While most of the top college football teams finish up their tune-up games, the LSU Tigers are one of the teams that will cruise in conference play in Week 4.
There aren't many conference games for Top 25 teams, but it's never too early to be on upset alert. The teams on this list have absolutely no chance of being stunned this week.
After a terrific slate of games in Week 3, this weekend's action will have a hard time creating that much drama. Last week helped clear up the national title picture a little bit, but this week doesn't figure to have much impact on the race.
Below is a full schedule for the Top 25 followed by a list of teams that will have no problems in conference clashes this week.
No. 5 Stanford Cardinal (vs. No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils)
In what is the only matchup of two ranked teams, Stanford will have no problem defeating Arizona State. The first two games have been relatively close for the Cardinal, but the team has still won comfortably.
Stanford has scored 34 points in each game, and it has scored in every quarter this season.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools since 2010, so there isn't any recent history to look at.
Stanford's defense is one of the best in the country, and it will be up to the offense to take care of the football. Stanford has turned the ball over three times in two games, and mistakes could make this a game.
Junior Kevin Hogan will be ready for his first test of the season. He will be able to get his team out to a 1-0 start in Pac-12 play on its way to challenging Oregon in the conference.
No. 6 LSU Tigers (vs. Auburn Tigers)
LSU will be tested early against Auburn, but home-field advantage will be too much for the visitors to overcome.
In a matchup of Tigers, the more talented roster will win. LSU has already beaten No. 20 TCU this season. It was a tough test to open the season, but LSU gained valuable experience in that victory.
Senior Zach Mettenberger is having a great season. The quarterback has thrown for 797 yards and nine touchdowns without a single interception.
He has a pair of talented receivers who will be tough for Auburn to handle. Juniors Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham have torched defenses through three games. Landry has 246 yards with five touchdowns, and Beckham has 330 yards with four scores.
If Auburn was the home team, it might have a chance in this one. However, Auburn isn't going to be able to go into Tiger Stadium at night and win. It just isn't happening. LSU has won two straight meetings, including a two-point victory last season. Auburn hasn't won in Baton Rouge since 1999, and it won't be able to stun its rival this weekend.
No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers (vs. Purdue Boilermakers)
The Badgers lost to Arizona State in one of most confusing endings ever, but they should have been able to come away with a big road victory. Instead, they lost and need to move on.
Purdue played Notre Dame tough last week, but it was crushed by Cincinnati in the opening week. Indiana State was able to give the Boilermakers a challenge, so this looks like a mismatch.
This happens to be an intriguing game for several reasons. For starters, everyone wants to see how Wisconsin responds after losing in such a devastating way last week. The Badgers will also be traveling to No. 4 Ohio State in two weeks, so this could be a case of a team overlooking a lesser opponent.
Wisconsin puts up points quickly. It averages 41 points per game while Purdue averages only 17 points. The Boilermakers haven't been able to keep any meeting since 2005 within 21 points, and they won't be able to slow down the Badgers offense.
Sophomore Melvin Gordon has done a nice job of replacing Montee Ball. The running back has 477 yard with four touchdowns on 37 attempts. That comes out to an incredible 12.7 yards per carry. Purdue has allowed 117 rushing yards per game, so look for the Badgers to do what they do best and run all over the Boilermakers.
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Believe it or not, we've already hit the quarter-season mark when it comes to the Associated Press Top 25 rankings. The publication releases 16 every year, beginning with the always-lovely preseason assumptions and concluding after Alabama waxes some poor unsuspecting school in the national title game.
Sunday marked the fourth of those official releases. For all references—future and present—here is how the 2013 college football season has shaped up thus far, courtesy of the Associated Press and Bleacher Report rankings:
Notice anything? Like...how pretty much nothing has changed?
Well, that's because it hasn't.
The first few weeks of the college football season have brought fans numerous down-to-the-wire contests, but apparently "upset" has become a curse word around campuses. There are five teams currently inside the Top 25 that each have one loss; none of them have been tear-down-the-goalpost shockers.
Of the 25 teams ranked in the initial preseason standings, 19 of them remain standing. Texas at No. 15 is the highest ouster, and the Longhorns have seemingly decided to play run defense blindfolded this season.
But for the most part, the first few weeks of this season have been filled with your standard early-season mundanities. Great teams pick on schools just hoping to leave healthy and with checks, while nearly every clash of Top 25 titans has gone the way of the favorite.
Of course, we know this won't last. College football is by and large a series of unpredictable events; I swear preseason rankings only exist for us to look back and realize how foolish they were from the outset.
With Week 4 action quickly approaching, let's look at a few teams that might find themselves on the outside looking in when Sunday rolls around.
No. 19 Florida Gators (vs. Tennessee Volunteers)
As someone who grew up watching college football in the 1990s, it's hard not to view Florida-Tennessee as a top-notch rivalry. Visions of Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer battling for national supremacy still dance in my head, as does the fact that Tee Martin won a national championship while Peyton Manning did not. I'm not from the South, nor do I even have any southern relatives; the game was just cool as a kid.
These obviously aren't my childhood's Gators and Volunteers.
Tennessee has run over the half-decade mark of national irrelevancy, which began as Fulmer started losing his fastball offensively and as a recruiter. Florida still carries a level of national cache, but the halcyon days of Urban Meyer's tenure and the subsequent offensive explosion have long been lost.
