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Central Michigan Punter Ron Coluzzi Gets Trucked on Attempted Tackle vs. Purdue

The Central Michigan Chippewas have played quite well on Saturday against the Purdue Boilermakers, but their punter might think twice before he tries to tackle another returner.

During the first quarter, Central Michigan punter Ron Coluzzi tried to tackle Purdue's Frankie Williams, but instead got completely trucked over.

[Twitter, Lost Lettermen]

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Tennessee's Josh Smith Hurdles over Arkansas State Defender

The Tennessee Volunteers are starting the season strong with a 1-0 record and a 24-12 lead at halftime against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

During the first half, sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith got a chance to run the ball on a reverse and completely hurdled over an Arkansas State defender.

Here's another angle of the hurdle.

[YouTube, Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Penn State's Christian Hackenberg Doesn't Seem Happy on Phone with Coach

The Penn State Nittany Lions only have a 7-0 lead over the Akron Zips at halftime, and sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg seems frustrated so far.

During a call with his coach, Hackenberg looked upset and appeared to tell his coach, "I don't know what the **** we're doing".

[Vine, h/t Adam Lefkoe]

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Sooners' Julian Wilson Destroys Tulsa WR with Huge Hit, Celebrates Appropriately

The Oklahoma Sooners are having no problem dominating the Tulsa Golden Hurricane thanks to big plays on both sides of the ball, including this massive hit.

During the second quarter, senior cornerback Julian Wilson completely leveled Tulsa wide receiver Derek Patterson, then proceeded with an appropriate celebration after such a big play.

[Vine, h/t Twitter

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Western Illinois' Bonehead Kickoff Play Results in Safety for Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers were already huge favorites in their Week 2 game against the Western Illinois Leathernecks, and plays like this aren't going to help the underdogs pull off an upset.

On the opening kickoff, Western Illinois running back Kyle Hammonds bobbled the return, and the ball bounced out of the end zone to the 1-yard line. For some reason, the junior decided to bring the ball back into the end zone and take a knee.

While it was originally ruled a touchback, the call was reversed and Wisconsin was awarded two points for the safety. Here's another angle of the blunder.

[VineYahoo Sports]

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Alabama's Blake Sims Smokes FAU Linebacker with Nasty Juke

The biggest storyline for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team this offseason was figuring out who would take over at quarterback for AJ McCarron: veteran signal-caller Blake Sims or Florida State transfer Jake Coker.

Sims appears to have locked up that spot, and plays like this show why.

GIF: Blake Sims fake/juke http://t.co/jznwVbJZJk

— Marcus (@_MarcusD_) September 6, 2014

During Week 2 of the college football season, Sims smoked FAU senior linebacker David Lozandier with a filthy juke to pick up a nice chunk of yards. In the first quarter alone, Sims racked up two passing touchdowns and a seven-yard rushing score as well.


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Two ESPN College GameDay Signs Make Embarrassing Mistakes

ESPN College GameDay offers fans a chance to show off their clever wit on national television in the form of picket signs with puns and lighthearted insults.

If you go the insult route, make sure to proofread and double-check your facts. Two fans in Eugene, Oregon, failed to follow that advice in Week 2 of the college football season.

Floyd Mayweather and Bama reading sign pic.twitter.com/t58z6AX2Q2

— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) September 6, 2014

Well this is awkward #GameDaySignspic.twitter.com/2ig7LiVbZO

— Patrick Conn (@DraftCowboys) September 6, 2014

[Twitter, h/t For the Win]

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Best Signs from ESPN's College GameDay Week 2

ESPN's College GameDay is in Eugene, Oregon, this week as the No. 3 Oregon Ducks take on No. 7 Michigan State in a battle that could have College Football Playoff implications.

Here are some of the best fan-made signs, including some that didn't make it on TV.

So far this #GameDaySigns is #winning@CollegeGameDay#GetUp4GameDaypic.twitter.com/tS5gXJ3mgC

— Patrick Wingert (@pwingie) September 6, 2014


— Busted Coverage (@Busted_Coverage) September 6, 2014

#GameDaySigns Part II: pic.twitter.com/R6TJS9J0aI

— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 6, 2014

[h/t College Spun]

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College Football Week 2: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Keep it locked here for all the College Football action! 

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Michigan State vs. Oregon: Keys to Victory in Clash Between Spartans and Ducks

In a week where the final game between Michigan and Notre Dame takes place, the biggest matchup on Saturday's college football schedule takes place out west when the Michigan State Spartans head to Autzen Stadium to take on the Oregon Ducks. 

