College Football's Week 4 was a trip to the diamond mines. Not the awesome tour of the end product, mind you, but a complete journey from the mouth of the mine to the dull, uncut rocks that look more like quartz than glitz.
There were good games this week, and one even went to triple overtime. However, there were more questions raised than answered by the various matches. Here is every college football team ranked from worst to best after the least interesting weekend of the season...hopefully.
The silver lining here is that conference play is going to help sort this mess out soon.
*The AP Poll, USA Today Coaches Poll (both via ESPN.com), Bleacher Report's Official Poll, Jeff Sagarin's power rankings and my own power rankings were all given equal weight. The average of every team's ranking in each poll was taken, and that average determined where the team was placed.
Week 4 wasn’t filled with the most intriguing matchups, nor were there any big upsets. Quite a few highly ranked teams blew out their opponents, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there weren’t a few close calls.
What ended up being the biggest game of the week occurred Friday night between Mountain West Conference contenders Boise State and Fresno State. The Broncos were looking to keep themselves in BCS bowl contention, but couldn’t quite get the job done. They lost 41-40 against a talented Fresno State led by quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for an impressive 460 yards and four touchdowns.
The Bulldogs are now in ranked in the Top 25 and have defeated two quality opponents in Rutgers and Boise State. They could be the mid-major team that crashes the BCS party.
Once again, two weeks later after their big matchup, Notre Dame and Michigan barely held on to defeat their opponents. At least the Fighting Irish were playing a Michigan State squad that had the top defense in the country, Michigan struggled offensively and almost lost to a UConn team that in Week 1 lost to FCS opponent Towson 33-18. Luckily, Brady Hoke’s squad scored 17 unanswered points to win 24-21.
The Florida Gators came away with their ninth straight win over Tennessee, but lost quarterback Jeff Driskel for the rest of the season with an ankle injury. Georgia struggled at home against North Texas until pulling away at the end of the third quarter to win 45-21.
Auburn and LSU played in a torrential downpour in Death Valley. Auburn proved they are a better team under new head coach Gus Malzahn already, but LSU showcased how dangerous they could potentially be this season.
The biggest win on Saturday had to be for Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns. Two blowout losses to BYU and Ole Miss in a row made for a rough few weeks in Austin. A 31-21 win over Kansas State gives them a 1-0 record in Big 12 play and a chance at making a BCS bowl game.
Baylor, Louisville, Miami (FL) and Ohio State all put up 70 points or more on their opponents. The game was so bad between Miami (FL) and Savannah State that they decided to play a 12 minute fourth quarter.
Remember FCS Savannah State has been blown out by multiple FBS teams. Since 2012, the Tigers have been outscored 282-10. On the bright side, they’re getting good money out of it.
With all of that said, here are my pick results and my weekly final thought:
Outside of the Mountain West Conference, the name Brett Smith means little to most college football fans. It should, however, as it belongs to one of the top QBs in the country, a man who recently broke several records—and yet few people outside of the state of Wyoming even took notice.
Smith is a junior for the Cowboys, having been the starter since his true freshman season. That hadn't been the plan, but it's how things worked out. The Cowboys had appeared to be pretty set at the position, with former Mountain West Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year Austyn Carta-Samuels firmly entrenched atop the depth chart.
In a surprising turn of events, Carta-Samuels decided to leave Wyoming, believing that they weren't headed in the right direction as a team overall. With Wyoming's once-bright future looking a whole lot cloudier, they turned to Smith as a true freshman.
He didn't disappoint.
In 2011, his first season in Laramie, Smith racked up 3,332 yards of total offense, breaking the previous MWC record for total yards by a freshman by over 600 yards, previously held by former TCU and current Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Smith had 2,622 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air and another 710 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, while even catching two passes for 17 yards and a touchdown.
His emergence as a powerful dual-threat QB led the Cowboys to an unexpected appearance in the New Mexico Bowl.
Last season, Smith continued his impressive play as the Cowboy's shot-caller. Despite missing two games due to injury, he threw for 200 more yards than the previous season, while boasting an impressive 27-6 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio and improving his passer rating by over 30 points. His rushing yards fell drastically, but he still managed six touchdowns on the ground. Despite the fact that the Cowboys regressed and finished the season with a losing record, Smith continued to impress.
Which brings us to this season. Just four games in, Smith has already become the school-record holder for most career touchdown passes. He achieved that record on Saturday against Air Force in the midst of another record-breaking performance, as his 511 total yards against the Falcons constituted the Wyoming record for total yards in a game.