Now? The Gators are relying on a quarterback who might want to start looking into his "backup" plan. Jeff Driskel, who signed a pro contract with the Boston Red Sox this summer, has struggled mightily in his latest opportunity to man the starting spot. He threw two critical interceptions in Florida's 21-16 loss to Miami last week, killing critical drives that could have been on their way to scoring opportunities.
These are the same mistakes Driskel made as a sophomore, ones for which the Florida defense had to scramble in order to compensate. The Gators defense is excellent yet again, but "surviving" isn't usually a word you want to use when describing quarterback play.
In the interest of fairness, it's not like Tennessee's level of play is making folks harken back to the Manning days, either.
The Volunteers got whacked 59-14 last week against No. 2 Oregon, allowing 687 total yards and 59 unanswered points between the nine-minute mark in the first quarter and the end of the third.
It was a top-to-bottom embarrassment that made folks forget awfully fast about the two cupcake wins the Vols had to start the season. The nicest thing you could say about Tennessee's quarterback situation is that Justin Worley has avoided turnovers. But when you're dinking and dunking to the tune of 124 passing yards per game, it's tough
If you've been enjoying this newfangled SEC in which teams score points by the boatload, Saturday's game in Gainesville won't be for you. Tennessee will do its best to pound the ball with Rajion Neal and Marlon Lane while Florida just tries to keep its head above water somewhere offensively.
Vegas Insider has Florida as 17-point favorites at home, which is a massive overreach. The Gators offense isn't anywhere near trustworthy enough to garner three-score advantages.
Pound Tennessee with the spread and the under, and don't be surprised if Butch Jones walks away with his first huge win.
No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (vs. Michigan State Spartans)
For about 45 minutes of game time, the Irish looked like they were on the precipice of joining the unranked last week. Playing on the road against a Purdue squad that got trounced by Cincinnati two weeks prior, Notre Dame's offense sputtered.
Tommy Rees and the passing game struggled mightily for most of the first half, leading an opening four drives that covered all of 58 yards. It took until the Irish's final drive of the first half, an 80-yard scamper that ended in a field goal, to get any semblance of momentum going.
When they did, Rees found his groove in the second half. He finished the Saturday-night nail-biter with 309 passing yards and two touchdowns, engineering five 60-plus yard drives in Notre Dame's final seven possessions, including a seven-minute, 22-second game finisher that ripped the heart out of Ross-Aide Stadium.
The running game, though, is still a pretty big concern. None of the trio of Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel and George Atkinson III has broken out as a lead-back candidate yet. The Irish are averaging a nondescript 4.1 yards per carry as a team and have only hit paydirt twice on the ground. More than anything, it was their ineffective ground game that kept Purdue chugging along.
If the first three weeks are any indication, the Spartans should provide a stout test up the middle. Michigan State has allowed only 12 points per game through the first three weeks, though that number cannot be taken seriously, considering that Spartans' FBS opponents this season are a combined 0-6.
Mark Dantonio is stuck with one of the worst quarterback situations of a borderline Top 25 squad, with neither Connor Cook nor Andrew Maxwell doing much to instill confidence. The ghost of Le'Veon Bell also hangs over the running game. Jeremy Langford has filled the requirement of a powerful back up the middle, but Dantonio is doing his team a disservice if Nick Hill doesn't start getting more work.
The overwhelming likelihood, like in our aforementioned SEC showdown, is that this game is close and the scoring is sparse. Rees wasn't great against Michigan, and the Spartans defense should be on the same level—Michigan State's offense is a near travesty.
When games are low scoring, one score can literally be the difference in the entire game.
No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils (at No. 5 Stanford Cardinal)
Arizona State has been the talk of college football the entire week, so I'm not going to belabor the controversy any more than I have to.
The fact is that some voters feel that Arizona State shouldn't have even been ranked to begin with. ASU's players and coaching staff don't deserve blame for the incompetence of the officiating crew in the Sun Devils' 32-30 win over Wisconsin last week, but they're very likely 1-1 without said incompetence. Fair or not, these biases play into the minds of voters; it's partially why the Badgers only lost four spots in the rankings.
Alas, Arizona State's time in the sun (sorry) should be short lived. No. 5 Stanford plays host to Todd Graham's squad Saturday evening, in a game that has the Cardinal installed as only 7.5-point favorites.
Yes, my friends, that sound you heard was the teaser-alert alarm going off. Stanford has been less than impressive in its opening two wins, against San Jose State and Army, but not in any sense should that be of concern.
David Shaw's offense is a good but not great bunch led by bruising running back Taylor Gaffney and the intriguing Kevin Hogan, who has made a point to be more aggressive this season.
The defense held one of the nation's most underrated quarterbacks (San Jose State's David Fales) to a QBR of 46.5. Army may have done a nice job running the football, to the tune of 200 yards, but that's not helping anyone when you're a team trying to come from two and three scores down.
The Cardinal, in many ways, are a carbon copy of the squad they were a season ago. Very few wins are going to have an Oregonian backhand quality to them.
Stanford will finish with pro-like scores and two-score margins.
Graham has done a nice job turning Taylor Kelly into a burgeoning star, but color me less than optimistic about the junior signal-caller coming into Palo Alto and pulling off the win.