September tends to be a slow time in college football, at least early on. Teams want to get their feet under them and prepare for the more grueling part of the schedule, so seeing a battle between two top-10 teams that play thousands of miles apart locking horns on the second week of the year is fantastic. 

It's also notable because the loser will have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks to keep their hopes for the College Football Playoff alive. With two very distinct styles of play on display Saturday night, we've got the keys to victory for the Spartans and Ducks. 


What Michigan State Must Do To Win

You can tell how little respect there is for the Spartans and the Big Ten conference overall by looking at the odds for this game. Despite being ranked seventh in the AP Top 25, Michigan State has been made a 13-point underdog according to Oddsshark.com

No matter what you think about the randomness of a point spread, that margin is blatant disrespect directed at the Spartans. They aren't exactly the same team that won the Big Ten and Rose Bowl last year, but Mark Dantonio has built one of the most physical teams in the country. 

There has been a formula for beating Oregon in recent years, pulled off to perfection by Stanford. The Cardinal have held the Ducks to a total of 34 points in their last two games by slowing things down and keeping that high-octane offense off the field. 

In the 120 minutes of football they have played since 2012, Stanford held the ball for 79 minutes and 39 seconds. You can't score 40 points if you only have the ball for about 20 minutes. 

I use Stanford as an example because Michigan State bears a strong resemblance to David Shaw's team. The Spartans aren't flashy on offense but don't beat themselves, allowing the defense to set them up with good field position. 

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune put it best when he said the Spartans are just a smart fundamental team: "Michigan State already represents the guts of Big Ten football. The reigning Rose Bowl champions do it the way Bo and Woody devised it. The Spartans huddle before plays. They run the ball and stop the run. They create turnovers. They play smart."

Stopping Marcus Mariota from running is the key to slowing down Oregon's offense. The Heisman hopeful has tremendous ability as a pocket passer, but this offense shines when the read-option is firing on all cylinders. 

Going back to the Stanford games, Mariota threw the ball well with 250 yards and two passing touchdowns last year. On the ground, though, the Cardinal picked him apart to the tune of minus-16 rushing yards. 

Coy Wire of FoxSports.com spoke to former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who took over as head coach at Vanderbilt in January, about the key to stopping Mariota in the read-option:

I talked to Mason about his tactics for stopping Oregon’s read-zone, and he said that one of the keys is to make Mariota hesitate when he makes his read.


Mason knew that the QB’s read and decision was determined by the quick decision and action of the unblocked man, so he went against conventional thinking. He told his player NOT to make a quick decision. He told his player to take two steps across the line of scrimmage and then just stop...

Michigan State doesn't have the offensive firepower to win a shootout. Connor Cook is the epitome of a game-managing quarterback. He's not flashy or stylish, completing just 58.7 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions last year, but does make the right read more often than not. 

Cook also did something Mariota couldn't do last year: Conquer Stanford's defense. He threw for 304 yards against the Cardinal in the Rose Bowl. He will have openings against an Oregon group that thrives on forcing teams into situations where they have to throw the ball deep. 

The easiest way to win a game is by slowing the other team down. Michigan State has the defense to do that. Now it just has to execute the game plan in a hostile environment to pull off the upset. 



What Oregon Must Do To Win

To use a movie analogy, Michigan State is like a Terrence Malick film. It's slow, contemplative and frustrating at times but never less than fascinating when you get to the end. 

Oregon, on the other hand, is the big summer blockbuster that generates $1 billion at the box office because it's nothing but fast-paced action that tickles your most surface-level senses.

That's not meant to denigrate the work done by former head coach Chip Kelly and current leader Mark Helfrich. Their work has built Oregon into one of the best programs in the country, and sometimes you just want to sit back and watch a really good action movie. 

This is the kind of non-conference test the Ducks should have. Outside of Stanford, the Pac-12 is a finesse conference. No one wants to play physical football when they can recruit the flashy skill players to create big plays in a short amount of time. 

Oregon's defense has to play better than it did last week against South Dakota. You would never know it looking at the 62-13 final score, but the Ducks weren't sharp. 

Andrew Greif of The Oregonian wrote after the game last weekend that the effort on the defensive side of the ball was lacking any discipline. Defensive coordinator Don Pellum is quoted in the recap as saying that consistency was a huge problem:

No one, at least from the sideline ... played great. Just a lot of guys making plays but no one really stood out.