Less than two-and-a-half seasons into his Wyoming career, Smith is already arguably the top QB in school history. With his current pace, it is highly likely that he will break the school record for most career passing yards before the end of his junior season this year. In just four games this season, Smith has thrown for 1,315 yards and 13 touchdowns, while adding another 299 yards and one touchdown rushing with an 8.3 yards-per-carry average so far.
Smith has led the Cowboys to an impressive 3-1 start this season that included a near-upset of Nebraska on the road. Wyoming looks like the main challenger to Fresno State for the Mountain West Conference title this year, and Smith is a major reason why.
Brett Smith may not be widely renowned, but he is one of the best QBs in the country, and by the time he leaves Laramie, his career will likely be the stuff of legends for Wyoming fans.
It's about time the rest of the country started noticing him too.
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The Arizona State football team traveled to Palo Alto hoping to prove to themselves and the nation that they were a team deserving of the national spotlight. What they ended up doing, however, was lay an egg.
At the half, ASU was already down, 29-0.
It was a deficit few teams could recover from while playing a top five team on the road.
The Sun Devils did show an impressive amount of drive and heart in the second half, while putting up 28 points in two quarters.
When it was all said and done, ASU only lost by two touchdowns. Most Sun Devil fans would agree that a 14-point loss to the Stanford Cardinal on the road isn't terrible, but the way the team looked at times is cause for concern in Tempe.
The Sun Devils barely missed the Top 25 this week after their loss, and their impressive second half is surely the reason they didn't fall further.
While the result wasn't what ASU fans wanted, there was good and bad in ASU's loss to Stanford, and many things learned.
All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are from ESPN.com.
Three games in, the question remains—are the Miami Hurricanes truly back?
For those still flying high after the upset of Florida and recent rout of Savannah State, a case could be made that the undefeated Hurricanes are again ready to resume their place in college football's thick of things.
For the logical and more level-headed enthusiast, there's an understanding that Miami has been in this position before and hasn't necessarily fared well over the past decade.
There's no doubt that head coach Al Golden is effectively putting things back on track. Right guy, right place and right time—minus that whole NCAA fiasco. Still, Miami as a program was ripe for change. Local prospects are as good as they've been in years, the right guy is finally in charge and, as a result, UM is finally starting to resemble the program it once was.
The former architect of Temple's rebuilding project, Golden understood from day one what made the University of Miami special.
Old school tradition. The "U Family." Homegrown talent. The promoting of competition. Golden showed up in Coral Gables with a 300-page game plan regarding how to rebuild. He embraced the culture immediately, preached his "Pillars of Performance," coaches up his players to "Deserve Victory" and, now that the work has been put in, these Hurricanes look ready to roll.
The upset of Florida was significant in the sense that Golden had yet to notch a signature win. The opportunities have been there, but these Hurricanes weren't ready for the big time the past two seasons.
Now that Miami has disposed of a modern-day power in the archrival Gators, are the Hurricanes up for the challenge that comes with the week-to-week grind that is Atlantic Coast Conference play?
UM is 3-0 for the first time since 2004, but things get real on October 5 when Georgia Tech heads to Sun Life Stadium. Eight conference games are on the docket from that day on, and Miami's best ACC finish in nine seasons was 6-2 in 2005.
That's not to say Miami can't prevail in the remaining nine regular-season games, but the lack of ACC success should serve as a reminder that the Hurricanes have often played down to the level of competition for several years, not up.
Miami joined the ACC in 2004 and exploded out the gate 6-0. The fifth-ranked Hurricanes opened the season with a Labor Day win over the rival Seminoles and looked primed to make a run before disaster struck. A late October showdown against unranked North Carolina sent third-ranked Miami home a 31-28 loser in a game the 'Canes couldn't shake off.
Miami dropped two of its next four, falling to Clemson in overtime and losing the season finale to Virginia Tech, with a Sugar Bowl berth on the line.
Following year, similar storyline. A season-opening loss to Florida State was followed by an eight-game win streak, including an upset of third-ranked Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The Hurricanes were working their way into the national championship picture but again lost focus.
Mid-November Georgia Tech rolled in and topped No. 3 Miami, 14-10, in an ugly defensive battle. Weeks later, LSU embarrassed UM in the Peach Bowl, 40-3—the program's lowest point in decades.
