Articles By Athlon Sports
It was bizarre weekend in the Big Ten. Five of the top seven teams in this league were on bye in Week 5 as well as Indiana. So all of the focus was on the Leaders Division showdown in Columbus where Braxton Miller made his triumphant return to the starting lineup. Overshadowed by the big win for Buckeyes was a critical performance by Iowa on the road against key division foe Minnesota. The only other two teams in action, Purdue and Illinois, had two very different outcomes.
Here are the Big Ten's Week 5 Superlatives:
Big Ten Week 5 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Welcome back, Braxton. Urban Meyer benched his red-hot back quarterback in favor of his preseason Heisman candidate and it was clearly the right move. Miller zipped passes around and over the Badgers secondary from the first drive while still showing his tremendous allusiveness on the ground. He finished the conference's biggest game to date 17-of-25 for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air with a team-high 85 yards rushing on 17 carries — all of this against a team that hadn't allowed a single passing touchdown all season long.
Defensive Player of the Week: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The hard-hitting star linebacker was all over the field for the Buckeyes Saturday night. Facing one of the most powerful running games in the nation, Shazier led an impressive showing from the Ohio State front seven by holding Wisconsin to just 104 yards rushing. He finished with 9.0 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one key forced fumble. There is a reason he is an All-American candidate.
Team of the Week: Ohio State
The Buckeyes extended the nation's longest winning streak (17) with a huge win over division rival Wisconsin. Miller was extraordinary in his return to the lineup and the defense played extremely well against the Badgers powerful three-headed running back monster — Wisconsin gained just 104 yards on 27 carries (3.9 yards per carry. The win puts Ohio State squarely in the driver's seat in the Leaders Division.
Coordinator of the Week: Phil Parker, Iowa
The Hawkeyes defense was downright nasty this weekend. Led by an elite linebacker corps, Parker's unit totally shutdown the Golden Gophers on the road in their Big Ten opener. Minnesota ran for just 27 yards on 1.1 yards per carry average and totaled just 165 total yards of offense while being held to 4-of-13 on third downs. Iowa registered four sacks and forced two turnovers while committing just one penalty all game.
Freshman of the Week: Danny Etling, QB, Purdue
This was a weak week for freshman in the Big Ten. Dontre Wilson had 108 all-purpose yards but touched the ball just three times on offense. But the future might have been on display for Purdue in a bad home loss to Northern Illinois. Quarterback Danny Etling replaced an ineffective Rob Henry just before halftime and the freshman was able to move the ball. He threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The Purdue offense posted season highs in every major offensive category: rushing yards, passing yards, yards per play and points scored. Most of Etling's production came through fellow freshman wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey, who caught seven passes for 117 yards.
• Illinois' quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had five touchdown passes in the first half against Miami-Ohio. He had four total touchdown passes all season long in 2012 and now has 12 on the season.
• Melvin Gordon hadn't rushed for fewer than 140 yards in any game this season and has scored at least once in all four contests. He was held to 74 yards and no TDs on 15 carries against Ohio State.
• Illini linebacker Jonathan Brown is still leading the Big Ten in tackles and is 8th nationally with 11.8 stops per game.
• Braxton Miller's four touchdown passes tied a personal best and were the first four touchdown passes allowed all season by the Badgers defense.
• Jared Abbrederis was virtually uncoverable against All-American corner Bradley Roby. Wisconsin's wideout had 10 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown.
• Mark Weisman carried 24 times for 147 yards in the big road win over Minnesota. No one in the nation has carried the ball more in 2013 than the Iowa running back (119 att.).
• After defeating both Iowa and Purdue on the road, Nothern Illinois is actually leading the Big Ten with a 2-0 record against the conference.
• A plus B does not equal C. But it needs to be pointed out that UConn got crushed this weekend by a 1-2 Buffalo team 41-12. You know, the same Husky team that nearly beat Michigan two weekends ago?
• Ohio State was dealt a big blow to the defense when starting safety and leader Christian Bryant was lost for the season with serious ankle injury.
Oklahoma State opened Big 12 play on the road at West Virginia this Saturday, and the Cowboys unveiled a brand new helmet in Morgantown.
Oklahoma State used an orange helmet with Pistol Pete last year, but the Cowboys unveiled a white variation this Saturday.
Count us in as liking this look for the Cowboys:
Notre Dame and Oklahoma are two of college football's premier programs and meet on Saturday in a huge measuring stick game for both teams. The Fighting Irish have had the Sooners' number.
In 10 all-time matchups, Oklahoma is just 1-9 with an average score of 16 points. The Sooners haven't defeated Notre Dame since 1956, when Oklahoma grabbed its lone victory in the series in a 40-0 blowout win, en route to a national championship. In fact, it was the Fighting Irish that ended Oklahoma’s record 47-game winning streak in 1957. The Sooners have a staggering .733 win percentage against all other opponents in their program history but sit at just a .100 win percentage against the Irish.
Historically, Oklahoma has stacked up exceptionally well against college football's preeminent programs. Oklahoma owns more wins than losses against Texas since the 1940s; Oklahoma owns a 45-38-3 edge against Nebraska; and holds a winning or even mark against the likes of Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and Tennessee. After a 30-13 loss in Norman last season, which saw the Sooners held to a mere 15 yards rushing, Bob Stoops is eager to turn the tables on Brian Kelly and the Irish.
Notre Dame and Oklahoma appear to be two teams moving in opposite directions. The Irish, fresh off their perfect regular season a year ago, have limped to unimpressive victories the last two weeks. The Sooners appear to be on the right track, off to a 3-0 start and allowing the fifth-fewest points in the nation. If there's a time for Oklahoma to change the momentum of the series, this may be the year.
3 Things to Watch
Sooners' Rushing Attack
We are used to seeing Oklahoma, under Landry Jones and Sam Bradford, pass upwards of 50 times a game. That isn't the identity of this Sooners squad. The team averages 50.3 rush attempts compared to just 30.3 pass attempts per game. The Sooners boast the No. 16 rushing attack in the nation, averaging 271.7 yards per game behind the two-headed monster of Brennan Clay and Damien Williams. Look for Blake Bell to be a factor in the red-zone as the "Belldozer" has 24 rushing touchdowns on just 118 career carries.
Can Tommy Rees bounce back?
Since Everett Golson left the team in the summer, Notre Dame fans have been fearing the inconsistent play of senior Tommy Rees. Rees has thrown for over 300 yards in every game but last week's uninspiring performance against Michigan State, where he completed just 14 of 34 passes for 142 yards. His decision making has been in question at times, with his two costly interceptions against Michigan. Give Rees credit, however, as he led the Irish back against Purdue and avoided any big mistakes against Michigan State. Rees will need some help for the running game as the Irish haven't topped the 100-yard rushing mark since their opener against Temple.
The Sooners defense looks much improved from a year ago. Currently, Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in scoring defense, allowing just nine points per game, and No. 20 in total defense, allowing 291 yards per game. The defense already has four interceptions through three games. It is worth noting that the Sooners defense hasn't been truly tested and could be exposed against a quality Irish team.
Key Player: Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma
Initially passed up for the starting QB job, Bell replaced an injured Trevor Knight two weeks ago against West Virginia. After a stellar performance against Tulsa, Bell will start against Notre Dame. The junior set a school record for passing yards by a quarterback in his first start with 413. He also threw for four touchdowns, but it's his skills with his legs that could be key to this game. Notre Dame feasted on a stationary Landry Jones last season, holding the Sooners to just 13 points. Bell, a more dynamic athlete, will cause the Irish to respect his scrambling abilities and could open more holes in the secondary.
I like the Sooners to get a big win against the Irish. I think Blake Bell's mobility and ability to move the pocket will prove troublesome for Bob Diaco's defense. I will be interested in watching the battle between the Sooners offensive line, which seems much improved from a year ago, and Notre Dame's defensive line. If Louis Nix can keep Oklahoma from establishing a running game, then I think the Irish will be able to expose some of Bell's deficiencies throwing the football. Ultimately, I don't like the stagnant nature that Irish offense displays at times and I believe they will struggle against the speed of Oklahoma's defense.
Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Notre Dame 7
It's only Week 5 of the 2013 college football season, but the late-night matchup between USC-Arizona State could be a crucial game for both teams. The Trojans and Sun Devils expected to compete for the Pac-12 South title, are looking to notch their first conference win this season. USC was embarrassed at home by the Washington State a few weeks ago, while ASU is stinging after a 42-28 throttling at the hands of Stanford.
USC leads the series all-time 18-10, riding an 11-game win streak that stretched from Paul Hackett's final season at USC in 2000 to 2011. However, of those 10 Arizona State wins in the series, six of them have come in Tempe. USC coach Lane Kiffin has a career 2-1 record against the Sun Devils, with both wins coming at home, and the 2010 victory coming by just one point.
Last year, USC defeated ASU 38-17 in a sloppy affair that saw nine total turnovers. From that game, the Sun Devils return six offensive starters, including quarterback Taylor Kelly, and eight defensive starters, namely All-America defensive tackle Will Sutton. Things should be electric in Tempe as 1980's rock band Journey will be performing the Star-Spangled Banner.
3 Things to Watch
Taylor Kelly was a nice surprise for the Sun Devils in 2012. Slotted as the third-string quarterback during spring ball, Kelly won the starting job by opening day. He exceeded expectations as a sophomore by throwing for 3,039 yards, 29 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Unfortunately, three of those interceptions came in the loss to USC. So far this year, Kelly has picked up where he left off, throwing for 1,019 yards, eight touchdowns and just three interceptions. The last two games, against Wisconsin and Arizona State, Kelly has attempted a combined 106 passes and thrown for over 350 yards in each game. Kelly is behind only Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley as the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. While the Sun Devils have a clear starting quarterback, things are much foggier in Los Angeles. After going back-and-forth on his starting quarterback, Kiffin eventually landed on Cody Kessler. Kessler hasn't been very impressive thus far, as the USC offense often looks stagnant. Kessler completed just 48 percent of his passes against Utah State, averaging just six yards a completion. Kessler needs to be much better against a Sun Devils defense that boasts a couple NFL prospects. To emerge victorious, Kelly needs to avoid the big mistake against a tough USC defense, while Kessler needs to start making big plays in a tough road atmosphere.
The Trojans are 3-1 while ranking 98th in the country in scoring and 108th in passing offense. How is this possible? It's because of the defensive clinic that USC has showcased for the first three weeks. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast has done a terrific job molding this unit to fit his 5-2 scheme, which takes full advantage of the Trojans deep and talented defensive line. USC is ranked 11th in the nation in points allowed, giving up an average of just 11 points per contest. The Trojans are third in the country in rush defense as opponents average around 59 rushing yards per game. The USC pass defense has been just as strong, forcing six interceptions, while giving up no more than 215 passing yards in a single contest.
Arizona State rushing defense
Lane Kiffin doesn't have faith in his passing game; therefore, he will try to keep the ball on the ground this week. The Sun Devils have not been stellar against the run this year, yielding 210 rushing yards to Wisconsin and 240 to Stanford. Opponents have keyed on ASU's weak rushing defense as they have passed 68 times this year, compared to 87 rushing attempts. The Sun Devils definitely have the talent to turn things around, but 2012 consensus All-American Will Sutton, who had 13 sacks a season ago, has been relatively quiet on the stat sheet so far. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has just nine tackles in 2013. ASU will look to junior linebacker Carl Bradford to pick up the slack. If these leaders don't step up for the Sun Devils, the Trojans could find themselves nearing the 225 rushing yards they put up against Arizona State a season ago.