I think if you asked our players most of them would tell you that our intensity, the way we like to shed, throw and go, the way we like to move, it was inconsistent. We're expecting a much faster, dynamic team. At times it showed a little bit but it wasn't consistent and obviously we have to get it consistent.

That has to change against Michigan State. The Spartans don't want to run up and down the field, but they're more than capable of putting together sustained drives with an efficient passing game and the power-running style of senior Jeremy Langford. 

Offensively, Mariota has to be able to make plays from the pocket. One strategy that would be smart for the Ducks to try, at least early on, is play-action passing. Everyone expects the Ducks to try running the ball because they do it as well as any team in the country and have a quarterback capable of breaking a big play with his legs. 

However, there's a reason Mariota is considered one of the top quarterbacks for the 2015 draft class. He can throw the ball around the field and makes great decisions. He's got the arm strength and accuracy to make deep throws. 

Striking early is the best way to take Michigan State out of its comfort zone, because then the Spartans are forced to play catch up with their offense and take more chances down the field. That's not their style and can get them in trouble. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Oklahoma vs. Tulsa: Live Score and Highlights

Oklahoma 31, Tulsa 0 — Halftime

Game action is now underway between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. ABC and ESPN2 is televising the matchup from Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Stay tuned here as we provide live analysis and commentary as the action unfolds:

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Florida Atlantic vs. Alabama: Live Score and Highlights

Alabama 31, Florida Atlantic 0—Early 3rd Quarter

The Alabama Crimson Tide were somewhat less than impressive in their Week 1 meeting with West Virginia.  Consequently, Alabama dropped in the B/R Top 25 Poll from preseason No. 3 to No. 7 this week.

How well will the Tide recover today against FAU?

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Akron vs. Penn State: Live Score and Highlights

Penn State 7, Akron 0 — Early 3rd quarter

Game action is now underway between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Akron Zips. ABC and ESPN2 is televising the matchup from State College, Pennsylvania.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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College Football Rankings 2014: Last-Minute Look at Week 2 Polls

Catch the Week 2 college football polls while you still can.

With games like Michigan State at Oregon, USC at Stanford and Virginia Tech at Ohio State on tap, there are sure to be plenty of significant changes in the polls between now and Week 3. With that in mind, here is a look at the Week 2 polls before the games officially kick off.


Most Important Week 2 Game for the Polls: Michigan State at Oregon

There is a lot at stake in the showdown between Michigan State and Oregon.

The winner will get a coveted, marquee nonconference victory in the first season of the College Football Playoff when strength of schedule is likely to be very important to the selection committee. 

Plus, there is the general assumption that the SEC is the best league, so every other conference is trying to pick up head-turning victories to improve their reputation. Along those fronts, Michigan State already beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl last season, so there is an opportunity for the Spartans to be a real thorn in the Pac-12’s side.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News discussed the significance of this game from the conference angle:

The matchup is loaded with significance for both participants and both conferences.

The winning team has a star on its resume to show the playoff selection committee, while the loser likely enters run-the-table mode. The losing conference could have trouble in the committee room, as well.

Officially, there are four playoff berths. Realistically, two are already taken — by the SEC champ and Florida State.

In the only Pac-12/Big Ten matchup of elite teams this season … and given the significance of head-to-head results … the losing conference could be left behind in the playoff race.

Michigan State’s offense should be strong this season with the return of Connor Cook at quarterback and Jeremy Langford at running back. What’s more, the Spartans have plenty of experience in raucous atmospheres, as head coach Mark Dantonio suggested, via Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press:

“We don’t really worry about that. We’ve played big games and won in every stadium in this conference. ... I’m more concerned about getting the job done. I don’t think we’re gonna go in there and be intimidated.”

Still, defense is the king for Michigan State, thanks to the pedigrees of Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, but it is breaking in seven new defensive starters. Oregon’s fast-tempo offense is not exactly the ideal opponent to face early in the season with a young and inexperienced defense leading the way.

The thought here is that Michigan State eventually bounces back from a loss to challenge for a postseason spot with Cook and Langford on offense and the young defense developing over the course of the year under Narduzzi. It also helps that showdowns against Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska are all at home.

That strong finish for the Spartans would be critical for Oregon as well because its victory would look more impressive.