Coaching turnover and a few decent recruiting classes had Miami looking somewhat "back" in 2009. A 3-1 start with wins over Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma showed promise. Folks were starting to buy in, despite an early season loss to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes played a brutal schedule, fought their way to 5-1 and were finally thinking ACC Championship for the first time in years.
Instead, a 2-2 late October to mid-November run with losses to Clemson and North Carolina, both unranked, with the Hurricanes ranked 10th when taking on the Tigers dropped to 14th when falling to the Tar Heels.
In the past, old-school Miami earned the right to think ahead, penciling in wins.
Between 1983 and 1991, the Hurricanes were 7-0 in games against top-ranked teams. The higher the stakes, the more bounce UM seemed to have in its step. This program made its name rising up to the occasion—something this unique and rabid fanbase embraced and took pride in.
This was the era where "swagger" was birthed and when the Hurricanes began to turn the college football establishment on its ear, beating down traditional powerhouses and dancing while doing so.
Getting back to those winning ways is obviously Golden's long-term goal, but there are baby steps in that process—namely, keeping a week-to-week focus and committing to overlooking no one.
Golden referred to Miami's recent bye as a "process week," via Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel. After a win against a team like Florida, any quality coach knows that complacency can set in. Egos can get inflated and long-term goals can get short-sighted, giving too much credit to what should be a stepping stone accomplishment.
What does a win over Florida mean if Miami shows up unprepared and gives away a crucial conference game? This offseason, the Hurricanes were picked to win the Coastal Division, which means nothing, as proved year ago when UM was tabbed fifth, yet finished in a three-way tie for first.
A run down the list of Miami's remain foes shows a handful of squads that have had the Hurricanes' number. Georgia Tech has notched some big wins over the past few years, including a stretch where it beat Miami four straight.
North Carolina has taken five of the past nine and has ended Miami's conference title game dreams on a few occasions.
Florida State has beaten Miami three straight, and UM now needs a win in the same fashion it did against the Gators, for bragging rights, heated recruiting battles and to ultimately level the playing field in the Sunshine State.
Inexplicably, Virginia has also taken the last three against Miami, despite having its own struggles as a program the past several years.
For the first time in long while, the Hurricanes truly have the depth and talent to make a legitimate conference run—which means absolutely nothing without a one-game-at-a-time mentality, week-to-week focus and a complete buy-in of Golden's "process."
Is Miami back? The next nine games will tell all.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
With 19 returning starters and comfortable experience across the board, the Texas Longhorns were supposed to have the look of a championship-caliber team in 2013.
But after four weeks, the 2-2 Longhorns could not be further from that kind of projected praise.
Regardless of this season's results, there is no denying that the Longhorns do have a stockpile of NFL talent. You just wouldn't really know it by the way the entire team has looked.
Texas had just three players drafted in 2012, which adds to the downward trend of Texas alum in the draft pool.
The draft gurus have already begun compiling their watchlists for next May, and Texas will have a number of players on the NFL radar.
With Week 4 of the college football season in the books, a majority of teams have closed out their nonconference schedules. With that, conferences as a whole have largely made their final push in the race for league supremacy.
While there weren't a lot of intriguing nonconference matchups last weekend, the pecking order for college football's best league is rounding into shape.
Determining which league is best goes beyond a simple glance at the collective conference records, though. Quality wins over elite competition will boost a conference's reputation, while bad losses from league members will drag it down.
A number of SEC teams are coming off some lackluster outings. Did that letdown result in the Pac-12 claiming the top spot in our power rankings?
There's only one way to find out.
"Playoffs?" asked the elder Jim Mora once. "Are you kidding me?"
There wasn't a playoff for the 2001 Indianapolis Colts. And there won't be one for the 2013 college football season.
That's a shame, because we really could use one. The way this season is shaping up, there might just be four quality teams vying for a shot at the BCS national championship. That won't be a problem next season, as the College Football Playoff kicks off. But it'll be coming a year too late.
The latest simulated BCS standings reveal that there are seven unbeaten teams at the top, exactly the same ones as last week, in a slightly different order. They come from four different conferences, and conveniently, six of those teams will meet later this season, essentially serving as quarterfinal games to narrow down the field.
But the question is, where do we go from there?
