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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Atlantic Owls Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After an opening game against a power-five opponent, the Alabama football team opens a stretch of two games against lower, group-of-five teams. This weekend it’s Florida Atlantic, which is fresh off of a 55-7 blowout loss to Nebraska.

It’ll give the Crimson Tide a chance to settle down and work on some areas of improvement before Florida comes to town to open SEC play.

Just don’t tell Alabama coach Nick Saban that.

“Why does the external factor of who you're playing have anything to do with how you play?” Saban said. “That means if we're playing against Michael Jordan, we play our best game, if we're playing against another old basketball player, then we play just like another old basketball player? Is that your thinking on this? Because it's not mine. If it's our players' thinking, I can tell you right now I'm going to be pretty pissed about it.”

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, Sept. 6

Time: 11:00 a.m. CT

Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, ESPN 106.3 FM

Spread: Alabama by 40-41, according to Vegas Insider.

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Best Head-to-Head Battles in CFB This Week

College football is a team game, but one made up of numerous individual efforts.

While the ultimate goal is for one team to outperform the other, at the grass-roots level the outcome is determined by players' abilities to get the better of those they're matched up against. It's 11-on-11, and each player on defense has someone on the offensive side that they are responsible for, and vice versa.

Whether it's to guard them, block them, get past them or get them on the ground, football is full of head-to-head battles. This upcoming week of the 2014 season features plenty of great individual matchups, each of which will have a big impact on the overall result of the game they're a part of.

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SEC Football Q&A: South Carolina's Woes, Texas A&M's Defense and Florida's Debut

Week 1 is in the books, and several lingering questions in the SEC have been answered.

South Carolina's defense has major issues, Texas A&M's defense got overlooked in the Kenny Hill bonanza, and Florida unexpectedly has to wait a week before kicking off its season.

Let's get you in the mood for Week 2 with a little SEC Q&A.


@BarrettSallee Can Spurrier and South Carolina turn it around in time to actually test Georgia? (And what are the implications of that game)

— Say Say (@WarDamnEagle_) September 2, 2014

The implications of that game are huge. If Georgia beats South Carolina, that'd be two SEC losses for the Gamecocks—both coming at home. It would essentially eliminate any margin for error for the rest of the season, which includes road trips to Auburn and Florida.

Lose, and the Gamecocks are done in the SEC East race.

As for what they can do to turn it around, they're going to have to figure things out up front, because Texas A&M pushed them around quite a bit en route to 169 rushing yards. 

Georgia can do a lot of the same things. You saw Georgia's offensive line getting to the second level in a hurry particularly off the edge, which is a big reason why running back Todd Gurley had a great day. That front four needs to come together in a hurry and stop Gurley before he gets going, otherwise it could be a long afternoon in Week 3 when the Bulldogs come to town.

Even if the Gamecocks do the impossible and stop Gurley, it might not matter.

Quarterback Hutson Mason played more of a game manager role in Week 1 but has the arm and understanding of the offense to be a difference-maker even if receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell aren't ready to go (according to Gentry Estes of Dawgs247) in Week 3. Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are difference-makers at wide receiver and will certainly test that young and inexperienced Gamecock secondary.

Simply put, I don't think South Carolina can turn it around. The combination of an inexperienced defensive line and secondary was a big reason why I thought they were getting too much preseason hype going in, and experience isn't something that develops overnight.

This is who the Gamecocks are.


@BarrettSallee Will TAMU's defense keep the team from reaching the SEC championship game again?

— maub (@earlmaub) September 2, 2014

Not if it continues to play the way it played against South Carolina.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore, just enough defense wins championships. Texas A&M didn't have enough over the last two seasons, but they "held" the Gamecocks to 433 yards on opening night. That number, 433 yards, doesn't sound great, but if the offense keeps producing at the level it did in the opener, that's certainly enough to keep the Aggies competitive.

Texas A&M's rush defense was solid, giving up just 67 yards to a team that has not only a Heisman Trophy contender at running back in Mike Davis but one of the best offensive lines in the conference. Sure, Davis' absence and injury played into that state quite a bit, but it's certainly something for the Aggies to build on.

If quarterback Kenny Hill plays the way he did, and perhaps adds a running game element that was noticeably absent from his game Thursday, the Aggies certainly have "enough defense" to contend.

The trick is doing it consistently, which is not something Texas A&M's defense is used to doing.


@BarrettSallee Fearless forecast on Florida's record at the end of the regular season?

— Marco J. (@pinoygator) September 2, 2014

I predicted the Gators to go 9-3 and finish second in the SEC East prior to the season, and even though the Idaho game got cancelled due to lightning, that prediction seems more realistic after Week 1. 

South Carolina's defensive holes were exposed, Missouri didn't exactly set the world on fire against South Dakota State, and it looks like Vanderbilt's transition to new head coach Derek Mason may be a little tougher than Mason anticipated.

We didn't get to see new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's offense in action, but he's the perfect fit for quarterback Jeff Driskel, knows how to get the ball to playmakers in space and has the luxury of having one of the best defenses in America across the practice field. That's the beauty of Florida this year—the offense doesn't have to be great, it has to be adequate.

That shouldn't be difficult for these Gators.

I'm sticking to my three loses that I predicted in August: Alabama, Georgia and Florida State, with the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party deciding the SEC East title.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93 XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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Joel Stave Injury: Updates on Wisconsin QB's Shoulder and Return

Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave did not start in the season-opening loss to LSU, and an explanation for the surprising start for Tanner McEvoy might have been due to a shoulder injury for Stave.     

Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press reported the apparent shoulder injury for Stave on Tuesday:

Last season, Stave compiled 2,494 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions along with a 138.1 passer rating. He also led the Badgers to a 9-4 record, losing the last two games of the season to Penn State and South Carolina, the latter being the Capital One Bowl.

Brian Bennett of ESPN provides comments from coach Gary Andersen on the injury:

While Stave certainly wasn't phenomenal for the Badgers, he provided stability under center in 2013. With the quarterback out indefinitely, McEvoy will have to step up more than he did against LSU in the opener, where he went just 8-of-24 passing for 50 yards and two interceptions in a losing effort.

The announcement also comes on the heels of a hip flexor for Melvin Gordon, per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports. It appears Gordon will still be on the field for Week 2, but will need better quarterback play moving forward to succeed.

