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ESPN College GameDay 2014: Week 3 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

Fargo, North Dakota, will serve as the site of ESPN's College GameDay in Week 3.

That's because North Dakota State, the three-time reigning national champions in the Football Championship Subdivision, are getting some love for their recent, raging success.

The No. 1-ranked Bison will square off with unranked Incarnate Word at the Fargodome, seeking to improve their FCS record to 46-2 overall since being promoted from Division II to start 2011. They are also putting a 26-game winning streak on the line.

Three national titles in as many years in the FCS is not a bad track record. However, North Dakota State is under a new coach in Chris Klieman after Craig Bohl departed to coach Wyoming. So far, so good under Klieman, as the Bison haven't missed a beat in the early going amid a 2-0 start.

Here is a look at all the vital information you'll need to know ahead of Saturday's telecast, along with a quick overview of what to expect in the game and the biggest stars to watch.

Note: Stats are courtesy of ESPN.com and GoBison.com.


ESPN College GameDay Week 3 Information

When: Saturday, September 13

Where: Fargo, North Dakota (Game held in Fargodome)

Time: 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET (Game starts at 3:30 p.m. ET)


Live Stream:ESPN3/WatchESPN


North Dakota State Player to Watch: John Crockett, RB

The 10th-leading rusher in program history has answered the bell this year once again. A three-touchdown performance helped defeat Iowa State, and his 80-yard run to paydirt in that game showed how explosive Crockett can be.

Crockett is going to be the focal point of the Bison offense in this one, and he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Incarnate Word's struggling defense that's given up 87 points already this season will have to account for Crockett on all three downs.

Damond Talbot of NFL Draft Diamonds likes Crockett's chances to be a success story at the professional level:

If he has any type of ability to eventually play in the NFL, imagine what Crockett will do facing a sieve of a defense at the FCS level. North Dakota State returns only one starter on the offensive line, so perhaps the Cardinals can concentrate on Crockett and cram the box early to stymie the opposition.

No matter what Incarnate Word has done in 2014, it has seemed to backfire. Facing its toughest opponent yet, expect a third straight 100-yard effort from Crockett and multiple TDs on the ground.


Incarnate Word Player to Watch: Casey Jennings, WR

If the fledgling Cardinals program—in existence only since 2009—is meant to have any chance at keeping this game competitive, it will be up to Jennings to lead the charge.

Jennings is the premier receiving threat, coming off a five-catch, 122-yard performance against Stephen F. Austin. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they couldn't get anything else going on either side of the ball in that game, losing 38-3.

UIW Athletics showcased Jennings' highlight-reel catch, which showed his great concentration skills and the ability to pull the ball down even with two defenders around him:

Keeping the ball away from NDSU would be ideal, but the Cardinals are unlikely to be able to run the ball at all. As a team through the first two games, they've totaled 140 yards on 64 carries—just a 2.19-yard average.

Although some of the negativity in that statistic can be attributed to sack yardage, it's going to be up to quarterback Taylor Woods to make something happen with Jennings. Look for Incarnate Word to take some deep shots early to test the Bison secondary.

That may be the Cardinals' only hope to keep upset aspirations alive—and the strategy itself sounds more like a Hail Mary than anything else.


Game Prediction

North Dakota State dominated an Iowa State team in the season opener that just lost by a mere four points to 19th-ranked Kansas State. That provides an idea of what Incarnate Word is up against—and how much of a mismatch this should prove to be.

Rattling off 34 straight points made the win all the more impressive.

Brock Jensen was the winningest quarterback in FCS history (48 wins), but North Dakota State's Carson Wentz has done an admirable job as his successor so far. Wentz is a capable passer and carried the ball eight times for 38 yards versus Iowa State, too.

However, Wentz did throw two interceptions in going 13-of-22 passing for 192 yards during the Bison's 24-7 win over Weber State in Week 2. If the Cardinals can somehow rattle Wentz and pressure him early, it could cause him to press.

More likely, though, Crockett will help control possession, while last year's national champion and No. 1 scoring defense that returns six starters in 2014 will lift North Dakota State to a resounding victory.

Senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting is excited to take ESPN's program back to Fargo, per TwinCities.com's Eric Peterson:

Why not? I haven't heard a good reason for the "Why not?" yet. Our job is to tell the best stories within the sport of college football. … It was our way of saying this isn't a cute story; this is not a novelty. North Dakota State is a big part of the fabric of college football right now.

Taking the time to travel to Fargo for the second year in a row for College GameDay seems out of the ordinary for ESPN, but this is a historic program that is building a legitimate juggernaut. The quality win over the Cyclones proves that a new quarterback and coach aren't about to slow the Bison down.

Increased national exposure and continued prolific accomplishments could eventually see the Bison rise to the FBS. That is still in the distant future, but this season figures to see NDSU continue striding in that direction. Incarnate Word isn't going to be the team that slows the Bison in that perpetual, ambitious pursuit.

Predicted score: North Dakota State 38, Incarnate Word 7

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Breaking Down Michigan's Road Game Woes and How Brady Hoke Can Fix the Problem

After Michigan’s brutal loss to Notre Dame, players and coaches all delivered the same message—some variation of “…it’s just one game.”

But Michigan has been underperforming away from its home stadium for the past two seasons, and the losses have taken a toll on Hoke’s support in Ann Arbor. A change under center and changes to the way the team practices are necessary to prevent another lost season. 