Alabama and LSU will meet on Nov. 9 to decide the SEC West, and perhaps the SEC title as well. Two days before that, Stanford will take on Oregon to settle the Pac-12 North, and also maybe the conference. Florida State and Clemson have a death match in Death Valley on Oct. 19, with at least the ACC Atlantic crown on the line.
If there were a four-team playoff, Ohio State is poised to seize that last spot, as it seems to be cruising toward a second consecutive undefeated regular season, thanks to a Big Ten that so far has had no answer for Urban Meyer, who's 16-0 and counting since taking over in Columbus a year ago.
But this is where we rudely awaken you from that nice dream. There is no four-team playoff this season, but the same ol' BCS for one last go-around. Only two teams get to play for the BCS title, and the rest will receive nice parting gifts from one of those sunny bowls out West or down South.
With that being the reality, we already know which team has no shot.
Louisville, currently No. 9 in the simulated BCS standings, won't be playing for the national title even if it goes 12-0. Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals simply won't get enough love from the voters and computers to end up in the top two—even if there are no more than two unbeaten teams.
The Cardinals' schedule is too uninspiring for the voters to take them seriously or for the computers to swoon.
In the four BCS computer rankings currently available, they're ranked 10th, 17th, 18th and 40th. And with a remaining schedule ranked No. 120 (out of 125 FBS teams), there is no chance for Louisville to ascend to the top of the computers, which account for one-third of the BCS standings. As for the humans: The Cardinals demolished FIU, 72-0, on Saturday...and dropped a spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Big 12, with four teams ranked in the top 25 but none in the top 10 of the polls, also has a perception issue. There isn't a dominant team in the conference, and whoever emerges as the champion likely will have one or two losses. Add the fact that none of the Big 12 teams have (or will have) narrative-altering nonconference wins, it's likely the league's BCS title-game drought will extend to four years.
That brings us back to the final four teams—and which two teams will be left out. Right now, it looks like Ohio State and the ACC champ.
The Buckeyes humanely destroyed Florida A&M, 76-0, on Saturday and held on to the No. 3 ranking in the Coaches Poll...but plummeted four spots in the simulated BCS standings. Why? Because the computers did not appreciate the mismatch.
Ohio State is in the top 25 in only two of the four BCS computers, and its strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 89 also won't help its cause. Unless the Buckeyes are one of only two unbeaten teams at the end of the regular season—and even in that event it's no guarantee—they'll be playing in Pasadena, but only for the Rose Bowl.
Then there's the Clemson-Florida State winner, which is now firmly parked in the on-deck circle. Only if either the eventual Pac-12 or SEC champion finishes with at least one loss, the conference champion will be consigned to the Orange Bowl no matter what. Too bad Louisville isn't joining the ACC until next season—just like the playoffs, it'll come a year too late.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Since the moment Tyler Murphy took his first snap on Saturday, the state of Florida's quarterbacks has emerged as one of the most sensationalized topics of the season.
On the surface, it's a story that tugs on the heartstrings.
A backup quarterback seizes his chance to shine after the starter tragically goes down for the season. The two-star recruit from Connecticut who has been in the shadows his entire college career gets the spotlight, leading his struggling team to victory. A humble guy just looking to do his part.
Everyone loves an underdog.
While Florida's 31-17 win versus Tennessee in The Swamp served as the perfect storyboard for the heartwarming tale, too many people are pushing for a happy ending that's just not there. Arguments that Murphy should've been the starter over Jeff Driskel from the get-go are completely unwarranted at this point.
That's not to say Murphy didn't have an impressive debut. Against UT, the redshirt junior completed eight of his 14 passes for 134 yards, had a 52-yard touchdown and rushed 10 times for 84 yards. Murphy's 28-yard rush at the tail-end of the third quarter was the longest since Driskel's 31-yard run versus FSU last year.
One problem: The game was against the Vols—the 2013 Vols. Saturday was not a benchmark game for the Gators, and it hasn't been in a while. The contest doesn't bear the weight it's being given.
Look at Driskel's performance last year against Tennessee. As a sophomore, he went 14 for 20 for 219 yards (a career best), notched two touchdowns and completed his career-high 81 rushing yards on eight carries. Driskel's 75-yard TD pass in Knoxville stands as the longest of his career. His passer rating versus the Vols last year was 195 which made it the highest for a UF quarterback on the road in a conference game since Tim Tebow versus Kentucky in '07 (202.7).
Driskel got SEC Player of the Week for his successes against Tennessee last year.
