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All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-safety-michael-caputo-alabama-backfield-head-injury

Wisconsin's defense pretty much runs through Michael Caputo.


The senior safety is a captain, so his importance to the Badgers goes without saying. Caputo went for a tackle in the game against Alabama, and was clearly shaken up from it.


It was a scary moment after the collision as Caputo was seen getting ready in Alabama's backfield. A couple Alabama players knew something wasn't right and he got some assistance quickly.

Caputo is out for the rest of the game, but he rejoined his teammates on the sideline to cheer them on.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 21:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/idaho-state-receiver-touchdown-one-handed-madison-mangum-odell-beckham-jr-catch

Is there anything better on a college football Saturday than a one-handed grab? Hint: The answer is no.


Idaho State's Madison Mangum make a highlight type of grab. The receiver channels his inner Odell Beckham Jr. and just hauls it in at the back of the endzone.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 20:26
Path: /college-football/byu-defeats-nebraska-33-28-last-second-hail-mary-touchdown-pass

Nebraska’s 29-game winning streak in season openers ended in surprising fashion on Saturday. With just a second left (and the final play of the game), BYU backup quarterback Tanner Mangum connected with receiver Mitch Mathews on a Hail Mary touchdown pass to score a 33-28 upset in Lincoln.


Check out BYU’s touchdown pass on the final play to upset the Cornhuskers:

BYU Defeats Nebraska 33-28 on Last-Second Hail Mary Touchdown Pass
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 19:28
Path: /college-football/bowling-green-defensive-lineman-mike-minns-loses-shoe-fakes-injury-get-timeout

Bowling Green defensive lineman Mike Minns had a little problem during Saturday’s game against Tennessee. With the Volunteers up 14-3 in the first quarter and driving for another score, Minns lost his shoe on first down and had to fake an injury to get a timeout.


Needless to say, this has to be one of the more humorous moments of Week 1, as Minns had to use a little acting to get the timeout. And as the video shows, Tennessee coach Butch Jones didn’t appear to be too happy.

Bowling Green Player Loses Shoe, Fakes Injury to Get Timeout
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 16:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/southeast-missouri-st-ejected-hit-maty-mauk-kendall-donnerson

This is a hit Maty Mauk will remember for a while.


During the game against Missouri, Southeast Missouri St. linebacker Kendall Donnerson left early after a pretty brutal hit aimed at Mauk's head. The referees decided it was targeting and late, so they cut Donnerson's afternoon short.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 16:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12
Path: /college-football/kansas-south-dakota-state-jayhawks-spike-snap-fumble

We aren't in Kansas anymore.


It looked like hope was gone for the Jayhawks in the game against South Dakota State. This was a game that even those not fond of Kansas had them winning. After falling behind early, the Jayhawks clawed their way back into the game and were down by three.


All Kansas needed to do was kick a field goal, but they had to spike the ball to get the special teams on the field. What did they do? Fumbled the snap and time ran out before they could spike it. Of course this wasn't the only reason they lost, but it still sucks nonetheless. 



Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 15:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-unveils-new-yellow-helmets-week-1-matchup-against-eastern-washington

New helmets and uniforms are nothing new for Oregon, but the Ducks continue to come up with awesome color and design combinations.


For Saturday night’s matchup against Eastern Washington, Oregon has unveiled a new yellow helmet, which features gray wings on the side. The helmet also features a gray facemask.  


Here is the full image of Oregon’s helmets and uniforms for Saturday night: 




Oregon Unveils New Yellow Helmets for Week 1 Matchup Against Eastern Washington
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 15:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Virginia Cavaliers, News
Path: /college-football/virginia-unveils-new-white-helmets-week-1-matchup-against-ucla

Virginia opens the 2015 season on the West Coast, taking on UCLA on Saturday afternoon. And judging by the photos from pregame warmups, the Cavaliers have a new helmet for their Week 1 matchup.


This photo from @DamonDillman from the Rose Bowl shows the new helmets:


Virginia Unveils New White Helmets for Week 1 Matchup Against UCLA
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 14:52
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-dt-robert-nkemdiche-torches-defenders-touchdown-tennessee-martin

Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche is about 300lbs, and yet he has amazing speed.


The defensive tackle gets gets his J.J. Watt on and gets some time on offense, and boy was he a force. Nkemdiche scored a 32-yard touchdown by outrunning defenders on UT-Martin.


He's a beast.

Nkemdiche also blocked an extra point. He was literally everywhere.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/arkansas-tech-honor-fallen-teammate-10-players-field-southern-nazarene

The Arkansas Tech football team is playing with heavy hearts as one of their own drowned in an accident back in July.


In order to honor Zemaric Holt, a defensive lineman, Arkansas Tech took the field with just 10 players on defense against Southern Nazarene. For some reason, Southern Nazarene decided to go with a trick play on the first play of the game and it backfired and resulted in a fumble. Arkansas Tech was able to scoop the ball and get the easy score.

The team honored their fellow teammate and got the score. That's a memorable play.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 12:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-gameday-chris-fowler-emotional-tribute-rece-davis

It's the dawn of a new era for ESPN's College GameDay. 


Since 1990, we've watched Chris Fowler lead the GameDay crew every Saturday. Now it's Rece Davis, a star in his own right, at the head of the table, but ESPN made sure Fowler was sent off in style with a tribute.

Luckily we'll be able to hear Fowler's voice in the booth doing play-by-play this season, so it's a win-win for all parties involved.

(h/t Saturday Down South)

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 11:50
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/alabama-secondary-poised-rebound-after-disappointing-2014

The slide down the mountain has been undeniable. Especially last year. That's when the slide turned into a full-fledged, foot-slip-off-the-rock tumble.


Alabama ranked No. 1 in the country in pass defense in 2011. That ranking fell to No. 7 in 2012 and then fell again to No. 11 in '13. Last year, it plummeted to No. 59. Yes, Alabama, a program Nick Saban has now built into a perennial national power, was 59th in college football last year when it came to defending the pass.