Key Player: Tre Madden, RB, USC
The sky appeared to be falling when it was announced Silas Redd would miss the season opener due to a knee injury. However, he's yet to play a snap this season and the Trojans rushing attack hasn't missed a beat. Tre Madden has filled in quite admirably for a back that scored 10 touchdowns a season ago. Madden has gone for over 100 yards in each of the first three games to open the season. The last USC tailback to do that was Marcus Allen in his 1981 Heisman-winning season. Kiffin will go to Madden early and often on Saturday as he tries to take the pressure off of quarterback Cody Kessler.
The game features a dynamic Arizona State offense versus a stingy USC defense. Both should perform well, but what I expect to decide the game is whether USC can run the football effectively and whether the Sun Devils can stop them. If USC is able to take the air out of the ball and dictate the pace, they are at a huge advantage. If Arizona State can close down the rushing lanes and force Kessler to beat them with his arm, then I believe the fans in Tempe will be going home happy. If this game stays under 21 points then I'd take USC, but anything over than and I don't think the Trojans offense can match it. I think this is the game USC's defense gets exposed a bit, as Taylor Kelly is the best quarterback the Trojans have seen all year. Don't underestimate Kelly's scrambling ability as the junior rushed for 516 yards last year. Keep an eye on how Kessler (bruised hand) and Marqise Lee (ankle) handle their respective injuries in this potentially season-defining game for the Pac-12 North.
Prediction: Arizona State 27, USC 16
The Oregon Ducks better watch out as it appears the Washington Huskies are trying to lay claim to the best helmets in the land with this flashy new headware. The pictures leaked on Twitter earlier today.September 27, 2013
The Huskies have yet to give official confirmation, so tune in to FOX at 7 pm ET to see what Steve Sarkisian's 3-0 Washington squad will wear.
The No. 14-ranked Oklahoma Sooners ride into South Bend for a Saturday afternoon showdown (NBC, 3:30 p.m. ET) with the No. 22-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. After last season’s 30–13 Notre Dame upset of Oklahoma in Norman, this rematch has been circled on the calendar as OU looks to circle the wagons for a redemption win on the road.
While the Sooners are favored by 3-to-3.5 points, depending on the betting line, the Fighting Irish are far from the longshot 10-point underdogs they were in last year’s matchup. In fact, the Golden Domers have more than a few edges over Boomer Sooner. Here are five reasons Notre Dame will beat Oklahoma — again.
1. Fighting Fat Boys
Notre Dame’s defense is once again anchored by its pair of NFL-caliber monsters in the middle, senior nose tackle Louis Nix III and junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt. No team in the country boasts a more intimidating duo down low in the trenches. Nix, a.k.a. “Irish Chocolate,” weighs in at 6’2.5” and 342 pounds. Tuitt is a towering 6’6.5” and a svelte 312 pounds. But Nix and Tuitt aren’t just big; they’re athletic, efficient and play nasty with a mean streak.
“Defensively, (Notre Dame) is still very good and physical up front. Structurally sound and disciplined with how they play,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
Last season, Nix, Tuitt and Co. engulfed the Sooners running game. Oklahoma ended with just 15 rushing yards on 24 carries, averaging an embarrassing 0.6 yards per carry in defeat. OU enters this year’s contest with the nation’s 16th-best running game, averaging 271.7 yards per game on the ground in wins over ULM (34–0), West Virginia (16–7) and Tulsa (51–20).
The Sooners O-line, led by All-America candidate center Gabe Ikard, must move Irish immovable mountains Nix and Tuitt in order to avoid last year’s disastrous results.
2. Wake Up the Echoes
When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2:30 PM (CT)
The Irish have also won 10 consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium with Touchdown Jesus watching over. This week, the faithful will be wearing the four-leaf clover green in a “Green Out” of the stadium.
“We will not be wearing green jerseys, but the Leprechaun Legion and the Kelly Cares Foundation will be giving out upwards of 40,000 pompoms,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. “It’s a ‘Green Out’ officially this weekend for Oklahoma.”
3. The Tommy Rees Experience
Sure, Fighting Irish fans were deflated when Everett Golson was suspended for the season. But senior quarterback Tommy Rees is a low-risk leader who provides the type of stability under center that Notre Dame will need to beat Oklahoma. He’s no Rick Mirer or Brady Quinn, but who is?
This season, Rees has thrown for 1,111 yards, eight TDs and two INTs, with both of his picks coming in the Irish’s only loss, at Michigan (41–30). He combined to throw six TDs and zero INTs in Notre Dame’s three wins — Temple (28–6), at Purdue (31–24) and Michigan State (17–13).
Rees is 17–5 as a starter at ND, with wins over USC, Miami, Utah, Navy, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Boston College and Purdue under his belt. His counterpart, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell, was Bob Stoops’ second choice after losing a quarterback competition to Trevor Knight. Injury has thrown the goal line gimmick known as the “Belldozer” into the fire. Bell is 1–0 as a starter at OU and has never made a start on the road.
Who ya got? The veteran resumé or the road rookie?
4. Mike Stoops’ 3-3-5 Defense
Bob’s little brother Mike is back at helm of the Sooners stop-unit, in his second year of his second stint with the program. And the former Arizona head coach has gone all mad scientist this season, switching the OU base defense from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5.
“They’ve gone to a 3-3-5 defensive structure, whereas they were a four down (lineman) team last year. You’d have to ask them why,” said Kelly. “If I was to guess, it’s to probably handle a lot of the spread offenses in the Big 12.”
That is a logical assumption, since Oklahoma allowed an average of 43 points per game against speedy spreads Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M last year. But Notre Dame does not want to spread the field. Kelly’s philosophy is predicated on ground-and-pound, protect the football and then win a close call in the end. The Irish are 10–1 in their last 11 games decided by a touchdown or less.
5. Big Game Bob
Bob Stoops has been rumored for the Notre Dame job before. As a Midwestern Catholic BCS national champion, he checks all the boxes. But he’s only coached one game at Notre Dame, a 34–30 loss to the Irish in 1999. In his fourth game as the coach at OU, Stoops’ Sooners let a 16-point lead slip away, allowing 20 unanswered points in the first defeat of his head-coaching career.
Stoops has come a long way since then, with eight Big 12 titles and raising BCS crystal over 14 seasons. But he has lost his spark in big games. Over the past four seasons, the Sooners are 13–9 against ranked opponents, with four other upset losses against unranked teams. Take Texas out of the equation and OU’s senior class carries a mediocre 10–9 record vs. Top 25 teams.
Oklahoma may be the favorite at Notre Dame, but winning on the road in a hostile environment with an inexperienced quarterback, limited running game and completely new defensive scheme won’t be easy.
“How could going to Notre Dame be easy?” said Stoops. “At the end of the day, that’s ridiculous. They’re an incredibly great, physical football team. Great quarterback play. Tough and good. It’ll be a huge challenge.”
Ohio State will open conference play against Wisconsin with an “OR” in fine print on the depth chart between the two quarterbacks. Urban Meyer doesn’t seem to mind.
His Heisman-contending starter at quarterback, Braxton Miller, hasn’t played since the first quarter of the second game, but Meyer has reason for confidence in backup Kenny Guiton. The senior has played about as well as could be expected even for the standard Miller set during a 12-0 season.
Meyer is one of the lucky ones. Miller is undoubtedly his starter when healthy. Having Guiton on the roster is more a luxury than any kind of dilemma.
“It’s a blessing to have it,” Meyer said. “We just have to manage it the right way.”
Keeping a quality backup quarterback like Guiton on the roster is as difficult as it’s ever been. Multiple teams have needed to go to the second-string option before the calendar has turned to October only to find their quarterback situation is not as luxurious as the one in Columbus.
|2013 TRANSFERS TURNED STARTING QUARTERBACKS|
Includes only quarterbacks who began careers at FBS programs
Previous school in parentheses
Drew Allen, Syracuse (Oklahoma)*
Ronnie Bell, Georgia State (Ohio)
Steven Bench, USF (Penn State)
Allan Bridgford, Southern Miss (Cal)
Terrance Broadway, UL Lafayette (Houston)
Austyn Carta-Samuels, Vanderbilt (Wyoming)
David Fales, San Jose State (Nevada)
Taylor Graham, Hawaii (Ohio State)
Cody Green, Tulsa (Nebraska)
Garrett Gilbert, SMU (Texas)
Jake Heaps, Kansas (BYU)
Adam Kennedy, Arkansas State (Utah State)
Nick Marshall, Auburn (Georgia)^
Ross Metheny, South Alabama (Virginia)
Zach Mettenberger, LSU (Georgia)
Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (Arizona, Rutgers)
Jameill Showers, UTEP (Texas A&M)
Pete Thomas, NC State (Colorado State)
Connor Wood, Colorado (Texas)
Scotty Young, Louisiana Tech (Texas Tech)*
*Began season as starter, now a backup
^Began career as cornerback
Nearly every major program in the country has been impacted by a quarterback transfer, either coming or going. Roughly 20 starting quarterbacks at the FBS level started their careers at another FBS school only to transfer. And that doesn’t include dozens of backups.
College players are more familiar than ever with the roster landscape. Depth charts and commitment lists have been readily available for years, allowing quarterbacks to survey the field of new destinations where they may fit. A quick Google search can determine if an offensive coach might be a schematic fit.
“All the resources out there have instigated young people transferring,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who had one of his three starting quarterbacks from 2012 transfer before the season. “If things don’t go well or if they don’t look like they’re the future, they’ll transfer.
“If you have two quarterbacks, you’re fortunate.”
One of the latest to feel the transfer sting was Florida when two-year starter Jeff Driskel suffered a broken leg against Tennessee. Tyler Murphy performed admirably in relief, going 8 of 14 for 134 yards and a touchdown in the 31-17 win over the Volunteers. He also rushed for 84 yards and a score.
Murphy, a two-star recruit from Connecticut, was not intended to be the top quarterback off the bench when Will Muschamp and predecessor Meyer were drawing up recruiting classes. Jacoby Brissett, a top-100 prospect, competed with Driskel to start last season. After being relegated to the bench, he transferred to NC State, where he’ll sit in 2013 before being eligible next year.
“There’s only one ball,” Muschamp said. “If a guy’s not playing, greener pastures are somewhere else. That’s part of the deal, and that’s why I want to sign a quarterback every year.”
Texas has gone to backup quarterback Case McCoy after two head injuries to David Ash. Freshman Tyrone Swoopes may be an option down the line, but the Longhorns have also watched three quarterbacks who would have been eligible this season transfer — Garrett Gilbert (SMU) and Connor Wood (Colorado) who are starters elsewhere plus Connor Brewer, who is redshirting at Arizona.
Notre Dame was fortunate to have an experienced backup in Tommy Rees when Everett Golson was suspended due to academic issues, but depth at the position could have been greater had highly touted freshman Gunner Kiel stayed on campus. Kiel transferred to Cincinnati two months before Golson was declared ineligible.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly spoke in approval of Kiel’s move, and the Irish have another highly regarded freshman on campus in Malik Zaire. Quarterbacks like Kiel have good reason to want to test the transfer waters, moreso than other positions.
Even Muschamp, with his depleted quarterback depth, can agree with that.
“When you play defensive end, you can be involved in special teams and you can be in different packages, you’re not going to play the entire time,” Muschamp said. “When you look at our situation Saturday (against Tennessee), Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler and Jon Bullard are played 42 snaps in the game ... that’s why it’s not as prevalent at other positions.”
Muschamp may have told Brissett he was one play away from being the starter, but that’s tough on a young quarterback’s ego, especially one who has had designs on starting at a big-time program since high school.