It would be easy to get a bit macro with this and point out that the Ducks have lost to physically imposing defenses like Stanford, LSU, Ohio State and others over the past few years. However, Marcus Mariota’s presence alone will be enough to win this contest against the physical Spartans.

Mariota may just be the Heisman front-runner for the time being after Jameis Winston threw multiple interceptions in the season opener and can beat defenses with his arm and legs. He will find any weaknesses on the Michigan State side and exploit them constantly.

The Oregon up-tempo attack is about more than just Mariota, though.

Royce Freeman rushed for two touchdowns in the opener, but it was Byron Marshall who put on a show. Marshall averaged 11.3 yards a carry on his 90 rushing yards and exploded in the passing game for 138 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Oregon had 11 people with a reception, so look for Mariota to spread the ball around yet again. It will be enough to beat a Michigan State squad that will be much better in November than it is now. 

Prediction: Oregon 31, Michigan State 20


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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Exploring Championship Implications of Week 2 Games

Just one week into the college season, the College Football Playoff landscape already has an entirely different look.

Sure, programs like Florida State and Alabama are still at the top, but both struggled in Week 1. Each team remains a favorite to reach the postseason at the end, but have question marks moving forward.

As for early talks about South Carolina and UCLA potentially contending for a spot, both dropped off after disappointing performances. The Gamecocks were blown out by Texas A&M, 52-28, while Brett Hundley and the Bruins was underwhelming against lowly Virginia.

Then there were teams that blossomed into contenders such as Georgia and Texas A&M. The aforementioned blowout of the Gamecocks helped the Aggies while the Bulldogs rolled over Clemson in prime time.

With the full slate of Week 2 games set to being on Saturday afternoon, here's a look at the standings and a breakdown of the games with championship implications.


Breakdown of Week 2 Championship Implications

Following a surprising Week 1 that saw several contenders rise and fall, the second weekend promises to be equally as enthralling.

The Seminoles and Crimson Tide have cupcakes on the schedule, so both will likely remain at the top of the rankings. But when it comes to huge matchups, it doesn't get any bigger than Michigan State vs. Oregon.

Michigan State go on the road to test its dominant defense against a high-powered offense. As for the Spartans' starting quarterback, Connor Cook believes he'll be ready to go, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

While much of the focus will be on Marcus Mariota—for good reason—it will be Cook that has more to prove coming in. The Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl MVP in 2013, Cook is 14-1 as Sparty's signal-caller during his career.

Both programs come in with aspirations of making the College Football Playoff, but the Ducks are currently ranked higher. Going into the matchup, Oregon has the higher percentage chance to win, per ESPN College Football:

Apart from the huge Big Ten-Pac-12 showdown, another matchup on the West Coast might have championship implications.

Currently, USC and Stanford are neither inside the top five and near contention for the playoff. But with the Cardinal cracking the top 10 in the Amway poll, they are clearly creating buzz with their play.

Heading into the huge conference clash, Stanford clearly holds the upper hand in the last several seasons, as ESPN notes:

With both teams hoping to make noise this season, this is a crucial matchup. And after early controversy for Steve Sarkisian and the USC program, a win over Stanford would help turn the corner.

The likes of Kenny Trill and other Heisman contenders will make their cases against lesser opponents, but the real competition will be in Oregon and California. As the West Coast prepares for all eyes to be firmly focused on it, all four teams in those matchups have hopes for a playoff appearance.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Final Outlook Before Saturday's Week 2 Games

The college football playoff system is the best thing to happen to the game in a while. The closer we get to the end of the season, the more apparent that will be.

After just one week, not much has materialized.

Despite a close call against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the defending national champion Florida St. Seminoles are still considered the top team in the land. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston helped will his team to a 37-31 win in Week 1.

Winston had 370 yards passing and one spectacular run, but he did throw two interceptions.

The No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide had to hold off a determined West Virginia team 33-23. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners had much easier matchups against the South Dakota Coyotes and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, respectively.

With all four teams winning, it's hard to suggest any of them lost or gained ground. However, that could certainly happen in Week 2. 


Top Four Team With Best Chance to Make a Statement: No. 3 Oregon

In the unquestioned game of the week, Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota and the Ducks will host the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans.

The Spartans defense was downright nasty in 2013, but it did lose seven key defensive players from last year's team—including Denicos Allen and Darqueze Dennard.

Last week, the Spartans beat Jacksonville State 45-7, but they did allow 254 yards of total offense. It's safe to say the Ducks' attack will be a little more formidable.