Even Kentucky, which went 5-7 overall, 2-6 in SEC play and finished sixth in the SEC East last season, performed better against the pass last season than Alabama. The Wildcats ranked 44th.


So is a trend reversal in store for Alabama in 2015? Or will the slide continue? All signs right now point to the former.


Related: College Football's Top 30 Defensive Backfields for 2015


In January, Saban hired former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to coach Alabama's defensive backs. So far, it's looking like just the shot in the arm the secondary needed. Tucker isn't really teaching anything new to Bama's defensive backs as far as technique or philosophy. The difference he's making has more to do with his own personality, and how it's spilling over to the guys he's coaching.


"I do see more energy and enthusiasm from the (defensive backs) coach, which I think is important," Saban said Thursday night. "And we really haven't had that here since Jeremy Pruitt left (following the 2012 season), in all honesty. (Pruitt) did a great job with the players that way, spent a lot of time with them. 


"People think I coach the secondary. I help coach the secondary, but as the head coach I don't have time to spend with those guys in terms of developing relationships with them and all that kind of stuff as much as the position coach can, and I think that's really, really important. And I think that's important to this group, and I think they've responded really well to Mel, and I think Mel has done a really, really good job with the players we have."


Speaking of the players Tucker has to work with, two new guys, in particular, have stood out this preseason — two superb athletes who were so impressive during fall camp that they earned top spots on the team's season-opening depth chart released this week despite their inexperience. Marlon Humphrey, a redshirt freshman, is penciled in as the starter at one of the two cornerback spots. Minkah Fitzpatrick, a true freshman, is slated to start at the Star position.


"Marlon has done a really, really good job this fall camp," Saban said. "He is more confident in terms of what to do and how to do it. He's really worked hard in practice every day to try to improve himself, and he's been very, very competitive, and we've been very, very pleased with where he is.


"Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a guy that — not to anyone's surprise because we thought he was a really good player when we recruited him — has been able to learn, pick up on and do things very, very well."


Having two safeties with cornerback backgrounds can't help but bolster Bama's pass defense too this season. Geno Smith and Eddie Jackson might not be the most physically imposing safeties around, but they've got coverage skills most safeties do not — coverage skills Alabama needs.


"In the day and age of football that we see right now ... safeties in the box don't really happen very often," Saban said. "It only happened in two games last year. Being spread out where guys have to make plays, have range, have cover ability, that's much more predominant in the style of play that most people play offensively now. So having more athletic safeties has a benefit."


Then there's senior Cyrus Jones. He's back at the other cornerback spot after showing flashes of being an All-SEC-caliber performer last season.


"I do think the secondary is better," Saban said. "Last year I thought our young players were better in some cases than our older ones — they just weren't ready to play. So those (young) guys are much more ready to play. I'm talking about the Marlon Humphreys, the Tony Browns of the world and even Maurice Smith as well as Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is a true freshman and has done a fabulous job in the secondary."


Oh yeah, go ahead and throw in a little chip on the shoulder, too.


"We're just hungry," Jones said. "We're just eager to get out there and show everybody we're not the weak link of the defense."


No. 59? That's looking like the bottom of the mountain for Bama's secondary. And the climb back up? Looks like it's about to start.


— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.

Alabama Secondary Poised For Rebound After Disappointing 2014
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/marshall-thundering-herd-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2015

College football’s opening weekend continues on Sunday with Marshall looking to score a non-conference victory and respect for Conference USA in a matchup against Purdue. The Boilermakers rank near the bottom of most preseason power polls in the Big Ten, but coach Darrell Hazell heads into his third season in West Lafayette with optimism thanks to 16 returning starters.  


Marshall was one of the top Group of 5 programs last season but a late-season loss to WKU ended any hopes of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl. The Thundering Herd is among the favorites to win Conference USA once again this season, but prolific four-year starter Rakeem Cato must be replaced at quarterback. While Cato will be missed, Marshall is still a touchdown favorite for Sunday’s contest.


On the other sideline, it’s critical for Purdue to take a step forward in 2015. Hazell’s team increased its win total from one in 2013 to three last season. The Boilermakers still have several question marks to answer, but there’s a young core to build around and hope to push for five or six wins this season.


Purdue and Marshall have met only one previous time. The Boilermakers defeated the Thundering Herd 51-41 in 2012.


Purdue at Marshall


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Marshall -7


Three Things to Watch


1. New Marshall QB Michael Birdsong

Rakeem Cato leaves big shoes to fill in Huntington. In four years as the starter for the Thundering Herd, Cato threw for 14,079 yards and 131 scores. James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong won the job in the spring, and the junior should keep the offense on track. As a freshman with James Madison in 2013, Birdsong threw for 2,728 yards and 22 scores. With a solid offensive line, one of the top Group of 5 running backs in Devon Johnson leading the way on the ground, and a talented receiving corps at his disposal, Birdsong won’t have to carry the offense on his own. However, this won’t be easy matchup. The Boilermakers return two starters in the secondary, including All-Big Ten candidate Frankie Williams. Birdsong’s first start with the Thundering Herd should be a good barometer test and provide the coaching staff with an idea of where this offense is after losing Cato.


2. Offensive Improvement at Purdue?

Purdue’s offense has struggled to get on track under Hazell, ranking near the bottom of the league in scoring offense in back-to-back seasons. With nine starters back, how much improvement will this unit show in 2015? Austin Appleby has settled into the starting role and is supported by a veteran offensive line and promising young running backs in Markell Jones and D.J. Knox. Marshall’s defense was vulnerable against the run last season (53rd nationally) and the pass rush is a concern. Will all of the experienced pieces start to come together for Purdue?


3. Stopping Marshall RB Devon Johnson

Johnson’s path to a place among the nation’s best running backs has been an interesting one. After two years as a tight end, Johnson was converted to running back and finished 2014 with 1,767 yards and 17 scores. The most impressive part of Johnson’s 2014 campaign has to be his 8.6 yards per carry, which was the best in the nation among running backs with at least 200 carries. Purdue struggled to stop the run last season, allowing 192.1 yards per game. Additionally, starting end Gelen Robinson is suspended. With Marshall breaking in a new quarterback, Johnson should be slated for a heavy workload to take the pressure off of the new signal-caller. Can Purdue keep Johnson in check?