In 2012, the Vols were ranked. They were at No. 23 while the Gators sat at No. 19. This year, Tennessee isn't in the rankings. Saturday, Murphy was up against the 90th-ranked defense in the country while he has been practicing against the third.
This game continues to be the ideal matchup for Florida's fresh quarterbacks. They get to flex their skills against an SEC team that doesn't pack a punch while looking like the hero.
Using the win over Tennessee as an argument that Murphy is a better quarterback than Driskel after seeing him play three quarters of THIS game is ridiculous. Florida's staff wasn't overlooking Murphy the past three years, including this one.
"Jeff had earned the opportunity to be the starter here...As far as his performance in camp, I thought it was outstanding," said Muschamp following the win Saturday.
Driskel absolutely earned it. He lead the Gators to a Top 10 finish last season with 11 wins, seven of which were SEC victories. That shouldn't be cheapened by a poor performance at Miami and a solid performance of a once-backup against Tennessee.
OK, so Driskel had some mistakes against Miami, and now, he's done for the season with his leg injury. There's no QB controversy. It's Murphy's time.
"There's a lot of people that have been able to watch Tyler Murphy work and he really is just a phenomenal player," teammate and offensive lineman Jon Harrison said Saturday. "He's real selfless and that's the greatest attribute I love about him."
It's fantastic that Murphy get as much support as he can with his new role at starter. He seems like an extraordinary guy who has a lot of potential, passion and talent. Murphy certainly flexed that on Saturday. However, using Tennessee as a benchmark game to rip Driskel and put Murphy on a pedestal is ridiculous.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first hand.
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Many people believe college football coaches make way too much money, especially in the context of the argument about whether or not college football players should receive compensation—in excess of the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars they already receive in scholarships, that is.
But what constitutes a truly bad coaching contact?
Are the worst contracts those that fail to compensate a head coach well enough for running a major college program? How about those that seem inflated? How about those giant buyouts for coaches that a university wants to dismiss?
We might be able to argue that Nick Saban's $5.5 million per year salary is grossly inflated. After all, he is the highest-paid public employee in the United States. The president of the University of Alabama makes $464,000 per year. The governor of Alabama makes only $121,000 annually. Heck, the President of the United States makes $400,000 every year, far behind Saban—and nearly every FBS coach. But Saban—and ultra-successful coaches like him—could argue that they provide a benefit to the university in excess of the salary he receives. So money alone can't be the determining factor.
What about contracts unfair to either the coach or the university? Let's take a look at those contracts, the ones that make you simply scratch your head. Here are the 10 worst college football coach contracts today.
Note: The figures used are for 2012, as that is the most recent season for which all 125 coaching contracts are available. While some 2013 details are available, it seemed unfair to compare a 2013 contract for one coach to a 2012 contract for another.
Links to most FBS coaching contracts can be found here.
For just about anyone, what occurred to Joel Stave at the end of Wisconsin's game at Arizona State on Sept. 14 would be difficult to overcome.
Stave knows he took a knee and set the ball on the ground, but there had to have been some second guessing on his part in the following minutes, hours and days regarding the final 18 seconds of that game.
Should he have made the kneel more obvious? Should he have tossed the ball to a nearby official instead? Should the Badgers have even run that play with the risk of not having enough time to spike the ball?
It was an upsetting situation, but character can best be judged by how one responds to adversity. Six days later, Stave was back under center, helping lead his team to a 42-10 stomping of Purdue back at the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium.
Right now, there isn't a better option on this roster at quarterback than Joel Stave, but the sophomore has been far from perfect through three weeks of play. With a massive test looming at Ohio State, there are three lessons we've learned about Stave in 2013.
The class doesn't end with Allen, as 4-star recruits such as linebacker Hoza Scott, defensive back Nick Harvey, running back Varshaun Nixon, safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner and linebacker Josh Walker all have potential to be stars in College Station.
However, outside of Allen, the entire class is from Texas. The Aggies want to continue the task of locking up their state, and there are a few more elite uncommitted Texan recruits who they just can't afford to let get away.
Two steps forward, three steps back is the perfect way to describe the Texas Longhorns 31-21 win over the Kansas State Wildcats.
One step forward: The Longhorns busted out of a two-game slump to start conference play with a 1-0 record.
Two steps forward: The Texas defense held Kansas State to 151 yards rushing, after allowing an average 411 yards on the ground against BYU and Ole Miss.