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That was 2009, and Alabama's 32-13 thrashing of Florida ended the Gators' repeat quest and propelled the Tide to the first of their three BCS National Championships over the next four years. Saban went on to become the God of the BCS.
Meyer checked himself into a hospital a day later, resigned as Florida's coach, came back and then quit again for good.
Until he came back again.
After taking it easy in an ESPN booth for a year, Meyer returned to coaching in 2012 at Ohio State. Fifteen games into his tenure as the Buckeyes coach, he has yet to lose a game—and might not anytime soon.
There is a pretty good possibility that Meyer would end his season in Pasadena—and not for the 100th Rose Bowl Game but that other one five days later. Across the field from him just might be his old nemesis, Saban, with his Alabama team looking for its third straight national championship.
Alabama and Ohio State are currently ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the simulated BCS standings. The paths looks pretty wide open for both teams to reach their January destination.
The Crimson Tide got by the one-man cyclone that is Johnny Manziel on Saturday and will likely face just two ranked teams for the remainder of the regular season (Sept. 28 vs. Ole Miss and Nov. 9 vs. LSU, both at home).
The Buckeyes might have to face one more ranked team than Alabama, but the Big Ten is considerably weaker than the SEC, as evidenced by the conference going 2-5 against BCS competition last weekend.
For the purpose of the BCS, Alabama is in the pole position.
It's currently top-ranked in the simulated standings (methodology explained below)* and as long as it keeps winning, it will stay there. The Tide may even be able to afford to lose a game and have the breaks go their way as they did in both 2011 and '12. A one-loss Alabama will have a better chance to get into the BCS title game than any other one-loss team.
As for Ohio State, while its schedule is easier, there's more elements out of its control in terms of getting into the BCS title game. It'll likely stay behind the Oregon-Stanford winner in the BCS standings, unless that team loses a second game. It's also at risk of being jumped by LSU should the Tigers win at Tuscaloosa.
But this much we do know: If the Buckeyes go undefeated again in the regular season, they'll be headed to Pasadena now that they're done with the one-year bowl ban, which kept them out of not just the Rose Bowl but a shot at the BCS title a year ago.
This time around, Meyer might get a rematch with Saban with more than just the SEC championship at stake.
Meyer has a score to settle anyway.
After beating Saban and Alabama in the 2008 SEC Championship Game, his Gators lost the rematch in 2009 and then again in a 2010 regular-season game, shortly before Meyer quit Florida for good.
The SEC has had a stranglehold on the BCS title since Meyer began the seven-year streak in 2006. He'd love nothing more than to be the man to end the SEC reign and take down his old nemesis in the process.
* The rankings in the simulated BCS standings come from a simulation of the actual BCS standings with the following variations: 1) The AP Poll is used in place of the Harris Interactive Poll, which is not published until after the first weekend of October. 2) Four of the six BCS computer ratings are available and used in the simulation—Colley Matrix, Jeff Sagarin, Kenneth Massey and Richard Billingsley. 3) The other two computer ratings—Anderson & Hester and Peter Wolfe—will not be available until late September or October, so they're replaced by the median ranking of 31 computer ratings.
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There's a trend among all of the most memorable moments from Auburn's 24-20 win over Mississippi State last Saturday.
In the days following the Tigers' come-from-behind win, the buzz on the Plains has been all about C.J. Uzomah's game-winning touchdown grab with 10 seconds left on the clock.
The talk of the town has been of Nick Marshall's composure and improvisation which kept the Tigers' drive alive.
Folks are beaming about Gus Malzahn's offense—that dangerous no-huddle attack that went 88 yards in less than two minutes, and made it all look easy.
It's the offense that's getting the credit for Saturday night's win in Auburn and for the Tigers' 3-0 start to the year.
That just comes with the territory, it would seem, especially after late-game heroics like that.
But across the way, on the other side of the ball—and quietly, perhaps—the Auburn defense has been putting forth some heroic efforts of its own, doing its share to lift the Tigers to a perfect 3-0 mark.
The Tigers haven't allowed a score in the fourth quarter all season, shutting out opponents when it matters most in each of Auburn's first three wins.
"I like to think it starts with conditioning," Malzahn said on Tuesday. "Our guys have worked extremely hard in the weight room and conditioning. The way we practice I think has a lot to do with that."
Malzahn knows his team.
The Auburn defense hasn't played perfectly, but with their backs against the wall late in games, time and again the Tigers have come up big, keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone and keeping Auburn in the win column.
That started long before Saturday night in Jordan-Hare Stadium—long before the roaring crowds, the prime-time lights and national TV cameras.
It didn't start with a single catch in the back of the end zone. It didn't start with a single drive down the field.
It's an attitude, and a philosophy, and it started months ago.
It started in the summer, in a boiling weight room, with a team determined to change its destiny after a miserable 3-9 season.
It started on those summer days—those days that are 100 percent guts and zero percent glory.
Players, like senior cornerback Ryan White, strove for personal bests and strove to put the miseries from the 2012 season behind them. The voice of new strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell bellowed through their ears, echoing in their heads.
That's when a defense, once ridiculed for playing too soft, was strengthened and hardened.
And that's what has carried over to game day.