Tom Savage heard the same at Rutgers. He started 11 games as a freshman in 2009, being named the MVP of a team that finished 9-4. The next season, Savage struggled early when he was benched for Chas Dodd four games into the season.
His pride damaged, Savage transferred to Arizona to play for then-coach Mike Stoops.
“I was a young, kind of bitter kid,” Savage said. “I was pissed off that I wasn’t playing.”
(Dodd, incidentally, was benched in 2011 for Gary Nova. Dodd remained on the roster as the backup).
After leaving when he was passed on the depth chart, Savage again found himself in the other common position where a quarterback will transfer — a new coach and a new system. Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez, a spread option coach. Savage is a classic drop-back passer. Savage, who played high school football near Philadelphia, also hoped to move closer East to be closer his ailing godmother. Though he moved again, Savage said he approached the second move with a little more maturity.
Finding a place that would spend two years worth of scholarship space for a quarterback who could only play for a year (plus a player who had already transferred twice) was difficult. Pitt coach Paul Chryst, who coached Savage’s brother Bryan at Wisconsin, allowed Savage to walk on before putting him on scholarship and naming him the starter this season.
Savage’s move paid off as he’s passed for 861 yards and nine touchdowns in three games, but he’s plenty familiar with the risk/reward proposition of transferring.
His brother transferred from Wisconsin to junior college to Hofstra, where he started for a year before a back injury ended his senior season. After watching his brother’s experience, he promised his father he wouldn’t repeat the ordeal.
“When he transferred and he went through it, I told my dad that if I ever get recruited, I’m never going to transfer,” Savage said. “You don’t hear too many kids transfer twice, but I ended up being pretty lucky. It was tough to even find an opportunity to play because a guy transferring twice is kind of a red flag.”
|NOTABLE 2013 TRANSFERS ELIGIBLE IN 2014|
Connor Brewer, Arizona (Texas)
Jacoby Brissett, NC State (Florida)
Phillip Ely, Alabama (Toledo)
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati (Notre Dame)
Wes Lunt, Illinois (Oklahoma State)
T.J. Millweard, Kansas (UCLA)
Like Savage, some quarterbacks and coaches end up lucky.
There was little reason for Guiton to look at greener pastures despite little hope of beating out Miller for the starting job entering the season. Although Guiton led Ohio State late in a win over Purdue last season, Meyer had no assurances Guiton would play at this kind of level before this season.
“It's not because the (previous) staff was screwing him over,” Meyer told reporters after Saturday’s rout of Florida A&M. “He wasn't very good in a lot of areas. (Since then) he pushed himself academically. He's an exceptional guy, and he didn't do things exceptionally. He was an underachiever, and to an underachiever, that's fighting words.”
A similar backup quarterback dynamic played out in Stillwater where perhaps Gundy didn’t know what he had.
Oklahoma State opened the 2012 season with freshman Wes Lunt starting at quarterback. Lunt was impressive enough to be named the starter during the spring, despite veterans Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh on the roster.
Lunt sustained an injury early in the season, opening the door for Walsh and then Chelf. When the 2013 season started, Chelf opened as the starter, but Walsh took over midway through the win over Mississippi State.
Lunt, once the precocious freshman, has transferred to Illinois.
Gundy may grumble that his quarterback depth has taken a hit with the youngest prospect leaving town, but he acknowledges it’s a fact of life in today’s game. (Gundy, it’s worth noting, initially blocked Lunt from transferring to a handful of high-profile schools, whether or not they were on Oklahoma State’s upcoming schedule).
“I can see both sides,” Gundy said. “I’ve never been a big fan of transferring. It’s just difficult. In some cases, players have had success, but over history there will be more cases of players who haven’t had success when they’ve transferred. But I do understand.”
Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. Whether you condone gambling or not, think of it as becoming a more informed fan.
I tried to tell folks to stay away from their bookies last weekend, so I'm taking my 5-3 mark and sprinting to the bank. Maryland once again delivered and it's only a matter of time before the boys in Vegas pick up on the fact that the Terps have crushed the point spread this season. We can hold off until next weekend to deal with Randy Edsall as his squad is off this weekend.
With a massive weekend of action of ahead of us, bettors need to be aware of a few trends. Most believe in staying away from road favorites, but with 12 of the 19 Top 25 teams in action playing on the road, it may be hard to avoid the road favorite.
2013 Record Against the Spread: 15-8-1 (5-3 last week)
Week 5 Picks of the Week:
Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas
The Aggies' run defense is atrocious and the Razorbacks have an excellent 1-2 combo with running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. But there is no way Arkansas can stop Johnny Manziel from posting big numbers. This was an ugly 58-10 game in College Station last year and while Arkansas is improved, the Hogs haven’t closed the 48-point gap. Especially, if starting quarterback Brandon Allen can’t go. Prediction: Texas A&M -7
Fresno State (-17.5) at Hawaii
The Bulldogs thoroughly dominated the Warriors 45-10 at home last year as Derek Carr needed just 15 completions to reach 304 yards and score four times. And while all games seem to be tighter on the Big Island, Fresno State is actually better this year than last. Carr is averaging over 370 yards per game this year and Hawaii recently allowed 451 yards to Sean Mannion and Oregon State. Prediction: Fresno State -17.5
South Alabama (+19) at Tennessee
The USA defensive line is dramatically out-matched and out-weighed by the Tennessee offensive line and shouldn’t be able to stop the Vols' running game. The Jaguars defeated Western Kentucky last week but the win was fluky (a late turnover was returned for a touchdown) and the defense allowed 427 yards on nearly six yards per play. Look for the Vols to pound the football for four quarters and easily win their final non-conference game of the season. Prediction: Tennessee -19
Arizona (+9.5) at Washington
The Huskies are one of the most improved teams in the nation with impressive wins over Boise State and Illinois already. Arizona is still unbeaten but hasn’t played a tough game and their new quarterback, B.J. Denker, has never started in a hostile environment yet in his career. Husky Stadium will be rocking Saturday night and Washington’s elite balance on both sides of the ball will be too much for an Arizona team that is average at best. This line feels skewed due to the drubbing 'Zona put on U of W last year in the desert. Prediction: Washington -9.5
A few more road favorites I like:
Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College
The 'Noles won by 41 last year at home and might be even better this year.
Stanford (-10) at Washington State
The Cardinal sacked Wazzu 10 times and held it to minus-18 yards rushing last year.
South Carolina (-7) at UCF
UCF's win over Penn State has inflated their value. Take the Gamecocks.
Take the Over:
LSU at Georgia: 61.5
Wisconsin at Ohio State: 54.5
South Carolina at UCF: 52.5
Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:
Note: games with FCS opponents won't be included each week
|Top 25 Games||Mitch Light||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|No. 21 Ole Miss (+15) at No. 1 Alabama|
|Cal (+36.5) at No. 2 Oregon|
|Wake Forest (+28.5) at No. 3 Clemson|
|No. 23 Wisconsin (+7) at No. 4 Ohio St|
|No. 5 Stanford (-10) at Washington St|
|No. 6 LSU (+3) at No. 9 Georgia|
|No. 8 Florida St (-21.5) at Boston College|
|No. 10 Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas|
|No. 11 Oklahoma St (-18) at West Virginia|
|No. 12 South Carolina (-7) at UCF|
|No. 14 Oklahoma (-3.5) at No. 22 Notre Dame|
|No. 15 Miami (-18.5) at USF|
|Arizona (+10) at No. 16 Washington|
|No. 20 Florida (-12.5) at Kentucky|
|No. 25 Fresno St (-17.5) at Hawaii|
Week 5 starts tonight...
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, September 26th
The selection committee for college football's 2014-15 playoff could be decided by the end of the regular season.
All signs point to quarterback Braxton Miller returning to the starting lineup this Saturday for Ohio State.
Lost Lettermen takes a look at the most successful former high school coaches in college football.
The Sporting News' Matt Hayes spent a Saturday watching games with SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
Is Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo the best quarterback you never heard of?
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone is making progress in his return from a broken collarbone.
Alabama has canceled a future series with Michigan State.
SMU could have running back Traylon Shead back against TCU.
Air Force will be down to its third starting quarterback this season, as Jaleel Awini is suspended indefinitely from the team.
How can Oklahoma's offense exploit Notre Dame's defense?
Rutgers running back Paul James is nursing a leg injury but expects to return later this season.
Playmakers have helped to key Iowa's offensive improvement.
Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
QB Zach Mettenberger vs. FS Tray Matthews (LSU at Georgia)
Mettenberger’s ties to Georgia run deep. He grew up in nearby Watkinsville. His mother, Tammy, is an administrative assistant in the Georgia football offense. And he spent the first two years of his career as a Georgia Bulldog. This is not just another game for Mettenberger, who is in his second season as the starter at LSU. So far, he has thrived under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but this will be his toughest test — in a very difficult environment — of his senior season. With two elite wide receivers and a solid offensive line, it falls to Mettenberger to accurately attack the Bulldogs' young, but talented secondary. Matthews, a true freshman, will be responsible for handling the top of the defense against two great vertical threats in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
RB Melvin Gordon vs. LB Ryan Shazier (Wisconsin at Ohio State)
The hard-hitting Ohio State linebacker was all over the field for the Buckeyes last year against Wisconsin. He registered 12 tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble in last year’s win over the Badgers. He’s right back at it again this season, topping the team in tackles (30). It will fall to the explosive junior to stop the three-headed monster in Wisconsin's backfield, led by Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon. The Badgers' star tailback is leading the nation in rushing (156.0 ypg) with an absurd 11.8 yards per carry average and seven rushing touchdowns.
WR LaQuon Treadwell vs. CB Deion Belue (Ole Miss at Alabama)
Treadwell was a difference-maker in the Rebels’ win over Vanderbilt in Week 1, catching nine passes for 82 yards in addition to a key 2-point conversion in the third quarter. He has teamed with Donte Moncrief to give Ole Miss two big-time targets in the passing game. Alabama’s secondary is talented, but it’s difficult for any team to take away two elite wide receivers. Treadwell, a 5-star recruit from Illinois, could have an opportunity to play a key role in the Rebels' attack against one area of the Alabama defense that can be exploited. Belue (toe) and Jarrick Williams (eye) both missed last week’s game with Colorado State but have returned to the practice field and are expected to play a big role in this weekend’s contest.
C Gabe Ikard vs. DT Louis Nix III (Oklahoma at Notre Dame)
The Sooners’ star center will match up once again with Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who got the better of Ikard last season. Ikard may be one of the Big 12’s best linemen, but the OU veteran called Nix one of the best in the country in controlling the line of scrimmage. The Sooners rushed for only 15 yards on 23 carries in last season’s game. The Sooners trail only Baylor in the Big 12 in rushing and sit at 16th nationally with over 270 yards rushing per game in three games thus far.
RB Tre Madden vs. DT Will Sutton (USC at Arizona State)
The best way to help out a struggling passing attack is with a quality running game. And Madden has been just that for Lane Kiffin over the first four weeks. He has topped 100 yards in all but one game and has scored in each of the last two contests. His 90 carries are second only to Iowa’s Mark Weisman nationally and his 455 yards are eighth in the nation. Cody Kessler needs No. 23 to come up big on the road. Sutton has been fairly quiet this season so far, registering just 9.0 tackles and no big plays yet. The All-American defensive lineman needs to play well this weekend to avoid an 0-2 start to the Pac-12 season.