The difference between Michigan at home and on the road is jarring. The Wolverines have only lost twice at home under Hoke, with both losses coming at the tail end of last season. All of Hoke’s four wins versus Michigan’s traditional rivals (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State) also came at home. But it’s one thing to lose on the road versus Michigan State and Ohio State—to struggle versus UConn and Northwestern is another matter.

Hoke faces an enormous task—he needs to bottle the confidence and swagger that oozes from his team at home and take it on the road when it faces rivals Michigan State and Ohio State later this season.

A win against either will cool the flames of discontent among the Wolverine faithful. A loss to both and Hoke will return to Ann Arbor to find near-universal calls for his job.

Hoke has mentioned his sophomore class has “an edge” that is different from his previous teams. Nowhere does Michigan need an edge to jump start its season more than at quarterback. It’s time for Hoke get sophomore Shane Morris some meaningful game reps. Morris has pressed Devin Gardner; now it’s time for him show what he can do on the field.

The mantra of fall camp has been, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.” After nearly two full seasons of Gardner struggling on the road, it's time for a change.

Hoke has already taken some important steps to combat his team’s inconsistency on the road. In the aftermath of last season's collapse, he hired a new offensive coordinator and shuffled his defensive staff. The results so far have been mixed, but the change on the offensive side of ball should eventually help the team compete with tougher opponents.

The next step for Hoke will test his ability to motivate his players.

He made the initial changes in the offseason to combat a culture of entitlement among upperclassmen that damaged his team last season. Gone was the senior team-building exercise with the U.S. Navy SEALS and other senior perks, including the naming of preseason captains.

He then worked to simulate the distractions of playing on road by blaring loud music during practices.

Now Hoke needs to take the next steps to simulate road conditions by shaking his team up even further.

They need to leave the team’s indoor practice facility and play in the elements. Last season the team faced driving rain (Northwestern and MSU) and bitter cold (Iowa) during its November slide. They need to spend less time in their palatial locker room and more time getting ready in the cramped visitors locker room at Michigan Stadium. Anything that simulates road conditions needs to be considered.

Hoke has successfully taught his team how to win at home; now, to preserve his job, he needs to teach them how to win on the road.

After the loss to Notre Dame, it’s clear he has some work left to do.


All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

Follow @PSCallihan

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Houston vs. BYU: Game Grades, Analysis for the BYU Cougars

BYU jumped out to a huge lead in its home opener behind the arm and legs of quarterback Taysom Hill, but after looking stellar for nearly the entire first half more or less sleepwalked through what became a far-too-close 33-25 win over Houston on Thursday night.

Hill gained 360 yards of total offense and was responsible for a pair of touchdowns, as BYU led 23-0 but then saw turnovers help keep Houston in the game. The Cougars (3-0) ran 96 plays and gained 523 yards, but were never able to put their opponent away in a game that could have done a lot to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Final stats from BYU's win can be found here.

Take a look at our grades and analysis of the Cougars' win below.

BYU Cougars Game Analysis

Pass Offense: Taysom Hill looked a little overexcited to throw in front of the home crowd, especially early, as he was high and long on a lot of his passes. He finished with 200 yards on 21-of-34 passing, with one touchdown and two interceptions, but both picks were freak plays. One was tipped at the line and caught by a defensive lineman, the other torn out of receiver Mitchell Juergens' arms by a Houston defender.

Run Offense: BYU ran for 323 yards on 62 carries, scoring three touchdowns on the ground. Hill ran for 260 yards and a TD on 26 carries, while Jamaal Williams ran for 139 yards and two scores on 28 carries. While the Cougars threw a lot early, once presented with a lead to protect they churned it out on the ground and were effective all night.

Pass Defense: Houston's John O'Korn had a lot of time to throw all night, and most of his receivers seemed to have a great cushion to catch the ball. If not for a number of drops by those wideouts, O'Korn would have thrown for more than the 307 yards and three touchdowns that he accumulated. BYU's secondary hit hard when receivers went over the middle, but Houston kept throwing.

Run Defense: With Houston down a lot early, it abandoned the run. But before that it wasn't getting anywhere because of BYU's front seven, which held Houston to 10 yards on 13 carries. That includes a safety by Zac Stout for the game's first points, tackling Ryan Jackson for a four-yard loss.

Special Teams: Houston was completely responsible for missing two extra points and muffing a field goal, but where BYU was most successful on special teams was preventing Houston returner Demarcus Ayers from ever getting loose on kickoffs. BYU's one gaffe, though, was an odd one: faking a punt near midfield early in the second half and not even coming close to converting on a run by punter Scott Arellano.

Coaching: BYU's staff called a good game on offense, though it might need to convince Hill to throw the ball away more often instead of taking hits on short runs. Defensively, early pressure and blitz packages helped establish the lead, but after that the play-calling seemed more of the prevent nature.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5 Things Ohio State Must Accomplish in Bounce-Back Game Against Kent State

After suffering a deflating 35-21 upset loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday, Urban Meyer and the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes are hoping to right the ship in a bounce-back game against Kent State.

The Golden Flashes—fresh off of back-to-back losses to Ohio and South Alabama—will enter Ohio Stadium as 32-point underdogs, according to OddsShark.com

The Buckeyes should do what they want against their overmatched MAC opponent, and Meyer will want to establish a positive vibe with a bye week on the horizon. 

