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Melvin Gordon Can Jump into Heisman Discussion with Strong Showing Against LSU

Melvin Gordon might not be a household name just yet, but the Wisconsin running back has a chance to put himself in the spotlight in Week 1.

The junior posted impressive numbers last season, totaling 1,609 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as part of a terrifying rushing attack alongside James White. With his teammate now with the New England Patriots, Gordon has a chance to be even more productive in 2014.

This makes it unsurprising to see him already on a few Heisman watch lists. According to Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports, the running back is listed at 12-1 odds to win the prestigious award.

Nicole Auerbach of USA Today quotes a player ready to take over:

Still, there is a big difference between getting early hype and actually winning a Heisman Trophy. Gordon is a running back in a sport that has put quarterbacks in a brighter spotlight than ever before.

In the past 14 years, 12 different quarterbacks have been named the most outstanding player in the nation compared to just two running backs. One of those players was Reggie Bush, who was forced to vacate his award.

For Gordon to be a legitimate contender to win the Heisman, he will need to either be on a legitimate contender or put up stats you cannot ignore. He has a chance to do both of those this season.

The running back already has all the tools to make him one of the best players in the country at his position. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) considers him the No. 2 running back in the 2015 draft class behind only Todd Gurley of Georgia. His speed is constantly on display, while his size even impressed Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer:

After averaging a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry last season, the running back is also expecting a bigger role this season, via ESPN Big Ten:

In a run-heavy system with a great line in front of him as well as elite fullback Derek Watt paving the way, the only thing that can stop him is injury. If he gets enough touches, it would not be surprising to see him run for close to 2,000 yards this season. 

Even with these numbers, though, Heisman voters want to see success against elite teams. In reality, the first week against LSU could be the best opponent Wisconsin plays all season. A strong performance in this game would be enough to prove he can do the same against anyone.

Gordon already has bulletin-board material to get him ready for LSU. Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune quoted linebacker Lamar Louis, who had nice things to say about the running back but noted he was not afraid of the competition:

He's a good back, speedy back. He makes good cuts, good decisions. I think he's up for the Heisman Trophy.

But I'm going to say what Chief said, tells us all the time, he's not someone we haven't faced in these past years. He's not someone we don't practice against (like) Terrence Magee, Leonard Fournette, Jeremy Hill. 

We'll be ready. We're not taking him lightly. He's a great back.

On Saturday, Gordon will get a chance to show he is better than all of the LSU running backs or anything else the SEC has to offer.

Still, the most important thing for Wisconsin this weekend is to come away with a win. This neutral game at NRG Stadium in Houston could be an opportunity for the Badgers to prove they are a great team. A win over an SEC school to start the season would certainly turn some heads.

Beyond that, Wisconsin only faces one more ranked team all season in Nebraska. A win in this opening game could give the squad a serious shot to run the table and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

An elite running back on a national title contender would certainly be enough to gain Heisman votes. This all starts with a strong performance in the first game against LSU.

If Gordon can put up over 100 yards and a touchdown or two in a winning effort, you can officially start his bid for the biggest individual award in the sport.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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ESPN College GameDay 2014: Week 1 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

Time to rejoice. On Saturday, college football will be back in our lives. 

OK, so technically it returned to our lives on Wednesday with Abilene Christian vs. Georgia State, and then there were a bunch of other good games on Thursday. But not until Saturday will it really start feeling like college football season again. 

Sixty games in total. Nineteen of the Top 25 teams in action. And, of course, College GameDay

Led by defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and an explosive offense, top-ranked Florida State begins its quest for back-to-back titles on national television against Oklahoma State, a team that went 10-3 last season but is dangerously inexperienced on defense, especially in the back. 

Let's take a closer look at one of the most captivating matchups of college football's opening week. 


Date: Saturday, August 30, 2014

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas


Live Stream: ESPN3


Florida State Player to Watch: Jameis Winston

The 'Noles have a wealth of talent all over the field.

Offensively, Rashad Greene had more receptions and yards than first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin last season, while running back Karlos Williams averaged a silly 8.0 yards per carry and found the end zone 11 times on just 91 totes. Defensively, Mario Edwards, P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby and several others look like locks to be playing on Sundays in the future.

But Jameis Winston, though. 

There is no player in America who will be scrutinized more than the polarizing Winston. The dynamic quarterback had a freshman season reserved for dreams, taking home the Heisman Trophy and leading the 'Noles to a thrilling national championship victory. 

Is it possible to improve, or at least live up to expectations, after a season like that? He certainly thinks so, via Bleacher Report's Peter Kerasotis:

I'm going to be good. I'm going great. Even better than I was last year. I'm going to be myself. I love football. I love this game. I haven't set any individual goals, just team goals. First goal is to win the national championship.

Winston has an opportunity to get off to a great start against this Oklahoma State secondary. 

It's not that the Cowboys aren't talented in the back. They're just inexperienced. After losing top-10 pick Justin Gilbert, as well as playmaking safeties Daytawion Lowe, Lyndell Johnson and Shamiel Gary, the only returning starter in the secondary will be cornerback Kevin Peterson. 

Winston and his abundance of speedy weapons could be partying like it's 2013. 


Oklahoma State Player to Watch: Tyreek Hill, RB

Let's see, how to explain Tyreek Hill…

“Everybody I talk to,” wide receiver David Glidden said, via The Oklahoman's John Helsley, “they ask me about him and I say, ‘You’re just going to have to wait and see. It’s something you can’t really describe.’”

The junior college transfer is an unfair kind of fast. He won the 200-meter dash at the Big 12 Championships, and according to Helsley, he ran a 20.14 in high school, which would have put him sixth at the 2012 London Olympics.

Head coach Mike Gundy even offered this comparison:


Hill isn't going to be a workhorse. Best-case scenario, he'll probably see 10-15 touches. But he's going to line up all over the field, and OSU will do whatever it can to get him in space as much as possible. Because when that happens, he's going to do special things. 

If the Cowboys are going to keep up with FSU on offense, they are going to have to get creative against a team that finished fourth in total yards allowed per game in 2014. The electrifying Hill, a strong candidate for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, will be a major part of that. 



Oklahoma State, which was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12, is underrated. But they aren't that underrated.

