthand. All recruiting information from 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:
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After seeing Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan all lose on the same day for the first time since 1988 there’s a widespread inclination to declare the Big Ten dead for this college football season, including by B/R's Adam Kramer. Especially since the margin of defeat those three games reached double digits.
But given that Week 3’s games have yet to be played let’s be prudent and at least wait until the leaves start turning color before ordering the Big Ten’s tombstone.
A whole lot of football remains to be played, and a lot can happen between now and when the playoff teams are selected. Don’t forget that at this time last season eventual national champion Florida State was only 10th in the AP poll.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany certainly feels that way, telling ESPN.com that:
It's September 7, not December 7. I would hate to think after two weeks we'd pick any teams for anything.
So what will it take for the Big Ten to exit the intensive care unit and salvage some national pride? Here are some possibilities.
Root for Oregon, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame
Some of the sting from the Big Ten’s three prime-time defeats will abate if those three opponents prove to be powerhouses.
If No. 2 Oregon ascends to the top spot Michigan State can remind folks that it actually led the Ducks through most of the third quarter.
Ohio State’s loss at home won’t look nearly so bad if Virginia Tech ends the regular season undefeated, which is a distinct possibility.
The Hokies have nary a ranked opponent left on the schedule, and their toughest road game looks like North Carolina on Oct. 4.
And while there’s no way Michigan can shed the embarrassment of losing 31-0 to Notre Dame, it will at least raise the Wolverines’ self-esteem if quarterback Everett Golson continues to carve up other teams with similar panache.
The Badgers foreshadowed the Big Ten’s problems with an opening-week loss to No. 10 LSU, but that seems like a million years ago after last weekend’s carnage.
And though Wisconsin gagged on a 24-7 lead in the LSU game, at least the 28-24 final score didn’t have the humiliating overtone of some of the Big Ten’s subsequent defeats.
Best of all for the 18th-ranked Badgers, the schedule-maker has been kind. There are no top-25 teams left on Wisconsin’s slate and also no meetings with Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State. The toughest road game looks like Iowa on Nov. 22.
That seemingly leaves the Badgers in fine position to redeem themselves by running the table and ending the regular season at 11-1.
But they’ll need to keep repairing the image of a passing game that ranks only 108th in the nation. Junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy started the rehab process with a 283-yard game against Western Illinois but will need plenty more of that to make voters forget his paltry 50 yards against LSU.
And as Eye on College Football Staff reports for CBSSports.com, it appears Wisconsin doesn’t have the option of switching back to Joel Stave anytime soon now that coach Gary Andersen has let it be known that his 2013 starting quarterback is battling some as-yet undefined issues.
Put All Their Eggs in One Basket
What the Big Ten doesn’t need is a season where its top contenders start knocking each other off.
The only way a Big Ten team can get in contention for a playoff spot is if one school grinds through the regular season and the conference championship game unscathed. If the league ends up with a bunch of two-loss teams it’s just going to look like everyone took a turn at being better than mediocre.
That likely means the most important game aside from the conference championship will come Nov. 8 when No. 22 Ohio State plays at No. 13 Michigan State.
The Buckeyes’ biggest test before then figures to be at Penn State on Oct. 25. For the Spartans, it’s Oct. 4 at home against Nebraska.
A Whole New Penn State
Not everyone was happy to see the NCAA lift the bowl-game ban on Penn State, including national football columnist Greg Couch. But a lot of people, including me, welcome a decision that quits punishing today’s Nittany Lions for wretched acts committed long ago.
As bleak as the situation in Happy Valley looked as the Jerry Sandusky scandal unfolded, this team has the chance to symbolize Penn State’s commitment to getting it right going forward.
In a conference that gets knocked for being too ground-oriented and slow-footed, sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg brings a high-octane arm that matches the personality of new coach James Franklin.
Though they’re still missing many pieces because of scholarship sanctions, a favorable schedule gives the Nittany Lions a shot at taking a 6-0 record into their Oct. 25 home game against Ohio State.
And Franklin just might be the miracle worker Penn State needs. His three consecutive bowl appearances at Vanderbilt are looking even more impressive in the wake of his former team getting trashed in its first two games.
Continuing to work that magic at Penn State could turn out to be exactly the lift the Big Ten needs.
Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.
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This is the matchup Oklahoma Sooners and Tennessee Volunteers fans have waited for since the schedule was first released.
Which team will survive the first obstacle in its way and move to 3-0? Can head coach Bob Stoops lead the Sooners to triumph over the SEC on the big stage once again?
These questions and more will be answered when the two teams square off in Norman.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Where: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
When: Saturday, September 13 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Sooner Sports
Listen: Sooner Sports Radio Network
Betting Line: Oklahoma (-21), per Odds Shark
The Oregon Ducks have moved up to become the second-best team in the country in the latest AP poll. With Marcus Mariota leading the way, the Ducks have a great opportunity to make the playoffs.
Watch the video, and let us know!
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Although ranked as the No. 12 team in the latest AP poll, multiple concerns have surrounded Jim Mora and the UCLA football team after two weeks.
Much of the dissatisfaction likely stems from the expectations heading into the year. Not only was UCLA initially ranked No. 7 in the country, but many pundits—including ESPN's Lee Corso—had the Bruins competing for a spot in the playoff.
Two underwhelming victories to start the year have tempered those expectations a bit. While there are legitimate causes for concern, there are also reasons to feel relieved about where UCLA currently is.
This piece will look at pressing concerns for the team as well as areas to feel fine about.