Here are five things Ohio State must accomplish against Kent State this Saturday.


Get Off to a Fast Start

After starting his tenure at Ohio State with 24 consecutive victories, Meyer has watched his Buckeyes drop three of their past four games. A common thread in those three defeats: slow starts.

Against Michigan State, the Buckeyes fell behind 17-0 before they found their bearings. In the Orange Bowl against Clemson, Ohio State lacked a rhythm early and the Tigers built a 20-9 lead. And last week against the Hokies, the Buckeyes trailed 21-7 going into the locker room at halftime.

It's an alarming trend that Meyer wants to buck.

Getting off to a fast start will be a priority this week.


Hit the Big Plays

Virginia Tech loaded the box to prevent Ohio State from establishing the run and force J.T. Barrett into making quick decisions.

That strategy paid off in a big way for the Hokies, as the Buckeyes failed to take advantage of the consistent one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. Ohio State's bevy of playmakers, led by Dontre Wilson and Devin Smith, were largely held in check for much of the night.

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder highlights how the Buckeyes can get down the field.

Kent State is allowing 392 yards per game this year, which ranks No. 73 in the country. The Buckeyes should aim to eclipse that number by the end of the third quarter.


Establish the Offensive Line

Ohio State fans grew used to watching a dominant offensive line pave the way for Carlos Hyde and a bruising running game.

Four senior starters from that unit are gone, though, and in their place is a group that has struggled out of the gate.

"I'm very disappointed. 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," Meyer said after a sloppy season-opening win over Navy, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors. "The first two quarters didn't resemble an offensive line of Ohio State."

Virginia Tech piled up an unbelievable six sacks in the final nine minutes of the game last Saturday—and seven total—so the Buckeyes will need to do a much better job protecting the quarterback.


Establish the Running Backs

Through two games, the Buckeyes running backs have had a hard time filling Hyde's big shoes.

The combination of Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and Rod Smith has piled up just 152 total yards this season—10 yards shy of Hyde's weekly average in his final 10 games with the Buckeyes.

That's a problem the Buckeyes need to address this week.

Against Kent State's undersized defensive front, Elliott and Samuel should have big days.


Establish Noah Spence

Noah Spence—one of Ohio State's top defenders—will be making his season debut this Saturday.

It will be the first time the star defensive end has taken the field since the Big Ten title game against Michigan State last December. Spence was handed a three-game suspension from the Big Ten days before Ohio State's matchup against Clemson last January.

His return boosts an already strong defensive line. With Joey Bosa on the other side and Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington anchoring the interior, the Buckeyes will boast one of the most ferocious defensive fronts in the country.

Speaking of Spence, during the Big Ten teleconference this week, Meyer said he's eager to get his prized pass-rusher back on the field.

"He went down to the scout team and performed," Meyer said, according to Mike Huguenin of NFL.com. "(He is) very selfless and we are anxious to get him going."


All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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University of Houston's Trevon Stewart Horribly Mistimes Jump vs. BYU's Juergens

Houston Cougars defensive back Trevon Stewart is probably wishing he didn't jump at all.

During Thursday night's game against the BYU Cougars, Stewart turned his head too late for the ball but ended up jumping anyway, allowing BYU's Mitchell Juergens to stay upright.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Houston's John O'Korn Finds Daniel Spencer on 45-Yard TD to End 1st Half vs. BYU

Things weren't looking good for the Houston Cougars on Thursday night, going down 23-0 against the BYU Cougars. 

However, Houston was able to score three times before halftime, including this 45-yard hail mary from John O'Korn to Daniel Spencer to end the first half.

Houston was down just 23-15 after the big run.

[Vine, h/t SB Nation]

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Virginia Tech Football: What You Should and Shouldn't Be Concerned About

For years, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer has been lambasted about his team's inability to win the big game. So last week's win over No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus was particularly satisfying for the legendary Beamer. 

"I think this is a big, big win for this program, for the status of this program," Beamer said, per ESPN.

So everything is right in Blacksburg after one of the biggest wins in recent school history, correct?

Well, maybe, but things still aren't perfect. The Hokies have a long way to go if they want to compete for an ACC title and a spot in the first annual College Football Playoff. 

Here are some things Hokie fans should and shouldn't be concerned about on the eve of Tech's Week 3 matchup against East Carolina.

Begin Slideshow

Houston's Punter Miraculously Gets Botched Punt Off, Bobbles Field Goal

It may have been awkward, but this play prevented a major momentum shift for the Houston Cougars.

During Thursday's game against the BYU Cougars, Houston's punter got a low snap and fumbled the ball, but he was somehow still able to kick it away and get a solid punt out of it.

The Cougars weren't done on messing up special teams, however, as they missed a field goal due to this bobble by the handler.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will the Nebraska Cornhuskers' Soft Nonconference Schedule Come Back to Haunt?

Nebraska’s nonconference schedule for 2014 has worked out to be a little softer than first anticipated. Yes, Florida Atlantic and McNeese State aren’t going to impress anyone (although Nebraska’s struggles with the Cowboys on Saturday certainly put a damper on fans’ excitement for the balance of the season).

Fresno State was 11-2 last year but is currently sitting at 0-2, having been outscored by an aggregate 111-40 this year. Miami is a marquee name on a schedule, of course. But after the Hurricanes were outmatched by Louisville on the opening week of the season, it doesn’t appear that Miami will be adding schedule strength to Nebraska’s resume for the selection committee.