Final Analysis


There’s no question Cato will be missed, and the passing attack will be a work in progress until Birdsong gets a few starts under his belt. However, the Thundering Herd offense can lean on Johnson, and the defense should make just enough plays to pull out a close win. Purdue is improving, and an upset here wouldn’t be a surprise. But the Boilermakers also have question marks on both sides of the ball as well, and the homefield advantage swings this one slightly in favor of Marshall.


Prediction: Marshall 31, Purdue 27
Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/arkansas-state-red-wolves-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction

USC and Week 1 opponent Arkansas State have some similarities. Both begin their second year under head coaches Steve Sarkisian and Blake Anderson. Both have outstanding quarterbacks looking to build off statistically impressive 2014 campaigns in Cody Kessler and Fredi Knighten. Each harbors realistic aspirations of conference championships.


That's where the similarities end. For traditional powerhouse USC, Saturday is an expected blowout on the road to the Trojans' return to national prominence. Anything less than one-sided domination will be met with external concern.


For Arkansas State, a program that achieved its first measure of sustained success in the FBS over the last four years, Saturday is an opportunity to score a historic victory. Even hanging tough in the Coliseum would help propel the Red Wolves further onto the national stage.


The stakes are much different for both teams. Still, Sarkisian is expecting a challenge from the Red Wolves' up-tempo offense.


"They're really doing a fantastic job of bringing in good football players," Sarkisian said of Arkansas State. "They play fast, they play hard, they play physical. It will be a heck of a matchup for us."


Arkansas State at USC


Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: USC -27


Three Things to Watch


1. Cody Kessler's Heisman Campaign Launching

Coming off a record-setting junior campaign, Kessler is front-and-center in the Heisman Trophy conversation. With the Red Wolves replacing every member of last season's solid secondary but one, the Trojan quarterback should have an opportunity to start 2015 with a padded resume.


"The Heisman is a great award," Sarkisian said. "But a lot of the Heisman is about your team, and how your team performs; especially late in the season...The early on [hype] is great, but for Cody, it's not about that. It's about our team performing well."


Still, a big start to the year doesn't hurt.


2. Options But No Clear Answers at Running Back

USC had just two scholarship running backs available last season, Buck Allen and Justin Davis. Both are out, with Allen now in the NFL and Davis an injury scratch for Week 1. Nevertheless, there's considerably more depth at the position with Tre Madden returned from injury that sidelined him most of 2013 and all of '14.


Madden is the veteran presence in a very young group. Three freshmen — Aca'Cedric Ware, Ronald Jones II and training camp standout Dominic Davis — will all see opportunities against Arkansas State. Madden's performance with nearly two years of rust and the acclimation of the freshmen to the college game are unknowns, but Saturday will provide some insight into what can be expected of the run game this season.


3. Defensive Aggression

A repeated storyline throughout USC's 2014 season was defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's conservative approach to blitzing. It was a vast departure from his time at Washington, where Wilcox oversaw one of the most aggressive blitzing defenses in college football.


Youth in the secondary and lack of depth in general explain Wilcox's different approach. Neither are now the issues they were last season, so expect to see a much more aggressive approach from the Trojans against Arkansas State. But doing so with purpose is the key, a point Wilcox drove home at training camp.


"Everybody wants to play aggressive," Wilcox said. "Are you going to zero-blitz every down? I don't think that's fair to say. It's mixing and matching."


With the capable rushing of Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten, USC's blitz must be measured or risk getting burned by the dual-threat playmaker.


Final Analysis


Arkansas State is a consistent winner, even amid repeated head coaching changes. Entering his second year at the helm, Anderson has a team ready to compete for the Sun Belt Conference championship. The Red Wolves most certainly won't roll over for the Trojans, so USC must come out aggressive from the outset to squash any hope of an upset early.


While the preseason hype might spark memories of 2012's failures, this is a different team. Expect USC to come out energized and tenacious in the first quarter and establish a big lead that allows Sarkisian to play reserves — a luxury USC didn't have last year.


Prediction: USC 45, Arkansas State 21


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:50
Path: /college-football/unlv-rebels-vs-northern-illinois-huskies-preview-and-prediction-2015

UNLV and Northern Illinois are both Group of 5 programs, but that’s probably the only similarity the two teams have. The Huskies have become one of the most successful programs in all of college football over the last five years, while UNLV is hoping the gamble to promote a high school head coach in Tony Sanchez as their head man will lead to consistency that the Rebs have not had in decades.


Northern Illinois was 11-3 last season, while UNLV went 2-11. The two programs faced each other last season in Las Vegas with the Huskies coming away with a 48-34 victory.


In that game against UNLV last season, Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare started in his first game as the signal-caller for NIU, went on to go 9-3, and is one of the MAC’s best QB’s entering the 2015 season.


Northern Illinois will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Huskie Stadium on Saturday by wearing throwback uniforms from the 1965 season. UNLV will also debut their new “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” uniforms.


UNLV at Northern Illinois


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Northern Illinois -23


Three Things to Watch


1. Best team in Illinois?

Since 2010, only three programs (Oregon, Alabama, and Florida State) have won more games than the Huskies 57-wins during that span. That’s elite company. NIU looks primed to be the best team in the Garden of the West state in 2015 with Northwestern in a slump after back-to-back 5-7 seasons, and Illinois being an utter dumpster fire after having to fire Tim Beckman just a week before the season. Rod Carey’s Huskies are the team to watch in Illinois, and this UNLV matchup will be the only tune-up against an FBS team before the showdown in the Horseshoe against the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes in week three.


2. UNLV WR Devonte Boyd

UNLV football has never seen the success like their runnin’ cohorts on the basketball court, and it’s been maddening for Rebel faithful because they’ve always had good talent at the skill positions, particularly at wide receiver.