Bill Bender of Sporting News believes the quarterback play was the difference for LSU and Wisconsin:

Tanner McEvoy, who finished 8-of-24, threw two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter. Jennings had about the same luck through the air (9-of-21), but took advantage of playmakers on the outside in Travin Dural and Diarse. That led to a 188-yard difference in passing yards. 

Needless to say, the Stave injury is a crucial one for the Badgers.

Luckily, the schedule moving forward isn't exactly as daunting as the opener against LSU. Wisconsin now has three straight home contests against Western Illinois, Bowling Green and South Florida before traveling to take on Northwestern.

If McEvoy can settle in and Gordon can thrive in the backfield, this might still be a successful season for the Badgers. But with the timetable on Stave unknown, quarterback play will certainly be a question mark moving forward.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 2 Rankings Released

The opening week of the 2014 college football season came and went without any massive upsets. Several elite teams, including top-ranked reigning champion Florida State, were pushed to the limit by their first challengers of the year, though.  

Now that the dust has settled, let's check out the updated Amway Coaches Poll from USA Today as well as Bleacher Report's Top 25 for Week 2:

The Seminoles jumped out to a 17-0 lead by the middle of the second quarter against Oklahoma State. But the Cowboys fought back, twice cutting FSU's advantage to three points during the second half. The underdogs' defense just couldn't get enough stops to complete the comeback.

It was still a major wake-up call for Florida State. It may be a cliche, but the national champions are going to get every team's best shot this season. Tom Spousta of The New York Times provided remarks from head coach Jimbo Fisher, who admitted his team felt the pressure.

"As a team, we're a work in progress, and I think we all know that now," Fisher said. "Last year's over. And tonight will help us get over that. I think the pressure of being No. 1 was on them; I really do. Now we can relax and be the team we can be, play better and coach better."

Next up in the Seminoles' quest to repeat is a clash with the Citadel Bulldogs.

The rest of the Top Five in the Amway preseason poll (Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn) also picked up wins.

The Crimson Tide were never able to pull away from West Virginia, who was tied with Alabama deep in the second quarter and within one score midway through the fourth. The dynamic rushing duo of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry ensured it wouldn't turn into a shocker.

Auburn was tied with Arkansas at halftime before scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half. The Tigers' offense has no shortage of firepower, but their defense will need to step up like it did after the break to emerge as a championship threat.

There were a couple of other notable results from the opening week.

Ohio State's offense got off to a sluggish start against Navy. The Buckeyes trailed at halftime, but they outscored the Midshipmen 28-10 in the second half to pull away. J.T. Barrett made the necessary adjustments as the game went on, which is a good sign for a young quarterback.

Mike Greenberg of ESPN doesn't think they have anything to worry about despite the close call:

Georgia and Clemson were tied at 21 before the Bulldogs scored 24 straight points to get a marquee victory under their belt right away. Todd Gurley lived up to the Heisman hype with 198 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the win.

In another Top 25 battle, LSU completed a fourth-quarter comeback to edge Wisconsin. Down by 17 midway through the third, the Tigers rattled off 21 consecutive points to stun the Badgers.

Of course, all of that came after Texas A&M got things started with a surprising blowout of South Carolina on Thursday night. The Aggies moved up seven spots in the rankings as a result.

Looking ahead, there are some intriguing battles on tap for Week 2. The biggest one of them all features Michigan State taking on Oregon in a Top 10 encounter. It will be a nice resume-builder looking toward the College Football Playoff for the winner.

Elsewhere, Virginia Tech should provide another solid test for Ohio State, USC will face off with Stanford and Notre Dame will take on rival Michigan. Perhaps the season's first major upset could be on the horizon, as well.


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Meet David Beaty: Kevin Sumlin's Ace Recruiter Locking Up Lone Star State Talent

David Beaty doesn’t have a key to the city of Dallas.

However, to fans and rivals of Texas A&M—where Beaty currently serves as wide receivers coach—it certainly seems that way.

As a former head coach on the prep level in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, Beaty’s ties in the area have helped him reel in multiple blue-chip athletes to College Station over the last three seasons.

Those connections are part of the reason he’s currently atop the 247Sports Recruiter Rankings for the 2015 cycle.

Adding Beaty to his staff paid immediate dividends for Kevin Sumlin, as he helped the Aggies land stud recruits and Dallas-metro products such as defensive tackle Justin Manning and defensive end Myles Garrett in the last two classes.

This year, five of the six Aggies commitments whom Beaty has been the primary or secondary recruiter of record are from Dallas-area schools.

Joey McGuire, who is the head coach at DFW juggernaut Cedar Hill High School, has two players—4-star receiver Demarkus Lodge and 3-star linebacker Richard Moore—who are a part of the Aggies' current class.

McGuire said that Beaty is easy to work with because of his attention to detail.

“He’s extremely organized,” McGuire said.”Whenever he comes into a building, he knows what he’s looking for. He knows who he wants to see, film-wise.” 

McGuire has known Beaty dating back to his days coaching in the prep ranks. It’s that experience, McGuire said, that has allowed him to transition into Sumlin’s ace recruiter.

“I think that’s one thing that makes him an effective recruiter,” McGuire said. “He’s been a coach on this level, so he relates to the kids on this level very well.”

Beaty was the primary recruiter of record on both Lodge and Moore, as well as 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray, 4-star defensive end James Lockhart and 4-star offensive tackle Trevor Elbert.

Claude Mathis, who is the head coach of another Dallas-area power at DeSoto High School, notes that the Aggies have enjoyed a strong history with his school pulling in the likes of Von Miller, Cyrus Gray and Tony-Jerod Eddie.

However, he praises Beaty’s willingness to trust the high school coaches in the area and factor their opinions into his evaluations. As Mathis points out, it doesn’t hurt that Sumlin and his staff have shown a willingness to play freshmen.

“But I think the thing that is happening, why A&M is getting so many players from this area, they are letting the kids play,” Mathis said. “They are giving them a chance to play early and have success early.”

Beaty’s success in Dallas is a big part of why Texas A&M has risen to prominence at home and nationally.

The Aggies currently have the No. 2 class in the country. Also, Beaty has already landed a pledge from Allen 5-star offensive lineman Gregory Little—the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 class. 

“A bonus with him is that most of the coaches in the metroplex know him," McGuire said of Beaty. "They know what kind of reputation he has, and that kind of bleeds over with the kids whenever they see him interact with their coaches. I think that kind of gives him a leg up on some of the other coaches.” 