So if we accept the premise that Nebraska’s nonconference schedule this year is pretty soft, what effect will it have on NU going forward?


Could it keep Nebraska out of the College Football Playoff?

It’s possible.

There are two scenarios in which Nebraska could be a playoff contender. The first is if Nebraska runs the table and goes 13-0 with a win in the Big Ten Championship. In that circumstance, the only way Nebraska gets shunted out of the CFP is if there are three undefeated conference champions with better schedules.

How’s that work? Well, check out the CFP’s selection protocol. The stated purpose of the committee is to select the “four best teams from among several with legitimate claims to participate.” The criteria for making those selections are purposefully loose, but there is one area where the criteria do provide some specifics.

“Strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and championships won must be specifically applied as tie-breakers between teams that look similar.”

What does that mean? Well, we’re not entirely sure until we see it in action. But more than likely, it means that a 13-0 champion of the B1G would get a playoff berth over, say, an 11-1 Big 12 champion or a 12-1 ACC champion. The undefeated season in a Power Five conference should put a team like Nebraska on a different level than a team with one loss, meaning the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker should not come into play.

Now, if Nebraska is 12-1 and B1G champions, the calculus is very different. In that circumstance, Nebraska could be jostling elbows with a number of one-loss teams for a playoff spot. If we assume that the SEC and Pac-12 champions will get playoff berths (given the strength of their conferences), then we have two spots left in the inaugural field.

In that scenario, Nebraska would be fighting with the champions of the other Power Five conferences, the ACC and the Big 12. If either of those champions are undefeated (say, Florida State and Oklahoma), Nebraska’s out. And Nebraska would likely lose out to a one-loss Florida State or a one-loss Oklahoma in that scenario, given the relative strength of schedule as a tiebreaker.

And a 12-1 Nebraska would also have to contend with a one-loss SEC team that didn’t win the conference title. Let’s say LSU goes undefeated and loses to Georgia in the SEC title game. We could be looking at a musical-chairs game of four teams for two spots, between an 11-1 Oklahoma Big 12 champion, a 12-1 Florida State ACC champion, a 12-1 LSU that did not win a championship and a 12-1 Nebraska B1G champion.

Picking among those first three would not be an enviable task for the two remaining spots. But eliminating Nebraska from that conversation would be pretty simple.


Could it keep Nebraska out of a New Year’s Six bowl?

Probably not but cannot predict now.

In addition to the four-team CFP field, the selection committee will be deciding the participants for the “New Year’s Six” bowl games (the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Rose, Peach and Cotton Bowls). Two of those four bowls each year will be the Playoff semifinals, and the participants for the other four will be chosen by the committee.

Different rules apply, though, for New Year’s Six bowl selection. Many have conference ties (unless the conference-tied bowl is a semifinal). But for the bowl slots without conference ties, it will be the selection committee and not the bowl representatives in their brightly-colored blazers picking the teams.

However, the criteria for selecting bowl teams is different than for selecting the Playoff participants. Instead, the committee will be picking from the “displaced conference champions” (meaning conference champions without a bowl tie in, like when the B1G champion can’t go to the Rose Bowl because it is a semifinal) and the highest ranked “non-contract conference champion” (meaning a non-Power Five conference champion) to fill the non-mandatory slots. The selection committee will fill the at-large berths in “rank order” from the final selection committee rankings. So how would this affect Nebraska?

Well, if Nebraska wins the B1G but gets squeezed out of the Playoff, it is still guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl as a conference champion. The only way Nebraska’s strength of schedule could hurt its chances as a New Year’s Six bowl is if it doesn’t win the conference and is positioning for an at-large berth. In that circumstance, Nebraska would have to rank high enough to warrant one of those at-large bids—and Nebraska’s soft nonconference schedule could be a drag on its ranking, making it harder to land one of those berths.


Could it hurt Nebraska in the conference season?

Probably not.

There’s a cliché about steel sharpening steel, which could have Nebraska fans worried. It is possible that a cushy nonconference schedule could make Nebraska fat, lazy and unready for a challenge from a truly talented opponent.

In some ways, then, the near miss to McNeese State might have been a good thing. Had Nebraska rolled through its nonconference, then overconfidence could have been a problem in preparation for games like Michigan State and Wisconsin.

But after Nebraska needed an “Ameer-acle” to knock off an FCS opponent in Lincoln, no one in scarlet and cream should be overconfident. Ever, or at the very least for the rest of this season.


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

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint

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Texas A&M Football Commit Daniel LaCamera Kicks 68-Yard Field Goal at Practice

Texas A&M Aggies Class of 2015 commit Daniel LaCamera looks like he could be making some long field goals for their football team in the coming years.

During practice for his high school in East Lake, Florida, LaCamera drilled this impressive 68-yard field goal. With a leg like that, it looks like Kevin Sumlin made a good move offering a scholarship to a kicker.

[Vine, h/t College Spun]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Houston vs. BYU: Live Score and Highlights

BYU 9, Houston 0 — Middle 1st quarter

BYU and Houston are underway in Provo, Utah for a Thursday night clash of teams hoping to make a splash outside the power conferences. So far, it's been all BYU.

