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.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian called the 13-10 defeat No. 9-ranked USC football scored over Pac-12 Conference rival Stanford cause for celebration.
"We know the value of a win on the road in-conference," Sarkisian said on his Sunday conference call. "Especially against the two-time defending champs. When you go into Stanford and win where they hadn't lost in 17 games, that's a great win."
But Sarkisian also stressed that the win must be a building block. USC still has a long road back to the top of the Pac-12.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT
The elephant in the room for USC throughout this season will be its limited numbers. The Trojans had fewer than 60 scholarship players available Saturday at Stanford.
An injury to a key player—like, say, defensive lineman Leonard Williams—could very well be the difference in playing for the Pac-12 championship and not.
They faced that possibility at Stanford with Williams, who was battling an ankle injury.
Williams rallied to make 11 tackles and a sack en route to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week recognition.
Without Williams anchoring the defensive front, USC would have been hard-pressed to duplicate its overwhelming red-zone play.
"To see him fighting through [injury] sets a great example for his teammates," Sarkisian said. "To have 11 tackles in one game and a sack is a great accomplishment. Knowing he wasn't 100 percent is an even greater accomplishment."
Indeed, Williams came through in the clutch. But fighting through an injury, as the Trojans' star did Saturday, may not always be an option. Whether it's Williams or any of the team's other key players, the possibility of losing someone weighs heavier on USC than it does other teams.
The primary example this season is the secondary, which already endured one big blow when redshirt senior cornerback Josh Shaw was suspended indefinitely.
USC saw what having Shaw out of the lineup meant last week. Shaw often matched up against Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery in USC's 20-17 win over the Cardinal in 2013, and Stanford's dynamic playmaker was limited to just 23 yards receiving.
On Saturday, Montgomery caught nine passes for 83 yards.
Another loss at defensive back could put the USC pass defense in a tough spot—and that's just one example. The running back corps took a hit to its depth with Tre Madden sidelined; another injury there would vastly change the look of the offense.
Nothing but good health and good fortune can truly alleviate this concern for the Trojans as the season progresses.
The sample size is low, but Sarkisian and his staff should be concerned that USC is among the nation's most penalized teams through two games.
Pac-12 officials are notorious for throwing more flags than their counterparts in other conferences. The proof is in the numbers in recent seasons, which both returning Trojans and Sarkisian experienced.
Sarkisian's Washington team was the second-most penalized team in a highly penalized conference in 2013.
Penalties are effective speed bumps for a hurry-up offense like USC's. The Trojans experienced just how effectively firsthand against Stanford, as they racked up 10 flags for 87 yards.
Likewise, defensive penalties had the Trojans moving backward, which contributed to Stanford's six red-zone opportunities. USC's play with its back to the end zone was valiant, but it cannot afford to face similar situations throughout conference competition.
3. Diversity in the Passing Game
Quarterback Cody Kessler put up career numbers in the Trojans' Week 1 romp over Fresno State with 394 passing yards and four touchdowns. His ability to spread the ball to a variety of receivers on a number of different routes opened the field.
Stanford's swarming defense limited Kessler's options, but the quarterback had a security blanket in wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
Few teams have a player of Agholor's ability in their wide receiving corps, thus Kessler is wise to make use of him. Agholor is one of the most electric playmakers in space, as well as a constant breakaway threat.
However, Kessler must be careful to avoid the redundancy that plagued USC's offense in former head coach Lane Kiffin's last season-plus with the Trojans.
USC relied heavily on Marqise Lee in 2012 and the first few games of 2013—perhaps too heavily.
"I think we focused too much on [Lee] as a team and we took away from other great playmakers like Robert [Woods] and our tight ends," former Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley told Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times in December 2012.
Much like his former teammate Lee, Agholor is both dependable and explosive. But Kessler must make effective use of all his options to keep defenses honest in their coverage schemes.
George Farmer was the only other target with multiple catches on Saturday. Justin Davis and John "JuJu" Smith each had one.
Sarkisian said the passing attack "could have been more aggressive" against Stanford. As defenses become more focused on the Trojans' multifaceted running game and the dynamic Agholor, that aggression must be an element USC explores more.
WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T BE CONCERNED ABOUT
1. Backfield Combinations
Sarkisian inherited a deep and talented corps of running backs upon his arrival at USC. Implementing each ball-carrier's strengths into the game plan ran contrary to Sarkisian's formula at Washington, though.
With the Huskies, Sarkisian leaned on a workhorse feature back who approached or exceeded 300 carries for the season. And the coach's USC offense is building off the play of its own hard-running No. 1 back.