Florida State has arguably the best quarterback in America behind a stout offensive line, an array of playmakers at the skill positions and an extremely talented defense. There are some questions about the interior of the defensive line and the young receiving corps, but overall, Jimbo Fisher's team is just too good.

While it's tough to predict how teams will look out of the gate, the Seminoles' talent wins out. 

Florida State 38, Oklahoma State 21

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Vanderbilt Uniforms Cause Confusion vs. Temple with 'Anchor Down' on Nameplate

Vanderbilt's unique football jerseys caused quite the stir Thursday night.

As part of the jersey, Vandy opted to forgo having player names on the back and instead used the slogan "Anchor Down." The game referees believed this to be illegal and initially ruled that the team would lose a timeout for every quarter the offending jersey was worn.

CBS Sports' Eye on College Football captured a snapshot of the supposed problem:

However, officials from Vanderbilt provided a valid email from the NCAA that ruled the uniforms had been pre-approved, thus dodging any punishment, via SportsCenter:

The NCAA has general rules in place regarding the changing of the back nameplate on uniforms, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

NCAA rules say a jersey may only contain a player's name, the school name, the NCAA logo, sleeve stripes, an American flag, a state flag or a logo for a school, conference, mascot, postseason game, memorial or the military.

It was certainly one of the more surreal moments you'll see this college football season:

If anything can be taken away from this, it's that you always want to save your important emails. One wrong click, and the Commodores could've lost the only proof that exonerated them.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

QB Bo Wallace's Continued Struggles Mean Ole Miss Will Have to Win with D

ATLANTA — It wasn't pretty for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. 

In fact, it was downright ugly.

Sure, he threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-13 victory over Boise State, but those stats lie.

That score lies.

Wallace threw three picks, as the slow release that has haunted him for two years was still present. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't play within the structure of head coach Hugh Freeze's offense inside the Georgia Dome on Thursday night.

"I'm looking forward to breaking the film down and seeing. Two of the three interceptions were a bit unbelievable to us, because they weren't even in his progression on the route," Freeze said. "He'll be the first to tell you that and he knows that. It was a bit amazing. He was a little out of sync."

Despite the three first interceptions in the first half, or more likely because of them, Ole Miss carried only a four-point lead into halftime with a score of 7-3. 

That didn't really matter to offensive coordinator Dan Werner.

"There's no way we could have played any worse, and we're still ahead," he said.

Why was Ole Miss ahead? That defense was stifling.

Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche paid mortgage in the Boise State backfield, the Rebels had three of their four interceptions of Boise State QB Grant Hedrick in the first half, and they laid the wood on Broncos players early and often.

The most impressive player of the bunch commonly known as the "landsharks" was sophomore safety Tony Conner, who finished the day with six tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception.

"Tony's a really good football player who has a really good football IQ," Freeze said. "To be a second year player, we're definitely glad we have him. He played a solid game. He had a great pick and on a couple of powers they ran on the goal line, he did a good job with his assignment."

It seems that is what Ole Miss will have to be in order to be successful this season — a group that wins with defense.

It's not going to be much different with Wallace as the quarterback. This is what he is. He's a guy who will throw his fair share of touchdown passes and gets some yards on the ground, but also make some mind-numbingly poor decisions, improvises in the worst possible ways and forces his defense to come up big time and time again.

He's now thrown 44 touchdown passes during his two-plus years in Oxford, but also has 20 interceptions. 

Can Ole Miss win big in spite of its quarterback?

Maybe. The defense certainly looked up to the task in the opener, but that's a tall order for any defense in this day and age of exotic offenses and creative play-callers.

It'd be really helpful if Wallace could play within the system and cut down on the mistakes.

It didn't look like he could do that on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome.


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 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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Miami Football: Brad Kaaya Must Not Be 1-Game Experiment

The opening game of the Miami Hurricanes' 2014 season has been highly anticipated for months—specifically, the eight months that have passed since a dreadful loss capped the once-promising 2013 campaign.

As if Monday's rematch against Louisville wasn't already an exciting night, the fanbase's collective eagerness rose following the announcement that true freshman Brad Kaaya would be the quarterback.

The 4-star QB from California is heralded as someone who can turn around the program, and he very well might be. But Miami is just hours from officially burning Kaaya's redshirt season, and that's an important long-term decision.

Football is like a business; the 'Canes have immediately invested in their future. Now, there's no looking back. The Miami Herald's Manny Navarro reports comments from Miami head coach Al Golden:

Through the ups and downs sure to come, the Miami coaching staff cannot turn away from their young quarterback even if he struggles at Louisville.

Replacing with Kaaya with transfer Jake Heaps this early would just be terribly silly, to put it nicely. Kaaya earned the role, and he deserves multiple chances to prove he can lead the team.

Following the ACC tilt with the Cardinals, the 'Canes host Florida A&M and Arkansas State on successive weekends. Giving Kaaya two additional opportunities to prepare for a prime-time showdown on Sept. 20 is extremely valuable, both for the 2014 season and his future.

That night, Miami enters Memorial Stadium to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a team that is arguably the Hurricanes' toughest non-Florida State competition.

Kaaya will certainly be forced to overcome mistakes during his first three outings, but Bo Pelini's squad is a heightened level of competition. With Nebraska's D-line led by first-team All-Big Ten defensive end Randy Gregory, USAToday's Paul Myerberg believes it could be "the Big Ten's most pleasant surprise."

How will Kaaya ultimately react to the intensified pressure? The 'Canes need to see if he can handle it.

Granted, by all accounts, the freshman has appeared mature beyond his class standing. Coaches and teammates alike have taken notice of his poise throughout the fall, including junior cornerback Tracy Howard, as noted by Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald:

He has great footwork in the pocket. He has a natural feel, does a great job stepping up and avoiding defenders in the pocket. He makes great decisions. You can't beat a guy who makes great decisions. Instead of forcing it and throwing an interception, he'll throw it away. And he moves the sticks.

Should Kaaya continue making good decisions and moving the sticks, he will keep his starting position. But yes, if Kaaya flat-out struggles every game, there is an undeniable chance Golden will elect to bench the freshman.