The game is being shown live on ESPN, but stick with us for real-time updates, including analysis, statistics, tweets, pictures, GIFs and whatever else happens at LaVell Edwards Stadium.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Next 7 Games Key to Tennessee's Chance at Returning to Bowl Game

For most major conference teams, a 2-0 start and improved speed across the board is good reason to give fans optimism about not only making a bowl game, but also climbing the postseason ladder and playing somewhere in sunny Florida. 

But for the young Tennessee Volunteers, the team's 2-0 start merely proves they took care of business against the lesser opponents on the schedule.

This talented but inexperienced team will have to play nearly flawless football down the stretch just for the privilege of participating in a cold, late-December bowl game. 

That's why head coach Butch Jones absolutely must pull off at least one upset win during the team's gauntlet of a schedule consisting of ranked opponent after ranked opponent that extends all the way through November.

Here's a breakdown of each game to determine if the Vols have the firepower to steal a win or two along the way.


Sept. 13: at No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Forget for a moment that the Sooners are 88-5 at home under Bob Stoops. Forget that nearly half of Tennessee's team will be making their first-ever road appearance on Saturday. And forget that Tennessee hasn't won a true away game against a team not called Memphis, Vanderbilt or Kentucky since a victory over Mississippi State in 2007. 

The real story of this game is Tennessee's offensive line. If they can protect quarterback Justin Worley and open up running room for Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd, the Vols can win. Tennessee's defense has the speed and size to keep up with the Sooners for four quarters.

What they don't have, however, is the endurance to stay on the field if Tennessee's offense makes a habit of going three-and-out due to poor pass protection and an anemic running game. The Vols must sustain drives and limit turnovers to have a chance at pulling off a victory that would restore the program's tarnished reputation overnight against a team ESPN's Todd McShay says is a legitimate playoff contender. 


Sept. 27: at No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs 

Tennessee gets a bye-week breather after the Oklahoma game, but then it hits the road once again to take on another Top 10 opponent—this time at Sanford Stadium.

Although the Bulldogs have only played one game this season, they easily dismantled Clemson on the back of Todd Gurley, who may be the best player in college football, according to CollegeSpun's Andrew Holleran. 

The Vols defense is improved over last year, but in a reverse of the Oklahoma game, this will come down to the performance of Tennessee's defensive line. Jordan Williams and Danny O'Brien can't stop Gurley from running it up the gut, because no one in the country can. Instead, they have to slow him down and limit his big-play potential.

In addition, A.J. Johnson needs to be the man to keep him in check and stop 12-yard gains from turning into 60-yard touchdowns. 

The game plan for Tennessee is the same every team will use against Georgia for the rest of the season: Stop Gurley and see what else they throw at you. 


Oct. 4: Florida Gators

After what could be two lopsided losses in a row, Tennessee will square off against an improved Florida squad at Neyland Stadium on Oct. 4. In fact, the Gators currently lead the nation in scoring offense, passing defense, total defense, scoring defense, red zone defense and turnover margin, according to 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp. 

A loss for the Vols would be their 10th in a row to the Gators, while a win would extinguish any lingering doubts in Knoxville about whether Butch Jones is the man to take Tennessee back to the top.

The key to this game is the crowd. Neyland Stadium rocked like it was 1998 during the 2012 edition of this matchup, but an 80-yard run by Trey Burton silenced everyone in orange that day, from the fans to the coaching staff to the players.

Jones can't allow his players to pack it in if and when the Gators gain momentum, and the crowd, which was so energetic in Tennessee's win against Utah State, can't lose its intensity as the game rolls on.

For the first time in years, Tennessee has the pieces—including a defense that can match Florida's speed—to keep Florida's offense in check on the perimeter and test its defense in the red zone. 


Oct. 11: Chattanooga Mocs

Tennessee fans should be thankful the team plays the Mocs on Oct. 11 instead of Utah State or Arkansas State, because this has trap game written all over it.

Coming off what will likely be an emotional home game against Florida and right before a trip to Oxford, Miss., the Vols will be especially vulnerable at home.

While Chattanooga is a respectable FCS team, they're just that—an FCS team competing against an SEC team on the rise. Tennessee should have no problem adding to its win column here, trap-game issues aside.


Oct. 18: at No. 14 Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss beat hapless Vanderbilt handily at LP Field last week, but it struggled with Boise State until the fourth quarter during its opening game at the Georgia Dome.

When Tennessee travels to Oxford, Ole Miss will be coming off a two-week stretch of playing Alabama at home and Texas A&M on the road. After Tennessee, they'll travel to Baton Rouge to play LSU.

The Rebels and quarterback Bo Wallace have a chance to win the SEC West this season, according to ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff, which means all three of those division matchups are must-wins for Ole Miss.

As a likely unranked opponent from the SEC East, Tennessee could catch the Rebels sleeping in this one and get an upset win on the road. 


Oct. 25: No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama's two-game losing streak to end the 2013 season, as well as its lackluster performance against West Virginia, showed that the Crimson Tide may not be the unbeatable juggernaut of previous years. 

While Tennessee hasn't even been able to keep these games close in recent years, new Alabama offensive coordinator and former Vols head coach Lane Kiffin's arrival in Knoxville will certainly keep the crowd's interest at an all-time high.

Tennessee's passing game must excel in this game for the Vols to have a chance. Worley had a disastrous performance against Alabama last season that culminated in a broken thumb. This year, he can redeem himself.

The Tide's secondary may be one of their few weaknesses, according to Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star. 