Three steps back: Texas' starting linebacker and defensive leader Jordan Hicks ruptured his left Achilles tendon against the Wildcats.
Hicks will undergo surgery to repair his Achilles tendon and is out for the remainder of the season.
This is the second consecutive year Texas will lose Jordan Hicks with a season ending injury. Last season, Hicks suffered what was first called a hip injury, but was later determined as a groin injury, in the Longhorns game against Ole Miss. Hicks received a medical redshirt for the 2012 season and was expected to be a big-time play maker for Texas in 2013.
In a press conference before Kansas State, Mack Brown said Texas has "had the perfect storm for everything to go wrong" this season. Maybe the Longhorns head coach was onto something.
Between giving up a school record 550 yards rushing to BYU, being forced to learn a new scheme under defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and now losing the Longhorns lead tackler, the Texas defense has faced more adversity in four weeks than most teams will face all season.
When Jordan Hicks went down last season, the Texas defense went down with him. Will that be the case in 2013? Let's take a look.
2012 Youth = 2013 Experience
Texas was forced to rely on young, inexperienced linebackers after Hicks' injury last year. Prior to 2012, the backup linebackers had zero career starts for Texas and the youth was apparent on the field. One could argue the linebackers were the weakest link for the defense and partly to blame for Texas finishing the season as the worst statistical defense in school history.
The initial loss of Hicks was devastating to Texas. But the defense--primarily the linebackers--showed signs of progress towards the end of last season. It is quite possible the 2012 defensive struggles could actually be a blessing in disguise for Texas this year.
The Longhorns are no longer relying on true freshman linebackers to replace Jordan Hicks. The backups are experienced and have played a lot of snaps through the first four games of the 2013 season. Does that mean losing Hicks is not a big deal for the Texas defense? Absolutely not. But the experience gained in 2012 could help the alleviate, and even wipe out the devastation the defense suffered when Hicks went down last season.
Defensive Expectations sans Jordan Hicks
Losing Hicks is a big hit against the Texas defense, but it is not the end of the world for the Longhorns. (Let's not forget the Longhorns allowing 550 yards rushing to BYU occurred two-weeks before Hicks' injury.) When Mack Brown replaced former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson after the second game of the season, most reasonable thinking Texas fans should have known the defense would be a work in progress.
The expectations for the 2013 Texas defense are low, but those expectations were set before Kansas State. Losing Hicks does not help raise the expectations of the Texas defense, but there's a possibility Hicks' injury may not be as big of a loss as it was in 2012.
Nobody knows what the future holds for the Texas defense, but until proven otherwise, the experience of the Longhorns two-deep can only help the defense.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
With the college football season entering Week 5, many teams now have a solid sample size for observers to start to evaluate them. Some teams are off to expected good starts, but others have surprised the country by how well they've played early on.
As with anything that has to do with a college football team, recruiting factors in. The teams off to surprising starts to this 2013 season have a chance to use that as a boost on the trail.
A Big 12 program already has surpassed its win total from last year, which should help show recruits that improvements are being made. An SEC team in its second year is off to an admirable start, plus a Big Ten team's recruiting should be helped by its current record.
There are multiple players that have been instrumental in the No. 13 UCLA Bruins starting the season with a 3-0 record.
Anthony Barr and Brett Hundley are obvious linchpins. The duo account for perhaps the most recognizable members of the team from a national perspective. Hundley has performed at a considerably high level thus far in the 2013 campaign, and Barr has been productive rushing off of the edge.
However, there are a couple players who've surprised early in the season. One has effectively cemented himself as the top option in the backfield for the Bruins. The other two have made big impacts on the defense side of the ball.
Here are the three biggest surprises for the UCLA Bruins up to this point in the season.
Let's be clear. Last week's loss at Rutgers was a disappointment for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Blowing a 17-point lead in the second half wouldn't sit well with any team, but it wasn't a surprise considering how they played.
Sitting at 3-1, things have gone, for the most part, how most predicted they would after four games. Arkansas was the underdog at Rutgers and it lost. They were expected to beat Louisiana, Samford and Southern Miss and won all three games.
However, that isn't to say there haven't been some pleasant individual surprises.
There were a ton of question marks entering the season on the defense, but a number of guys have stepped up in a big way. The same can be said for the offense. With the loss of some key starters, some younger players are quickly making a name for themselves and surprising a lot of people in the process.
But, which players have surprised us the most thus far? Read on.