Javorius "Buck" Allen has reestablished himself as USC's primary rusher early in the campaign, picking up where he left off from a great finish to 2013. But the Trojans feature a much more multidimensional ground attack than many of Sarkisian's Washington teams.
That versatility was on display against a Stanford rush defense that routinely ranks among the nation's best.
Allen's 154 yards set a new career high. Twenty-two of Allen's 154 yards helped set up kicker Andre Heidari for the decisive field goal.
"We wanted to dedicate [the strategy] to run the football. We didn't want to abandon it," Sarkisian said.
The final drive also featured contributions from Davis and fullback Soma Vainuku.
The sophomore Davis never produced any of the long runs that highlighted his truncated freshman season, but he did provide USC's only touchdown of the afternoon.
Expect Davis' role as a receiving option out of the backfield to grow in the coming weeks, adding another dimension to the USC attack.
Sarkisian will also have the option of integrating Madden into the rotation when he recovers from turf toe. Madden was USC's leading rusher for the first half of 2013.
2. Offensive Line Play
Questions abounded about USC's young and inexperienced offensive line before the season.
The Trojans ranked No. 104 nationally with 35 sacks allowed in 2013. If that wasn't bad enough, center Marcus Martin bypassed his remaining eligibility to enter the NFL draft and veteran Aundrey Walker struggled with injury throughout the offseason.
Yet through two games, this group has acquitted itself nicely. It did not allow a sack in the Week 1 defeat of Fresno State, and paved the way for Allen's impressive rushing performance against the stingy Stanford defense in Week 2.
True freshmen Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama have been crucial to the unit's overall performance, and their ceiling for improvement as the season progresses is high.
"We've got a lot of areas to improve upon, and our play up front is one of them," Sarkisian said. "But the good thing for our young O-line is they've seen a lot of defenses. Fresno State threw a lot at them, Stanford threw a bunch at them, and they responded really well.
"Can we get better? Sure. But those guys playing in their second game, on the road, I was really pleased," he added.
3. Front Seven
That the Trojans' front seven is playing so well should come as no surprise. Sarkisian called the unit "the strength of this football team" at Pac-12 media days. With a veteran like Hayes Pullard at linebacker and an All-American such as Williams on the line, it's understandable.
But the group goes well beyond those names, and that's been evident early into 2014.
The front seven's strength was most evident in Week 2 with its red-zone play. Stanford could not adequately establish the run, and quarterback Kevin Hogan's passing lanes were stifled.
Sarkisian said the Trojans' play inside their own 20-yard line was a response to a challenge made in the week's practices. After Fresno State scored touchdowns on each of its red-zone opportunities, Sarkisian said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference that shutting down the Cardinal was "a point of emphasis."
Meanwhile, as problematic as depth is across other areas of the depth chart, the linebacker corps showed off how rife it is with contributors against Stanford. Pullard was ejected in the second half for targeting, but Sarkisian praised the performances of Michael Hutchings and Anthony Sarao after Pullard's departure.
Outside linebacker J.R. Tavai also stepped up to force a win-sealing fumble on his sack of Hogan.
The front seven's collective was perhaps the most important component of USC's win in Week 2. That likely won't be the last time this season, either.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com.
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Eight minutes into his meeting with the media on Monday, Stan Drayton found himself at a loss for words. And it wasn't because of a question that had anything to do with his running back rotation.
"Is Urban handling losses any different than he did during his time at Florida?" the Ohio State running backs coach was asked, a camcorder held mere inches from his face.
"Wow," Drayton responded after a pause. "You got me on that question. I would have to say..."
The question—and answer—were obviously complicated.
When Urban Meyer unexpectedly retired from Florida in 2009, he did so facing a sobering reality: his next loss could be his last.
The health issues that led to Meyer's early retirement have never really been defined, but this much we know: In the early morning following the Gators' loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game—a de facto play-in game for the BCS Championship Game—Meyer was admitted to a hospital after suffering from chest pains. The two-time national champion coach's initial retirement lasted less than 24 hours, however, as Meyer opted to return to Florida for the 2010 season following a brief leave of absence.
And as it turned out, Meyer's next loss wasn't his last. The post-Tim Tebow era in Gainesville turned out to be lower risk and much lower reward, as the Gators ultimately struggled to an 8-5 record after enjoying a 26-2 run from 2008-09.
Meyer would again leave Florida, this time for good, and again citing his health and family as his primary reasons why. He was 46 years old and admittedly unable to deal with the stress of his high-pressure job, a question that understandably followed him when he took over Ohio State in 2012.