"It started with Coach Russell in the weight room this summer," White said on Sunday. "We talked about finishing, and if you see us before the fourth quarter starts, we hold up our fists for 'four.' We pride on finishing, and the defense takes more pride in it."
With that sense of pride in mind, the Tigers have found ways to finish on defense all season—finish drives, finish games and finish victories.
There's still plenty of room to grow for the Auburn defense. The Tigers' efforts haven't been very pretty on the stat sheet.
While Auburn has held opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter in each of the first three games of the season, the Tigers are allowing an average of 91.3 yards per fourth quarter. Over four quarters, that kind of performance would rank just average in team defense nationally.
Still, when it matters most, the Auburn defense has come up big. Opponents have yet to sniff the end zone in the fourth quarter against the Tigers, nor has any opponent even attempted a field goal in the final frame of play.
"The fourth-quarter thing, credit Coach Malzahn," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Sunday. "I think he's put a confidence and an attitude in these guys. They're determined they're going to play through adversity and finish ball games. It's something they've had a problem doing."
It's that determination that has the Tigers off to a perfect 3-0 start to the season—fittingly enough—since it was born from a passion to erase the memories of a 3-9 season a year ago.
Already, the Tigers have matched their season win total from 2012.
But the Auburn defense won't be satisfied just yet. Those players weren't satisfied in the summer, when they spent long hours fighting to improve after earning just three wins.
And they won't be satisfied with just three wins now.
Perhaps that's why when the Auburn defense has to dig deep, it knows just where to look.
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter, @byjustinlee. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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Boise State vs. Fresno State
Game Date: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
Where: Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, Calif.
Radio: ESPN Radio 940 AM Fresno, Bronco Radio Network
Boise State (2-1, 1-0 MWC) will travel to the Central Valley of California this week to take on the Bulldogs of Fresno State (2-0, 0-0 MWC).
The Bulldogs had their game cancelled last week against Colorado due to flooding in the Boulder, Col. area. Meanwhile, the Broncos defeated Air Force 42-20 in a Friday night Mountain West showdown on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.
When these two teams collide this week it will be the battle of the can—"The Milk Can" that is.
Boise State has won seven straight in this series, but this will be the best chance the Bulldogs have had to take home the victory since 2005, when Fresno State handled Boise State 27-7 in Bulldog Stadium.
No matter who wins this game, you can count on this one being a high-scoring event as two powerful offenses and two questionable defenses will collide Friday night.
This game could also be a preview of the Mountain West Conference championship game in December. Fresno is in the West Division of the MWC and Boise State resides in the Mountain Division. The top finisher in each of these divisions will square off for the title.
One of the reasons this game Friday is so crucial for both teams is that the highest ranked team going into the championship will also host the game. So, in essence, the winner this week could determine the host city in December.
If both teams make it that far, that is.
Let's look at the possibilities and scenarios that might dictate the outcome of this game, and how it all might transpire Friday night in Fresno.
Last week’s results: No. 3 Clemson (2-0) beat South Carolina State 52-13.
N.C. State (2-0) beat Richmond 23-21.
Most important storylines of the week
1. Can Clemson put 2011 behind?: Two years ago, the Tigers rolled into Carter-Finley Stadium utterly uninspired after clinching the ACC Atlantic Division title a week earlier against Wake Forest. It showed, too. Clemson committed four turnovers in an ugly 37-13 defeat at N.C. State’s hands. It was part of a larger slide that saw the Tigers go 2-4 over their final six games, finishing with a dismal 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia.
The core of that 2011 team is now a standout upper class: Clemson played a nation’s-most 29 freshmen that season. That loss has been brought up repeatedly over the last week-plus with the belief being that a more mature team will avoid such a pitfall.
“It was a disappointing game,” said senior quarterback Tajh Boyd. “We didn’t handle business when we went up there. We’d just clinched the division, and we could have gotten a little lax. We didn’t know what to expect when we went up there.
“I felt we weren’t a very mature team in that situation. We went out there and turned the ball over. They were fired up and ready to play. It’s something we have to be ready for this year.”
2. How will Clemson handle the loss of Charone Peake?: The Tigers’ wide receiver corps took a major blow during the off week when junior Peake, the No. 2 wideout behind Sammy Watkins, suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill.
Versatile junior Adam Humphries (seven receptions, 53 yards) will move into a starting role, but the burden will be greater for all six remaining healthy scholarship receivers. Junior Sammy Watkins (nine catches, 146 yards, 1 TD) will remain the top dog, but others like junior Martavis Bryant (four receptions, 87 yards) also must contribute more.
In addition, redshirt freshman Germone Hopper, who had six catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns against S.C. State, will be leaned on more heavily, and freshmen T.J. Green and Mike Williams will see their development accelerated.
“They’ve had some really good practices,” Boyd said. “They have to grow up. It’s not that they want to grow up. They need to grow up.”
3. Can Clemson stop N.C. State’s running attack?: The Wolfpack feature a large, physical line, and while new coach Dave Doeren has a fast-paced offense, he likes to run. The Pack averages 212.5 rushing yards per game, fourth in the ACC. Freshman Matt Dayes averages 63.5 rushing yards per game, while junior Tony Creecy averages 51.5. Quarterback Paul Thomas is not afraid to run, either; he averages 22.5 rushing yards per game.