If Worley can connect consistently with Marquez North, Von Pearson and Pig Howard while the defense limits runs from T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, Tennessee can keep this one close well into the fourth quarter. 


Nov. 1: at No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks

Fans and sports writers alike were quick to write off the Gamecocks after their season-opening loss to Texas A&M, but you can never count out a team coached by Steve Spurrier.

South Carolina may not have Connor Shaw or Jadeveon Clowney, but it does have a veteran squad with one of the SEC's best offensive lines, according to SaturdayDownSouth's Brad Crawford. 

Tennessee pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football last season when it toppled the No. 11 Gamecocks in Knoxville, and it'll be looking to repeat it in Columbia this year. 

As it stands in Week 2, this could be one of Tennessee's best chances at getting an upset win on the road. 

The results of this matchup could depend on South Carolina's season up to this point. They play Georgia, Missouri and Auburn before they get the Vols at home. If the Gamecocks drop two or more of those games, they could pack it in for the season—especially since they were preseason favorites to win the SEC East.

Meanwhile, Tennessee will still likely be playing for bowl eligibility with a lot more on the line. 

It could be argued that South Carolina stole Tennessee's place as one of the SEC's elite teams in 2008, but this season could be the year that Tennessee snatches it back. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

8 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 3

College football season is in full swing as the third weekend of games gets underway across the country. These matchups are more meaningful than what shows up on the scoreboard since top-tier prospects will again journey to universities for a firsthand look at game-day activities.

Coaches and support staffs will be busy this weekend, catering to top-tier recruits who could impact their programs for years to come. Some seniors are set to utilize official visits, while younger players present teams with an opportunity to make an early impact in their recruitment.

Keep reading for our weekly rundown of the crucial campus visits you need to know about, with analysis about how each prospect rose to prominence.

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College Football Teams That Aren't as Good as We Thought They Were Going to Be

If a team has played two games so far this season—something most teams have done—that means it's completed 12.5 percent of its regular-season schedule. 

For most teams, that sample is too small to say anything conclusive about their season, but for others, it is more than enough.

Specifically, that's the case for teams we looked fondly upon before the season. If we thought they might be a College Football Playoff contender, it can become clear after two games that they aren't. Even for a borderline bowl contender, the same case might apply.

The following teams represent both cases. They are not necessarily the teams with the worst records but the teams that have looked the worst—often against substandard competition—and do not appear to be getting better.

Their struggles have looked like the rule, not the exception. They are the teams that, quite simply, just aren't as good as we thought.

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Texas A&M Football: 5 Aggies Who Are Headed for Postseason Awards

The Texas A&M football team has a number of players who will be up for postseason awards in 2014. The Aggies are ranked No. 7 in the nation and the kind of attention a top-10 ranking brings will result in consideration for conference and national awards for individual players on the team. 

The Aggies have players on both sides of the ball who are among the best in the SEC and the nation. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff have done a tremendous job of recruiting talent to College Station.

The Aggies are beginning to reap the rewards of consecutive top-10 recruiting classes that Sumlin has signed during the past two years. They have a nice mix of young talent and veteran players on the 2014 team.

This is a look at some of the players on the 2014 Aggie team who will be considered for conference and national awards.  

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Appreciating the Players Who Helped Save Penn State Football

What happened at Penn State was horrific. So unspeakably evil that it’s difficult to put into words. Retribution is coming, and the souls responsible will pay dearly, as they should.

But what can be lost in our search for vengeance are those who endured the recovery: the extraordinary people who played an extraordinary role despite seeking no credibility for doing so. Oftentimes, these efforts can be thankless, absorbed by the bigger picture.

Thanks to the NCAA’s ruling earlier this week, that will not be the case for the 49 young men who decided not to leave Penn State for reasons that are only important to them. Our search for the appropriate reaction begins there, with the people who didn’t flinch despite playing no part in the destruction.

“They have a chance to chase their dreams now,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “I know the black cloud’s not over their heads anymore.”

Let us not assess whether postseason blockades and scholarship losses were the appropriate punishment currency for heinous crimes and evil people in the first place.

Let’s remove ourselves from trying to comprehend why the NCAA acts the way it does and if this was the suitable time to remove the hammer entirely. Let’s instead talk about the lone constant: the players who waited for one final ceiling-less season together before they leave.

On a topic where middle ground is hard to come by, there is a sacred place of appreciation that can be lost in the discussion.


A Handshake and a Fan Gained

It was July. Mike Hull, accustomed to chaos, sat still at an empty table as the room hectically shifted around him. Cameras, microphones and notepads scrambled in undefined directions, and a clamoring of media members scattered throughout the Chicago Hilton ballroom ready to grab as many quotables as the two-hour session would allow.

It was the start of Day 2 of Big Ten Media Days, and Penn State’s senior linebacker awaited the approach of his first tape recorder. His new coach, James Franklin, sat 15 feet away, although his voice carried much farther than that and was already active. Although I had planned to speak with Franklin early, apparently the rest of the room had the same idea. I made a beeline for Hull instead.

With my pick of seat, I moved toward the chair closest to Hull, and as I did, he quickly stood up before my descent downward had begun. I paused, unsure if maybe a last-minute bathroom break was in the cards. As I studied the 232-pounder’s next move, he reached out his hand.

“Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me,” Hull said.