Sophomore Devonte Boyd looks to be another great talent at wide receiver for the Rebs. Boyd enters 2015 on the Biletnikoff watch list, awarded to the best wide receiver in college football.  As a true freshman in 2014, Boyd had 980 yards on 65 receptions, earning him freshman all-American honors. Arguably the only bright spot to emerge from last year’s disaster that led to the dismissal of Bobby Hauck.


Tony Sanchez brings in former Nebraska interim head coach from last season, Barney Cotton. Cotton will have some nice tools to work with in Boyd and senior quarterback Blake Decker who threw for close to 3,000 yards last season.


3. NIU’s nasty defense has a bad taste in their mouth

The Huskies were dominated in the Boca Raton Bowl last season against Rakeem Cato and his Marshall squad, surrendering 52 points to the Thundering Herd. That was not the norm for an NIU defense that kept nine of their opponents under 24 points a year ago.


NIU returns eight starters on defense in 2015, headlined by two-year starter at middle linebacker Boomer Mays who has an NFL future in his sights. The Husky D will need to dominate the Rebels to have the confidence rolling into Columbus two weeks from now.


Prediction: Northern Illinois 52, UNLV 14


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

UNLV Rebels vs. Northern Illinois Huskies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:45
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-state-aggies-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Florida Gators will kick off their 2015 season Saturday against the New Mexico State Aggies. Head coach Jim McElwain will be coaching in his first game as Gators head coach in the Swamp as he replaces Will Muschamp.


Last season, Florida finished with a 7-5 record and they will be looking to improve on that. New Mexico State will begin the season on a 10-game losing streak. The Aggies' last win came against Georgia State in Week 2 of the 2014 season.


This will be the first time New Mexico State and Florida have played each other since the 1994 season. In that game, the Gators destroyed the Aggies 70-21.


New Mexico State at Florida


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Florida -38


Three Things to Watch For 


1. Will Grier or Treon Harris, Who Will Perform Better?

Both Will Grier and last year’s starter Treon Harris are expected to see playing time against the Aggies. Grier redshirted in 2014 but was impressive in spring and fall camps. 


As a freshman last season, Harris went 4-2 in his six starts at quarterback. He threw for 1,010 yards, nine touchdowns against four interceptions.


If either Grier or Harris can stand out against New Mexico State, that should provide more clarity on who starts against East Carolina in Week 2


2. The Return of Antonio Morrison

Eight months after knee surgery, Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison will play on Saturday against New Mexico State. The seniors’ timetable to return was initially scheduled for 10-12 months, but he completed his rehabilitation in just six months.


“It is unbelievable what he has done,” McElwain said in a press conference with the media on Monday. “I am really proud of what he has done and to see him recover like this. It won't be one of those deals where he is playing 80 or 90 plays. At the same time, he has prepared himself and we will plan for that."


It will be interesting to see how much Morrison plays against the Aggies. He is listed as the starting middle linebacker on the Gators first depth chart of the season. In 2014, Morrison led Florida in tackles with 101.


3. Can New Mexico State Make Things Interesting?

The Aggies like to spread teams out to open up their running game. They also like to throw a lot of short passes to keep defenses on their toes.


New Mexico State has a junior quarterback in Tyler Rodgers, who threw 19 touchdowns against 23 interceptions in 2014. The Aggies receivers Larry Rose and Teldrick Morgan that will test the Gators defense.


Defensively, New Mexico State’s defense struggled in 2014. They ranked 113th in the total defense, 118th in scoring defense and were the worst team in the country against the run.


Florida should be able to run the ball effectively against the Aggies’ defense with Kelvin Taylor and Jordan Scarlett. With questions at quarterback, the rushing game should open things up in the passing game.


Final Analysis


While the Gators are in a bit of transition with McElwain as their new head coach, they easily have enough talent to blowout the Aggies. New Mexico State’s defense was one of the nations’ worst and they return eight of those same players on that side of the ball.


New Mexico State’s defense just doesn’t have the talent to keep up with Florida’s players and they should be the big difference in the game. Expect Taylor, freshman Jordan Scarlett and receiver Demarcus Robinson to have big games in the Gators’ opener.


Prediction: Florida 48, New Mexico State 10


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

New Mexico State Aggies vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/mcneese-state-cowboys-vs-lsu-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

LSU opens the 2015 season with a proverbial warm-up game against McNeese State, but these Cowboys might have a little something to offer the Tigers on Saturday.


The Cowboys are not the typical FCS “money game” team lining up against LSU — at least not this season. The Cowboys are coming off a 6-6 record in 2014 and are ranked No. 25 in the FCS polls, making this game a little more intriguing than normal.


Trouble is McNeese State does not have history on their side. LSU has the nation’s longest regular-season, non-conference winning streak at 49 games and is 10-0 against teams coming up from the FCS ranks. If this matchup can be hyped to be made more interesting, the Cowboys were 20 seconds away from forcing overtime against Nebraska last year before Ameer Abdullah pulled off a 58-yard touchdown scamper to save the day.


McNeese State at LSU


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Network: SEC Network

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch For 


1. LSU's defense vs. McNeese State’s rushing attack

The Tigers are good up the middle in their 4-3 defense with tackles Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux and linebackers Lamar Louis and Kendell Beckwith. The edges are the question marks. Can Tashawn Bower, Lewis Neal, Arden Key and company contain the outside, pushing everything back into the middle for the linebackers to feast upon?


The Cowboys will deploy four capable running backs and dual-treat quarterback Daniel Sams. Sams will not scare a very talented LSU secondary after passing for 624 yards with seven touchdowns against four picks a year ago, but his team-high 711 yards will keep the Tigers guessing where the ball might be heading.


2. LSU’s passing attack vs. McNeese State’s secondary

The back seven for the Cowboys defense could be filled with any team in the nation in this game but the point will need to be made about LSU’s offense early and quickly: can sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris get the ball to his receivers?


Harris won the starting job over last year’s leader Anthony Jennings in fall camp, or really just a couple of days ago. Harris has more upside than Jennings but was not ready to make plays during SEC action against elite competition. If some early season momentum and confidence can be built against the Cowboys before traveling to Starkville in Week 2, head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will take it.