LB Chris Borland vs. QB Braxton Miller or QB Kenny Guiton (Wisconsin at Ohio State)
Wisconsin’s All-American linebacker has been making big plays for the Badgers for years but stopping the Buckeyes' versatile offensive attack might be his tallest order — no matter who plays quarterback. Borland constantly disrupts opposing backfields and makes big special teams plays — he even completed a 23-yard pass on a fake punt against Arizona State — but has missed two of the last three meetings with Ohio State. That said, he went head-to-head with Miller in 2011, posting 10 tackles in the historic Hail Mary game. Keeping Miller or Guiton contained within the pocket will go a long way to giving UW a chance at the win.
LB Lamin Barrow vs. RB Todd Gurley (LSU at Georgia)
Few teams in the country are as balanced offensively as Georgia, which has the personnel to throw for over 400 yards or run for 300 on any given Saturday. Barrow, one of the leaders of this new-look LSU defense, will have to be at his best from his weak-side linebacker position on Saturday. When Georgia gets its play-action attack going, the Bulldogs are very difficult to slow down. Gurley, who is averaging 125.7 yards per game, is arguably the nation's most talented running back and will be asked to pound the very physical Tigers front seven.
RB Ka'Deem Carey vs. LB Shaq Thompson (Arizona at Washington)
Stopping one of the nation’s best running backs in one of the nation’s most explosive offensive schemes falls to Thompson and his running mates John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono. The top three tacklers on the Huskies' squad must contain Carey (149.5 yards per game) and Daniel Jenkins (80.7 yards per game) at home. This will force Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker to throw the ball — something he hasn’t proven he can do in a hostile environment yet.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard grew up in our living rooms, first as lovable Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” and then as Richie Cunningham on the equally iconic sitcom “Happy Days.” But Howard’s true calling was behind the camera, and with his latest movie, he’s returned to his roots as a director by putting his audience behind the wheel.
Howard cut his filmmaking teeth with 1977’s “Grand Theft Auto,” a low-budget, high-octane action comedy that featured more crashes than a season on the Sprint Cup circuit. Fast forward 36 years, and Howard’s latest big-budget epic features cars of a sleeker, faster but equally dangerous variety.
“Rush,” which hits theaters this week, chronicles the 1976 Formula 1 season, including Austrian driver Niki Lauda’s near-fatal crash and subsequent comeback. Howard deftly captures an era of fast cars and European playboys who set the standard for high-level racing from Monaco to the Orient, along with the danger, speed and precision of open-wheel competition. But at its heart, the story’s focus is the rivalry between the confident Lauda and flashy British driver James Hunt, and how their on-track clashes came to define a go-for-broke sport.
Athlon Sports caught up Howard and had no trouble persuading the entertainment icon to share his infectious passion for his latest film.
What attracted you to this story?
Ron Howard: It’s the fact that in one movie there are all these elements, so to me, as a director, that means a lot. That means that different audience members can glean different things from it and enjoy it for different reasons. I love working with actors on interesting characters and emotional scenes. You know, there’s a lot of that in this story. But I also love trying to create something for the audience that’s a ride, that’s visceral, that’s intense, and kind of an experience. So I thought, “Here’s a movie that combines both those things.” And it’s all too rare that you can make a movie that has a chance to be a big-screen experience, but it’s not a fantasy. You know, there are no superheroes. They’re real people. It’s a real story. And yet it’s kind of cinematic and intense in that big movie way.
Your first movie as a director was “Grand Theft Auto.” Did you think your next “car” movie would be 36 years later?
I learned a lot about cars during “Grand Theft Auto.” Most of what I learned I couldn’t apply to this (“Rush”) because we couldn’t afford to crash these cars, and when we did we had to do it very, very carefully. “Grand Theft Auto” was all about them T-bones, and it was fun. And nobody got hurt, thankfully.
What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?
When I was preparing for “Rush,” I drove a Formula 1 training car and probably got up around 100 (mph). The straightaway was short enough that it wouldn’t allow you to get much quicker than that. But it was a great experience. I also spun out. Thank God nobody was too close behind me when that happened. One person described it as though you’re trying to ride a thoroughbred race horse. An F1 car sort of feels like it has a mind of its own.
Did the actors do any of the driving?
The actors did some of the driving. Nothing harrowing. We didn’t put them into close proximity to other cars going over 100 miles an hour or anything like that, but they did drive over 100 miles an hour. And we put cameras on them and did a lot of laps with them that we could build into the movie. But we also did old-fashioned green screen stuff to put them into the right tracks at the right moment. More important than driving fast on the track, they also had to be good enough that they could speed into the pits, because that was my chance to have a steady-cam move in, see them lift the visor and just, in a subliminal way, convince the audience that they’re driving — they can drive a car. And then also, go through the whole pit change, lower the visor and speed off, and that’s with a lot of people around. So that was a safety factor that they had to really, really train for. The first day that we really tested the guys in the cars, (Niki Lauda actor) Daniel Brühl’s front tire came off his Ferrari and bounded off, and he went into a spin. So right away on Day 1, we realized that we could never relax around these cars.
You chose not to use original footage of Niki Lauda’s crash. What was your method for determining when to use original footage and when not to?
In many places in the movie, we discovered we could sort of do a “Forrest Gump” kind of trick. Only instead of putting Tom Hanks next to Richard Nixon, we could put Lauda’s car or Hunt’s car into a particularly good, say, aerial helicopter shot from Monaco or someplace and make that shot, which was great, tell the story we needed to tell. So it was 99 percent the archival footage, but somehow by changing the cars around a little bit, we could make it our story. We did a good deal of that. With the crash, I wanted to break it down for the audience on a little bit more of a micro level. And so the archival shot that exists is 8 millimeter — very, very grainy — and it’s a single shot that a 12-year-old kid took. In fact, I sort of … I do a cutaway to a kid shooting the accident. We actually do use that footage later on television just out of respect to the original footage.
In “Rush,” Niki Lauda exhibits extreme attention to detail. Did you encounter that facet working with him?
He sanctioned the project. He had no editorial controls; he trusted Peter Morgan, the writer. He trusted me as the director, and he made himself available for any questions. And he was very meticulous and very, very helpful. And especially to Daniel Brühl, who was playing him in the movie. He literally had him on speed dial and could call him up at any moment and could ask him about the particulars of racing or his behavior. But he’s a powerful guy, a brilliant guy, a great businessman. He’s back in Formula 1 in a competitive way as one of the principal owners of the Mercedes race team. They’re having an unexpectedly good year in his first year back. I can see that he enjoys that competition, but with Niki, mostly it’s all about productivity. For him, every waking hour is supposed to be directed towards something. He’s making things happen that matter all that time, and that’s what’s important to him. I think he keeps score that way.
A rival can be a great source of motivation. Have you ever had that situation in your own life?
I don’t feel that kind of personal rivalry. I have a lot of respect for people. But it’s not that kind of competition where somebody can literally beat you. There are times when different directors and producers are vying for the same project and you’re trying to get the rights. That’s the closest thing to a competition like that, I suppose. But I think filmmaking is a little more … you sort of have to be in competition with yourself and with what the possibilities of the project are. And I think that you’re not really fueled by rivals, although you can see movies that you respect and they can fuel you.
Bye weeks litter the college landscape this week, so expect league scoring averages to drop drastically. Second-guessing a couple of guys on your roster this week? Hopefully, this week’s Start/Bench helps in your decision-making process.
College Fantasy Football: Week 5 Start or Sit Report
Connor Wood, QB-Colorado at Oregon State
Wood should find receiver Paul Richardson early and often as the Buffaloes face an Oregon State defense that is allowing over 287 passing yards per game.
Keith Wenning, QB-Ball State vs Toledo
Wenning is averaging over 330 yards passing and may top that number this week when the Cardinals host Toledo.
Keenan Reynolds, QB-Navy at Western Kentucky
Through two games, Navy leads the nation in rushing at 398 yards per game and Reynolds has topped 100 yards on the ground in both contests.
Storm Johnson, RB-Central Florida vs South Carolina
We’re not expecting Johnson to run wild against the South Carolina defense, but the junior running back should post respectable numbers for fantasy owners that play in deep leagues.
Rajion Neal, RB-Tennessee vs South Alabama
Neal should bounce back after two tough outings against Oregon and Florida in back-to-back weeks.
Shaun Wick, RB-Wyoming at Texas State
Wick is only averaging about 15 carries per game, but he has either scored multiple touchdowns or topped 100 yards in every game this season.
Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar, RBs-Boise State vs Southern Mississippi
Ajayi’s fumbling woes may lead to more playing time for the freshman Baltazar, and there is a good chance that both backs top the century mark at home against USM.
Josh Huff, WR-Oregon vs California
After watching the Buckeyes torch the Bears’ secondary two weeks ago, we feel that Huff has to be good for a couple of big receptions Saturday night.
Chandler Jones, WR-San Jose State vs Utah State
Last week at Minnesota, Jones picked up the slack in the passing game with the loss of teammate Noel Grigsby. Expect more of the same this week when the Spartans host Utah State.
Connor Halliday, Washington State vs Stanford
We expected Halliday to light up the scoreboard against Idaho, but Stanford is an entirely different beast. Just ask the Sun Devils.
Darrin Reaves, RB-UAB @ Vanderbilt
Reaves has the potential for a big play, but we see far too many 2- to 3-yard carries against the Commodores.
Charles Sims, RB-West Virginia vs Oklahoma State
The only thing we were able to take away from the Mountaineers’ game against Maryland last week was that the West Virginia offense does not have a safe fantasy play on its roster.
David Oku, RB-Arkansas State at Missouri
Oku’s rushing stats at home: 37-198-4 Oku’s rushing stats on the road: 28-93-0
This is the toughest part of the schedule for owners of Oku because after Missouri the Red Wolves have a bye in two of the next three weeks.
Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss at Alabama
Remember our formula: Opposing player (excluding anyone named Johnny Manziel) + Alabama defense = Bench
Jordan Parker, RB-Middle Tennessee at BYU
Junior running back Reggie Whatley may be cutting into Parker’s carries, but the biggest obstacle for fantasy owners this week is the BYU defense.
Quinshad Davis, WR-North Carolina vs East Carolina
We are not patient enough to have a guy on our roster that only has eight receptions through three games, but if are not ready to throw in the towel, keep Davis on the bench until he proves himself on the field.
Titus Davis, WR-Central Michigan at North Carolina State
Believe it or not, but the Wolfpack are one of the better defensive plays in Week 5.
Two heavyweight battles highlight the Week 5 slate in the SEC. LSU, off to a 4-0 start, travels to Georgia in a potential preview of the SEC Championship Game. Ole Miss, which already has won two road games, heads to Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide.
SEC Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. LSU (+3) at Georgia (3:30 ET, CBS)
LSU has emerged as a legitimate national title contender through the first quarter of the 2013 season. The offense has made significant improvements under new coordinator Cam Cameron, and the defense has been solid despite the loss of key personnel at every level. That defense, however, will face by far its toughest test this Saturday. Georgia puts tremendous pressure on a defense with its ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground. In two games vs. BCS conference opponents (Clemson and South Carolina), the Bulldogs are averaging 540.5 yards and 38.0 points per game. For LSU, Jeremy Hill has been spectacular running the ball — he’s averaging 8.36 yards per carry and has six TDs in three games — but the spotlight will be on quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The fifth-year senior is a Georgia native who spent the first two years of his career with the Bulldogs. How he handles the pressure of his homecoming to Athens could go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
2. Ole Miss (+16) at Alabama (6:30 ET, ESPN)
Ole Miss has already proven itself on the road with wins at Vanderbilt and Texas. Winning at Alabama, however, is an entirely different animal. The Crimson Tide have only lost three times in Tuscaloosa in the past five seasons — once to a team that won the national title (Auburn, 2010), once to a team that lost in the national title game (LSU, 2011) and once to a team that won 11 games and featured the Heisman Trophy winner (Texas A&M, 2012). Still, don’t expect Ole Miss to be intimidated. Hugh Freeze’s young team is playing with a ton of confidence and truly believes it can contend for the SEC West title. The Rebels will score some points, but the key will be their ability to slow down Alabama’s balanced attack.
3. Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas (7 ET, ESPN2)
At first glance, it’s a bit surprising that Texas A&M, a top-10 team, is only a touchdown favorite at Arkansas, a team that lost to Rutgers last week. But look at one key stat: Texas A&M ranks 105th nationally in rushing defense, giving up an average of 218.3 yards per game — and it’s even worse when you look at yards per carry allowed (5.94, 118th). And those numbers have come against one great team (Alabama), one decent team (Rice), one bad team (SMU) and one FCS team (Sam Houston State). Arkansas doesn’t do a ton of things well, but the Razorbacks have the ability to expose A&M’s rush defense. The Hogs feature the SEC’s No. 2 rusher (Alex Collins, 120.3 ypg) and No. 6 rusher (Jonathan Williams, 104.5 ypg). Stopping this duo will be the focus for the Aggies’ defense.
4. South Carolina (-7) at UCF (12 ET ABC)
This will not be easy for South Carolina. UCF is 3-0 with wins at home vs. Akron (38-7), at FIU (38-0) and at Penn State (34-31). The Knights feature an experienced quarterback in junior Blake Bortles, who is completing over 70 percent of his passes and averaging 11.7 yards per attempt (third best in the nation). The UCF ground game is led by Storm Johnson, a former 4-star recruit who began his career at Miami. Through three games, Johnson has rushed for 308 yards on a 5.6-yard average. South Carolina will obviously be the toughest defense UCF has faced to date, but keep in mind that the Knights rolled up over 500 yards of offense in their win at Penn State. This is a solid team.
5. Florida (-13) at Kentucky (7 ET, ESPNU)
Tyler Murphy exceeded expectations in his first appearance as the Gators’ quarterback. Now, however, the junior must prove he is not a one-hit wonder and that he can take his show on the road. Kentucky is far from an elite defensive team, but the Wildcats played well for a half against Louisville and are solid on the defensive line. Still, it will be a bad sign for Florida if Murphy does not play well in Lexington. The Gators’ defense is elite, but the offense will have to at least be mediocre for this team to be a factor in the SEC East race.
6. Arkansas State (+21) at Missouri (7:30 ET, CSS)
A few weeks ago, this looked like a decent matchup on paper. That was before Missouri went to Indiana and posted an impressive 45-28 win over the Hoosiers, and Arkansas State was gashed for 505 yards (329 on the ground) in a surprisingly lopsided 31-7 loss at Memphis. Arkansas State, which won 10 games in each of the past two seasons, is showing signs of slippage under first-year coach Bryan Harsin. This one could get out of hand unless the Red Wolves can find a way to stop the run.
7. UAB (+21) at Vanderbilt (7:30 ET, FSN)
Vanderbilt has allowed an average of 37.0 points in its two SEC games (Ole Miss and South Carolina) and 5.0 points in its two non-conference games (Austin Peay and UMass). So how many will UAB score this weekend? Well, it’s safe to say the Blazers aren’t nearly as potent as the Dores’ two SEC opponents, but they are also quite a bit better than both Austin Peay and UMass. Vanderbilt will have to put some points on the board to win this game, and the Commodores figure to have success attacking UAB through the air. The Blazers are allowing 268.7 passing yards per game and rank 117th in the nation in passing efficiency defense.
8. South Alabama (+20) at Tennessee (12:21 ET, SEC Network)
South Alabama opened the season with a 21-20 loss at home to Southern Utah, but the Jags have bounced back with two solid wins, 41-39 at Tulane and 31-24 vs. Western Kentucky. Joey Jones is doing a nice job in Mobile. Tennessee wraps ups its non-conference schedule before diving back into the SEC with a brutal three-game stretch that includes home games against Georgia and South Carolina followed by a visit to Alabama. Justin Worley will get the start at quarterback for the Vols, but don’t be surprised if one of the true freshmen — Joshua Dobbs or Riley Ferguson — sees significant action.
5 Pivotal Players for Week 5
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mettenberger’s ties to Georgia run deep. He grew up in nearby Watkinsville. His mother, Tammy, is an administrative assistant in the Georgia football offense. And he spent the first two years of his career as a Georgia Bulldog. This is not just another game for Mettenberger, who is in his second season as the starter at LSU. So far, he has thrived under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but this will be his toughest test — in a very difficult environment — of his senior season. He needs to play well to give his team a chance to win the game.
Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU
Few teams in the country are as balanced offensively as Georgia, which has the personnel to throw for over 400 yards or run for 300 on any given Saturday. Barrow, one of the leaders of this new-look LSU defense, will have to be at his best from his weak-side linebacker position on Saturday. When Georgia gets its play-action attack going, the Bulldogs are very difficult to slow down.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Murray delivered on the big stage in Week 2, throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns in a pivotal 41-30 win over South Carolina. Now, he must do it again — or hear from his critics how he can’t win the big game. Murray doesn’t have to post gaudy numbers for Georgia to beat LSU, but he must avoid the big mistakes — something that has plagued him in previous seasons.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Treadwell was a difference-maker in the Rebels’ win over Vanderbilt in Week 1, catching nine passes for 82 yards in addition to a key 2-point conversion in the third quarter. He has teamed with Donte Moncrief to give Ole Miss two big-time targets in the passing game. Alabama’s secondary is talented, but it’s difficult for any team to take away two elite wide receivers. Treadwell, a 5-star recruit from Illinois, could have an opportunity to play a key role in the Rebel attack.
The Arkansas defense
Arkansas’ defensive numbers look good — 17th nationally in total defense and 25th in scoring defense — but the schedule has been relatively soft. The Hogs’ D will be stressed at every level on Saturday by a Texas A&M offense that is among the best in the nation. Last year, the Aggies torched Arkansas for an astounding 716 yards in a 58-10 win in College Station. The Hogs will need to lop about 250 yards off of that total to have a chance to beat A&M this time around.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
South Carolina at UCF
|S. Carolina 28-24||S. Carolina 35-21||S. Carolina 30-20||S. Carolina 31-17|
S. Alabama at Tennessee
|Tennessee 31-14||Tennessee 38-13||Tennesssee 34-17|
LSU at Georgia
|LSU 24-21||Georgia 34-31||Georgia 31-24|
|Ole Miss at Alabama|
|Alabama 38-20||Alabama 34-24||Alabama 31-28|
Texas A&M at Arkansas
Texas A&M 42-21
|Texas A&M 49-31||Texas A&M 45-24||Texas A&M 44-21|
Florida at Kentucky
|Florida 24-10||Florida 31-13||Florida 21-3|
UAB at Vanderbilt
|Vanderbilt 38-14||Vanderbilt 41-17||Vanderbilt 31-14|
Arkansas St. at Missouri
|Missouri 28-10||Missouri 34-13||Missouri 45-20||Missouri 41-17|
The Big 12 needs to pick up some signature moments, but it’s running out of chances to do so.
The league is 2-4 against teams from the other five BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, with those wins coming against Mississippi State and SMU. That doesn’t include Texas’ loss to BYU, nor the league’s two losses to FCS teams in the first week of the season.
The first full Saturday of Big 12 play is a week away, and the fifth week of the season will feature more action that will impact the league’s perception.
The most important game will be Oklahoma’s trip to Notre Dame, a key game to prove if one of the Big 12’s frontrunners can go toe-to-toe with a nationally ranked team. A road conference game for Oklahoma State to West Virginia shouldn’t be taken lightly, but if the Cowboys — the preseason league favorite — struggle to put the Mountaineers away a week after they were shut out by Maryland.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 5 Game Power Rankings
All games Eastern, all games on Saturday unless noted.
1. Oklahoma at Notre Dame (3:30, NBC)
A rematch of a 30-13 Notre Dame win in Norman last season, this will be a key game for national perception. The Sooners are one of three teams well-positioned to make a run at the Big 12 title along with Oklahoma State and Baylor, but none are ranked in the AP top 10 (OU is ranked 14th). This will be Oklahoma’s first game against a ranked team and potentially the Sooners’ only one until at least Oct. 26 against Texas Tech. New Oklahoma starting quarterback Blake Bell flourished against Tulsa two weeks ago, but this will be his first extended action on the road.
2. Oklahoma State at West Virginia (noon, ESPN)
This matchup between Mike Gundy and Dana Holgorsen couldn’t be much more different from the last time Holgorsen was on the Oklahoma State staff in 2010. That season, Oklahoma State is a little more balanced than in 2010, taking advantage of quarterback J.W. Walsh’s running ability. West Virginia, though, may have the worst offense of any team Dana Holgorsen has coached at the FBS level. Quarterback Ford Childress struggled in a shutout to Maryland last week, completing only 11 of 22 passes with two interceptions.
3. SMU at TCU (noon, Fox Sports 1)
The Horned Frogs return from an off week after an uninspiring offensive performance against Texas Tech. A return to Fort Worth against SMU would be a good opportunity for running backs B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to continue to show they can establish the run. TCU topped 200 yards against Texas Tech but finished 3 of 16 on third downs. Against the pass-oriented SMU offense, cornerback Jason Verrett could have another chance to shine. Verrett held Texas Tech’s Eric Ward to without a catch, but the Mustangs’ receiver group has been much more balanced.
4. Iowa State at Tulsa (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Iowa State will face Tulsa for the second time in four games going back to the Golden Hurricane’s 31-17 win in the Liberty Bowl. With narrow losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa, the Cyclones look like they’re going to have trouble picking up wins this season as the conference schedule begins next week against Texas. This will be a key game for momentum.
Big 12 Week 5 Pivotal Players
Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
The Sooners’ center will reunite with Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who got the better of Ikard last season. Ikard may be one of the Big 12’s best linemen, but the OU veteran called Nix one of the best in the country in controlling the line of scrimmage. The Sooners rushed for only 15 yards on 23 carries in last season’s game.
Oklahoma’s defensive line
Michigan State proved what defensive line pressure could do to the Notre Dame passing game. Against the Spartans, Notre Dame set season lows in passing yards (142), yards per passing attempt (4.2) and completion percentage (41.2). The Sooners have faced three spread teams so far this season, utilizing a three-man front. OU may try more four-man looks in this game, but either way, this could put Mike Stoops’ improved defense to the test.
West Virginia’s ball carriers
The Mountaineers have lost eight fumbles this season. Only Idaho has lost more this season. There’s no easy answer for West Virginia as seven different players have accounted for the eight lost fumbles. Moreover, West Virginia has thrown four interceptions. With eight takeaways, the Mountaineers have a minus-four turnover margin. Running back Dreamius Smith is the only regular skill position player without a fumble lost this season.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
The Horned Frogs need to have a balanced offense to thrive in the Big 12, but SMU is a team that can be defeated in the passing game. The Mustangs have allowed six touchdown passes to one interception and 7.8 yards per pass this season, but two of those games were against Texas Tech and Texas A&M. TCU is the only team in the Big 12 without a play from 40 yards this season. If Boykin and the Frogs can’t break a big play against SMU, then which opponent could they do it to?
Tom Farniok, Iowa State
The veteran is one of the best centers in the Big 12. The hope is that he’ll jumpstart a running game that has averaged 3.3 yards per carry with no touchdowns. Tulsa’s run defense isn’t much better, allowing 605 yards in three games against Bowling Green, Colorado State and Oklahoma.