While his familiarity with the territory, both geographically and as a former prep coach, helps his recruiting efforts, Beaty’s built his reputation as a straight shooter and an effective communicator.

“He’s just a genuine guy,” McGuire said. “I think he’s a guy that when he says something, he means what he says and he sticks by it. I think the parents see that, and I think the kids see that. He’s one of these guys that has an infectious passion for the game and for what he’s doing. People really seem to gravitate toward him.”


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. 


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Are College Football Playoff Committee Members Set Up for Failure?

ATLANTA — I watched games Saturday from the sidelines and then from the couch. In doing so, I gained a better understanding of the problem facing the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. 

These 13 fine people are too far away.

They have too many other things to do.

They are not set up for success.

I watched from 20 yards away in the Georgia Dome as the left side of Alabama's offensive line mauled two WVU defenders at the point of attack—just knocked them to the ground—and second-string running back Derrick Henry ran 19 yards for a touchdown. West Virginia had players down all over the field in the first half Saturday. TV does not capture the physical nature of that.

I watched from 20 yards away as WVU's Rushel Shell went 14 yards because Bama backup linebacker Reuben Foster and new starting linebacker Reggie Ragland were influenced by a man in motion in the WVU backfield and froze. The play came back opposite the motion, and the flat-footed linebackers were sealed off. Lined up in a nickel defense to combat the spread, the Tide were missing veteran linebacker Trey DePriest (suspended).

Both Henry's run and Shell's were double-digit gains, so they showed up on the stat sheets and the broadcasts. But the view from the ground revealed much more about the differences between the two teams. Alabama was more physical and deeper, which helped explain how the Tide could roll up 538 yards using a scat-back quarterback, a new starter, whose passes were no more than 10 yards down field (run-after-catch effect). The final score was 33-23, but the talent on the two sides, and who was playing and who wasn't, suggested the difference between the teams was much wider.

The committee's view—for most games—is from 20,000 feet, or the 10 feet to their television, or the 10 inches from their noses to their iPad screen, or from the skybox to the field.

"We are not sending committee members to games; they will be watching games on television and watching video replays," said Gina Lehe, Senior Director of Communications and Brand Management for the playoff committee.  "We do not have any information about what they did Saturday."

The fact that just three members of the committee are former coaches doesn't bother me like it bothers Barry Switzer or Pat Dye. What bothers me is these people are not on the ground at these games.

They are too far away, too detached, too part-time. They have other jobs. We're talking about a multi-million dollar enterprise, and we have 13 people involved who are all very smart but are not grinding full-time on this endeavor of picking the four best teams in college football. If you are going to pick four teams, you have to have intimate knowledge, especially when it comes to the big decision, which is not "Who's No. 1?" but "Who's No. 4?"

Think back to 2011. Alabama and Oklahoma State were one-loss teams, and one had to be picked to play LSU for the title. The Crimson Tide edged out the Cowboys in the BCS rankings, and everyone outside the SEC footprint howled. I talked to scouts who had seen both teams up close, and they said there was a considerable difference in talent between the teams and Alabama would win by three scores over the Cowboys. Alabama would be the better match for LSU.

The Crimson Tide ended up winning the national title, 21-0, over LSU.

Think back to Oregon in 2012 and 2013. Stanford controlled the offensive line in back-to-back wins over the Ducks, who were being labeled invincible because of the offense. The TV showed the Ducks to be a great team. It's something you have to see up close.

Here is something else, the committee, or most of them, are missing by watching so much replay. They miss the visceral feel of the action. By the time they watch some games, they know what's coming. The Wow is gone. They have a tape. They've heard about it.

While chairman Jeff Long was watching his Arkansas team wilt in the third quarter at Auburn, he was missing Georgia's Todd Gurley gash Clemson.

While Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich was watching his Tigers cave against Georgia, he was missing Florida State's uneven performance against Oklahoma State.

While Barry Alvarez, the Wisconsin athletic director, was busy with the Badgers loss to LSU, FSU was on its way to a win, but without the same ferociousness as 2013.

While Oliver Luck, the West Virginia AD, was watching WVU try and hold off Alabama's vast talent, Ohio State was finally putting away Navy.

There are too many games to watch at once, at least until later in the season when the contenders are thinned out. How do you impress somebody when the shock value has been extracted by "I knew that was coming"?

You have to hand it to Long, though. This is a lot of work for an AD who oversees a $100 million budget. He watches games on TV in his hotel room prior to departure for Hogs' away games, then he is on to mobile devices. Conferences offices send him every game in the form of coach's video, both sideline and end zone views of all plays.

Long, who was a graduate assistant football coach at Michigan under offensive line coach Les Miles, has 20 prime TV games made available to him per week without commercials or time in between plays, according to a member of his staff. Long and other committee members have access to Sports Source Analytics, which is the granular version of the game on the TV.

Here's the problem with not being closer to the action. Anybody see a great team out there the first week? Texas A&M—on one side of the ball. Auburn—on one side of the ball. Florida State—for a quarter.

If there is not a great team, or two great teams, there are going to be some one-loss teams. Maybe not this year, but as schools beef up strength of schedule to build their resume for the CFP and bow to TV, we are going to have one-loss teams galore.

It's why this committee should have been scouts, former NFL GMs, retired coaches in their 50s and 60s who could still travel and work 50-60 hours a week. It would have been a little harder to argue with them over the biggest looming debate in college athletics—who is No. 4, who is No. 5? There is plenty of money to pay for people's time.

It's a little late for this, but I would have called Bill Polian, the former NFL general manager, and asked for some names. Of course, the scouts and former GMs are not part of the college club. Their names were not pushed forward by the National Football Foundation or the Autonomous 5 Commissioners. I asked selection committee executive director Bill Hancock last year if he would consider the idea and he said no.

I am not going where Dye went, about stacking the committee with coaches and players who have "put their hand in the dirt." Switzer, the former Oklahoma coach, mimicked Dye recently about committee member Condi Rice not being qualified. Switzer probably made the same comments about reporters as he did about Rice. You haven't been there, you know nothin'.

Dr. Rice's analytical skills would embarrass me. Her judgment is off the charts; she won't be swayed by emotion. I would be fine having somebody with her credentials on the committee if she went to enough games, saw more teams in person, stood next to a 6'9" offensive lineman who can't move his feet to block and a 6'4" lineman who can. If she saw it up close, I'm sure Condi could tell me who the better player is.