Based on this and the fact that the Ducks haven't lost a non-conference game at Autzen Stadium since 2008, you have to like their chances at home. If the Ducks win, a victory over a Top 10 team would have to at least make some of the voters from the playoff committee think about putting them ahead of Alabama.


Team Outside of Top Four With Chance to Make a Move: No. 7 Michigan State

The game of the week is a double-edged sword. If the Spartans can go into Oregon and win, it would make an even bigger statement than a Ducks victory.

There are real questions as to whether the Spartans defense is as good as it was last season after losing so many key players. If the team can rally behind junior quarterback Connor Cook and find a way to slow the Ducks offense down, it may have a chance to pull a pretty big upset while making a quantum leap up the rankings.


Easiest Week 2 Matchup: No. 1 Florida State vs. Citadel

The Seminoles will be happy to see The Citadel Bulldogs coming after last week. I'm sure the Bulldogs will give it their all, but don't expect to see Winston and many of the starters past halftime.

The Southern Conference squad was 5-7 last season. The Clemson Tigers were the only ranked team it played, and the Bulldogs lost that game 52-6.

Last week, they lost to Coastal Carolina 31-16. It's going to be a long day for those kids on Saturday.


All stats per CFBStats.com

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final Overview of Week 2 Standings

Preseason college football rankings are always to be taken with a grain of salt, and that is never more apparent than the moment that Week 2 standings are released.

All it takes is one game for certain top-10 schools to prove that the hype might be unwarranted. Meanwhile, an upset victory for a team near the end of the Top 25 can propel them all the way near the front of the rankings.

I'm looking at you, South Carolina and Texas A&M. 

Although the Top 25 in Week 2 looks significantly different from how things will stand at the end of the season, it's still a much more accurate measuring point after seeing—almost—all of college football's best teams play their opening 60 minutes.

But with top-10 matchups on the slate for the weekend, we're only a few days away from another big shakeup.

Here's a final look at the Top 25 as Week 2 gets ready to unfold.


Associated Press poll found at AP.org, USA Today coaches' poll found at USAToday.com.


Top 25 Overview

It didn't involve No. 1 falling, but Week 1 showed just how vulnerable the top dogs are in college football entering the season.

Few expected anything other than another Florida State blowout when Jameis Winston's crew took to the AT&T Stadium field to face an unranked Oklahoma State team. Instead, last year's Heisman Trophy winner got all he could handle as he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a close 37-31 victory.

Not as noticeable as Winston's struggles but even more alarming were the defensive lapses. The Seminoles gave up 364 total yards, and they conceded more points than they did throughout a portion of last season as ESPN Stats and Information noted:

Florida State wasn't the only powerhouse to struggle to an opening win. Alabama faced an early deficit to West Virginia and struggled on defense, before pulling out a 33-23 win that was closer than expected.

Of course, neither of the close wins did anything to deter Florida State and Alabama's status as the top two teams in the rankings. But don't think for a second that the reset of college football didn't notice their vulnerability.

Elsewhere, many less proven teams made huge statements in Week 1. Most notably were two SEC heavyweights—Georgia and Texas A&M.

The Bulldogs started the season off with a marquee matchup against Clemson, and a tight affair at halftime was blown open thanks to Todd Gurley's massive day—15 carries, 198 yards and four total touchdowns, including a kickoff return to the house.

From a team lurking outside of the top 10 entering the season, that performance wasn't too shocking. The Aggies' domination of South Carolina, however, was just that as freshman Kenny Hill dazzled with more than 500 yards of offense. 

Both were rewarded in Week 2 with huge boosts in the rankings, but with Georgia facing South Carolina this upcoming weekend, don't be surprised if things get shaken up again.

The movement was far and wide across the Top 25, including Louisville sneaking in after dominating Miami. CampusInsiders.com's Russ Mitchell added more schools to keep an eye on as potential sleepers:

Week 2 guarantees more movement across the board. ESPN's College GameDay will be at a game with College Football Playoff implications as No. 3 Oregon hosts No. 7 Michigan State, USC battles Stanford and Notre Dame hosts Michigan.

Most of the top schools can ease into the season with easy matchups on Week 1, but Week 2 begins the true season for those who start with a cupcake team.

There will be few strolls in the park for the nation's marquee teams from here on out. 