Off: Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Texas Tech
Big 12 Week 5 Predictions
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Iowa St. (+2.5) at Tulsa||Tulsa 28-21||ISU 28-24||ISU 27-24||ISU 28-20|
|OK State (-19) at West Va.||OSU 35-14||OSU 31-13||OSU 38-17||OSU 34-14|
|SMU (+19.5) at TCU||TCU 24-14||TCU 27-14||TCU 30-20||TCU 31-21|
|Okla. (-3.5) at Notre Dame||OU 31-21||OU 24-20||OU 27-24||OU 28-27|
There are two non-conference games left on the Pac-12 schedule. Notre Dame will face Arizona State next week and Stanford in the season finale. But otherwise, starting this weekend, every game out West will carry major Pac-12 championship implication.
The North Division will host four of the five Pac-12 contests this weekend while a massive South Division game in Tempe could eliminate one team from the race before the calendar even flips to October.
Pac-12 Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. USC (+6) at Arizona State (10:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Win or go home. That is what is at stake in Sun Devil Stadium this weekend when USC comes to town as neither team can afford to start the season in an 0-2 conference hole. The Trojans boast one of the nation’s elite defenses as it leads the Pac-12 in total defense (230.5 ypg), rushing defense (59.3 ypg), red zone defense (40.0 percent), sacks (16.0) and tackles for a loss (38.0). This means Taylor Kelly, who was sacked three times last week, has to get his offense into quality situations before the snap. His offense has struggled to run the ball, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry on the season (110 att., 324 yards), and it will have to prove it can control the line of scrimmage to get the win. USC has won 12 of the last 13 meetings with ASU’s lone win coming the last time these two played in the desert in 2011. Being at home should be a huge help but the Devils have to play much better on offense to avoid the upset.
2. Arizona (+10) at Washington (7 p.m., FOX)
A sneaky good matchup of undefeateds will give one team a perfect slate in September with the other starting league play with a loss. The offensive skill talent should be on full display as the Huskies' Bishop Sankey and Wildcats' Ka’Deem Carey should star in the backfield for each team. Washington gets a huge advantage under center as Keith Price finally appears to be delivering on his big-time upside while B.J. Denker makes just his fifth career start. A key battle to watch will come on third down. Washington’s offense is third nationally on the critical down while Arizona is allowing opponents to convert a paltry 32 percent (16-of-50). Washington is at home and is looking for revenge after the 52-17 drubbing it took at the hands of Rich Rodriguez last season.
3. Stanford (+10) at Washington State (10 p.m., ESPN, Seattle)
The Cardinal made a big statement at home last weekend against Arizona State and a letdown alert may be in effect for the trip North to Seattle. Despite rushing for minus-18 yards and being sacked 10 times against Stanford last year, the Cougars managed to keep the game tight until the end. The Cardinal allowed 403 yards through the air in that game and will be without All-American safety Ed Reynolds for the first half after being ejected for a targeting penalty last weekend. Kevin Hogan, who entered the starting lineup the week after the WSU game last year, needs to have his team prepared from the opening kickoff or Mike Leach’s squad will put a scare into the No. 5-ranked team in the nation.
4. Colorado (+10.5) at Oregon State (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
This should be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend. With star power at wide receiver and two very capable quarterbacks running two prolific offensive systems, defense will be an afterthought in Corvallis. Sean Mannion and Connor Wood are two of the top four passers in the nation as both average more than 370 yards per game and each has an elite target in Brandin Cooks and Paul Richardson. The Beavers' defense has been putrid but has played some solid competition while the Buffaloes unit has been surprisingly stingy — against Colorado State and Central Arkansas. Someone has to make a stop in the fourth quarter, right?
5. Cal (+36.5) at Oregon (10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
In 2010, the closest game the Ducks played en route to the BCS National Championship game was a 15-13 nail-biter in Berkeley. Three years later, 28 points could be the over/under for each quarter between these two up-tempo offenses. Sonny Dykes’ offense is running 94.6 plays per game (No. 2 nationally) while the Ducks are running a measly 72.0 per game. Cal isn’t ready to compete at this level but fans in Eugene should get a long look at Cal’s budding star quarterback Jared Goff.
Pac-12 Week 5 Pivotal Players:
1. Arizona State’s offensive line
As Todd Graham well knows, the ASU offensive line hasn’t gotten much of a push this season. The Devils are averaging less than three yards per carry and have allowed six sacks in three games. Now they face Morgan Breslin, George Uko and Leonard Williams among others along a defensive line that is tops in the Pac-12 in sacks and tackles for a loss. This unit must play solid football for Arizona State to avoid the upset.
2. B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona
There is tons of star power on both offenses but Arizona’s chances at an upset in Husky Stadium hinges on Denker’s play. He has yet to throw an interception and has been excellent in the running game (39 att., 221 yards, 5 TD) in RichRod’s zone-read option attack. He has plenty of backfield support in the form of Ka’Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins, however, his ability to make plays in the air will be critical on the road. He has yet to reach 200 yards passing in a game and is completing just 56.4 percent of his passes on the year.
3. Tre Madden, RB, USC
The best way to help out a struggling passing attack is with a quality running game. And Madden has been just that for Lane Kiffin over the first four weeks. He has topped 100 yards in all but one game and has scored in each of the last two contests. His 90 carries are second only to Iowa’s Mark Weisman nationally and his 455 yards are eighth in the nation. Cody Kessler needs No. 23 to come up big on the road.
4. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Since the Beavers' defense doesn’t appear capable of stopping air, it once again will fall to Mannion and the offense to keep pace. Arguably the most underrated passer in the nation, no one in the country has completed as many passes (133) for as many yards (1,604) or touchdowns (15) as OSU's signal-caller. With the defense allowing 432 yards and more than 35 points per game, Mannion probably feels the need to score every time he steps on the field.
5. Devon Carrington, S, Stanford
Star safety Ed Reynolds will have to sit out the first half after being ejected from last weekend’s contest due a targeting penalty. So it falls to the senior reserve to step in and provide stability against one of the better passing attacks in the nation. Mike Leach’s team torched this group for 403 yards last year and is averaging 328.8 yards per game through air this season.
Pac-12 Week 5 Predictions:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|USC (+6) at Arizona St||Arizona St, 21-17||Arizona St, 27-20||Arizona St, 27-20||Arizona St, 21-14|
|Arizona (+10) at Washington||Wash., 38-20||Wash., 34-27||Wash., 38-27||Wash., 41-14|
|Stanford (-10) at Washington St||Stanford, 34-13||Stanford, 38-17||Stanford, 34-17||Stanford, 38-10|
|Colorado (+10.5) at Oregon St||Ore. St, 41-35||Ore. St, 37-21||Ore. St, 41-27||Ore. St, 41-35|
|Cal (+36.5) at Oregon||Oregon, 51-27||Oregon, 51-30||Oregon, 58-24||Oregon, 56-21|
Jim Delany knows what he’s doing.
Half of his conference won’t play football this weekend, including most of his highest profile programs. Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Indiana are all off this weekend and will be sitting at home focused on The Horseshoe like the rest of the nation.
With all due respect to a sneaky good Iowa-Minnesota contest, Delany wants no excuses as the entire conference is focused on what could be the biggest divisional game of the season for the Big Ten. All eyes nationally should be centered on Wisconsin at Ohio State Saturday night.
Big Ten Week 5 Game Power Rankings:
1. Wisconsin (+7) at Ohio State (8 p.m., ABC)
This is the biggest Leaders Division game of the year and could end up being the second biggest Big Ten game of the year (Ohio State at Michigan). Wisconsin’s defense has been a pleasant surprise through four games, ranking sixth nationally in total defense (243.3 ypg), fourth nationally in yards allowed per play (3.8 ypp) and 10th nationally in scoring defense (10.5 ppg). And Gary Andersen hasn’t changed the offense all that much — the Badgers already have had nine 100-yard games from their talented backfield trio. But facing the Buckeyes with Braxton Miller under center in Columbus is a totally different beast. Ohio State has owned UW of late, winning five of the last six overall and three straight in The Shoe. Even if Miller isn’t 100 percent, Kenny Guiton has proven to be not only capable of filling in, but extremely gifted in his own right. To pull the upset, Wisconsin’s front seven will have to play perfectly disciplined football and quarterback Joel Stave will have to complement the running game. Both of which would be considered unlikely on the road.
2. Iowa (+1.5) at Minnesota (3:30 p.m., ABC)
The Hawkeyes won just four games last year and just twice in the Big Ten, but one was a surprising 31-13 win over the Gophers. However, Iowa has lost its last two trips to the Twin Cities at the hands of two 3-9 Minnesota teams. Something has to give for two teams desperately trying to get to the postseason. Both teams feature dedicated and reinvigorated rushing attacks as both teams rank in the top 25 nationally at over 240 yards on the ground per game. So, as usual, the outcome hinges on quarterback play. Jake Rudock has had his good and bad moments for Iowa, failing to top 200 yards in three straight games but tossing four touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week Mitch Leidner — and his 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame — likely will get his second start of his career after a monster performance last week against San Jose State.
3. Northern Illinois (+3.5) at Purdue (Noon, BTN)
The Boilermakers have serious issues on offense, ranking last among BCS (automatic qualifying) conference teams and 123rd overall with just 246.0 yards per game. So for a team struggling to score points, stopping NIU’s star quarterback Jordan Lynch becomes imperative. The Huskies are averaging 516 yards per game and 6.4 yards per play on offense behind the dual-threat abilities of Lynch. After the Boilers allowed nearly 400 yards rushing last week to Wisconsin, signs aren’t pointing towards the upset. This would be a devastating Homecoming loss to the MAC for Darrell Hazell.
4. Miami-Ohio (+24.5) at Illinois (Noon, BTN)
A game with the winless Redhawks is a perfect spot for Illinois’ star power to shine. The Big Ten’s leading passer is quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (294.7 yards per game) and he should get back on track after completing just 36.0 percent of his passes in the loss to Washington. On defense, the league’s top tackler is linebacker Jonathan Brown (12.7 tackles per game) and he should be able to lead a unit capable of shutting down the worst offense in the FBS (149.3 yards per game, 125th).
Big Ten Week 5 Pivotal Players
1. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
The All-American linebacker has been making big plays for the Badgers for years but stopping the Buckeyes' versatile offensive attack might be his tallest order. He constantly disrupts opposing backfields and makes big special teams plays — he even completed a 23-yard pass on a fake punt against Arizona State. Borland has missed two of the last three meetings with Ohio State but he posted 10 tackles in the historic 2011 Hail Mary game. Fans can bet the original Honey Badger will be fired up for this trip to Columbus.
2. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The hard-hitting linebacker was all over the field for the Buckeyes last year against Wisconsin. He registered 12 tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble in last year’s win over the Badgers. He’s right back at it again this season, topping the team in tackles (30). It will fall to the explosive junior to stop the three-headed monster in Wisconsin's backfield.
3. Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
The lanky Badger signal-caller was excellent in the first two games of the year against lowly UMass and Tennessee Tech (6 total TD, 72.0 percent passing). But Stave hasn’t been nearly as sharp in the last two games, completing just 50 percent of his passes against Arizona State and failing to throw a TD against Purdue. Now, he wasn’t needed against the Boilermakers but will be needed in a hostile road environment. The Buckeyes' secondary is loaded with talent and fans can bet Urban Meyer will be loading up to stop the run. Stave’s ability to make clutch second-half throws on third downs will determine the outcome of this showdown.