He engulfed my non-football-player palm with ridiculous ease, and we both sat. As I looked down at the long list of sanction-related questions I planned to ask—a walkthrough of the unthinkable timeline the player had experienced over the past four years—I thought about the unexpected (and much appreciated) gesture.

We spent the next eight minutes talking about everything he had been through: three head coaches, various coaching philosophies, the sanctions, the heartbreak and how his teammates had come together. He was honest, concise and open, and the overall theme was pretty clear.

“I think our program is going in the right direction,” Hull said.

He spoke of the sanctions as if they were nothing more than a bad scar, something he’s dealt with all his life for no good reason. He wasn’t bitter or angry—and perhaps those stages had long since passed in private—but rather, at peace with his decision to stay at the school.

“We decided we were going to play for each other for the next three years,” he added.

With my list of questions answered and the empty table starting to fill around me, I thanked Hull for his time. He again went out of his way to thank me for speaking with him, and off I went.

But that moment stayed with me. Not necessarily because his responses fit the piece I was working on perfectly, but because Hull, through all the tears, turmoil and changes, had made it through to the other side long before the program was granted relief.

This was not manufactured jargon; it was a mindset developed by someone who was recruited by a dead, shamed coach, loyal to a successful (and impactful) caretaker and loyal once more, with feeling, to the man whose voice ricocheted off the Hilton ceiling directly behind him.

Despite the media’s ridiculous, unwritten rule to eliminate all rooting interests, I left that day as a fan of Mike Hull, the player, linebacker and Penn State mainstay. It was impossible not to be impressed, even if I had no real idea of what the past few years were like.

This week, shortly after the NCAA announcement became official, Hull spoke about just what this decision meant for one of the fixtures of the program.

“The whole thing has been kind of a roller-coaster ride, a lot of ups and downs,” Hull told Zack Neiner of The Daily Collegian following the NCAA’s announcement. “Whenever it first initially happened, it was kind of tough. But yesterday kind of brought the whole thing back around full circle."


A New Day Begins, the Same Path Continues

In some ways, everything has changed.

The shackles have been removed, which means whatever could have happened can happen. The players who stuck around—such as Mike Hull, running back Bill Belton and 49 juniors and seniors—will be able to experience whatever lies ahead without any fine print attached.

“You work hard. You work so hard 365 days a year, in the classroom, off the field and in the community,” Franklin said. “We ask a lot of these guys, and it’s nice to know that they’re not being limited or held back from any opportunities.”

Players, such as cornerback Jordan Lucas, who was the first recruit to commit to Bill O’Brien in 2012 during chaotic times, expressed their gratitude and excitement about what lies ahead on Instagram.

In some ways, nothing has changed.

Although the perception of postseason access and scholarships is significant, the relationships between player and coach and player and player—even the relationships that are still forming—far outweigh postseason importance.

“We’re still playing for the same thing that we were playing for before,” Franklin said. “That’s our brothers, our teammates, our players, our coaches, our alumni, our fans, our former players; and that’s who we were always playing for.”

This week, in front of the team and staff, Franklin gave the 49 players who could’ve left in 2012 without penalty a standing ovation. It was a small but significant break from game-planning for Rutgers.

Today is a memorable day for these young men! The men who stayed together for each other! Today Penn State is back! pic.twitter.com/GoZXRLwL1X

— Josh Gattis (@Coach_Gattis) September 8, 2014

"[We] told them how much they mean to them, how much we are all in debt to them, how much respect the university, the alumni, the community has for them,” Franklin told Neiner. “And that we’re going to play for them because they were here for this program and university when we needed them the most.”

It doesn’t matter where you stand, whether you’re overcome with anger over the NCAA’s leniency or overcome with joy that sanity prevailed. The kids who were loyal to the program and, more importantly, to each other will be rewarded before they depart.

“You only get so few opportunities to be together, and this family will never be together after this year,” Franklin said. “Now we have a chance to extend our time together as a family, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Collateral damage no more, Mike Hull, Bill Belton, Jordan Lucas and 46 others will be allowed to play in a bowl game this season if Penn State meets the necessary requirements. Whether they seize this opportunity with the requisite victories pales in comparison to the journey taken and the impact generated. They have made it—past the heartbreak and handshakes—to the other side.


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Former LSU Player 'Wouldn't Have Had a Problem' with Fournette's Heisman Pose

The LSU Tigers have one of the most talked about freshmen in college football. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson talks with Former LSU player T-Bob Hebert about Leonard Fournette's recent actions and future production for the Tigers.

How well do you think Fournette will do the rest of 2014?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Tennessee Football: How Latest Injuries Will Impact Vols vs. Oklahoma

The Tennessee Volunteers were already in for a challenge with Oklahoma's vaunted front seven. But the potential loss of two key playmakers would put the Vols in perhaps an insurmountable hole.

UT head coach Butch Jones told the media this week that electrifying junior receiver Von Pearson won't play Saturday night after suffering an ankle sprain while blocking downfield against Arkansas State.

Freshman tight end Ethan Wolf's outlook is a little more favorable after he suffered a knee bruise against the Red Wolves, though he hasn't exactly received a clean bill of health.

For the Vols' sake, Wolf needs to play and play well.

Not having either of those integral offensive cogs at full strength could significantly alter UT's offensive attack against the Sooners. With their wounded weapons, the Vols' biggest supposed strength—pass-catching depth—will be tested.

"Well, the great thing is that's one position where we do have some depth," Jones said. "But anytime you take an individual with the likes of Von Pearson out of your lineup, that's a setback for you."