Clemson yields 154 rushing yards per game, ninth-best in the ACC. While Dayes and Creecy are not of the caliber of Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the Pack will try and establish their offense with a solid ground game, and the Tigers’ front seven must be prepared.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Thursday
Place: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.
Radio: Clemson and N.C. State radio networks (regional); ESPN (national)
Spread: Clemson -13.5 via VegasInsider.com
*Unless noted, all quotes in this story were gathered first-hand by the author.
Whether you think South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is off to a slow start or not, one thing is true: He is not as involved defensively as he could be.
Teams are playing smart by not looking to shut down Clowney with their own players. Instead, offenses are running plays away from Clowney to make sure he cannot find a way to get involved.
It is a frustrating situation for the Gamecocks' coaches because they want to unleash "The Freak."
Clowney has also seemed frustrated by teams running plays away from him over and over again. He is used to being in the action and being a star.
South Carolina is in need of finding ways to keep Clowney in striking distance of making big plays. So, it's time to get creative.
Here are three scheme changes to make South Carolina's Jadevon Clowney more effective.
Things could get interesting, but most likely might get ugly on Saturday when Florida State takes on Bethune-Cookman at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Wildcats (3-0, 0-0 MEAC), got their first win against an FBS team last week, a 34-13 thrashing of Florida International University. Meanwhile, the Seminoles (2-0) are coming off a 62-7 thrashing of Nevada in their ACC-Mountain West matchup last Saturday.
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Place: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.,
Spread: Florida State by 33, per Vegasinsider.com
All quotes and paraphrases were obtained either firsthand or via phone unless otherwise noted.
If the Florida Gators lose to the Tennessee Volunteers this week, Will Muschamp will be in trouble.
Could it be possible for a head coach who improved from 7-6 in his first year to 11-2 in his second year to be on the hot seat three games into his third year? If the Gators lose on Saturday to the Volunteers, the answer will be "yes."
How can this be? There are several factors that make it so, not the least of which is the fact that Florida fans are spoiled.
Before you judge the Rowdy Reptiles though, ask yourself, if your favorite school won four national championships in less than two years in college athletics' two major sports, would it be difficult for you to get excited about a team that has gone through three years of mediocrity?
Before you say, "Whoa, wait a second, how is 11-2 with a trip to the Sugar Bowl mediocre?" let me remind you that while the Gators were winning games last year, they were not exactly pretty.
Remember homecoming, when they had to rally to beat Louisiana Lafayette in the last two minutes? Or how about having to come from behind to beat the Vols, who missed going to a bowl yet again? Then there was a close win over the Missouri Tigers, who missed going to a bowl, and also an ugly win over Jacksonville State.
Now add in an ugly win over the Toledo Rockets to start this season and an absolutely wretched performance to give one away at the hated Miami Hurricanes, and you see why there is grumbling in Gainesville about this coach.
Will Muschamp grew up in Gainesville as a Gators fan. He spent his college days getting steamrolled by the Steve Spurrier offense while he played safety for the Georgia Bulldogs.
One would think he of all people would know the Gators are at their best when they think about offense first. But he has from his first day as head coach continued to emphasize defense and running the football right at people on offense.
This style of football works for some schools, but it has never worked at Florida.
Florida has had three successful eras. The 1960s under Ray Graves had some very good teams. Those teams gave us Steve Spurrier at quarterback and produced the school's first Heisman Trophy. They also had John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez, a record-setting passing combo.
Then there was a lot of disappointment until Spurrier took over in the 1990s and had the "Fun-n-Gun" offense putting the ball in the air early and often, running up big wins by the bushel.
Then there was Urban Meyer and his spread offense. They were a quick-strike, big-play offense as well when they were at their best. Forty- and 50-point blowouts were not at all unusual.
Gator fans would almost rather lose 38-35 than win 17-10. So losing games 21-16 with five trips to the red zone that produce no points can make them downright unpleasant.
Another sin that Mr. Muschamp seems to commit over and over is losing to the teams he cannot afford to lose to. Urban Meyer beat Miami, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State. In his six years, he lost a grand total of two games against those four teams. In a little over two years, Muschamp has four losses already to those four. He really cannot afford another one this week.
A loss to Tennessee this week would be especially rough coming off the Vols' worst loss in years a week prior. In UT fans' worst nightmares, they never dreamed there would be a day when another college football team could beat them by 45 points. Just when they think they have bottomed out, they hit a new low. This would be a most unfortunate time to drop a game to them.
It would behoove Muschamp to take the reins off his offensive coordinator and quarterback this week and throw the ball once in a while more than five yards down the field. He may want to get really crazy and throw it on first down once in a while too.
Florida has more talent than Tennessee. Playing conservatively is doing the Vols a favor. Keeping the game close is a good way to lose.
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USC welcomes the Utah State Aggies to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the final tilt of its three-game homestand. The Trojans are riding momentum after handling the Boston College Eagles last week in a way that gave an inkling of hope that USC football will return to form.
With that 35-7 victory in the rearview mirror, USC now prepares for its toughest opponent yet.
The Aggies are newcomers to the Mountain West in 2013, having previously been a member of the WAC for eight seasons. In 2012, Utah State posted its first 11-win season in school history, en route to winning the WAC as well as winning its first bowl game in 19 years.
Utah State is an emerging program, while USC is trying to rebrand itself. This matchup is certainly a must-see this week.