4. Iowa’s linebackers
Regardless of who plays quarterback for Minnesota (all signs point to Mitch Leidner), the talented Hawkeye linebackers will be asked to play well on the road. Gopher signal-callers Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson have combined for 472 yards rushing and eight touchdowns this season. Anthony Hitchens (9.3 tackles per game), Christian Kirksey (7.5) and James Morris (5.8) are all top-25 tacklers in the Big Ten and will be asked to contain the much-improved Gopher running game.
5. Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
The star defensive lineman has been stellar for the Gophers this season. In four games, Hageman has 16 total tackles, is leading the Big Ten with 5.5 for a loss, registered one sack, and has two blocked kicks. He had an extremely quiet game against the Hawkeyes last fall and will need to be ready to star against the burly and physical Iowa rushing attack.
Big Ten Week 5 Prediction Grid:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Wisconsin (+7) at Ohio St||Ohio St, 31-21||Ohio St, 34-24||Ohio St, 34-27||Ohio St, 35-28|
|Iowa (+1.5) at Minnesota||Minn., 31-27||Iowa, 24-20||Iowa, 27-24||Minn., 21-17|
|N. Illinois (-3.5) at Purdue||N. Illinois, 30-21||N. Illinois, 33-24||N. Illinois, 34-24||N. Illinois, 28-24|
|Miami-OH (+24.5) at Illinois||Illinois, 34-17||Illinois, 41-10||Illinois, 38-13||Illinois, 35-10|
In the Week 5 episode of the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast, co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox take a quick jog around the developments of a deceptively interesting Week 4 while taking a look at key games for Week 5.
In this week’s podcast:
• We quickly run down a few headlines from Week 4: Why Georgia Tech could wrap up its division in the ACC in short order, why or why not Tyler Murphy might be the answer at QB for Florida and how leigitimate is Derek Carr's Heisman candidacy.
• After some disagreement on how good Arizona State is, we look at the upcoming game between the Sun Devils and USC. Todd Graham and Co. need to win this one or we'll lose confidence.
• We don't know what to make of either Oklahoma or Notre Dame. OU's defense has impressed, but the Sooners haven't played a marquee game. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has not fully rebounded from a Michigan loss two weeks ago.
• This week's marquee matchup in the SEC will be in Athens when Georgia hosts LSU. The Tigers have been impressive on both sides of the ball, but this will be a "show-me" moment on the road for Zach Mettenberger and the defense.
• In this week's rapid fire, we ask who is the top quarterback in the state of Utah (yes, that's a thing), surprise 4-0 teams and who is a better Heisman dark horse between Derek Carr and Melvin Gordon.
The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.
Thanks to Moon Taxi for sharing their tunes for bumper music. Their new album Mountains Beaches Cities is now available.
Kenny Guiton has been nearly flawless in relief of Braxton Miller, throwing for 10 touchdowns and 491 yards in Ohio State’s last two games.
Although Guiton has been excellent, there’s no quarterback controversy at Ohio State. Miller suffered a MCL injury against San Diego State and has missed the last two games. However, the junior is expected to play this Saturday against Wisconsin and will reclaim the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Prior to his injury, Miller was one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Although Miller will return to the starting role, Guiton’s performance should give Ohio State plenty of confidence should its starting quarterback suffer another injury the rest of the year. And who knows, maybe coach Urban Meyer can find a way to get them both on the field at the same time.
Meyer said if Braxton Miller has a good week of practice he will start Saturday night vs. Wisconsin.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) September 23, 2013
Catching up on everything that happened in Week 4 and an early look at Week 5.
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Monday, September 23rd
LSU has joined the SEC's offensive show.
Saturday Down South takes a look at some of the key developments in the SEC in Week 4.
Sad news out of Cincinnati: One player was killed and two others were injured in a car accident on Saturday night.
Bruce Feldman rounds out the weekend with some insight on Week 4, as well as a look at why Baylor's offense is so difficult to defend.
Another Week 4 recap: SB Nation's Matt Hinton takes a look at some stats to know.
Washington running back Bishop Sankey is fine after suffering a shoulder injury against Idaho State.
Two players on Syracuse's defense suffered injuries against Tulane.
Hawaii won't replace the canceled Fresno State game on Colorado's schedule.
Is James Conner set to be Pittsburgh's No. 1 running back the rest of the year?
Even when Taylor Martinez expires his eligibility, it appears Nebraska is in good shape at the quarterback position.
Injuries will play a role in Mack Brown's future at Texas.
Arian Foster tells Sports Illustrated he took money on the side at Tennessee.
BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley has been suspended five games for violating the school's honor code. But there's an interesting twist to how Hadley was suspended.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin is dealing with a disgruntled running back.
* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward. You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.
LSU and Florida both recorded solid wins in league play, but neither team made a move in the post-week 4 SEC Power Poll. Missouri, which looked good in its win at Indiana, jumped from No. 12 to No. 9.
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
|1||1||Alabama (3-0, 1-0): It might not have been the thorough beating that most Alabama fans expected, but the Crimson Tide topped Colorado State 31-6 in their 2013 home opener. Bama pulled away in the fourth quarter, scoring first on a 30-yard pass from AJ McCarron to DeAndrew White and then, with 2:05 remaining, on a 14-yard toss from back-up Blake Sims to Chris Black. Alabama’s offensive numbers — 341 total yards — don’t look good at first glance, but keep in mind the Tide only had 48 offensive snaps. They averaged 7.1 yards per play. Next Week: Ole Miss|
|2||2||Georgia (2-1, 1-0): Georgia found itself in an unexpected battle with North Texas midway through the third quarter. But a 21-21 game became a 45-21 victory thanks to a dominating second half by the Bulldogs. Georgia outgained the Mean Green 641-to-245 due in large part to a big day from quarterback Aaron Murray. The fifth-year senior completed 22-of-30 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns — including a school-record 98-yarder to Reggie Davis in the second quarter. Todd Gurley rushed for a game-high 91 yards but was held to a rather ordinary 4.3-yard average. Next Week: LSU|
|3||3||LSU (4-0, 1-0): The Tigers continue to look like a legitimate SEC title contender. They ran their record to 4-0 with a solid 35-21 win over Auburn at a rainy Tiger Stadium. With tailback Jeremy Hill leading the way, LSU jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The game never got out of hand, but LSU was never seriously threatened either. Hill finished with 184 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, while quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 14-of-22 passes for 229 yards with one touchdowns and one interception (his first of the season). Next Week: at Georgia|
|4||4||Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1): The Aggies bounced back from their emotional loss to Alabama last week by disposing of former Southwest Conference rival SMU with ease. Johnny Manziel threw for 244 yards and added a game-high 102 yards on the ground en route to the 42-13 win. Aggie wideout Mike Evans only caught two passes, but they went for 57 yards, giving him 575 on the season (good for second in the nation). The A&M defense gave up 434 total yards, but SMU only scored one touchdown — early in the fourth quarter with the outcome already decided. Next Week: at Arkansas|
|5||5||South Carolina (2-1, 1-1): The Gamecocks enjoyed a week off before their trip to Orlando to play UCF, a team that beat Penn State in Week 2. South Carolina has won four straight non-conference road (or neutral site) regular-season games. Next Week: at UCF|
|6||6||Florida (2-1, 1-0): Florida overcame a series of injuries (and an ejection) to beat Tennessee for the ninth straight time. Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went out with a season-ending ankle injury in the first quarter, forcing the Gators to turn to untested junior Tyler Murphy. The Connecticut native responded with an outstanding performance, throwing for 134 yards and rushing for 84 to lead the surprisingly potent Florida attack. The Gator defense forced five turnovers and limited Tennessee to 220 total yards. Next Week: At Kentucky|
|7||7||Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0): The Rebels, off to their first 3-0 start since 1989, had the week off to prepare for their big trip to Tuscaloosa next week. Ole Miss has lost nine straight to Alabama and has not won at Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2004. Next Week: at Alabama.|
|8||8||Auburn (3-1, 1-1): The Tigers have made tremendous strides under first-year coach Gus Malzahn, but winning in Baton Rouge was too tall of an order. After falling behind 21-0 in the second quarter, Auburn kept things interesting but was never able to cut the lead to one score. Nick Marshall had some trouble in the passing game (17-of-33 with two INTs), but the Tigers ran the ball well. Tre Mason led the way with 132 yards and two scores on 26 carries, while Marshall added 46 yards and Cameron Artis-Payne chipped in with 41 yards. Next Week: Bye|
|9||12||Missouri (3-0, 0-0): Missouri played on the road for the first time this season, and the result was quite impressive. The Tigers feasted on a porous Indiana defense, rolling up 623 yards of offense in a 45-28 win in Bloomington. James Franklin threw for 343 yards, with two MU receivers topping the 100-yard mark — Dorial Green-Beckham (8 for 105) and Marcus Lucas (10 for 101). Russell Hansbrough led the Tigers’ rushing attack with 104 yards on 13 carries. Next Week: Arkansas State|
|10||9||Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-2): The Commodores were a bit sluggish on both sides of the ball but still picked up a non-conference road win by beating UMass 24-7 at Gillette Stadium. UMass had allowed an average of 331.3 rushing yards in its first three games, but Vanderbilt managed only 166 on 39 attempts. The Commodores were relatively productive threw the air — Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 18-of-27 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Senior Jonathan Krause caught six passes for 105 yards and one touchdown — the first receiving score of his career. Next Week: UAB|
|11||13||Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1): The opponent was far from elite, but Mississippi State was one of the more impressive SEC teams of the week. The Bulldogs pounded Troy 62-7, outgaining the Trojans 574 to 177. Dak Prescott, making his third career start, threw for 233 yards and rushed for 53 to lead the MSU attack. In State’s 35-point second quarter, Prescott threw three TD passes and also caught a 36-yard TD from Jameon Lewis. The Bulldogs’ defense limited Troy quarterback Corey Robinson, the NCAA’s active leader in passing yards, to 105 yards on 25 attempts. Next Week: Bye|
|12||10||Tennessee (2-2, 0-1): Butch Jones made a switch at quarterback, benching Justin Worley in favor of redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman. It didn’t work. Peterman, a native of Fruit Cove, Fla., committed three turnovers in the first half and was benched. Worley wasn’t much better in relief, completing only 10-of-23 passes and throwing two interceptions. The Vols had 220 yards of total offense en route their its ninth straight loss to Florida. Next Week: South Alabama|
|13||11||Arkansas (3-1, 0-0): Arkansas surged to a 24-7 lead at Rutgers on a Hunter Henry touchdown midway through the third quarter. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Razorbacks didn’t score again. Rutgers did, three more times — taking the lead for good with 6:01 remaining on a 4-yard toss from Gary Nova to Leonte Caroo. The Hogs’ tailback duo of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined to rush for 85 yards, 185 below their previous season average. Quarterback A.J. Derby, a former Iowa Hawkeye making his first start at Arkansas, completed 14-of-26 for 138 yards. Next Week: Texas A&M|
|14||14||Kentucky (1-2, 0-0): Kentucky had the week off to prepare for a grueling three-game stretch that includes home games against Florida and Alabama sandwiched around a trip to South Carolina. Next Week: Florida|
SEC Week 4 Recap and Awards
Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Hill, LSU
The Tigers prefer to rotate through a stable of talented running backs, but there was no need for that against Auburn. Hill rushed for 183 yards on 25 carries in a rain-soaked 35–21 win over Auburn. Hill’s output was the most for an LSU running back since Alley Broussard rushed for a school-record 250 yards against Ole Miss in 2004. For the season, the Baton Rouge native has rushed for 350 yards on an 8.3-yard average. He missed the opener against TCU due to a suspension.