It's not too late to tell the people on this committee to get out to some Thursday night and Friday night games.

The caretakers of college football have left themselves open to criticism because they chose administrators and people connected to the money game to make sure there is a sharing of the wealth, instead of choosing pure football people, or people not in the "club", who might be more likely to put two SEC teams or two Pac-12 teams in the Final Four.

I'm not questioning the integrity of somebody like Tom Jernstedt. This is questioning the judgment of the College Football Playoff Management Committee and the Autonomous Power 5 commissioners.

The big takeaway here is that this committee chosen by politics is bound to get slammed for prejudice. Then the squawking about who gets left out eventually leads to talk of an eight-team playoff. How about that? We will be a year into a 12-year deal, and already there will be backroom plans being made to get more money from the fans via television with an eight-team playoff under the guise "we have to include more worthy teams."

More teams, more injury risk, more missed class time. Why not squash some of the debate with more time on the sidelines or in the huddle for the 13.


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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Florida State Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

Florida State officially kicked off its title defense this past Saturday by holding off Oklahoma State in a 37-31 victory, and several new starting Seminoles played integral roles in the opening-weekend win.

With several former players off to the NFL, FSU had multiple starting positions to fill this offseason, and their replacements had mixed results against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Click the slideshow to see what each of FSU's new starters did in game No. 1 and a grade of their performances.

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Grading Bobby Petrino's Return to Big-Time College Football

With apologies to the one-year stint with Western Kentucky in 2013, Monday night marked the return of Bobby Petrino to big-time college football.

Now in the first year of his second stint as the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, the former Arkansas head coach pounded the Miami Hurricanes 31-13.

It was about what you'd expect from a Petrino-coached team.

The Cardinals established the running game, got efficient play in the passing game and leaned on the Hurricanes late to pull away in the second half of what was not only Petrino's first game back, but the first game for Louisville as a member of the ACC.

How did his encore grade out?


Offense: B

It wasn't the kind of performance that Petrino's teams are accustomed to, with the quarterback slinging the ball all over the field and the scoreboard lighting up with crooked numbers.

It was efficient. It was smart. It was effective.

Quarterback Will Gardner completed 20 of 28 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, which is certainly good enough. However, two fumbles—including one in the red zone—helped keep the game unnecessarily close early.

“Other than the turnovers, I mean a couple fumbles. Other than that I am but there is always room to improve and get better and just come out next week, work hard and get ready for the next event,” Gardner said.

While ball security was an issue, Petrino suggested some of Garnder's issues can be fixed with pass protection.

"A lot of the hits were caused of making the wrong call, we didn’t block the right guy," Petrino told reporters. "He still has to get the ball against his body. You talk about poise and competitive spirit, the way he came out and played after those mistakes, I’m very proud of him."

On the ground, the Cardinals were fine.

Without an injured Michael Dyer, Dominique Brown took over against a Miami defense that has some run-stuffers in the front seven, including Denzel Perryman. Brown had 33 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown in the win, and he took a ton of pressure off Gardner.

“It’s a great feeling," Brown said following the game. "You know when you’ve got the offensive line behind you—especially with the head coach calling the plays to me, just telling me to stay out there and 'we’re gonna keep feeding you'—it's a great feeling.”

The protection issues and Gardner's ball security are concerning and what prevented this grade from being an "A."


Defense: A

I'll be honest, I was shocked at Louisville's defense against Miami on Monday night.

After four years of confusion, ineptitude and inconsistency in Athens, Petrino paid Todd Grantham $1 million per year to coordinate the Cardinals defense. It looked comfortable, properly taught and fundamentally sound against the 'Canes.

Grantham's defense forced three turnovers, held Miami to 1-of-13 on third-down conversions and forced running back Duke Johnson to cut behind the line of scrimmage early and often, limiting his effectiveness.

This put too much pressure on true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya.

"I think we did a good job of being gap-sound and our guys using their hands to get off blocks," Petrino said. "I like the way our linebackers played coming downhill and our secondary was involved in being where they needed to be."

Was that hefty contract to Grantham worth it?

So far, so good.


Special Teams: A

The Cardinals were good in essentially every aspect of special teams.

Corvin Lamb had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, showing off blazing speed and quickly shifting momentum back to the home team after Miami had taken a 10-7 lead. Lamb showed off tremendous speed and elusiveness on the return, which makes him a dangerous weapon for the Cards moving forward.

"He’s a guy whose speed shows up every day in practice," Petrino said. "I think we’ve just got to find a way to get him the ball and get him involved in our offense as well as special teams."

John Wallace hit all four of his extra points and his only field-goal attempt (28 yards), while Ryan Johnson averaged 44 yards per punt.

Can't get much better than that from a special teams perspective.


Overall: A-

There are some issues to work out, particularly with Gardner's ball security and the protection up front. But make no mistake, Louisville made a statement on Monday night that it is a contender in the ACC Atlantic.

Is it better than Florida State or Clemson?

That remains to be seen, but each of those two front-runners showed its fair share of weaknesses as well—plus Louisville gets the 'Noles at home on a Thursday night on Oct. 30.

The Cardinals are in the discussion, and that's about as good as it could possibly get after Week 1.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93 XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 1 Standings

From the looks of college football's opening week, the NCAA picked the perfect season to institute the College Football Playoff.

There's no powerhouse that looks poised to run away with the top ranking. If the newly instituted postseason began today, any of the participating squads would enter the melee with a solid chance of coming out on top.

While South Carolina saw its CFB chances vanish, the top-seeded teams all exited Week 1 with a victory. That's enough to keep them in the top four for now, but it might not stay that way for long in a deep pool of contenders.

Note, these rankings reflect my predictions for the next AP poll. I have the No. 2 and 3 squads swapping places for now, but don't be surprised if bigger changes ensue later in the season.


Projected College Football Playoff Matchups:

No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

Florida State came dangerously close to ruining its title defense just as it began. Oklahoma State pushed the Seminoles to the brink in a 37-31 loss.

Jameis Winston compiled 370 passing yards, but he also coughed up two interceptions that kept the Cowboys hopeful. He told Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde that the team needs to play better after surviving a close call.