But before the preview, here are the vitals:
Kickoff: 12:30 PT
Place: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
TV: ABC (West Coast), ESPN2 (East Coast)
Radio: 710 ESPN
Spread: USC (-6.5)
LSU against Auburn is always interesting, no matter where either team is ranked. Last season, No. 2 LSU edged out the unranked Tigers 12-10.
LSU is heading into its first SEC game after a 3-0 start. The Bayou Bengals have looked impressive on both sides of the ball.
Auburn already boasts a conference victory, as it scored with 10 seconds left to beat Mississippi State at home. The Tigers are still unblemished under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn.
Auburn has yet to play a game outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium this season. Going into Tiger Stadium for the first road game of the season is not an easy task.
Only two of the last nine meetings have been decided by more than one possession. But those blowouts happened the last two times the game was played in Death Valley, both of which ended in LSU's favor.
What you need to know:
Time: 7:45 EST, 6:45 CST
Place: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Spread: LSU by 18.5, via Scores and Odds
For the first time in the Mack Brown era, the Texas Longhorns enter Big 12 conference play with a losing record, having not started the season with a 1-2 record since Coach Brown's 1998 debut season in Austin. But the Longhorns game against the Kansas State Wildcats feels less like 1998 and more like 2010 deja vu. We'll get to the deja vu in a couple of slides.
Kansas State is Mack Brown's kryptonite—Brown is just 2-7 against K-State with his last win happening a decade ago in 2003. (Note, the teams played two years on and two years off when the Big 12 had 12 members. Mack Brown is 0-5 against K-State since 2003.) In years where Brown's Longhorns played in BCS bowls (2004, 2008) and the BCS National Championship (2005, 2009), Texas did not play Kansas State.
This Saturday, the Longhorns have more to prove than just their ability to beat the Wildcats. A win against Kansas State could be the shift in momentum Texas needs in order to turn around the season.
Can Texas show up Saturday night and break the five-game losing streak to K-State? Let's take a look...
When: Saturday, September 21, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Austin Radio: KVET 98.1/1300
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: XM 117; Sirius 202; Internet 969; Spanish 970
Spread: Texas (-5.5), per VegasInsider.com
The Last Meeting: December 1, 2012, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas
The Last Outcome: No. 7/7 Kansas State 42, No. 21/23 Texas 24
The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes are set to host the Florida A&M Rattlers to close out their nonconference slate this Saturday in Columbus.
The Buckeyes (3-0) are coming off a 52-34 road victory over Cal—a game which featured more than 1,100 combined yards of offense. With backup quarterback Kenny Guiton starting in place of the injured Braxton Miller, Ohio State controlled the game, racing out to a 21-0 lead six minutes into the first quarter.
Cal showed resilience in closing the gap to 11 before halftime, but the Buckeyes proved to be too much for the Golden Bears in an 18-point victory.
Even with Miller's playing status still in question, Florida A&M will travel to Columbus as heavy underdogs. According to Vegas Insider, Ohio State is favored by 57 points over the Rattlers.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21
Time: Noon ET
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network
Nebraska faces its final nonconference foe when South Dakota State (also known as SDSU) travels to Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday. This is the third time the two programs have met.
The Huskers have defeated the Jackrabbits in both prior meetings, 17-3 in 2010 and 58-7 in 1963, respectively.
Nebraska has 13 natives on the SDSU roster. Eight of those players are on the Jackrabbits' two-deep depth chart.
Coming to Memorial Stadium, SDSU is 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in the FCS. Nebraska, on the other hand, has dropped out of both the coaches poll and AP poll after a 41-21 loss to UCLA.
Who will come out victorious at the end of Week 4?
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
When: Saturday, Sept. 21, at 3:30 p.m. EST
Watch: Big Ten Network
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 134, XM 194
Betting Line: Nebraska (-22)
Saturday's 95th engagement of the Holy War pitting the University of Utah against Brigham Young University is the last until 2016.
These two fierce, in-state rivals last took a hiatus from their annual series in 1945. Barring the necessary stoppage of World War II, the current incarnation of a series that began the same year Utah was granted statehood has been played every year since 1922.
Proximity and familiarity have bred a particular level of competitiveness between these programs.
"You certainly have no problem getting your players up for this game," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said on his teleconference call Tuesday. "The emotion and passion and all that takes care of itself."
While future engagements of the rivalry are planned, nothing is guaranteed beyond an agreement for dates in 2017 and 2018, finalized Monday and announced via the BYUCougars website. Many players on both rosters this Saturday will be gone when the series renews in 2016.
"It doesn’t put any more emphasis on the game," Whittingham said. "[Saturday's game] isn’t any more important this year than the year before, or the year before."
Still, the layoff means Saturday is their last opportunity to claim bragging rights, a feat Utah has accomplished each of the last three years. Taysom Hill, Cody Hoffman and Kyle Van Noy want to snap the skid and go out winners. Trevor Reilly and Co. want to end the current run of the series with the ultimate boast of four straight victories.
These are two quality teams. They are also programs growing apart.
For the Utes, the future is rested in the Pac-12. The Utes are in their third season in the conference and are still playing catch-up with their new counterparts.