Still, if anyone is taking Kaaya out, it's Ryan Williams—not Heaps. The injured senior is continuing to improve health-wise, but he was not healthy enough to return for Week 1, per ThePalm Beach Post's Matt Porter:

The largest variable in the quarterback discussion remains the medical clearance of Williams, who was obviously disappointed he's not available, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "I tried my hardest to be ready for this game," Williams said. "I guess it wasn't physically possible. I'm just going to take it week by week and when I can come back, I will."

However, Williams' readiness is a bridge that will be crossed upon arrival. According to The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds, "Golden said it's too early to predict if the race will re-open when Williams is able to play again."

For the foreseeable future, Kaaya is the Hurricanes' quarterback, and that must not change until he has been given multiple opportunities and his in-game performance compels a switch.

Miami is betting heavily on a start-up, absorbing the risk and waiting for dividends. Shying away from the venture after a single outing is not a smart decision.

Otherwise, the 'Canes will have wasted a season of someone they hope re-establishes the program as a national power. And that's just not worth it.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Uniform Watch for Week 1

New year. New threads.

Remember the first day of school, when everyone and their brother broke out their shiniest, newest clothes, dressing to impress? That’s basically what this weekend is in college football fashion.

The 2014 college football season kicked into gear Thursday night with 14 games, including Texas A&M’s surprising evisceration of South Carolina, breaking the Gamecocks’ 18-game home winning streak.

Saturday will bring the first full day of college gridiron action, and with it, a number of new and different looks for college football uniforms across the nation.

This is the first opportunity for teams to display their new duds before huge crowds, and they’re ready for the opportunity.

Here’s a look at the best and brightest (and strangest) among new college football uniforms for Week 1.



Vanderbilt broke out new black jerseys for coach Derek Mason's debut against Temple, but the Commodores probably should've checked with the NCAA rulebook first. In Thursday night's game, VU had "Anchor Down" above the numbers where a player's last name normally goes. But putting a slogan there is illegal under NCAA rules, and the 'Dores were charged a team timeout each quarter that they wore the illegal uniform.

But at the beginning of the second quarter, per CBS Sports' Jerry Hinnen, VU obtained a letter from SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw that reversed the decision and restored the timeout that had been stripped. It was a bizarre way to start the year in uniform watching. 



Louisville will enter the ACC with an ESPN-televised showdown against Miami Monday night, and the Cardinals will do so in style. Louisville has a new league, a new-old coach in Bobby Petrino and a new uniform look.

Louisville is holding a “Blackout” at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, and the Cardinals themselves are setting the tone with all-black uniforms that feature red numerals and a red shoulder stripe. The Cards will also have shiny black helmets with red logos on the side, and they’ll look plenty sharp for their ACC debut.



Meanwhile, the Hurricanes have not released their uniform combo for Monday, but they have a number of options, including new green and orange helmets.


N.C. State 

Speaking of black, ACC rival N.C. State has unveiled a “Pack In Black” uniform combination that features a black helmet with a red lower half and, most notably, wolf eyes on the back of the shell. It’s pretty sharp, really.



Illinois has completely new uniforms that feature the same primary uniform colors (blue, orange and white jerseys) but have a sleeker, more modern look with new numerals and new orange, white and black helmets. The Fighting Illini will wear the white helmets this weekend with orange jerseys and white pants for the season opener against Youngstown State.


Iowa State 

Iowa State is hoping for a new look offensively under new coordinator Mark Mangino, and the Cyclones’ lids will look sharp with new red matte helmets.


South Florida 

In the American Athletic Conference, South Florida will sport new green and gold helmets. The green helmets feature a matte finish and a larger version of the USF logo, while the gold helmets are a chrome motif and a smaller version of the logo.


Southern Miss

In Conference USA, Southern Miss hopes for better fortunes after breaking a 23-game losing streak in the 2013 season finale. The Golden Eagles made a slight change to their helmets, changing the “Southern Miss” lettering on the sides from black to white, providing a nice contrast against the yellow background.


Florida International

Miami isn’t the only South Florida team making uniform changes: Florida International is bringing back gold pants to wear with its blue uniform tops.



Meanwhile, UAB has perhaps the best new helmets in college football with a giant, fire-breathing dragon covering the side of the helmet. The Blazers haven’t had much success on the field lately, but they’re winning with these new lids.



Akron and coach Terry Bowden have sharp new uniforms and helmets this fall. The Zips have new black uniforms and also have white chrome and gold chrome helmets with a huge ‘Z’ emblazoned on the side.



In-state MAC rival Toledo has updated its look, with a smaller “Toledo” across the chest of its black uniforms and yellow stripes covering the uniforms’ shoulders.



Northern Illinois 

Northern Illinois played Thursday night against Presbyterian, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Huskies’ corn-themed uniforms. DeKalb, Illinois, is set smack in the middle of northern Illinois’ rolling corn fields, and NIU paid tribute to the local landscape with black “Cornfest” uniforms that were corn-kernel themed across the shoulders. They were…something.


Mississippi State 

Mississippi State is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Scott Field this fall, and the Bulldogs will do so in updated uniforms, per Gamedayr. This week, they’ll wear maroon helmets and jerseys with “Hail State” emblazoned across the front and white pants with the M-State logo wrapped around the left thigh.



Wyoming has a new head coach in Craig Bohl, but the Cowboys are going back to the future with their helmets. Wyoming is bringing back the classic white helmet with a gold stripe and the bucking cowboy logo. Pretty nice.



UCLA made a small but welcome change: This week, the Bruins will bring back the classic Clarendon lettering on their jerseys. With the Bruins poised for historical success this fall, it makes sense that they’d embrace history on their uniforms.


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Ohio State Football: 3 Things Buckeyes Must Do to Avoid Navy Upset

With less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Ohio State's 2009 season opener, Navy's offense lined up for a game-tying two-point conversion. A successful attempt would have likely forced overtime, something the Buckeyes desperately wanted to avoid after surrendering 13 consecutive points and all of the game's momentum.

Instead of keeping it on the ground—where a majority of Navy's success had come from—quarterback Ricky Dobbs dropped back and threw an errant pass into the end zone. That pass was intercepted by linebacker Brian Rolle, who took it the other way for two points to preserve a Buckeyes victory.

Five years ago, Ohio State learned how difficult it is to beat a disciplined and dangerous Midshipmen team. As another opener against Navy looms, what do the Buckeyes need to do to avoid an upset?