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College Football Picks Week 2: Final Predictions on Odds for Top 25 Matchups

After one week of the 2014 college football season, the AP Top 25 Poll was shaken up in a big way thanks to some unexpected performances—both good and bad—from the nation's top squads. With some highly contested matchups in store on Saturday, we're left asking one question: Which teams will survive Week 2?

Vegas oddsmakers have already been hard at work deciphering which teams deserve to be favorites and which should be underdogs in Week 2. Odds have been established, and point spreads have shifted due to early betting—now it's time for some final predictions.

Based on what we saw from the nation's Top 25 teams in Week 1, let's project how they'll fare—both against their opponents and against the spread—on Saturday.

Game odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.


Notable Matchups

(3) Oregon vs. (7) Michigan State

We only had to wait until Week 2 to witness a clash of heavyweights. These two teams are built in complete opposite fashions, and that's what makes this contest so compelling.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is absolutely part of the early Heisman Trophy discussion. A dual-threat signal-caller, Mariota has the ability to torch defenses with his arm and his legs. In the team's 62-13 Week 1 victory over South Dakota, Mariota completed 14 of his 20 passing attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns while rushing six times for 43 yards and another score.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports tweeted exactly how fast and athletic Mariota really is:

What makes Mariota even more dangerous is Oregon's high-octane offense full of speedy playmakers. Byron Marshall is predominantly a running back with good hands; however, the team experimented with him in the slot in Week 1. It was a huge success. Marshall accumulated 228 yards from scrimmage and two scores on a mix of eight carries and eight receptions.

On the flip side, Michigan State owns one of the most feared defenses in the nation. In Week 1, the Spartans held Jacksonville State to just seven points and a total of 244 yards of offense.

The Gamecocks put three different quarterbacks in the game, and only Max Shortell produced any kind of offense, completing 10 of 18 attempts for 117 yards and a score. The other two signal-callers were intercepted a combined three times.

On the ground, Jacksonville State didn't fare any better. The team rushed 25 times for 22 yards—that's an average of 0.9 yards per carry.

Here's a telling stat from ESPN College Football regarding Michigan State's fierce run defense:

A matchup between one of the nation's most prolific offenses and one of the most stout defenses is just around the corner. This leads us to one question: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?


(13) Stanford vs. (14) USC

Stanford didn't have much of a contest in Week 1 against UC Davis, and while the team won in decisive fashion by a score of 45-0, it didn't go as swimmingly as it probably should have.

Kevin Hogan had his moments under center, but against an average Aggies defense, he had a nice chance to shine. Instead, he completed 12 of his 16 attempts for 204 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Not bad numbers by any stretch, but not great.

While Hogan didn't light up the scoreboard, he's fared nicely against top teams, via ESPN College Football:

As for the Cardinal running game, the loss of Tyler Gaffney was a big one. It appears as though the team is replacing the workhorse with a committee approach featuring Barry Sanders and Kelsey Young. Both backs were solid but couldn't find enough room to break a run longer than 17 yards.

USC had a bit more of a challenge in Week 1 against Fresno State. The offense didn't seem to miss a beat, and quarterback Cody Kessler really looked the part. The junior completed 25 of 37 attempts for 394 yards and four touchdowns without throwing a pick. He also added a one-yard touchdown scamper on the ground.

According to Eye on College Football, Kessler is on track to play again Saturday after an injury scare in Week 1:

The quarterback isn't at a loss for weapons, either. Javorius Allen looked to be every bit the part of a workhorse running back, carrying 22 times for 133 yards and a score. JuJu Smith torched Fresno State's secondary for 123 yards on four receptions. Nelson Agholor proved to be a solid red-zone target, reeling in five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns.

Needless to say, the Trojans are boasting a very well-rounded offense.

However, USC did allow 157 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries to Fresno State, which could prove to be the team's Achilles' heel. If Stanford is to earn the win, getting its running game going should be priority No. 1.

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College Football Week 2: Previews and Predictions for the Top 5 Games

There was excitement in Week 1 of the 2014 college football season, but Week 2 will be even better. 

The game of the week, as well as the best nonconference game of the 2014 season, will be between Top 10 teams Michigan State and Oregon. Both programs will battle it out in the Pacific Northwest to stay in the running for a spot in the College Football Playoff.  

While much of the focus will be on the Ducks and Sparty, Michigan and Notre Dame will play their final game against each other for the foreseeable future. The Wolverines need a big road win to gain momentum after a rough 2013 campaign. 