Defensive Player of the Week: Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
Fowler was a key cog on a Florida defense that limited Tennessee to 220 yards in a 31-7 Gator win in Gainesville. A sophomore “Buck” — a hybrid defense end/linebacker — Fowler recorded three tackles for a loss (including one sack) and forced two fumbles (recovering one). The Florida defense forced six turnovers and allowed only once touchdown.
Team of the Week: Florida
In a light week in the SEC, Florida made the biggest statement by proving it can win without its starting quarterback. Junior Jeff Driskel went down with a broken leg in the first quarter, forcing the Gators to turn to untested Tyler Murphy, a Connecticut native who had not thrown a pass in his three-plus years in Gainesville. Murphy, to everyone’s surprise, came off the bench and sparked what had been a stagnant Gator attack, throwing for 134 yards and rushing for 84 to lead Florida to a 31-17 win over Tennessee. With Driskel out for the season, Murphy must now prove he is not a one-hit wonder.
Coordinator of the Week: Josh Henson, Missouri
Missouri will not be the only team to post gaudy stats against Indiana this season, but Henson and the Tigers’ offense deserve credit for an outstanding performance in a 45-28 win in Bloomington. Mizzou rolled 623 yards of offense on 97 plays on its way to its third win of the season. The Tigers had a 300-yard passer (James Franklin), a 100-yard rusher (Russell Hansbrough) and two 100-yard receivers (Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas).
Freshman of the Week: Reggie Davis, Georgia
Davis only caught two passes, but he is now in the Georgia record book for having the longest reception in school history. Aaron Murray connected with the true freshman on a 98-yard scoring strike on the first play of the second quarter in the Bulldogs’ 45-21 win over North Texas. Davis also caught a 36-yard pass, giving him 134 yards on two receptions in only the second game of his career.
• Mississippi State scored five offensive touchdowns in the second quarter of a dominating 62-7 win over Troy. Four of the Bulldogs’ five second-quarter scoring drives went for at least 61 yards. Mississippi State did not punt in the game.
• Vanderbilt allowed UMass to complete 20-of-28 passes, but none of the Minutemen’s completions went for more than 10 yards. Vanderbilt beat UMass 24-7.
• Auburn lost for the first time of the Gus Malzahn era, but the Tigers’ offense enjoyed some success against LSU in Baton Rouge. Auburn had 437 yards of offense, with standout performances from running back Tre Mason (26 carries, 132 yards, 2 TDs) and wide receiver Sammie Coates (4 catches, 139 yards). The Tigers are averaging 439.5 yards of offense but have scored no more than 24 points in their two SEC games.
• T.J. Yeldon averaged 7.0 yards on his seven carries on Saturday, but Alabama’s four other tailbacks struggled in the Tide’s 31-6 win over Colorado State. Jalston Fowler, Altee Tenpenny, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake combined for only 24 yards on 11 carries. For the game, Alabama averaged 3.1 yards per carry (including two sacks). Colorado State had been allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
• Arkansas had only 283 yards in its xx loss at Rutgers. It was the first time the Razorbacks had less than 300 yards in a non-conference game since the 2010 Liberty Bowl, when they had 283 in a 20-17 overtime win over East Carolina.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.
Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
297-14: Combined scores from Miami, Louisville, Baylor and Ohio State
The Buckeyes (76), Hurricanes (77), Bears (70) and Cardinals (72) each scored at least 70 points while both Ohio State and Louisville had shutouts on defense. Baylor was the only team, however, to do all of this against semi-legitimate competition. With all due respect to Savannah State, FIU and Florida A&M aren't in the same category as Louisiana-Monroe and Kolton Browning.
1930: Last time a team scored at least 60 points in its first 3 games
Baylor is leading the nation in total offense at 751.3 yards per game — nearly 80 yards more than No. 2 Oregon. Baylor leads the nation in yards per play at nearly 10 yards per snap (9.8) — just ahead of Oregon. And it tops all FBS schools with an absurd 69.7 point per game scoring average — 8.4 more point per game than second-place Oregon. Art Briles' team became the first team since LSU in 1930 to score at least 60 points in each of its first three games. Oregon is great but Baylor might be the best offense in the nation. Lache Seastrunk's nation-leading seventh consecutive 100-yard effort is almost an afterthought for the Bears.
18.9%: Florida's nation-leading third down defense
The Gators might have the best defense in the nation when all players are healthy. While other schools like Michigan State, USC or Stanford might argue who's the best, no one can argue which team is best at getting off the field. Florida leads the nation in third-down defense, having allowed just seven conversions in 37 attempts (18.9-percent). They forced six turnovers against Tennessee and now rank No. 2 in the nation in total defense (212.3 ypg) after the win.
239-58: Georgia Tech's second-half yardage advantage over North Carolina
North Carolina, behind a fast start from Bryn Renner, took an early 20-7 lead over Georgia Tech in Atlanta early on Saturday. But Paul Johnson made adjustments at half-time and watched his team completely dominate the second half against the Tar Heels. North Carolina ran 18 plays on four possessions for 58 total yards with three punts and an interception. Tech, on the other hand, ran 43 plays for 239 yards on five possessions, scoring twice to win the pivotal Coastal Division swing game in come from behind fashion.
0-1: SEC record at High Point Solutions Stadium
The SEC has never won a football game in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers opened High Point Solutions Statdium in 1994 and were No. 2 in Big East attendance last season, despite being the sixth-biggest venue in the league this fall. And no SEC had ever stepped foot on its field, much less won a game there until Arkansas visited the Scarlet Knights this weekend. Bret Bielema's Hogs controlled the game without starting quarterback Brandon Allen for the first 43 minutes. But Gary Nova, aided by a few big special teams plays by Janarion Grant, led a furious 21-point comeback over the final 17 minutes to give Rutgers the improbable win. It may be another 19 years before another SEC team returns to High Point.
0:00: Time Duke led despite scoring 55 points
Duke scored more point on Saturday than ever before in school history by hanging 55 on the Pitt Panthers defense. The only problem was the Blue Devils, despite scoring eight touchdowns and churning out 532 yards of offense, never actually had a lead against Pittsburgh. Paul Chryst's Pitt offense scored early and often, totaling 58 points and 598 yards of its own. Quarterback Tom Savage connected with emerging star freshman wide receiver Tyler Boyd for three touchdowns and 154 yards. Savage tied an ACC record with six passing touchdowns on the day.
35.1: Taysom Hill's completion percentage in 2013
The talented and athletic Hill has started three games for the BYU Cougars and has yet to complete more than 37.5 percent of his passes in any game. That was his rate this weekend in an upset loss at home to rival Utah (18-of-18). He has thrown 74 incomplete passes and just 40 completions for the season with one passing touchdown and three interceptions in two losses and one win.
18: Combined penalties in the Notre Dame-Michigan State game
The referees had a rough day in East Lansing on Saturday, calling 18 penalties for a combined 201 yards. The Spartans were charged 10 times for 115 yards, including multiple pass interference calls that kept Irish drives alive time and time again. Notre Dame was called for eight penalties and 86 yards. The Irish got a key victory despite mustering just 220 yards of total offense against the nation's No. 1 defense.
Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's foremost college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five, and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, and so on. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.
Oregon's Marcus Mariota was off last weekend but was still able to hold on to his slim lead in the Athlon Heisman voting. Johnny Manziel, however, is closing the gap after yet another typical Johnny Heisman performance — albeit, against a lowly SMU defense. The big three still sit well above the rest of the nation when it comes to college football's most prestigious award.
Post-Week 4 Voting Results:
|2.||(3)||Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||49||4||5||3||-||-|
|8t.||(8)||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida St||3||-||-||-||1||1|
|10t.||(9)||Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina||2||-||-||-||-||2|
|10t.||(10)||Chuckie Keeton||QB||Utah St||2||-||-||-||1||-|
Tajh Slipping? Boyd dropped behind Manziel this week and I’m not sure why. Boyd played near flawless football on the road in a hostile environment with little support from his offensive line. He threw for 244 yards, ran the ball 13 times and scored three touchdowns without a turnover in a win over NC State. And yet, the voters weren’t impressed. Manziel threw for exactly 244 yards, ran the ball 12 times and scored three touchdowns. The big differences were Manziel threw an interception, rushed for more yards but did so at home against lowly SMU. It seems as if voters are already forgetting Boyd’s performance against Georgia and that the Aggies have already lost.
Running Backs Join the Party. Melvin Gordon has been arguably the best back in the nation. He leads the country with 156.0 yards per game, is averaging 11.8 yards per attempt and is No. 2 with seven rushing touchdowns. Jeremy Hill, fresh off his 183-yard, 3-TD performance against Auburn at home also joined the voting this week. Both are tremendously talented and both are deserving of being mentioned with Todd Gurley as the best in the nation.
Nobody Drops Out. There are a few new faces on the list — Gordon and Hill — but no one dropped out of the Heisman voting this week as the list grew by two. On a weekend with a fairly week slate of games, little movement was to be expected.
Week 5. This will be a huge weekend for the Heisman race. AJ McCarron could make another big statement over Ole Miss at home. Hill and Gurley will go head-to-head in Athens. Gordon will visit Columbus with the potential return of Braxton Miller highlighting the massive Leaders Division game. Chuckie Keeton has a showdown with David Fales and San Jose State. And Manziel, Jameis Winston and Jadeveon Clowney have interesting road tests. Buckle up because this could be the best weekend of action to date.
Others to Watch. Derek Carr of Fresno State could go unbeaten this year so check him out late Saturday night in Hawaii if you get a chance. Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson of Miami will go for the second leg of The Sunshine State sweep this weekend at USF. Oklahoma’s Blake Bell could join the Heisman mix with a huge performance on the road against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
The Voting Panel (click name for twitter accounts):
|Tom Dienhart||Big Ten Network||BigTenNetwork.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Bryan Fischer||Pac-12 Network||Pac-12.com||Johnny Manziel|
|David Fox||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Johnny Manziel|
|Braden Gall||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Godfrey||SB Nation||SBNation.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Chris Huston||Heisman Pundit||HeismanPundit.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Steven Lassan||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Chris Level||Red Raider Sports||RedRaiderSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Mitch Light||Athlon Sports||AthlonSports.com||Tajh Boyd|
|Billy Liucci||TexAgs||TexAgs.com||Johnny Manziel|
|Dan Rubenstein||SB Nation/Solid Verbal||SolidVerbal.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Josh Ward||Mr. SEC/WNML||MrSEC.com||Marcus Mariota|
|Jim Young||ACC Sports Journal||ACCSports.com||Johnny Manziel|
Week 4 is almost here...
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, September 18th
Would Oregon beat Alabama this year? Check out the answer to that topic and more in Sporting News' weekly exit poll column.
Mr. SEC takes a look at the speed of the offenses in the SEC this year. And here's another interesting stat article on the takeaways per defensive snaps.
Two Alabama starters could sit out Saturday's game against Colorado State.
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer is dealing with hay fever.
Saturday Down South takes a look at a few SEC players off to a slow start this year.
Bill Connelly of SB Nation has a good preview of Thursday night's game between Clemson and NC State.
Florida is expected to get offensive lineman Jon Halapio back in the lineup against Tennessee.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King got a good look at Stanford's offense against Army (plenty of good insight there).
Despite the 1-2 start, Texas coach Mack Brown is remaining positive.
The status of Arkansas' quarterback Brandon Allen is uncertain this Saturday.
Quarterback Michael Brewer is close to returning for Texas Tech.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is confident in Connor Cook as the starting quarterback.
Here are three things we've learned about Arizona so far this year. And a few things about Kentucky.
This might be the most bizarre story of the season so far.