"We got to get better," Winston said. "I told the guys, 'Hey, that’s an eye opener.' [The Cowboys] played their tails off. So we got to go higher."

The defending Heisman Trophy winner hardly deserves all of the blame. The team averaged 3.4 yards per carry while allowing three opposing scores through the ground.

Since they're the defending champions, expect the Seminoles to receive the benefit of the doubt for now. They should return to normalcy with a convincing victory over The Citadel on Saturday night.

Oklahoma took a positive in proving it belongs among the nation's top squads. Bob Stoops' squad outgained Louisiana Tech by 191 yards during a 48-16 Week 1 victory.

The Sooners imposed their will on the ground, gaining 183 rushing yards and five touchdowns with Samaje Perine leading the brigade. While they would have been considered a sizable underdog against Florida State a week ago, the Sooners may feel a bit more optimistic about their chances now. 


No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Alabama

The Crimson Tide better watch themselves if they don't want to fall any further. 

Yes, they best West Virginia last weekend, but a 33-23 victory won't garner them championship praise. Clint Trickett kept the Mountaineers alive with 365 passing yards, exposing a once feared secondary.

Quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jacob Coker were expected to enter the opener in a timeshare, but the fifth-year senior instead played every snap. Sims held his own, going 24-of-33 with 250 yards passing and 42 rushing, but he also surrendered an interception during the fourth quarter. 

Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis wonders how this game will affect Alabama's quarterback controversy going forward.

Now, fans must wait and see whether the Blake Sims show has truly taken over in Tuscaloosa. Coker remains a highly touted option, but perhaps Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will embrace one simple mantra: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The real question is whether Sims can perform similarly against Alabama’s SEC schedule.

If last weekend's game is any indication, Alabama will eventually need a signal-caller who can do more than tread water. Alongside a mortal-looking defense in a loaded SEC, Nick Saban should eventually turn to the Florida State transfer if he wants to keep this playoff spot.

No such dilemma exists in Oregon, where Heisman hopeful Marcus Mariota scored four touchdowns in Oregon's 62-13 opening win over South Dakota. In the process, he broke Joey Harrington's school record for touchdowns, as noted by assistant athletic director Andy McNamara.

A year removed from finishing second in total offensive yards and third in points scored, the Ducks are showing no signs of slowing down this season. They'll face arguably their toughest challenge of the year this Saturday in No. 8 Michigan State, an early showdown with major CFB implications.

While a loss clouds the playoff picture, a win over the Spartans puts Oregon in No. 1 consideration.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 2 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

A wild Week 1 in college football is likely to produce some huge shakeups when the updated rankings are released. But prior to the polls being released, it's time to take a look back at where each team started the season.

With the updated rankings set to be announced after the first games were played, several teams helped their case. Meanwhile, other programs took a step back during their season openers.

After impressing the voters in Week 1, teams like Georgia and Baylor will likely see a jump in the standings. As for South Carolina and Clemson, a drop in the rankings is likely after disappointing losses.

Before the updated polls are released, here's a look at the most recent Bleacher Report rankings and a breakdown of how teams shifted in the standings.


Breakdown of Rankings

A record-breaking performance and resounding victory in Week 1 was enough to thrust Texas A&M up the rankings.

The Aggies' 52-28 win over South Carolina proved that the team is ready to move forward without Johnny Manziel. While the defense still allowed 28 points to the Gamecocks, it was the phenomenal offense that made waves around the college football landscape.

In particular, Kenny Hill more than emerged from the shadow of Manziel in his first college start. Numbers Never Lie takes a look at the signal-caller's first game compared to the previous field general:

Not only is the Texas A&M program now back in the spotlight, but Hill appears to have Heisman hopes. Following a season in which Jameis Winston unexpectedly won the award, Hill has a good shot if he continues putting up huge numbers.

Speaking of Winston, the sophomore struggled slightly in his opener. But with the win over Oklahoma State, Florida State remains atop the Bleacher Report rankings and will likely stay on top of both the AP and Amway polls when they are released.

But with a favorable schedule that includes just one potential test against Clemson before facing Notre Dame on Oct. 18, the Seminoles will likely remain at No. 1 moving forward. While Winston wasn't flawless, he showed flashes of brilliance with a huge run, as SportsCenter notes:

As for those who took a dive in the standings, Wisconsin was likely the one team that is the most befuddling. Not because of the result against LSU but how the program got there.

Melvin Gordon is the clear star for the Badgers, but he was limited to just four carries in the second half against the Tigers. With only 16 touches, he still produced 140 yards and a touchdown on the big stage.

Head coach Gary Andersen spoke about the disappearance of Gordon in the second half, per Zach Heilprin of ESPN Wisconsin:

Yes, that is the head coach saying he didn't know why his biggest playmaker only toted the ball twice in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, LSU scored 15 unanswered points in the final frame to win—something that Wisconsin fans won't soon forget.

Along with Wisconsin, both South Carolina and Clemson are sure to slide down in the polls. But as the season goes on, the focus will likely be on the top teams with hopes of making the College Football Playoff.

Whether some of the early surprises emerge into the top four will be something to watch moving forward. Given the way the first week shaped up, the 2014 season is guaranteed to be an unpredictable one with plenty of surprises in store.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Ohio State Football: The Key to Saving J.T. Barrett's Season

What's the difference between an "OK" performance and a "very good" one?

Sometimes, it's just one play.

That's the message Urban Meyer delivered on Monday when discussing J.T. Barrett's college debut. Ohio State may have beaten Navy by a 34-17 margin in the Buckeyes' season opener on Saturday, but the one play that seemed to stand out to most was Barrett's second-quarter red-zone interception—the type of mental mistake that many expected to see from a redshirt freshman in the first start of his college career.

The play clearly clouded Meyer's opinion of Barrett's performance, which he admitted was significantly altered by the first-year starter's lone turnover.

"J.T. did OK," Meyer said on Monday. "He handled himself very well for his first start. You take away the interception, and I think he did very well."

And while that's a more than fair assessment—after all, it was Barrett's decision that resulted in the interception—it also doesn't take into account the entirety of the play. Because before Barrett made his opinion-altering throw, he faced—and avoided—significant pressure from the Midshipmen defense before letting go of a pass that landed in the hands of Navy safety Parrish Gaines.