Limit the Run, Contain Keenan Reynolds

Under the direction of head coach Ken Niumatalolo, Navy has maintained one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the country. The Midshipmen piled up 325.4 rushing yards per game a season ago, which ranked No. 2 in the country behind Auburn.

Quarterback Keenan Reynolds—who has been tabbed as a dark-horse Heisman contender—triggers the vaunted triple-option attack.

Shutting Reynolds and the rushing attack down will be the Buckeyes' top priority this Saturday.

That's easier said than done. Reynolds set an NCAA single-season record for quarterbacks with 31 rushing touchdowns last year—and his playmaking ability could lead to a special season.

According to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain DealerUrban Meyer knows that Navy's signal-caller is special.

"Some people I've talked to think that he's the best that they've ever had," Meyer said. "That takes your breath away a little bit."

So how does Ohio State plan to stop the Midshipmen? Linebacker Joshua Perry knows that it's all about playing assignment football, because if the Buckeyes are out of position, Navy will make them pay.

"It's all about assignment football," Perry said, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "One mistake can lead to a really big play." 


Win Third Down

A key element to defending the triple option is to win on third down. The offense is designed to create manageable third-down situations, and according to SB Nation's Bill Connelly, Navy executes that strategy to perfection.

Navy has been so consistently strong at pecking away at the middle of a defense with the quarterback and fullbacks; the style of offense is conducive to converting third-and-2 with ease, and Navy will endlessly pound away at you with the fullbacks until you adjust. 

It will be pivotal for Ohio State to limit Navy's 3rd-and-short opportunities defensively. On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes must avoid three-and-outs at all cost.

"You can't three-and-out against this team," Meyer said this week, according to Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors. "That's when you've got problems."


Win the Turnover Battle

Navy's defense isn't dominant—it ranked 57th in the country in total defense last year after allowing 394.8 yards per game.

The Midshipmen don't have a lot of size defensively, so defensive coordinator Buddy Green utilizes a bend-but-don't-break 3-4 defense in an effort to prevent the big play.

That style works against impatient offenses, but something Navy is consistently good at is winning the turnover battle.

The Midshipmen don't force a lot of turnovers, but they don't give the ball away that much, either. Even though they only had 22 takeaways in 2013, they still ranked 12th overall in turnover margin.

That's the sign of a disciplined football team. If the Buckeyes can take care of the ball and prevent big momentum swings, they should leave Baltimore with their first victory of the season.


All stats via NCAA.com.

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

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Opening Night Demolition Shows Kevin Sumlin More Valuable Than Johnny Manziel

Johnny who?

Remember when Texas A&M was a flash in the pan and wouldn't have staying power in the SEC West after quarterback Johnny Manziel moved on early to the NFL?

Yeah, about that.

Manziel's replacement, sophomore Kenny Hill, was phenomenal in his debut as the Aggies' starting quarterback, completing 44 of 60 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-28 rout over No. 9 South Carolina on the road in a hostile environment in Columbia, South Carolina. The 511 yards and 60 passing attempts were both school records.

The performance vaulted Hill, who was a virtual unknown prior to Thursday night, right into the early-season conversation for the Heisman Trophy, according to Todd Fuhrman of Fox Sports 1.

It was a statement performance not just by Hill, but by head coach Kevin Sumlin—who proved that, even without the most dynamic college football player in recent history, his system works at an elite level.

Over the last six years, covering stints as the head coach of Texas A&M and Houston, Sumlin's offenses have finished no worse than 11th in the country in total offense. The only reason Sumlin's Houston offense finished in "lowly" 11th in 2010 was because quarterback Case Keenum was lost for the season after three games and David Piland had to step in on the fly.

Sumlin came out to prove a point, and he did it.

Sumlin doesn't fit quarterbacks to his system, he fits his system to quarterbacks. When he was at Houston, Keenum lit up opposing defenses in an offense that resembled the Air Raid. With Manziel at Texas A&M, it was a nice blend of Air Raid, zone read and Manziel's improvisational skills. Speaking of, a certain someone took notice of Hill's performance tonight as well. 

Hill only rushed for five yards against the Gamecocks, but why mess with success?

He has the ability to be a dual-threat quarterback, and his breakout performance through the air on the road on opening night will only open up the offense more for Sumlin moving forward.

So what does this do to the landscape of the SEC West? 

Any inclination that the Aggies might suffer a drop-off post-Manziel went out the window as soon as Hill led the Aggies on their first touchdown drive—a 67-yarder to open the game. The poise Hill showed on the road in his first career start really solidifies the A&M offense as one that's incredibly dangerous.

We already knew about the veteran offensive line, the solid stable of running backs and the talented and versatile wide receiving corps. Now we know the new "running quarterback" isn't too shabby through the air.

Are the Aggies still searching for answers defensively?

The jury is still out. South Carolina racked up 433 total yards, but that's still 48.5 yards better than A&M's 2013 average on defense. 

That's not just a baby step; that's a giant leap.

Defense doesn't win championships anymore, just enough defense wins championships. If Hill's debut is any indication, the definition for "just enough defense" for this particular Texas A&M defense is simply one that can force pressure with four players and capitalize on mistakes.

That's not a lot to ask.

This Texas A&M team may not miss a beat in the post-Manziel era. At the very worst it's a team that can be disruptive within the division and have a big say in who plays in the SEC Championship Game. If the Aggies play like they did on Thursday night, they may be playing in the Georgia Dome themselves.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 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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Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: How Early Upset Shakes Up SEC Landscape

The South Carolina Gamecocks quickly saw their championship aspirations dampened after suffering a 52-28 loss to Texas A&M to kick off the 2014 NCAA college football season. Just like that, the SEC looks much different after Thursday night's rout.

Steve Spurrier's squad looked to cement itself as a legit SEC contender. Instead, Texas A&M came out smelling like roses following a magnificent outing from Kenny Hill, who quickly has fans at College Station renaming their old quarterback "Johnny Who?"

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Johnny Manziel never completed so many passes in any start, let alone his first. 

That number, by the way, soared all the way up to 44 before the night ended. Hill finished the evening with 511 passing yards and three touchdowns. 

"We were ready to prove everyone wrong," Hill said after the game, according to anAssociated Press report, via ESPN. "We were ready to show we could play without Johnny."