Before the program embarked on its first season as a power conference member in 2011, Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports quoted Whittingham as saying: "I just think rosters in the Pac-12 from top to bottom are deeper. They're a little faster, a little bigger, a little stronger."
That's a harsh reality relegating Utah to a 13-12 record over the last two years, a stark contrast from the program's 57-20 mark in six full seasons under Whittingham as members of the Mountain West Conference.
"We've closed the gap," Whittingham said Tuesday. "We feel that we’re a much better football team right now than we’ve been the last couple years."
"We’ll see how that translates," he added. "The league itself is a lot better than it was a couple years ago."
The continued improvement of the conference and reaching that same pace must be Utah's No. 1 priority. An unfortunate casualty in that process is a guaranteed Holy War.
However, BYU finds itself in a similar territory as an independent as its rival in the Pac-12. Utah is one of seven BCS conference opponents on the schedule that is the Cougars' strongest in three years since leaving the MWC.
The Cougars are forging new partnerships with prominent programs like Notre Dame and Texas. The latter maintains a spark of the rumored interest from the Big 12.
Rather than lament the hiatus and the rivalry's uncertain future beyond 2018, it could be celebrated as a sign of each program's growth.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.
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After leaving last Saturday's game against Southern Miss in the first quarter with a bruised right shoulder, the status for sophomore starting quarterback Brandon Allen remains uncertain this weekend at Rutgers.
Allen injured his shoulder diving for a touchdown, forcing backup A.J. Derby to play the majority of the game. Luckily for Derby, he didn't have to do much with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams each running for more than 100 yards for the third straight game.
Bret Bielema told the Associated Press, via Fox Sports, he isn't going to make the mistake of playing him when he's not ready. Matt Jones, editor for WholeHogSports, said that, though Allen has nothing broken, it will depend on how fast his shoulder heals:
The situation is eerily similar to 2012, when Allen came in against Louisiana-Monroe after Tyler Wilson went down with an injury, and Allen also started the following week versus Alabama.
It comes at an inopportune time, as the Razorbacks have their first road game of the season this weekend at Rutgers. However, the Scarlet Knights are also uncertain whether their head signal-caller Gary Nova can play after sustaining a concussion last week.
So, what kind of impact will this have on the game if Allen can't go?
It will put a heavy load on the legs of Collins and Williams, though Bielema said they would "unleash" Derby if he starts. He is inexperienced, and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was hesitant to let him throw against Southern Miss. He attempted just six passes, completing four of them for a modest 36 yards.
It would be a much bigger deal if Collins and Williams weren't running over everyone in their paths. Regardless, if Allen isn't able to play, it could slow down the run game. Rutgers will more than likely commit to loading up the box and forcing Derby to make plays with his arm.
It also brings concerns for the weeks after, as the Razorbacks' next four games include Texas A&M (Sept. 28), at Florida (Oct. 5), South Carolina (Oct. 12) and at Alabama (Oct. 19). With that set of games, you'd like for Allen to get as many snaps as possible to keep progressing.
He showed flashes of a promising future and vastly improved his accuracy in the first two games, completing 61.5 percent of his passes compared to just 42.9 percent in 2012. He gives the Hogs the potential to stretch the opponent's defense and keep them honest, while it'ss unclear whether Derby can as well.
Bielema was obviously playing his cards close to the chest when talking about Allen's status for this weekend. Even if he did know if he was going to play, it works to his team's advantage to not let Rutgers know.
"So, to me, there's a certain gamesmanship or element to, you know, you don't have to show everything that you've got," Bielema said. "Just kind of show the things that you need to."
Derby will practice with the first team this week in case Allen can't play. It isn't an ideal situation for the Hogs with their first road game looming, but then again, overcoming adversity is a part of football.
With murderer's row ensuing the next four weeks following this Saturday's matchup at Rutgers, it's better to be safe than sorry with Allen.
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On Tuesday, Deadspin released an audio recording of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini slamming Nebraska football fans in a profanity-laced tirade. You can hear the (very not safe for work) audio here, but the relevant portions of the audio are the following:
"F--- you, fans. F--- all of you. F--- 'em." ... "Our crowd. What a bunch of f---ing fair-weather f---ing—they can all kiss my ass out the f---ing door. 'Cause the day is f---ing coming now. We'll see what they can do when I'm f---ing gone. I'm so f---ing pissed off."
The rant happened as Pelini was preparing for his postgame interview with Gary Sharp on the Husker Sports Network after the Ohio State game in 2011. Nebraska had just completed the biggest comeback in school history, erasing a 21-point deficit to beat the Buckeyes 34-27.
Pelini, already angry about what he felt was an unfair article about quarterback Taylor Martinez by Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald, was reacting to fans leaving the stadium at halftime of the Ohio State game when Nebraska was behind 20-6.
Late on Monday night, Pelini issued an apology, acknowledging it was his voice on the tape, saying he was "venting" and that the comments were "in no way indicative of my true feelings," per Huskers.com. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst and chancellor Harvey Perlman both said they were disappointed by Pelini's comments and were reviewing the situation.
The release of the tape, of course, comes at a terrible time for Pelini. It comes on the heels of Nebraska's collapse against UCLA and less than 24 hours after Pelini responded to Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier's call for his job by saying, as reported by USA Today, "if he feels like that, we don't need him."
So, yeah, not a great couple of days for Pelini.