3. LSU’s rushing attack vs. McNeese State’s defense

The bread and butter of this LSU team will be the ground game. Leonard Fournette is back after setting a LSU freshman rushing record with 1,034 yards with 10 touchdowns. A one-two punch might be in the works with true freshman Derrius Guice. Guice was a 5-star recruit out of Baton Rouge and has showed his ranking was justified in fall camp.


Whoever lines up against LSU this season will put eight defenders in the box attempting to slow down a talented line anchored by Vadal Alexander, Jerald Hawkins and Ethan Pocic until Harris emerges as a legitimate threat in the pocket.


Final Analysis


The Cowboys are an excellent opener for LSU with Mississippi State in Week 2. Dak Prescott is far more talented a passer than Daniel Sams but both are running quarterbacks that will test the Tigers defense. On offense LSU’s line should overwhelm the Cowboys' front seven, making this a runaway win late in the third quarter or early in the fourth — if LSU’s defense can stop McNeese State's running attack.


LSU is thin along the defensive front. Getting out of this game, and every game, without any key injuries is important for new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.


Prediction: LSU 41, McNeese State 7


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

McNeese State Cowboys vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:20
Path: /college-football/troy-trojans-nc-state-wolfpack-preview-and-prediction-2015

Coming into last season, many people didn’t have any expectations for the NC State Wolfpack as they were coming off a 3-9 season in 2013. Things have changed in 2015 as Dave Doeren's team enter the season coming off an 8-5 record in 2014 and some experts think the team could be a dark horse in the ACC Atlantic Division.


Last season, Troy  finished with a 3-9 record and a 3-5 record in the Sun Belt Conference. Quarterback Brandon Silvers will lead the Trojans offense, which finished 100th in the nation in yards per game. The quarterback threw for 1,836 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.


In his first season after transferring from Florida, Jacoby Brissett was the primary reason for the turnaround of the Wolfpack last season. The quarterback threw for 2,606 yards and 23 touchdowns, with just five interceptions. Brissett also added in 529 yards and three rushing touchdowns.


This will be the first time NC State and Troy have met on the football field. In his first two seasons at NC State, Doeren has a 2-0 record in season openers.


Troy at NC State


Kickoff: 6 p.m. EST (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: NC State -23


Three Things to Watch


1. Can NC State continue where the Wolfpack left off offensively?

NC State won four out of its last five games to end the 2014 season. The key to the success of NC State late in the season was balance on offense.


The Wolfpack running game averaged 204.5 yards per game last season and the team returns a deep stable of running backs. Shadrach Thornton led all NC State running backs with 907 yards last season. In addition to Thornton, Matt Dayes led the team in touchdowns and is the top returning receiver.


2. Can Troy make a game out of it?

One of the strengths of Troy is running the football. Both Brandon Burks and Jordan Chunn combined for 1,089 yards and nine touchdowns last season.


At times, NC State had problems stopping the run last season, as the team finished 65th in rushing defense (168.4 ypg). If the Trojans can run the ball effectively, they have a chance to make things interesting on Saturday.


3. Wolfpack secondary

NC State's secondary has the potential to be one of the best in the nation. That unit returns all five starters, led by safety Hakim Jones. In 2014, Jones led the Wolfpack in tackles with 80. Sophomore safety Josh Jones led the team in interceptions with four.

Final Analysis


Troy was considered one of the worst teams in the Sun Belt Conference last season and the Trojans aren’t expected to be much better in 2015. They finished 107th in total defense, as they gave up an 454 yards per contest in 2014.


Brissett and the NC State offense should have a field day against one of the worst defenses in the country. While the Wolfpack still need to find some playmakers at receiver, their game against Troy should be an easy win to start the 2015 campaign.


Prediction: NC State 42, Troy 17


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Troy Trojans at NC State Wolfpack Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:15
Path: /college-football/northern-iowa-panthers-vs-iowa-state-cyclones-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Iowa State Cyclones and Northern Iowa Panthers begin non-conference play at newly renovated Jack Trice Stadium in Ames this Saturday in their first in-state matchup since UNI's 28-20 win in 2013. And while Iowa State competes in the big-name Big 12 Conference and FBS, Northern Iowa's Panthers, runners-up in the FCS' Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2014, will look to overcome their lower division stigma and hand the Cyclones an seeason-opening home loss for the second time in three years.


Northern Iowa at Iowa State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: (Mediacom)
Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Will the Iowa State Offense Find Its Stride?

The Cyclones get eight starters returning behind Manning Award Watch list candidate senior QB Sam B. Richardson. Richardson broke the Cyclone single-season completion mark and set the single-game completion mark twice last season. He'll have plenty of weapons to choose from in 2015 with returning receivers Quenton Bundrage, D’Vario Montgomery and Allen Lazard. Richardson can beat you with his feet too, and enters 2015 as one of only four QBs in school history with over 1,000 yards rushing in a career. In 2014 the Cyclones tallied a season-high 569 yards of total offense vs. Texas Tech in what may have been a signal of what could've been if not for the rash of injuries they experienced.


2. Which Panthers Quarterback Shows Up?

In 2014 Northern Iowa started QB Sawyer Kollmorgen for the first seven games with mixed results. After going a dismal 9-14-2 for just 84 yards in a 31-28 loss to South Dakota State, Kollmorgen was replaced in the eighth game against Western Illinois and didn't see action again until the final game of the season. He's back in the driver's seat for the Panthers. Whether his consistency has improved or not will go a long way toward determining how accurate preseason predictions that have the Panthers as high as No. 10 in both the STATS and FCS Coaches poll prove to be.


3. Will the Fans Make a Difference?

Iowa State averaged 52,197 fans per game in 2014, which is the fourth-best season attendance total in school history. Over 50,000 fans have attended a game in Jack Trice Stadium for a school-record 26 straight games. In 2015 the stadium seating capacity has been increased to 61,500, making it the fourth-largest in the Big 12. Whether or not those additional 8,000 seats get filled by Cyclones or Panthers fans, who've seen Jack Trice turned purple and gold for this game in recent years, could make a tremendous difference in which team really gets the home-field advantage.