The lesson here: Kenny Hill is really good, and the Aggies still must be feared after losing Manziel and wideout Mike Evans to the NFL. The team didn't miss a beat without that duo, either. If anything, the Aggies look stronger.

Without Evans grabbing jump balls, senior Malcolme Kennedy played first fiddle, reeling in 14 catches for 137 yards. A year after catching 97 passes for 1,083 yards, the senior looks poised for a monster season.

Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope and Ricky Seals-Jones all added a touchdown each to the cause. Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports argued this batch of wideouts is even better than last year's.

Texas A&M should enjoy a healthy boost up the AP rankings into the teens. If the Aggies keep this up, they could find themselves in the top 10 soon enough. There is, after all, a spot up for grabs once No. 9 South Carolina falls.

While Texas A&M didn't miss Manziel, their foes looked lost without defensive behemoth Jadeveon Clowney. Per ESPN Stats & Info, their defensive ineptitude in the season opener set a dubious record.

South Carolina suffered a similar blow early last year, losing 41-30 to then-No. 11 Georgia. While the Gamecocks bounced back to win 10 of their final 11 games, the margin for error proved small in college football's toughest conference. Despite falling short to South Carolina in double overtime, the Missouri Tigers advanced to the SEC Championship Game at 11-1.

After going into the Georgia game ranked No. 6, South Carolina fell to No. 12. Expect a similar fall outside the top 10 this week. If No. 12 Georgia can fend off No. 16 Clemson, the Bulldogs become the SEC East's team to beat.

South Carolina and Texas A&M, however, cannot be pleased with their defensive showings. The two squads combined to amass 1,113 total yards, 877 of which came through the air. 

In a losing effort, Dylan Thompson poled holes into Texas A&M secondary, with two deep bombs during the first half. While Thompson only completed half of his passes (20-of-40), he found Nick Jones for 69 yards and connected with Damiere Byrd for a 46-yard score to momentarily keep things close. 

A year after allowing 32.2 points per contest, Kevin Sumlin can't be happy to see his defensive backs exposed so early. He can't count on Hill to rattle off 500 yards every game.

If this inaugural game is any indication, the SEC is going to be fun to watch and tough to predict this season. 

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Johnny Manziel Congratulates Kenny Hill After Win, Relinquishes 'Football' Name

The Johnny Football era is over at Texas A&M.

Sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns Thursday night, leading the Aggies to a dominant 52-28 season-opening win against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

After the game, Johnny Manziel tweeted to congratulate Hill, bestowing upon him the nickname "Kenny Football."

While the tweet was obviously meant to congratulate Hill, Gabe Bock from TexAgs radio tweeted that the new Aggies quarterback isn't a fan of the "Football" nickname. 

If he keeps playing like he did against the Gamecocks on Thursday, he'll earn a new nickname soon enough—hopefully one that he actually likes.

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Blake Sims Reportedly Will Start Alabama's 2014 Season Opener vs. West Virginia

The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide enter Saturday's college football season opener against West Virginia with some uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Head coach Nick Saban has reportedly elected to go with a roster incumbent in fifth-year senior Blake Sims over talented transfer Jacob Coker, according to CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler.

Sims has stuck with the program in Tuscaloosa for years awaiting his turn to take the reins of the offense, but Coker has been gathering momentum ever since his arrival. Jameis Winston beat out Coker last year in a competition for Florida State's starting QB job, and Winston went on to win the Heisman Trophy and a national title.

That led to Coker transferring to threaten Sims' potential dream shot. Fowler notes in his report that the two signal-callers will both be used versus the Mountaineers, so this is in no way an indication that Sims will be the No. 1 for the rest of the 2014 campaign.

ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough observed recently how back-and-forth the competition has been between Sims and Coker:

It hasn't taken brilliance under center for Alabama to succeed in recent years. Marginal talents such as Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron have made smart decisions, relying on a strong defense and punishing running game to carry the Tide to the top of the SEC on a consistent basis.

The following are some of Saban's comments on the heated quarterback battle from his radio show on Thursday. They hinted that Sims could be the guy, at least for the West Virginia game, via AL.com's Andrew Gribble:

My job is to play the best players and the guys that have done best the job for this game. For this game. That does not mean that it's going to stay that way. It does not mean that if you're the starting pitcher that you're going to pitch for nine innings. The manager sometimes comes in and takes the guy out. All these things are options that are available.

We have faith, trust and confidence in Blake Sims. We're not going to evaluate Blake and he doesn't have to look over his shoulder while he's playing. I think there may be some occasion where the other guy deserves an opportunity at some point in time this season to show what he can do.

As more of a dual threat, Sims brings that different dimension to the offense that Alabama has lacked.

The Tide have seen playmaking QBs who can run such as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Oklahoma's Trevor Knight light them up under the national spotlight, which may enhance Sims' odds of starting in the future.

Coker is more of a prototypical pocket passer that the Tide have deployed to great success in the Saban era. There's a chance that Coker could show off superior passing ability and unseat Sims as the starter right away.

Having a two-quarterback system is not often a recommendable strategy, but with how stacked the rest of Alabama's roster is, perhaps Saban can make it work if he elects to go that route. At some point in the season, one player will likely take command of the huddle and earn all of the snaps. 

But Saban is being fickle as to who that will be. This flip-flopping situation could bring out the best in Sims and Coker—or it could backfire and leave the Tide with an unexpected down year.

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Kenny Hill Explodes out of Johnny Football's Shadow with Record-Breaking Debut

The Texas A&M Aggies went into Columbia and left with a 52-28 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder breaks down Kenny Hill's performance during his first start. How well do you think the sophomore quarterback will do this season? Could he make a surprise run at the Heisman Trophy like former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel did two years ago?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Has South Carolina's Steve Spurrier Missed Window for Another SEC Championship?

The No. 9-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks welcomed Texas A&M to Columbia in both teams' season-opener Thursday, but the night ended in misery for head coach Steve Spurrier and Co.

The Aggies thrashed the Gamecocks, 52-28, exposing some major holes for the Ol' Ball Coach to patch up before South Carolina's next game against East Carolina. 

In the aftermath of the upset, Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss if Spurrier will ever be back on top of the SEC. Do you think the Gamecocks will command the conference in the future?