The other two games in the national spotlight will be USC at Stanford, as well as Virginia Tech at Ohio State. Steve Sarkisian and his Trojans will try to make it two straight against the Cardinal, while the Hokies look to earn a win over a ranked nonconference opponent for the first time since 2009.

With a lot of anticipation heading into Week 2, here are the top five games to watch Saturday.    

Begin Slideshow

Butch Jones Must Find Senior Leadership on Young Tennessee Volunteers Team

After Tennessee cruised past the Utah State Aggies Sunday evening, fans and media pundits alike raised their expectations for the Volunteers' 2014 season.

And while the team certainly looks improved over last season—particularly on defense—it's up to second-year head coach Butch Jones to find a solid group of veteran leaders who can keep the team focused, particularly once they hit the meat of one of the toughest schedules in college football.


Looking Ahead at Tennessee's SEC East Schedule

It's still too early to determine if Tennessee is one of the most improved teams in the SEC or if Utah State simply regressed since posting a 9-5 record in 2013. Regardless, the Vols' blowout win against the Aggies was one of the most impressive Week 1 performances in the SEC East. 

South Carolina and Missouri looked vulnerable in their debuts, while hapless Vanderbilt may be headed back toward the dark ages under first-year head coach Derek Mason. 

Although Florida has yet to play and Georgia may have one of the strongest offenses in the conference, the 2014 season still presents the Vols with their best chance to finish in the top half of the SEC East since 2009. 

Leading the charge for Jones and Tennessee are two key senior players: Justin Worley and A.J. Johnson.


Worley's Leadership Under Center

Although he may not have the arm strength and natural talent of Tyler Bray, there's a good chance Justin Worley will leave Tennessee with a greater legacy than his predecessor at quarterback. 

Looking back at the 2013 season, Worley leading the Vols to a last-second win over No. 11 South Carolina may have been the biggest SEC upset of the year. 

Much of that win was due to Worley playing the best football of his career against the Gamecocks. 

However, his excellent performance against Utah State—27-of-38 for 273 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions—shows that he still hasn't peaked as a quarterback. 

One of Worley's biggest assets is his overall command of the offense. ESPN.com's Chris Low reports that Worley's teammates, including senior tailback Marlin Lane, have great confidence in his ability to call the right plays and keep everyone on the same page:

We have a new offensive line, other new players, but he did a great job of communicating and getting everything going. I love Justin.


A.J. Johnson: Tennessee's Best Overall Player

With a career stat sheet as loaded as A.J. Johnson's, it's hard to pick any glaring deficiencies in his game—although lack of speed in pursuit is his biggest drawback. Or maybe the right word is "was."

If Sunday night's game is any indication, Johnson shaved a few milliseconds off his 40-yard dash time during the offseason, as he seemed to be everywhere on defense and special teams for the Vols.

Not only did he have nine tackles and an interception on defense, but he also helped strip the ball from Utah State's kickoff return man, setting Tennessee up for a quick touchdown to take a two-score lead.

Placing Johnson on special teams when he's such a valuable player on Tennessee's defense may seem risky, but Jones told Lauren Moore of The Leaf-Chronicle that Johnson was ready for the opportunity: 

We need to improve our kickoff coverage from last year, and Johnson has a great sense of getting to the ball. We thought with the youth and inexperience on this football team that he needed to be on that football team and he wanted to do it.

Johnson's decision to return to Tennessee was pivotal for the team's chances of making the postseason in 2014. With so many young faces on defense, his leadership, aggressive play and knowledge of defensive coordinator John Jancek's playbook will be invaluable for his inexperienced teammates taking the field beside him. 


Other Seniors Must Step Up

While Worley and Johnson are certainly the leaders of the Vols' offense and defense, the other seniors on the team, rare as they may be, also must become vocal presences on the field and in the locker room.

Lane struggled running the ball against the Aggies during Week 1, and he needs to quickly find his groove as the season continues to give freshman Jalen Hurd time to adjust to playing in the SEC.

Fellow senior Jordan Williams may be on the verge of a breakout senior season as a defensive lineman, and his 4th-and-1 stop against the Aggies helped establish Tennessee's defensive dominance for four quarters.

The Vols' 2014 class may be the largest stockpile of talent on the roster, but it's up to Jones and a handful of seniors he inherited to push Tennessee toward another big upset win on their way to a bowl berth.

If they can pull it off this season and prove to the nation and potential recruits that the Vols are on the rise, Jones' rebuilding project in Knoxville may finish ahead of schedule. 

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