"I feel fantastic now," Meyer insisted during his introductory press conference at OSU. "I was proud I had balance for quite a while. I lost that near the end. My health is in good shape. I've been checked out over and over again."
For the better part of his first two years in Columbus, Meyer developed a pretty good recipe for dealing with losses: he didn't.
In his first season with the Buckeyes, Meyer directed a bowl-ineligible team to a 12-0 record. And while his Ohio State tenure was considered an instant success, it left many—including his own wife—wondering what he'd do when that inevitable first loss with the Buckeyes came.
"At the end of the last game, I said, ‘Really, you really had to go undefeated the first year?’" Shelley Meyer told Eleven Warriors in 2013. "Where do you go from there?"
As it turned out, the answer was 12 more wins, before that haunting loss finally arrived. Again with a trip to the national title game on the line, Meyer's team fell victim in the conference championship game, with the Buckeyes losing to Michigan State.
After the game, Meyer was infamously pictured solemnly eating pizza, but by all accounts, he seemed to handle the loss about as well as anybody could have expected him to.
Since that cold December night in Indianapolis, however, Ohio State's misfortunes have snowballed into a stretch of three losses in four games, including last weekend's defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech. So how is the third-year Buckeyes head coach dealing with the first extended adversity that he's faced since coming to Columbus?
Like all things Meyer-related, it's tough to tell.
Meyer admitted to not sleeping much on Saturday night before putting in a full day of work on Sunday—neither of which are abnormal activities at this time of year for a football coach after a win or a loss. Asked by B/R in July how he was handling his daughter Nicki's famous pink contract on the back end of back-to-back losses in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game and Orange Bowl, Meyer insisted he was abiding by the rules put in place for him by his family
"I was where I was and it wasn't pleasant," Meyer said. "It affected a lot of people. I don't want to do that again."
If there's one person on the Ohio State staff who can vouch for where Meyer was four years ago it's Drayton, who served as the Gators running backs coach from 2005-07 and again in 2010. The now-Buckeyes assistant has seen his boss at his lowest of lows but insists that Meyer is now handling losses better than he was during his time in Gainesville.
"I would have to say, absolutely, yes," Drayton finally answered. "Urban is very encouraged by a bunch of motivated young men that want to make it right...nobody's reflecting emotionally on this game right now. We're moving forward."
And while that may be the politically correct answer, sprinkled with bits of truth, not everybody inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center seems to be moving on from Ohio State's loss to the Hokies as quickly as Drayton claims to be.
"I'm still hurting," Meyer admitted Monday morning. "We'll be ready by tonight, get it out of our system and go."
With at least 10 games remaining on their slate, Meyer and the Buckeyes don't really have any other choice.
Although Meyer appears to be dealing with Ohio State's recent defeats better internally, his external actions have made it clear to his players that losing doesn't sit well with him.
As detailed in Wright Thompson's 2012 profile, most of Meyer's weeks as a head coach have culminated with a Victory Meal, a celebration of his team's most recent win.
They'd gather after a win, eating steak and shrimp, watching a replay of the game. They'd hang out, enjoying the accomplishment. Players and coaches loved Victory Meal, and Meyer often sat at the front of the room, glowing inside.
Only on Sunday, there was no Victory Meal, because, well, there was no victory. Rather than dine on prime cuts, the Buckeyes were served a less-than-memorable meal consisting of spaghetti and meatballs.
"We still had dinner. It just wasn't the same quality of food," Drayton said. "I don't even remember [what it was]. I just remember swallowing something."
"It's something that I really did not enjoy and something I cannot get used to," added sophomore safety Tyvis Powell, the only OSU player to meet with the media on Monday.
And while the Buckeyes will have to wait another week for their next surf-and-turf meal, the formerly unreasonable Meyer now finds himself as the voice of reason inside his team's locker room. That's not something that could have been said four years ago, but thus far, Meyer appears to be passing what's been one of the toughest tests of his coaching career.
"He remained calm about it. He paints the big picture for you," Powell said. "All you think about is the loss, but he tries to get you to move on and move forward and look to the future rather than sit back and dwell on the loss."
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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The Penn State Nittany Lions are looking to bounce back stronger than ever now that the NCAA has lifted their recruiting sanctions starting in 2015. Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson talks with 247Sports' JC Shurburtt about what this means for their upcoming recruiting. Who do you think head coach James Franklin can bring to Penn State in the future?
Watch the video and let us know!
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The Texas A&M football team has started the season with two consecutive wins and rose to No. 7 in the latest AP poll. The Aggies have shown some surprising strengths and a few expected weaknesses during their first two games.