Final Analysis


Iowa State had tremendous potential in 2014 but saw season-ending injuries to key players put a stop to that by the third game. Most of those players and firepower are back in 2015, however, and are hoping to put it all together for an entire season. While Northern Iowa is a powerful team within the MVFC, don't look for that same swagger here against a bigger and more physical Cyclones squad that's got something to prove.


Prediction: Iowa State 28, Northern Iowa 17


— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a native Iowan currently living in Los Angeles. A University of Iowa graduate, Boleyn is a Hawkeye fanatic and former contributing writing for The Daily Iowan. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Iowa State Cyclones Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:10
Path: /college-football/texas-state-bobcats-vs-florida-state-seminoles-preview-and-prediction-2015

For Florida State, the best news of the year will arrive on Saturday night. That is when this tumultuous offseason will come to a close and the folks in Tallahassee can focus on what they do best — winning football games.


Related: College Football 2015 Conference, Playoff and National Championship Predictions


The Jameis Winston saga, the good and the bad, is in the rear-view mirror. De’Andre Johnson is no longer a part of the team. Dalvin Cook is still a Seminole and he is now joined by Everett Golson, who will be the starting quarterback.
The Seminoles open up with Texas State, a 7-5 Sun Belt team in 2014 that is coached by veteran Dennis Franchione. It will be the first-ever meeting between the Seminoles and the Bobcats.


Texas State at Florida State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN News
Spread: Florida State -30


Three Things to Watch


1. Everett Golson
The senior transfer from Notre Dame has won the battle with Sean Maguire and will be the starting quarterback on Saturday night. Which Golson is FSU getting? The one that was in Heisman contention midway through the 2014 season? Or the one that could not stop from turning the ball over at the end of the year? Head coach Jimbo Fisher said that he will not have a short leash, so Golson should be able to get into a rhythm in the opener.
2. Cohesion of the Florida State Offensive Line
Roderick Johnson is the only returning starter on the Seminoles' offensive front. While he is extremely talented, he is also just a sophomore. This could be the perfect opening game for the young Seminoles offensive line. Texas State was 102nd in rush defense last year and has to replace linebacker David Mayo, the 2014 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. The Bobcats will probably see a lot of the FSU offensive line firing off the line with running backs Cook, Mario Pender, and others following with the ball in their hands.

3. Seminoles Pass Rush

Florida State could have a dominating defense in 2015 if they can find a way to rush the passer. Last fall, the Noles had just 17 sacks, good for No. 108 in the nation. DeMarcus Walker was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and there have been positive reports about the junior coming out of camp. Projected starting defensive end Lorenzo Featherston recently had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, which may open the door for prized recruit Josh Sweat. Florida State has the athletes; the Seminole defenders just need to find their way to the opposing quarterback.

Final Analysis


Texas State has had a nice transition to the FBS level. In only their third season, the Bobcats went 7-5 last season and are now looking for their first bowl appearance. They have a solid quarterback in Tyler Jones and a good running back in Robert Lowe. But the question isn’t whether or not Texas State will win. They won’t. This game is about how Florida State will look in victory. With all the new personnel on offense, Golson entering the mix, and perhaps the ACC’s best player in Jalen Ramsey on defense, there will be a lot to watch this Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. It may take some time for the offense to really click, but it eventually will. Texas State will have trouble generating much offense against the Seminoles' defense. FSU will build momentum as the game wears on and will win in a landslide.


Prediction: Florida State 42, Texas State 10


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Texas State Bobcats vs. Florida State Seminoles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:05
Path: /college-football/bethune-cookman-wildcats-miami-hurricanes-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Miami Hurricanes will begin their 90th football season Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. This will be the third time Bethune-Cookman and Miami have faced each other. In 2012, Miami defeated Bethune-Cookman 38-10 behind four Duke Johnson touchdowns.


Bethune-Cookman finished the 2014 season with a 9-3 record and a 6-2 conference (MEAC) mark. Miami ended last season with a 6-7 record (3-5 ACC), including a 24-21 loss to South Carolina in the Independence Bowl.


The biggest news from Miami prior to Week 1 is running back Gus Edwards will miss the entire 2015 season with an undisclosed foot injury. It was widely speculated that Edwards was going to be the Hurricanes' starting running back prior to his injury. 


Bethune-Cookman at Miami


Kickoff: 6 p.m. EST

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. How will Brad Kaaya perform?

During the offseason, Kaaya received a lot of preseason attention from the media. He was named to the Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year), the Manning Award (top quarterback) and the Davey O’Brien National Award watch list. Last season for the Canes, Kaaya threw for 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The sophomore will look to get off to a great start against a Bethune-Cookman defense that was among the best in FCS in 2014. With all the athletes Miami has on offense, Kaaya could have a 300-yard performance in Week 1.


2. Miami defense

In 2014, the Hurricanes finished the season ranked No. 14 nationally in total defense. The stats say Miami had an excellent defense, but that statistic is misleading. The Hurricanes finished 61st in the country in sacks and 97th in tackles. In three of Miami’s losses last season, the defense gave up more than 200 yards rushing to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. With only five returning starters on defense, the Hurricanes will look to began on the right foot against the Wildcats.


3. Quentin Williams

Yes, Bethune-Cookman is an FCS school but these Wildcats have some talent on offense. They are led by quarterback Quentin Williams, who threw for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Williams,  was Florida’s Mr. Football in 2010 while starting at Tampa's Jefferson High School, but he wasn’t highly recruited, mainly because of his 5-foot-11, 209-pound frame. He is a player the Hurricanes certainly have to be aware of.


Final Analysis


Miami will win the game, but the question is by how much. The Canes just have too much talent at the skill positions for the Wildcats to compete. Not only should Kaaya have a great game against the Bethune-Cookman defense, but so should the Miami running backs. Look for Joseph Yearby and true freshman Mark Walton to receive a lot of carries and maybe record a few touchdowns on Saturday night.