Watch the video and chime in below.

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Texas A&M Players and Kevin Sumlin Go Nuts After Upsetting South Carolina

The Texas A&M Aggies simply dominated the South Carolina Gamecocks with a 52-28 win after coming in as underdogs thanks to a terrific night from Kenny Hill.

With the dominant win to prove that they're still one of the best teams in the SEC, the team had a right to celebrate.

After the win, head coach Kevin Sumlin came into the locker room and started getting his players fired up. It didn't take long before everyone in the locker room was going crazy.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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College Station Furniture Store Offers Refunds After Aggies Upset Gamecocks

Heading into Thursday night, the Texas A&M Aggies were double-digit underdogs against the South Carolina Gamecocks, per OddsShark. The Aggies proved the doubters wrong, however, trampling the Gamecocks in a dominant 52-28 win.

Unfortunately for one furniture store in College Station, that result ended up being rather costly.

According to Robert Cessna of The Eagle, a local Ashley Furniture HomeStore offered to pay customers the amount of their furniture purchases between Aug. 16 and Aug. 27 if the Aggies beat the Gamecocks by 10 or more points.

According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, the store owes customers more than $1 million total. Luckily, the store purchased insurance that will ease the financial burden. 

[TheEagle.com, h/t Yahoo Sports]

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Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: Game Grades, Analysis for Aggies and Gamecocks

The 2014 college football season's first full day of action already gave us what may end up being one of the year's biggest shockers.

Not so much that Texas A&M was able to win Thursday night at South Carolina, but in just how dominant the Aggies were in doing so in cruising to a 52-28 victory.

It was the first loss South Carolina has suffered at Williams-Brice Stadium since October 2011, a span of 18 games.

The 52 points were also the most the Gamecocks have allowed at home in 11 years and the most given up in any game since they lost 56-17 to Auburn in the 2010 SEC championship game.

Texas A&M was one of the most enigmatic teams heading into this fall, with experts split on whether it would be able to continue to perform well without quarterback Johnny Manziel and with a young defense.

But Kenny Hill and his Aggies teammates made a major statement that will likely sway a lot of skeptics into their corner.

Final stats from the game can be found here.

Check out our first-half and final game grades for both A&M and South Carolina, along with analysis of both teams' different position units and their overall team performances.



Texas A&M Aggies Game Analysis

Pass Offense: Johnny Manziel who? Quarterback Kenny Hill made Aggies fans forget quickly about their previous quarterback, as the sophomore had one of the best debuts of a quarterback in the past 20 years.

Hill completed 44 of 60 passes for a school-record 511 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with 12 different receivers. After beating out true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting job, Hill needed only one game to become the early darling of the 2014 season.


Run Offense: When A&M went with the run, it nearly always worked. Whether it was Trey Williams (12 carries, 75 yards, one TD), Brandon Williams (11 carries, 57 yards) or Tra Carson (three TDs on seven rushes), the running back group methodically churned out 169 yards behind a dominant offensive line.


Pass Defense: There were some bombs given up in the first half, and the numbers overall won't look great, but improvement was definitely seen from a year ago.

True freshman safety Armani Watts had a breakout performance, making big plays all game that included a third-quarter interception when South Carolina was trying to make a late comeback.


Run Defense: A&M benefited from South Carolina's Mike Davis being limited, but its defensive line also looked solid for the first time playing together.

True freshman defensive end Myles Garrett was about as good as advertised, and all told Aggies allowed just 3.0 yards per carry.


Special Teams: Punter Drew Kaser showed why he will be a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, averaging 48 yards on his two kicks. Josh Lambo had 10 points thanks to seven extra points and a 33-yard field goal.


Coaching: Are people still doubting Kevin Sumlin's system? Even with Manziel and top receiver Mike Davis gone, the new players performed the same as their predecessors.

Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital drew up a near-perfect game plan.


South Carolina Gamecocks Game Analysis

Pass Offense: On many nights, Dylan Thompson's numbers (366 yards, four touchdowns) will have made him a candidate for player of the game. Instead, he was a distant second to A&M's Hill.

The senior quarterback's fourth career start included some big plays, but also a lot of overthrows. He finished 20-of-40 passing, and an underthrow of a deep ball in the third quarter was picked off to all but seal the loss.


Run Offense: Running back Mike Davis hardly played, only running six times for 15 yards, and substitute Brandon Wilds (45 yards on nine carries) didn't get enough touches to do much with South Carolina trailing from the outset.


Pass Defense: This was an area of concern coming into the season, and all of the fears were realized. The secondary was carved up for 511 yards and three scores, yielding 8.5 yards per passing attempt.


Run Defense: Carolina couldn't get any push on the Aggies' offensive line, which made it impossible for the front seven to do any damage to the run game. The loss of three defensive linemen from 2013 was very noticeable.


Special Teams: Elliott Fry missed a 54-yard field goal late in the first half, but that attempt was nine yards longer than any kick he made in 2013 as a freshman.

Punter Tyler Hull averaged 44 yards per kick, and the coverage team managed to contain Speedy Noil on returns.


Coaching:Steve Spurrier doesn't have much to do with South Carolina's defense, but even he might not have been able to call plays to slow down A&M the way his team's defenders played.

Spurrier tried to be tricky at times, like with an onside kick early in the second half, but nothing worked.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Boise State vs. Ole Miss: Game Grades, Analysis for Broncos and Rebels

The meeting between the Boise State Broncos and the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night featured two teams heading in very different directions.

The Broncos entered the 2014 season without longtime head coach Chris Petersen, who left Boise State for Washington after eight seasons and 92 wins .

Ole Miss, on the other hand, hoped to improve upon an already positive trajectory under head coach Hugh Freeze.  The Rebels won seven and eight games, respectively, in Freeze's first two seasons in Oxford; that marked quite an improvement from a 2 -10 season in 2011.

Despite a full offseason of expectation, the first three quarters of this game left much to be desired as turnovers and an on-going punting contest defined the battle.

Ultimately, however, a struggling Ole Miss offense woke up and gave way to a high-scoring Rebel fourth quarter and a 35-13 victory over the Broncos.

Check out the game's final stats here and take a look at first and second half game grades and analysis below.