The Aggies feature one of the younger teams in the SEC overall. Head coach Kevin Sumlin has played 14 true freshman during the first two games. With that kind of youth, you expect to see some youthful mistakes.
The Aggies have had their share of mistakes, but they have also had some standout performances from some of their younger players. The future of the program is definitely bright as the Aggies feature a number of young players who are playing significant roles early in their career.
This is a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of the 2014 Texas A&M football team.
Another week, another round of major movement among the top teams in college football.
Thanks to some marquee matchups between highly rated teams, as well as a few major upsets, Bleacher Report's power rankings went through a significant shake-up. Teams that were ranked in the 20s a week ago are no longer among the top 50, while others that were sitting in the 30s or 40s are now in the top 25.
And spoiler alert: The top of the power rankings has even more turnover.
Our power rankings are comprised of an average of five ratings: The Associated Press media and Amway coaches polls, Bleacher Report's Top 25, ratings guru Jeff Sagarin's computer ledger and my personal ranking.
Take a look at how we ranked all 128 FBS teams heading into Week 3 and then let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Through two games, Alabama fans have started to get an idea about new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense and how it may be different or similar to what the Crimson Tide have run in the past.
Essentially, it’s not that different from Alabama’s offense under head coach Nick Saban. There’s a heavy emphasis on running the ball with power and setting up the play action. But we’ve also seen a number of new formations and players being used in different ways.
And, we’ve only seen a small part of it.
It would be foolish for Alabama to show its entire hand on offense right away, especially in a game against West Virginia, a power-five team that isn’t quite on the Crimson Tide’s level yet, and definitely not against group-of-five Florida Atlantic. And with lowly Southern Miss visiting on Saturday before SEC play, don’t expect to get much more insight into what Kiffin’s trying to do.
“I think there's a lot left on the table that we can show,” tight end Brian Vogler said on Monday. “I think the coaches are saving that up for maybe if it just works on a different defense. We put in a lot of stuff, and we take stuff out for certain defenses, and we game-plan around it. So I think a lot of the offense is still out there. The coaches are just waiting to use it.”
The Mountaineers ran a 3-3-5 stack defense which, while unlike anything Alabama sees regularly in the SEC, was built to stop spread attacks like West Virginia sees in the Big 12. If Kiffin was going to open things up, especially in the passing game, this wasn’t going to be the game to do so.
The result? Alabama ran the ball for almost 300 yards, with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry each hitting the 100-yard mark.
Against Florida Atlantic, Alabama knew it had the distinct talent advantage. The Owls cornerbacks were playing off of the Crimson Tide’s quick receivers. That led to the onslaught of screen passes thrown their way on Saturday.
Right tackle Austin Shepherd said most of those plays have a run option, and FAU was playing the run while setting their defensive backs to not get beat over the top.
“They’re kind of option plays. You can run or pass it,” Shepherd said. “We’re blocking the run. If they’re loading the box, we’re going to split the ball out.”
It’s almost a cliche to say, but right now, Alabama is just taking what the defense is giving it. And that’s nothing new for the Crimson Tide.
“If you go back and look at games, not this season but in the past, we'll run plays over and over again because it just works,” Vogler said. “I remember in the SEC Championship we ran the same play six times in a row because it worked. If something is working for us, we are going to use it the rest of the game.”
That year, of course, Alabama had one of the best offensive lines in college football history. It could move defensive fronts at will. And Vogler is right: Alabama’s official play by play does indeed show a stretch at the end of the third quarter of six straight run plays up the middle or to the right side that helped set up a go-ahead touchdown.
This season, Alabama’s strength is on the perimeter. Its receivers are dangerous in open space. So it makes sense that if defenses are giving it that open space, the Crimson Tide would exploit it.
“We had the numbers, and it was what we were looking for,” Vogler said.” We spit it out there and with guys like Chris Black, Christion Jones, Amari Cooper out there to make plays, it's real nice.”
While Alabama and Kiffin don’t want to show their full arsenal right away, they haven’t had to, by any stretch. They’ve had plenty of success taking what the defense has given them, whether that’s from a talent-level standpoint or schematically.
So when could we expect to see the playbook open up a little bit more?
The first likely candidate is Florida on September 20. The Gators have the talent on defense to match up with Alabama. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor can match up with Cooper, Black and the like. The Crimson Tide won’t be able to bubble screen them to death.
Kiffin’s offense has been innovative and a fresh look for a unit that got stale at times under Doug Nussmeier. But it hasn’t come close to being fully unleashed yet.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.
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