But while the blame for the interception remains with Barrett, that's not to say that Meyer didn't also walk away from the Buckeyes' season opener disappointed with the play of his offensive line. In fact, the third-year Ohio State head coach admitted that the unit's play was his top concern leaving Saturday's game.

And for good reason. Replacing four multiyear starters from a season ago, the Buckeyes' front five looked shaky at best—particularly early—and ultimately affected Ohio State's play-calling for the better part of the first three quarters of the game.

"We had some pressure. We wanted to throw the ball earlier, and it wasn't because of J.T. or the wideouts because I thought our guys had made plays," Meyer said when asked about his offensive line on Monday. "I have a lot of confidence in J.T., but we couldn't have minus-yardage plays, and it didn't start off very well."

While the Buckeyes offensive line eventually found its footing and helped pave the way for a 28-point second half, Ohio State can hardly afford a similar slow start this Saturday when Virginia Tech comes to town. The Hokies possess an experienced and aggressive front seven, which, paired with college football expert Phil Steele's top-ranked preseason secondary, could make for as talented of a defense as the Buckeyes will face this season.

That's something that Meyer's well aware of, which is perhaps why he remains so concerned with the spotty play that he saw from his offensive line on Saturday. He also knows that his team won't be able to get away with a similar effort on Saturday, as Virginia Tech will make Ohio State pay, should it leave Barrett vulnerable to the Hokies defense.

“The second half we played pretty good. But pretty good is not what we expect," Meyer said. "You play pretty good this week, you won't win that game. So we have to get much better fast in the offensive line.”

For their part, the players who make up the Buckeyes offensive line believe they're on their way toward accomplishing just that. Ohio State's lone returning starter on the line, left tackle Taylor Decker, said that Saturday's showing was simply the result of inexperience.

"With everybody being new, there were some communication issues, and we messed up some of the plays, which, unless you were out on the field, you wouldn't know about," Decker admitted. "That's just gonna come from guys being more comfortable. Once we're all communicating and we all know what we're doing—even if we're wrong—if we're all the same page, it usually works out."

Of course it’s also possible that talent—and not experience—is the OSU offensive line’s primary issue.

Whereas last year’s unit featured three players who currently find themselves on NFL rosters in Jack Mewhort (Indianapolis Colts), Corey Linsley (Green Bay Packers) and Andrew Norwell (Carolina Panthers), this year’s includes a converted defensive lineman redshirt freshman in Billy Price, a fifth-year senior seeing the first significant snaps of his career in Darryl Baldwin and an undersized center in Jacoby Boren.

Only Decker and right guard Pat Elflein appear to have solidified their spots in the starting lineup, with the latter enduring struggles of his own against the Midshipmen.

Of course, as Decker learned a year ago, one week can make all the difference when it comes to one’s outlook on the season. After being dominated by Buffalo’s Khalil Mack in his first game as a starter in the Buckeyes’ 2013 opener, Decker put together a strong sophomore season, which resulted in him entering 2014 as the OSU offensive line’s anchor.

The unit’s de facto leader Decker wouldn’t be shocked to see his group take a quick step in the right direction, similar to the one that he enjoyed last season.

“You finally realize what the game environment is like,” Decker said. “The biggest improvement, I think, is from Game 1 to 2. I expect to see a lot of improvement.”

Meyer—and Barrett—certainly hope that Decker’s right. This weekend—and this season—will depend on it.


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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting College Football QBs Most Likely to Transfer Next

Although college football players don't get paid, there is still a big pile of cash on the line for those suffering under amateur status.

For many, it’s a deferred payment scheme—play well now, get drafted later and watch the money flow in.

It’s why so many players—especially those at skill positions where starting spots are limited—transfer schools during their college careers.  It’s a growing trend that reflects two interwoven pillars of today’s game: coverage saturation and perceived financial potential.

In other words, if a guy really is as good as his hype—think star ratings, recruiting battles, overwhelming media attention—then why isn’t he in a starting role, auditioning for his place in the pros?

The position where this is most visible is at quarterback. Now, more players are switching schools and repositioning themselves to where they can cash in on the star power they garnered as high school recruits.

Here’s a look around the country at the young quarterbacks who may move next. The list ranges from highly touted guys stuck in a backup role to players who have already moved down in an effort to move back up.

Though all the situations are unique, they share one common denominator: In the blink of an eye, an injury or dip in performance changes everything.

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

The Georgia Bulldogs came away with a big win last Saturday, as they ran past the Clemson Tigers in the season opener. The first half was evenly played by both teams, but with the help of the running game, led by Todd Gurley, the Bulldogs were able to dominate the second half.

But credit has to go to the new starters. Though Gurley may have been the standout player, guys such as Aaron Davis, Mike Thornton and Greg Pyke played a key role in the win.

So here are report card grades for every new starter.

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College Football: Week 1 Recap, Pick Results and Final Thought

The opening weekend of the 2014 season lived up to the hype with entertaining matchups that saw No. 1 and No. 2 almost go down, as well as a surprising blowout and an impressive comeback. 

Reining national champion Florida State got all it could handle against an aggressive Oklahoma State squad, which continued to battle back until it couldn’t anymore, in a close 37-31 contest. Despite Jameis Winston throwing two interceptions, his 28-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter and a 50-yard strike to Rashad Greene with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the ‘Noles pulling off a big non-conference win. 

While Florida State had to hold on for dear life in Arlington, the No. 2-ranked team in the country found itself in a tussle as well. Alabama, who decided to go with senior Blake Sims under center, got more than expected against a Dana Holgorsen team that won only four games last season. West Virginia starting quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 365 yards and one touchdown, but there was an unexpected hero in Crimson Tide sophomore placekicker Adam Griffith, who accounted for 15 points and kicked three of four field goals from 40-plus yards. Alabama managed to escape the Georgia Dome with a 33-23 victory. 

The biggest surprise of Week 1, occurred Thursday evening when Texas A&M traveled to South Carolina, in what was supposed to be an uphill battle for a Johnny Manziel-less Aggie team. Not only did Kevin Sumlin’s squad come in ready to play, it put on a dominating performance that will be remembered in years to come. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill broke Manziel’s single-game passing record with 511 yards. He also threw three touchdowns in Texas A&M’s 52-28 route over South Carolina. 

Down in Houston Saturday night, Wisconsin appeared to be in full control of the game with a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter. Two field goals by LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye in the third quarter chipped into the the Badger lead. Once the fourth quarter started, it was all Tigers.