Boise State Broncos Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: It's hard to move the ball against a defense as talented as the Rebels'—especially when turnovers limit drives like they did for the Broncos on Thursday.  Quarterback Grant Hedrick was under pressure for most of the game and his receivers had very few opportunities to get loose thanks to smart, physical play by the Ole Miss secondary.  Four interceptions by this unit kept the Broncos out of contention in their season opener.

Run Offense: Boise State found some success early running the football by getting outside the tackles.  Jay Ajayi proved to be a hard-nosed runner and earned his keep with his ability to break tackles.  Unfortunately, the Broncos struggled to establish the run in the second half.  And after falling behind, the running game became less and less effective.

Pass Defense: The Broncos' defensive secondary was able to come up with three interceptions of its own in the first half, and in doing so kept the game close.  Opportunistic play by cornerbacks and safeties kept things interesting early, but Ole Miss receivers (Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core in particular) were able to get open in the secondary far too often.  All in all, the secondary's efforts were not attrocious, but an inability to consistently pressure Bo Wallace put the pass defense in a bind repeatedly as the game wore down.  Four of five Ole Miss scores came through the air.

Run Defense: Early on, it seemed as if Ole Miss had no interest in establishing the run game.  As the game progressed, however, it became clear that the Rebels were unable to do so.  Boise State's run defense forced the Rebels to throw the ball, which seemed like an ideal scenario at half-time.  Unfortunately for the Broncos, Wallace was sharper in the second half and shutting down the run game yielded minimal benefit.

Special Teams: With Boise State's first two scores coming on field goals, it's hard to knock the unit's efforts.  No large returns were surrendered and no major breakdowns occurred.  Overall, it was a solid evening for Boise State's special teams.

Coaching: Bryan Harsin will always remember his first game as Boise State's coach, but it won't be for his team's heroics.  In the second quarter, he left four points on the board after getting inside the five-yard line and having to settle for a field goal.  While it's hard to question many of his other decisions as Ole Miss clearly possessed a talent advantage, the offensive play-calling seemed generally bland—which was particularly surprising late in the game as the Broncos fell behind big.


Ole Miss Rebels Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: This was a first half that Wallace will hope to soon forget.  Based on his play in the game's final two quarters, he already has.  His three first half interceptions were countered by four  touchdowns through the air (three in the second half) and nearly 400 passing yards.  To be sure, first halves like the one tonight won't bode well for Wallace against better competition, but his ability to refocus and gain composure in the fourth quarter made the difference in this game.

Run Offense: Ole Miss struggled establishing a running game for most of the game.  No player on the Rebels' roster accounted for more than 30 yards on the ground and runs—both designed and improvised—were consistently snuffed out by a feisty Bronco defense.  This will certainly be an area of concern for the Rebels as they move into conference play.

Pass Defense: Much like Boise State, this Ole Miss defense established itself as extremely opportunistic.  However, consistent pressure on the quarterback combined with sound open-field tackling showed that this pass defense is stellar—even when not forcing turnovers.  The turnovers were certainly there, but the big hits by defensive backs and consistent pass rush were equally impressive.

Run Defense: Boise State had success on the ground early with outside runs.  But as the game progressed, the Rebels did a nice job of adjusting lanes of pursuit and keeping opposing running backs from bouncing outside for extra yardage.  There was certainly no cause for alarm on this unit, especially as the defense seemed more focused on stopping the pass.

Special Teams: Ole Miss placed one punt on the 1-yard line, but outside of that produced very little activity of note on special teams—which is probably a good thing.  Kick and punt coverage was solid and an onside kick attempt by Boise State was recovered cleanly by the Rebels late in the fourth quarter.

Coaching: Hugh Freeze had a talent advantage, but he also made better adjustments than his counterpart from Boise State.  Most noticeably, outside containment against the run was greatly improved as the game progressed.  Perhaps his best coaching move, however, was sticking with something that seemed to not be working—the passing game.  Wallace's strong second half showed that Freeze's confidence was not misplaced.

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Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: Score and Twitter Reaction

Kenny Hill isn't the "next Johnny Manziel." He's the "first Kenny Hill."

The Texas A&M sophomore quarterback threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in a scientific decimation of the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks Thursday night in Columbia. The No. 21 Aggies dominated from start to finish, winning 52-28.

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reports Kevin Sumlin's thoughts on his team, despite the gaudy offensive numbers:

Willie Smith of the Greenville News had Steve Spurrier's thoughts:

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin didn't sound like somebody whose team upset a top-10 opponent on the road, though, per Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com:

Hill broke Ryan Tannehill's school record for most passing yards in a debut start and Jerrod Johnson's passing record in a season-opener, per Aggie Football:

Hill also has bragging rights on Manziel in one area already, per Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel:

Some were surprised during the summer to see Hill beat out freshman phenom Kyle Allen for the starting job.

"I thought both guys really competed in a great way," said Sumlin, per ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. "There's not really one deciding factor; I think it's a body of work and a feel that you have through practice and with your team."

Whereas the competition was once extremely close, it now looks like Allen might want to choose new surroundings if he desires playing in the next year or two, as Newy Scruggs of NBC 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth half-jokingly tweeted out:

Hill needed all of nine plays to lead Texas A&M on its first scoring drive. He went 4-of-5 through the air, helping get the ball down to the South Carolina 1-yard line. Junior running back Tra Carson punched it in from there.

The biggest play of the drive was a 22-yard reception by freshman wideout Ricky Seals-Jones, via ESPN College Football. He and Hill formed a fruitful partnership on the night:

What often helps any debutant under center is making a couple of easy throws in order to build some confidence and comfort in the pocket. ESPN's Tom Luginbill praised Sumlin for setting up Hill for success with his play-calling in the first quarter:

After shutting down South Carolina on its next drive, the Aggies added a 33-yard field goal from Josh Lambo with five minutes and two seconds left in the first quarter to take a 10-0 lead.

Although the game was still very early, the Gamecocks were in need of an adrenaline shot, and they received one in the form of a 69-yard touchdown pass from senior QB Dylan Thompson to senior wide receiver Nick Jones.

Now, with 3:44 left in the first quarter, SC was down only 10-7 and slowly grabbing back the momentum. However, in what became one of the narratives of the game, the Gamecocks defense failed to give the offense any support.