Defensive tackle Enoch Smith, Jr. will get his shot to display his skill set on a national platform this Friday. His Mount Carmel (Illinois) High School team will take on St. Rita (Illinois) at 8:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN3.
Although Smith will be the big name coming into the game, several other players will be looking to showcase their talent. The Caravan have a 4-0 football team that features several other players who are bonafide prospects.
St. Rita will host Mount Carmel in Chicago, and do not feel sorry for the Mustangs. They're also 4-0 and have a pair of recruits who are committed to solid programs.
Most everybody who cares about Tennessee's football program has an opinion about who Butch Jones should start at quarterback when the Vols host South Alabama this Saturday.
The vocal masses apparently includes members of true freshman quarterback Riley Ferguson's family.
A man claiming to be Ferguson's uncle, identified only as "Larry," called Knoxville's The Sports Animal's Doc, Jeff, & Heather radio show on Monday morning to offer his admittedly biased opinion on UT's quarterback derby.
Just to be honest, after seeing everything I’ve seen, I think both of the young quarterbacks are better than the two we’ve seen. I think when we see either one of those guys come in, I think we’re going to see a huge difference in the offense. I think we’ve got two great quarterbacks sitting in the wings. Obviously, I have my opinion about which one I’d like to see, but I’ve just not been impressed by the two we’ve seen so far.
I think if you were there at the open practice...out of the 39-plus thousand people, I would say 35,000 or more would say those young guys were more impressive than the older two. So, I’m looking forward to seeing that happen. I don’t know when that will be.
On Monday, Jones re-named Justin Worley his starter "as of right now" for the game against the Jaguars. Worley began the season as UT's starter before the competition was reopened and Nathan Peterman made his first career start at Florida, a move that backfired.
Now, with Peterman missing "at least four weeks" after having hand surgery Monday, according to Jones, the battle to back up Worley will be waged by Ferguson and classmate Joshua Dobbs.
Coaches of high-profile programs deal with fan opinions daily. Most of the time, those opinions are never considered or even acknowledged. They carry a bit more clout coming from players' family members, however.
Jones was asked during his press conference how he deals with public outcry from family members in regard to playing time.
You know, that’s something that I’ll address with (the players). We continue to educate our players and our families, and we’ve only been here for a short period of time, but, you know, let’s just say that’s part of our Vol For Life program, and that’s a work in progress, and I’ll handle that.
Jones smirked, paused, then looked at the reporter: "You always ask the difficult questions," he said with a smile.
Monday's call by Ferguson's family member probably wouldn't have registered on Jones' radar if it hadn't come on the heels of Ferguson's dad, Don, calling Tennessee Sports Radio's The Erik Ainge Show last week.
According to the transcription of the call on TSR's website, Don Ferguson didn't say anything controversial about the quarterback race. Instead, the elder Ferguson discussed his son's strengths, confidence level, weight and "it" factor, among other things.
When asked about the possibility of his son starting in The Swamp—a hope that didn't come to fruition—Don Ferguson said this:
Yeah, he’s ready to go. He keeps telling me every day he’s hoping by the fourth game, that’s what he’s been telling me, cause I guess that’s when Peyton (Manning) took over in his third or fourth game. He wants to play. How I look at it, it’s gonna be tough for any of the four this weekend with that defense they got.
I would hate for him or Dobbs or even Peterman to get in and just, you know, get destroyed and then of course the fanbase will just shred you, so it’s kind of unfair. And in Worley’s case, I think it’s unfair that he’s already a junior, never redshirted and people are already starting to talk beyond him as a junior.
It’s a tough thing. It’s a tough thing as a parent because you want your kid to get a chance. You don’t want him to get thrown to the wolves and the fanbase, you know just like anybody, would want to protect. That’s why I was a little bit reluctant to talk on the radio, cause all of these fan sites are just—they can be brutal. They either love you or hate you.
While Riley Ferguson's father's comments were benign, the alleged uncle's weren't. Now, the two instances together means Jones must address it internally before it becomes a potential distraction.
Moving forward, Ferguson hopes to be in the news for the right reasons this Saturday. Jones told the media that Ferguson being on last week's travel squad over Dobbs has no bearing on the battle to back up Worley:
Both freshmen quarterbacks will get ample amount of repetitions, and we have to do a great job of getting them ready to play mentally and then physically as well. Just like anything in our program, they’re going to have to earn their spot.
Much to the chagrin of their families.
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