An Anthony Jennings 36-yard touchdown pass to John Diarse, followed by a two-point conversion put the game at 24-21 with 12:08 left. Almost three minutes later, Kenny Hilliard’s 28-yard rushing touchdown put LSU up for good. With an impressive 28-24 win, where Les Miles’ group scored 17 unanswered points, they now put themselves in the College Football Playoff race. 

Speaking of the College Football Playoff race, Georgia may have already put itself in the discussion as a top-four team. Toddy Gurley’s dominating career-high performance of 198 yards and four touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return, helped the Dawgs knock off Clemson 45-21. 

Other games to mention include three-time FCS Champion North Dakota State defeating a fifth straight FBS opponent in Iowa State 34-14 with a solid performance from running back John Crockett (17 carries, 139 yards, three TDs), along with No. 5 Ohio State getting by Navy 34-17 without Braxton Miller and No. 7 UCLA sneaking by Virginia 28-20 on the road. 


Pick Results

Overall Record: 4-1

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick


Prediction: Alabama 38, West Virginia 17

Result: Alabama 33, West Virginia 23


Prediction: Georgia 35, Clemson 24

Result: Georgia 45, Clemson 21


Prediction: Florida State 38, Oklahoma State 16

Result: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31


Prediction: LSU 37, Wisconsin 30

Result: LSU 28, Wisconsin 24


Prediction: Miami (Fla) 26, Louisville 24

Result: Louisville 31, Miami (Fla) 13 


Final Thought: 

The nation knew heading into the 2014 season that junior Georgia running back Todd Gurley was good. On Saturday night though, he hit a whole new level with 198 yards and four touchdowns. His 100-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was impressive, but his performance in the fourth quarter to put Clemson away made Fantasy Football managers wish they could draft him already. If Gurley continues to rack up yards and touchdowns like he is capable of this season, there is no doubt he will be in New York City at the Heisman Trophy Presentation on December 13. 

Not only is Gurley likely the best back in the country, his team has the potential to be an SEC and national title contender. 

A road trip to division rival South Carolina on Sept. 13 could be the difference in advancing to the SEC title game or not.  

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Complete Game Preview

Michigan spanked Appalachian State 52-14 in its season opener but faces a more difficult test on the road this week versus historic rival Notre Dame. This is the last scheduled meeting for these programs, and each wants to go out with a win. Because of a scheduling quirk, Michigan plays all three of its rivalry games on the road this season—and this game looks to be the most manageable. A loss to the Fighting Irish, and Brady Hoke and his Michigan Men might be looking at a long season.

Date: Saturday, September 6, 2014

Time: 7:30 p.m. EDT

Place: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795), South Bend, Ind.

Series vs. Notre Dame: Michigan leads 24-16-1

Television: NBC

Radio:Michigan Sports Network

Spread: Michigan (+5), via TheSpread.com

Live Stats:MGoBlue.com GameTracker

Last Meeting vs. Notre Dame: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30.

*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverines game notes.

Begin Slideshow

Miami vs. Louisville: Game Grades, Analysis for the Hurricanes and Cardinals

Despite the fact that Louisville's best receiver, DeVante Parker, was sitting on the sideline, the Miami Hurricanes were overpowered in a 31-13 loss to the Cardinals.

Some players had noteworthy individual performances, but how did collective units perform during the final game of Week 1?

Pass Offense

True freshman Brad Kaaya looked decent in his college debut for Miami. He displayed adequate power, accuracy and touch while progressing through reads quite smoothly. Kaaya showed he can be a really special quarterback, but inexperience was an overwhelming factor.


Run Offense

Great things were expected from Duke Johnson, but the Miami offensive line didn't help out its highly touted running back. Taylor Gadbois was dominated by Lorenzo Mauldin, and Danny Isidora wasn't reliable, contributing to a team average of only 2.6 yards per carry.

Pass Defense

Though Parker was sidelined, it didn't matter for Will Gardner and Louisville. Zone defense often stung the Hurricanes, and the team left open receivers in vacated spaces for catches that resulted in first downs.

Granted, Anthony Chickillo, Denzel Perryman and Ufomba Kamalu each tallied one sack.


Run Defense

Plain and simple, Perryman was a tank. However, the senior linebacker cannot do it alone. The Miami defensive linemen definitely improved at shedding blocks and entering the backfield, but they still missed chances to register important tackles for loss.

Special Teams

Matt Goudis nailed both 24-yard field goals he attempted, and summer transfer Justin Vogel averaged 46.8 yards per punt.

For some bizarre reason, Stacy Coley fielded a punt at the one-yard line. Other than that mistake, he was one tackle away from breaking a long return on two different kicks. Plus, the sophomore had a stellar punt return negated by an illegal block in the back.



This was a forgettable game for the Miami coaching staff. Al Golden, who doubles as the special teams coordinator, was not thrilled after a kick-return touchdown. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio made some questionable decisions, such as putting five men in the box in obvious running situations.

But the biggest negative of the day was offensive coordinator James Coley. The Hurricanes threw five screen passes that gained fewer than 10 total yards, and they consistently attempted to run through a surprisingly stout Louisville defensive line.


Pass Offense

While replacing Teddy Bridgewater is not an enviable task, Gardner showed he is capable of picking up much of the slack. Yes, his two fumbles should have turned into 14 Miami points, but Gardner was saved by a dropped lateral and tough defense from his teammates.

The sophomore completed 20 of 28 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, finding eight different receivers on the night.


Run Offense

Dominique Brown was a major factor in running out the clock and sealing the victory for the Cardinals. The senior scampered for 143 yards and one touchdown, accounting for eight first downs with his legs.

Then again, despite all the success Louisville appeared to have on the ground, it still managed just 3.0 yards per attempt.

Pass Defense

Louisville silenced the Hurricanes' overused screen game and their playmakers, limiting Coley to three receptions for nine yards. Additionally, 59 of Kaaya's 174 passing yards came on the final drive, and he tossed two interceptions.

Overall, Miami made a single reception between the hashmarks, so the Cardinals effectively contained a work-in-progress air attack.


Run Defense

Holding Johnson to 4.5 yards per carry is enough of an achievement anyway, but Louisville left no doubt which team won the battle of the trenches.

Not including his 32 yards on back-to-back carries, Johnson was held to a mere 3.2 yards per attempt. That is a fantastic—and extremely unexpected—mark by by the Cardinals.