On the Aggies' first drive of the second quarter, Hill completed six of his seven passes and moved the ball 85 yards, hooking up with Seals-Jones for a three-yard touchdown pass. ESPN's Louis Riddick felt that South Carolina had no answer for the wideout:

The Gamecocks quickly answered back with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to senior WR Damiere Byrd with 9:47 left in the half, making it a three-point game once again, 17-14.

The SC defense broke down again, giving up back-to-back touchdowns to Texas A&M, and all of a sudden, the Gamecocks were down, 31-14, at halftime in their home stadium. Not since 2009 had they surrendered that many points in a first half, per ESPN Stats and Info:

One of the biggest storylines coming into the game was how Texas A&M would replace Manziel, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans, all of whom were selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. Losing talent like that can set a program back at least a year or two.

As the best are wont to do, though, the Aggies simply reloaded, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out:

Hill was a revelation in the passing game, often looking to Seals-Jones for the big play, while Cedric Ogbuehi opened up holes for the running game and neutralized the Gamecocks pass rush.

By the end of the first half, Hill completed 27-of-35 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Mandel joked that Hill was nearly ahead of former Clemson QB Tajh Boyd already:

What also bears mention is the performance of the A&M defense. Last year, the unit was a massive liability. The Aggies almost had to score 30-40 points in order to just scrape by. Texas A&M won't be relying on its defense to win games this year, but no longer is the group an anchor holding the team back.

As NFL.com's Bryan Fischer tweeted out, a showing like the defense had in the first half takes a ton of pressure off the offense:

In the first half, South Carolina was held to 216 total yards. Star running back Mike Davis was a complete non-factor.

Knowing that a touchdown to start the second half would all but kill whatever spirit was left in the SC players, Texas A&M held the Gamecocks to a three-and-out on the first drive of the third quarter and followed with another Hill TD pass, this time going to sophomore wideout Josh Reynolds.

Fans inside Williams-Brice Stadium came to life again after Thompson made it a 38-21 game with 7:33 in the third quarter with his third touchdown pass.

Sensing a small window of opportunity, Steve Spurrier opted for a surprise onside kick; however, Texas A&M recovered, shutting the door on any comeback attempt.

Matt Connolly of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal figured Spurrier had little to lose since his defense probably would've given up a touchdown even with the Aggies offense backed up deep:

Working with a short field, Texas A&M quickly padded their lead to 24 points, 45-21, with a little over five minutes to go in the third.

The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, with South Carolina never getting closer than 17 points for the rest of the game. Sumlin was content to let his running game wear the clock down until the end of the game.

With such a decisive win on the road, Texas A&M could crack the top 15 by the time next week's rankings are unveiled. The Aggies head home for their next game, welcoming in Lamar on Sept. 6.

South Carolina could be in line for a precipitous drop in the polls. The Gamecocks looked well off the pace on Thursday night. Luckily for them, they have another opportunity soon to prove themselves. In a little over two weeks, the No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs come to Columbia.

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Kenny Hill's Record-Breaking Win vs. South Carolina Ushers in New Texas A&M Era

Let's just get this out of the way: Kenny Hill is not Johnny Manziel. 

And it doesn't matter.

The latter may be one of the most electrifying players in the history of Texas A&M—and possibly even college football—but the former is built to run head coach Kevin Sumlin's offense. 

He proved exactly that on Thursday night, going into a raucous Williams-Brice Stadium and trampling No. 9 South Carolina. After throwing for a silly 299 yards and a pair of scores in his first half as a starter, Hill finished 44-of-60 for 511 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies' 52-28 win, rewriting the record books in the process: 

Texas A&M entered the game as a 10-point underdog, per OddsShark, and while that seemed a little harsh for a team that has thrived under Sumlin, the spread was understandable. The Aggies lost a great deal of talent in the offseason, most notably Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans, while South Carolina had won 18 in a row at home and was expected to be in the mix at the top of the SEC East. 

Yet Hill and this offense made Steve Spurrier's defense look like Abilene Christian. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman put it simply after Hill's incredibly easy-looking first-half performance: 

It was the perfect game plan from Sumlin because, for the most part, it was simple. A number of Hill's completions came on quick throws and short pitch-and-catches, allowing his wide receivers and running backs to do the rest. 

That seemed to help get him into an early groove. Hill's first drive went 67 yards on nine methodical plays, resulting in an emphatic statement that quieted a crowd that was absolutely electric just minutes earlier. 

ESPN's Sam Khan Jr. summarized that drive, while the nickname jokes already began surfacing, via CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd:

Hill's unforgettable starting debut was not just the result of conservative play-calling, though. He looked incredibly poised and confident. When he had time, he threw lasers out of the pocket. When he was pressured, he showed the quickness to escape easily, but instead of tucking the ball and running, he kept his eyes downfield and delivered accurate throws.

“You can tell he was raised in a spread, no-huddle system,” Texas A&M quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said before the game, per Khan. “That comes pretty much second nature to him.”

Clearly. He moved the ball flawlessly, surgically cutting up the defense at a breakneck pace. 

He looked nothing like an inexperienced sophomore, let alone one playing on the road against a quality SEC opponent. 

You can say what you want about South Carolina's young defense, but this performance should put the rest of the conference—and the country, and the Heisman voters—on notice. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer offered his assessment of A&M's showing:

With the size and talent of Ricky Seals-Jones, the electrifying quickness of Speedy Noil, the reliability of Malcome Kennedy, the three-headed rushing attack and the dominant offensive line, Hill doesn't have to be perfect. 

He just has to push the pace, take what the defense gives him, play with poise and know when to make plays with his legs. 

Judging by just four quarters of scintillating play Thursday night, he clearly knows how to do all of those things. This is a special offense, and it's being led by a special player with a special blend of physical gifts and mental aptitude. 


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Maryland to Sell Massive 1.5-Pound Pretzels at Byrd Stadium

That's one big pretzel.

The Maryland Terrapins are planning on selling this massive 1.5-pound pretzel at Byrd Stadium during the football season. Named the "Chessie," this is a gigantic soft-baked pretzel that's baked with melted cheese and crab dip. The pretzel serves four people and can be bought for $17.50 at the stadium.

[Washington Post, h/t Deadspin]

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