Some Pelini defenders, like Steven Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star, have attacked the messenger. And they're right; there is little doubt that someone with an ax to grind kept that recording safe until Pelini was at his weakest. The ick factor is high, no doubt.
But that doesn't matter. The information is out there, and the damage is done. So what happens to Pelini now?
That's up to the fans. In 2007, one of the reasons Bill Callahan (and Steve Pederson) were shown the door was because the fanbase as a whole rejected the leadership of the program. Empty spaces started showing up in Memorial Stadium. Donations and suite sales started to dry up. The sellout streak, one of Nebraska's most prized assets, was in jeopardy.
That could happen in 2013. I wrote earlier, before the Deadspin report, that a trust had been broken between Pelini and the fans. That was just referring to fans being able to trust the team to perform well when the lights are brightest.
After the Deadspin article, the breach of trust runs deeper. Pelini was calling Nebraska fans "fair-weather" because they were leaving early from the Ohio State game. In Pelini's eyes, a man who values loyalty above all else, seeing the fans bail on him and his team upset him.
But let's remember the context. In the third quarter of that Ohio State game, Nebraska was behind 27-6. The week before, Nebraska had been run off the field by Wisconsin, losing 48-17. That meant, in Nebraska’s first seven quarters in the Big Ten, it had been outscored 75-23.
That's the kind of performance that would test any fanbase, particularly on a rainy night in Lincoln. And sure, you want your fanbase to stick with you through any adversity. But for Pelini not to acknowledge what he was asking of the fans is shocking in its hubris.
It's a two-way street, a relationship between fans and a team. In a land blessed with neither beaches nor mountains, Nebraska differentiates itself by the white-hot loyalty of its fans to the Scarlet and Cream. But those fans need something in return from their team. At the very least, they don't deserve to be disregarded, particularly by a coach who hasn't been holding up his end of the bargain.
But to me, the more disturbing part of the recording was right at the end. Look again at this part of what Pelini said in a candid moment:
[T]hey can all kiss my ass out the f---ing door. 'Cause the day is f---ing coming now. We'll see what they can do when I'm f---ing gone.
Again, consider the context. Pelini had just knocked off Ohio State, his alma mater, and felt like he was on top of the world. Ohio State had just fired Jim Tressel as head coach, and it was clear that interim head coach Luke Fickell was not going to get the job long term.
The day is coming, Pelini said. We'll see what they can do when (not if) I'm gone, he said.
I'm convinced Pelini thought he had the Ohio State job if he wanted it, and at that moment, he very clearly wanted it. And he was willing to burn the bridges he built with Nebraska and its fanbase to do so.
Is that a wound that winning can heal? According to ESPN's Mitch Sherman, Pelini thinks so. And sure, winning can be a great deodorant, but for it to work in the long term, you have to keep winning at the highest level.
I am reminded of when Creighton basketball coach Dana Altman accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas in 2007, then changed his mind the next day. Altman was never really accepted back into the hearts of the fanbase after that, even when Creighton continued to succeed at a high level. Eventually, three years later, Altman left for Oregon to a collective shrug from the Bluejay faithful.
In a sense, Altman never really returned from Arkansas.
I wonder if the same will hold true for Pelini. Yes, fans will be thrilled to see Nebraska win. And if Nebraska starts winning conference titles and competing for national titles, of course all will be forgiven.
And it should be remembered that Pelini has done a tremendous amount of good for Nebraska, even setting aside the resuscitation of a program left for dead by Callahan and Pederson.
It was Pelini who was instrumental in how well Penn State's first game went after the Jerry Sandusky story went public. It was Pelini who helped honor the memory of Nick Pasquale, a UCLA player who died suddenly prior to the game. It was Pelini who helped engineer Jack Hoffman's touchdown run at this year's spring game, which will always be No. 1 on my list of greatest touchdowns in Memorial Stadium history.
Does the good that Pelini has done outweigh the shocking disregard for the fans—the reason he is the highest-paid employee of the state of Nebraska? That's up to a fanbase that has already had a trust broken with the performance of Pelini's teams. Add in Pelini calling it "fair-weather" right after sellout No. 321 in a row, and it makes the whole package a lot more difficult to swallow.
Forty-eight hours ago, when it was "just" the loss to UCLA to deal with, a particularly smart and handsome analyst said Pelini wasn't coaching for his job. Now he is, I think. If Nebraska fans were on the fence about Pelini's tenure before hearing what he said about them in a private moment, then it's hard now to see how the momentum for his departure gets derailed if Pelini doesn't deliver.
Pelini has said all he can say to mitigate the damage from his comments. But if Pelini is going to survive past 2013 in Lincoln, he's going to need to take some advice from the mentor of his predecessor.
Just win, baby.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
After two tough games away from home to open up the season, Alabama will finally get to play in the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday against Colorado State.
The matchup is highlighted by the return of former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who led coach Nick Saban's offense from 2008-2011, winning two national championships along the way.
McElwain is facing a tough rebuilding project at Colorado State, going 4-8 in his first year as head coach and off to a 1-2 start this year.
Alabama, meanwhile, will have a much lower pressure week. There are no longer the demands of opening the season on a national stage or going on the road to face the best player in college football.
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 6 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Colorado State Sports Network
Spread: Alabama by 39.5 points, according to Vegas Insider