Special Teams

Speedster Corvin Lamb returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, giving his team a lead it never relinquished. John Wallace connected on four extra points and a 28-yard field goal, and punter Ryan Johnson recorded 44.4 yards per kick.


Perhaps the Cardinals' coaches looked better due to the ineptitude of Miami's, but the Louisville staff consistently had its athletes in the proper positions to succeed.

The two most glaring mistakes were completely player error, so Bobby Petrino's return to the program was satisfactory.


Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pac-12 Football: 8 Head-to-Head Matchups to Watch for in Week 2

With Week 1 of the Pac-12 football season in the books, it's time to gaze ahead at a Week 2 slate that, while mild on the whole, contains two monster matchups that could have major implications in the four-team College Football Playoff at the conclusion of the season.

There are some intriguing games to watch outside of USC-Stanford and Oregon-Michigan State, but these two contests will dominate our discussion considering the four squads each have the talent to stay among the title contenders throughout the year.

Texas-San Antonio-Arizona could bring some drama after the Roadrunners blasted Houston 27-7, and Washington better be ready for Eastern Washington after slipping past Hawaii, 17-16.

But out of all the games, which individual matchups are you most excited about? Which player performances will we be talking about in the offseason?

Take a look at eight head-to-head matchups to watch for in Week 2.

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: 8 Head-to-Head Matchups to Watch for in Week 2

With Week 1 of the Pac-12 football season in the books, it's time to gaze ahead at a Week 2 slate that, while mild on the whole, contains two monster matchups that could have major ...

Begin Slideshow

Miami vs. Louisville: Score and Twitter Reaction

A unique Labor Day college football game pitted the Louisville Cardinals against the Miami (Florida) Hurricanes. After the Cardinals beat Miami 36-9 in last year's Russell Athletic Bowl, the Hurricanes were again dominated on Monday, 31-13, at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Beating Louisville at home with coach Bobby Petrino at the helm is a tall task, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:

Both teams were starting freshman quarterbacks—Louisville's redshirt signal-caller Will Gardner and Miami's true first-year passer Brad Kaaya. Gardner was without his No. 1 receiving target in DeVante Parker, yet he showed superior poise and was more proficient than his overwhelmed counterpart.

Gardner, who went 20-of-28 for 206 yards with two touchdowns, also had the benefit of a superior running game, courtesy of Dominique Brown's 143 yards on 33 carries.

The Cardinals shut down Miami running back Duke Johnson for the most part. Johnson is one of the most explosive playmakers in college football, yet he had little room to run versus Louisville's front seven. He amassed just 69 yards on his first 19 carries—and that included a 24-yard scamper.

Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel lamented the tactics deployed by Miami's coaching staff:

Johnson didn't get going until the fourth quarter after the Hurricanes turned it over on downs, following a decent drive into Louisville territory. This included a long reception from Johnson negated by a penalty.

Former Louisville safety and current New York Jet Calvin Pryor was attuned to what the talented Johnson was doing:

The big momentum changer came earlier on special teams, when Louisville's Corvin Lamb took a kickoff 97 yards to the house with 4:37 remaining in the first half. It came just after Kaaya's best drive of the night—a nine-play, 88-yard jaunt that ended in three points and a 10-7 Hurricanes lead.

Then Miami found itself suddenly down and dejected from Lamb's playmaking in the return game. Adding insult to injury, Lamb was a product of the opposition's stomping grounds.

ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson supplied this keen bit of information:

As was the case in their last encounter with the Cardinals, the Hurricanes were unable to convert third-down opportunities. Miami missed in all 11 third-down situations in the Russell Athletic Bowl and missed on its first nine Monday evening.

Kaaya finally came through with a completion late in the third quarter, but it offered little consolation after such a terrible stretch of execution. On the very next play, a bad Kaaya throw was well behind his intended target and picked off by James Sample.

Maybe this is some consolation for Hurricanes fans from ESPN's Colin Cowherd:

An inauspicious three-and-out to start the game preceded Gardner's exceptional first touchdown drive in place of departed star QB Teddy Bridgewater. Gardner completed all five passes on the march, hitting freshman tight end Charles Standberry for a two-yard TD strike.

Although Kaaya would respond with a two-yard scoring toss of his own in the second quarter, he was badly outplayed by Gardner otherwise, posting a final line of 17-of-29 passing for 174 yards and two interceptions.

Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN empathized with Kaaya:

That doesn't mean the Hurricanes couldn't have found a way to claw back into the game, though. A couple of gift-wrapped turnovers generated chances to score. They just weren't taken advantage of.

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead was critical of how Miami squandered golden opportunities to capitalize on turnovers with little ground to cover before paydirt:

Brown wore down the Hurricanes defense throughout, and when he scored a 15-yard TD to extend the lead to 21-13 late in the third, CardinalSports.com's Howie Lindsey compared Brown favorably to another physical Cardinals ball-carrier:

On Gardner's second TD pass of the night, Brown threw a great block after the play-action fake, as Gerald Christian hauled in the 10-yard strike with just 1:43 left in the game.

Petrino's return to the Louisville sidelines went smoothly enough, and he was excited to get the year underway with a high-profile game off the bat.

"I've always enjoyed opening with a game that had a lot at stake," said Petrino, per The Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer. "It really helps you in the offseason. It helps you with your motivation in the winter and getting up early for your workouts. It's a great opening for us. Our players are excited about it."

Louisville Football noted just how much fanfare followed the Cardinals to Monday's game:

This reaction from the New York Post's Brian Costello summarizes the probable sentiments in South Beach:

Hurricanes coach Al Golden was bold to start the untested Kaaya over fifth-year senior Jake Heaps. Based on how bad the offense looked Monday, perhaps Golden will turn to the more seasoned signal-caller in Heaps before handing the keys to Kaaya for good.

This is a momentous victory for Louisville against a traditionally quality opponent. The Cardinals needed a positive start to their inaugural season in the ACC, and they got it. In the process, they saw their young QB, Gardner, overcome the loss of his best receiver.

It was enough to suggest Louisville's offense can survive without Parker for the time being.

It will be interesting to see whether Miami keeps Kaaya in for what could be a confidence booster at home against Florida A&M. Meanwhile, Louisville remains at home and will improve to 2-0 versus Murray State on Saturday, barring an unbelievable upset.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com