Prediction: Miami 54, Bethune-Cookman 14.


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at Miami Hurricanes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-virginia-tech-helmet-sticker-shooting-victims-alison-parker-adam-ward-buckeyes

Shortly after the Virginia shooting that left two dead, the Virginia Tech football team revealed the helmet sticker they would use to honor the victims and their family.



Now the very classy Ohio State Buckeyes will be wearing the same helmet sticker after granted permission to do so.



Ohio State announced they were granted permission to wear the similar stickers.


"Ohio State expressed a desire to show it's solidarity with Virginia Tech in remembering the vibrant lives of Alison Park and Adam Ward," Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said. "Coach Beamer and I both agreed it was a wonderful gesture on the part of Gene Smith, Urban Meyer, and the Buckeyes. We hope fans of both teams join us in hopefully providing some solace to the friends, families, and co-workers who continue to miss Alison and Adam."


The Buckeyes have a habit of showing unity with other teams in difficult times.



The game will be special in more ways than one.

Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:56
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-southern-miss-golden-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2015

In Week 1 last season, Mississippi State dominated Southern Miss 49-0. The Bulldogs racked up 550 yards of total offense, which set the stage for a historic 10-win season that included the first No. 1 national ranking in school history. The Eagles have shown slow, but steady improvement over the last few seasons and finished 3-9 in 2014.


State lost several of its best players from last year’s team, especially on the defensive side of the football. However, head coach Dan Mullen has built a deep and talented roster capable of competing again in the SEC West. Plus, Mullen has one of the nation’s most explosive quarterback-wide receiver combos in Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott and 6-foot-5 wideout De’Runnya Wilson.


Mississippi State at Southern Miss


Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Mississippi State -21


Three Things to Watch


1. Another Record-Setting Performance for Dak Prescott
The 2014 season was arguably the greatest in Mississippi State football history, but the individual performance of quarterback Dak Prescott was unquestionably the best ever for a Bulldogs signal-caller. No player in MSU history had ever accounted for more than 3,000 total yards in a single season, but Prescott had 3,449 passing yards and added 986 rushing yards last year. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound dual threat took part in 41 touchdowns last season, which is another of the 17 school records he now owns. Through three seasons, Prescott also has 41 career passing TDs, which puts him just one behind Tyler Russell for the all-time school record. Expect that record to fall Saturday night in Hattiesburg.


2. Many New Faces on Both Sides
One of the biggest storylines of the offseason for Mississippi State was the loss of 15 starters combined on offense and defense. Southern Miss returns 15 starters from last year’s squad, but also brought in 21 total transfers from either junior colleges or other FBS programs to compete for starting positions. Former Rutgers and JUCO tight end Taylor Marini is listed as the starter at tight end on the Golden Eagles' Week 1 depth chart, while former TCU quarterback Tyler Matthews and Michigan transfer running back Justice Hayes are both still in the mix at their respective positions. Four transfers are expected to start on defense: former Kansas defensive tackle Andrew Bolton, and a trio of JUCO transfers in Spur Sherrod Ruff and defensive backs D’Nerius Antoine and Devonta Foster.


3. Manny Diaz and the New Mississippi State Defense
The Bulldogs lost a lot of personnel on both sides of the football, but one of the most important losses was defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who left Starkville for the same position with the Florida Gators. That opened the door for the return of Diaz, who was State’s DC in 2010, but spent last season on the sidelines of C-USA Western Division champ Louisiana Tech. Diaz’ defense led the country in turnovers and tied for the lead in interceptions. He also helped Tech beat Southern Miss 31-20 by holding the Eagles to minus-31 rushing yards and sacking the quarterback five times.


Final Analysis


Mississippi State probably won’t be quite as good as it was last season, and Southern Miss has a chance to be quite a bit better than it was in 2014, plus the Eagles have a unique opportunity to host their in-state SEC opponent. But, the edge in this matchup is clearly on the side of the Bulldogs.


Prediction: Mississippi State 42, Southern Miss 14


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on and Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.


Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12
Path: /college-football/eastern-washington-eagles-vs-oregon-ducks-preview-and-prediction-2015

Eastern Washington's visit to Oregon for Week 1 is hardly the easy W one might anticipate of a lower-division matchup for a nationally prominent team. The Eagles are fixtures in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs and heavyweights in the competitive Big Sky Conference. They also visit Autzen Stadium with intimate knowledge of the Ducks' new-look offensive attack sans Marcus Mariota.


There may not be a more highly anticipated matchup of power conference program vs. FCS opponent ever — bear in mind, Appalachian State's upset of Michigan in 2007 was expected to be a cake walk before Armanti Edwards ran wild on the Wolverines.


Edwards established himself as a college football legend that Saturday in Ann Arbor eight years ago. Some years later, Vernon Adams became a star FCS quarterback with feats against power competition akin to Edwards' vs. Michigan.


Now, Adams is trying to take his star to another level as a graduate transfer at Oregon. He'll make his Duck debut against his former team.


Eastern Washington at Oregon


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Vernon Football on the Big Stage

Eastern Washington transfer quarterback Vernon Adams needed less than two weeks of practices with the Ducks to secure the starting job. Adams beat out Jeff Lockie, validating the former's decision to make the rare leap from the FCS to the FBS — and not just the FBS, but last year's national runner-up.


Adams arrives at Oregon, expected to fill some gigantic shoes. Marcus Mariota capped his third season as starter with the program's first Heisman Trophy, a Pac-12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff title game.


Adams hasn't withered on big stages before arriving at Oregon. He shredded Pac-12 defenses at Oregon State and Washington in 2013 and 2014 for six and seven touchdowns. Can he do the same for an entire season is one question. The other? Can he do so against a defense that's practiced against him for the previous three years?


2. A Rebuilt Secondary vs. A Pass-Happy Offense

The secondary is often the strength of any Oregon defense, but this year's version is faced with replacing playmaker Troy Hill, interceptions leader Erick Dargan and All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. This new-look unit starts right out of the gate against a pass-happy offense that won't shy away from attacking it, either.


Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin has overseen some of the most prolific passing offenses in the FCS over the years. The 2015 version should be no exception. The Eagles feature one of the best wide receiving corps in the subdivision, starting with All-American Cooper Kupp.


Kupp won the Jerry Rice Award in 2013, awarded to the most outstanding freshman in the nation, when he caught for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns. His encore in 2014 saw Kupp catch 11 more passes in total, for 104 on the year.


3. Who Rolls With Royce?

Royce Freeman broke out as Oregon's primary ball-carrier in 2014, his freshman campaign. He returns to shoulder the load in 2015, but he'll do so without running mate Thomas Tyner. Tyner sustained an injury in the offseason that will keep him out the duration of the season to come.


Oregon is not lacking for options to run in addition to Freeman. Who head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost tab to serve as Freeman's primary running back is an interesting facet of Saturday's game.


Talented freshman Taj Griffin joined the team for training camp despite a lingering injury, and he should see some carries. Veteran Kani Benoit offers a secondary power-back look, similar to that of Freeman. Either way, Oregon can continue to employ a multifaceted run game.


Final Analysis


Eastern Washington is among the better FCS programs, and the Eagles have had a knack for giving Pac-12 foes headaches. They nearly beat Washington both in 2011 and 2014, and knocked Oregon State out of the Top 25 in 2013. Baldwin's team will give Oregon a stiff challenge, but the Ducks' overall talent and depth should make relatively quick work of the visitors.


Oregon's typical third-quarter deluge should instead come in the second quarter, squeezing Eastern Washington out of contention early in order to give the back-ups some opportunities. Eastern Washington will score some points one way or another, but shouldn't contend for too long.


Prediction: Oregon 56, Eastern Washington 21


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Eastern Washington Eagles vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015

Offensive fireworks are expected on Saturday night in Houston, as Texas A&M and Arizona State clash in one of Week 1’s must-see matchups. The Aggies and Sun Devils were mentioned throughout the offseason as dark horse candidates to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. A win on Saturday night would provide an early boost for one team’s early playoff resume, but both programs have question marks and personnel concerns that won’t be answered or solidified until a few games into this season.


Arizona State is a program on the rise behind coach Todd Graham. The Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South title in 2013 and have claimed back-to-back 10-win seasons. And the arrow on this program continues to point up, as Arizona State is picked by many to win the Pac-12 South. Similar things can be said about Texas A&M. The Aggies have won 28 games over the last three years and made a splash in the offseason by hiring John Chavis away from LSU to coordinate the defense. With a favorable schedule and a promising core of young talent, Texas A&M could be poised to make a move in the SEC West.


This is the first meeting between Texas A&M and Arizona State. Additionally, this is the only matchup between a SEC and Pac-12 team this season.


Texas A&M vs. Arizona State (Houston)


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Texas A&M -3.5


1. Texas A&M’s Defense

Coach Kevin Sumlin’s hire of John Chavis to coordinate the Texas A&M defense was one of the best assistant moves of the offseason. The Aggies have lagged on defense since joining the SEC, but Chavis is one of the best in the nation and should turn this unit around in the next few years. Improvement should be noticeable in 2015, especially if Chavis finds a way to eliminate some of the big plays allowed in the secondary. In 13 games last season, the Aggies surrendered 14 plays of 40 yards or more. Changes were made to improve the pass defense, as converted running back Brandon Williams is penciled in at one cornerback spot, and junior college transfer Justin Evans is expected to start at strong safety. While the coverage has to get better, the success of this unit still rests in the front seven. Ends Daeshon Hall, Myles Garrett and Qualen Cunningham should generate a pass rush against Arizona State’s offensive line, which is breaking in two new starters at the tackle positions. But how will the linebackers perform if A.J. Hilliard and Otaro Alaka sit out due to injury? Keep an eye on the health of the linebackers, as well as the overall progression of this group on Saturday night.


2. Arizona State’s Dynamic Offense

Arizona State’s offense has a couple of new faces stepping into key roles, but don’t expect this unit to slow in terms of production. New quarterback Mike Bercovici shined in limited action for the Sun Devils after Taylor Kelly missed a couple of games due to injury last season. The receiving corps is revamped, but converted running back D.J. Foster and UCLA transfer Devin Lucien should provide Bercovici with plenty of options. With Foster moving to receiver, the focus at running back shifts to Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage – two players on the verge of a breakout year. The skill talent and quarterback position should be a strength for Graham’s offense, but there’s concern up front with new starters and left and right tackle. Bercovici isn’t as mobile as Kelly was, which means protection is critical to attacking the Texas A&M secondary. There’s a lot of promise for Arizona State’s offense, and Saturday night’s matchup is the first look at Bercovici and Foster in their new roles.


3. Kyle Allen Versus Arizona State’s Aggressive Defense

It’s no secret Graham and coordinator Keith Patterson will be aggressive with their defensive approach. Last season, Arizona State forced 27 turnovers, generated 39 sacks and 98 tackles for a loss. However, an aggressive approach also lends itself to big plays. The Sun Devils ranked 12th in the Pac-12 by allowing 40 plays of 30 yards or more last season. Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen is one of the SEC’s rising stars, and the sophomore showed progress over the final few games of 2014. The former five-star recruit held off touted freshman Kyler Murray in the fall and could have an All-SEC season at the controls of one of the league’s top offenses. Can Allen find time to throw against the Sun Devils’ pass rush? Will the Aggies mix in the run more this year? If Allen has time to throw, his receiving corps is among the best in the nation and should find a way to hit on big plays against an Arizona State secondary that allowed 27 plays of 30 yards or more in 2014.


Final Analysis


This one should be high in entertainment value and points. Both offenses are capable of generating big plays, and the defenses should make their share of stops or turnovers. Don’t be surprised if the last team with the ball wins on Saturday night. Getting Chavis to call the defensive signals was a huge boost for Texas A&M. Combine Chavis’ arrival with the growth of Allen this offseason, and the Aggies should have just enough to knock off the Sun Devils in Week 1.


Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Arizona State 31
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:30