Despite the seemingly dire injury news, the Vols are actually fortunate.

Both Wolf's and Pearson's injuries looked worse than the prognosis, and not having them for a short amount of time is a small price to pay considering visions of "season-ending injuries" danced through the heads of UT fans as they were helped off the field.

The news on Wolf has gotten significantly better throughout the week, with Vols tight ends coach Mark Elder telling the media Wednesday afternoon that he believed Wolf would be "ready to go."

An already cloudy forecast for points will become even more in question if neither player can perform at a high level. Here's where the Vols will miss them most.


Run Game Replacement

As vital as Pearson is to Tennessee's ability to change games on the perimeter, getting Wolf healthy in time for Oklahoma is just as important.

That's why the news that he's progressing is huge for a UT team needing every weapon it can salvage against the Sooners.

The 6'5", 240-pound freshman tight end is UT's best all-around player at the position, and through the first game-and-a-half during which he was on the field, the sure-handed Wolf caught eight balls for 46 yards.

Those are modest numbers until you dig a little deeper into the catches. Two of them went for first downs, and three more were on first-down plays to set the Vols up in favorable down-and-distance situations.

Once Wolf left in the third quarter of the ASU game with an injury, quarterback Justin Worley didn't target a tight end for the rest of the game.

With the run game struggling (3.3 yards per carry), the Vols have been forced to compensate with a short passing game. Wolf is a big piece of that puzzle, and if he can't go, the offense will suffer.

Another place where Wolf excels is blocking.

He's much better than fellow freshman Daniel Helm and senior Brendan Downs in that aspect of the game, and with UT scuffling to generate positive yardage on the ground, it needs Wolf.

Despite all the positive vibes surrounding Wolf's status on Wednesday, Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported he was still hobbled, so there is at least some uncertainty about the level of his availability:

Helm will have a "tremendous opportunity" and see his role expanded if Wolf can't go, Jones told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan.

He's got plenty of talent, too, but it's in the best interest of UT's offense for Wolf to play because of the various strengths that only he can bring to an offense needing difference-makers—especially against a powerhouse like the Sooners.


Missing 1 Game-Breaker

Anybody who doubts what kind of game-changing speed and talent Pearson has needs only watch his 56-yard catch-and-run against Arkansas State.

Though Worley hasn't had enough time to let plays develop much downfield, and his accuracy has been off when he has had time, he threw a deep crossing route to UT's 6'3", 188-pound receiver last week that Pearson hauled in with space in front of him.

After sprinting toward the sideline, he changed direction on a defender and squeaked out a few more yards.

It wasn't the kind of play UT fans got used to seeing with another former great JUCO receiver—current Minnesota Vikings dynamo Cordarrelle Patterson—but it wasn't that far off athletically.

Pearson is special with the ball in his hands, and that can't be replicated.

Marquez North is the Vols' best all-around receiver and NFL prospect, but Pearson can make so much more happen in the open field.

Tennessee has other players such as Josh Malone and Josh Smith who are capable of making defenders miss, and they have to realize that potential immediately with Pearson watching from the sideline. Smith, for instance, needs more of this:

Schematically, not much will change for the Vols without Pearson.

They can still go into three- and four-WR sets with anybody in the country. Having a stable that features North, Smith, Malone, Pig Howard, Jason Croom, Johnathon Johnson and Vic Wharton, among others, allows you to do that.

But because the impact of those weapons has been muted by a struggling offensive line that allows pass-rushers through to Worley before plays develop, that strength has been neutralized so far this year.

In order for Tennessee to pull a stunning upset over Oklahoma, it has to block better and run better above all. The Vols also have to get huge games from Worley and at least a pair of his targets.

Tennessee's receivers have star potential, and they have to show it right now with one of the team's biggest weapons being forced to watch.

Injuries are part of football, but with Pearson not playing and Wolf possibly limited, opportunity abounds for some of Tennessee's other talented youngsters to help fill the void.

If they don't, the Vols are going to be flying back home saddled with only a lopsided loss to show for their trip to Norman and prime-time jaunt back into national limelight.


Unless otherwise noted, all statistics gathered from UTSports.com and observations obtained firsthand. All recruiting information from 247Sports.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:


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Georgia vs. South Carolina: Which SEC Powerhouse Will Dominate the Trenches?

The Georgia Bulldogs take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down which areas are key for success in this SEC battle. Who do you think will win this matchup?

Watch the video and let us know

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

15 College Football Freshmen Who Are the Real Deal

The first two weeks of college football season are behind us, which means every freshman* in the country has had at least one and probably two chances to get on the field.

It's impossible to make fixed judgements after only two weeks, in no small part because the level of competition varies from team to team, providing some players a better stage than others. But despite this, certain guys have stuck out for the way they have started their careers. And for that, they deserve to be commended.

This is not a conclusive list of the 15 best freshmen in the country. Rather, it's a list of the 15 most impressive so far—the ones we feel most confident saying are "for real" based on how they've performed through two weeks.

Mainly, what we're looking for is production against quality opponents. In some cases, the level of production against inferior opponents was too good to ignore, but that was rare. If there was big production in one game against substandard competition but small production in one game against solid competition (*cough* Leonard Fournette), that means we need to see more.

Sound off below, and let us know (respectfully) whom we left out.


*Unless he plays for Cincinnati

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