Articles By Mitch Light
College football’s fifth weekend of action is highlighted Texas' trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State, Ohio State's battle with Michigan State and West Virginia's first Big 12 game vs. Baylor. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 110 Hawaii at No. 55 BYU
Norm Chow, the noted offensive guru, is off to a rocky start in his first season as a head coach. The Warriors lost last week at home to Nevada 69–24 to drop to 1–2. The offense is ranked 102nd in the nation, and the defense has given up a total of 118 points in two games vs. FBS foes.
No. 75 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama
In its only game vs. a quality opponent (Texas in Oxford), Ole Miss gave up 350 yards on the ground. That’s an alarming number for a team that is preparing to visit Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide.
Towson at No. 2 LSU
Towson made the most dramatic improvement in the Division I ranks last season, improving from 1–10 in 2010 to 9–3 in ’11.
No. 3 Oregon at No. 100 Washington State
Maybe we expected too much too soon out of Mike Leach at Washington State, but the Cougars have been a disappointment in 2012. The record is a respectable 2–2, but they only beat Eastern Washington by four and UNLV by eight and lost last week at home to Colorado.
No. 42 Tennessee at No. 4 Georgia
This is the eighth time in the Derek Dooley era that Tennessee has been an underdog of 13 points or more. That happened only three times in the 13 seasons prior to Dooley’s arrival.
No. 5 Florida State at No. 57 South Florida
Florida State announced itself as a legitimate national title contender with a 49–37 win over Clemson Saturday night. Now it’s time for the Seminoles to show they can handle prosperity against a South Florida team that lost last week at Ball State.
Florida State 31-13
No. 7 South Carolina at No. 81 Kentucky
We all remember the Saturday night in Lexington two years ago when Kentucky stormed back from a 28–10 deficit in the third quarter to steal a 31–28 victory from South Carolina, ranked No. 10 at the time. That, however, is the only time the Gamecocks have lost to Kentucky since the turn of the century. Carolina has won 11 of the past 12 vs. the Wildcats, highlighted by last season’s 54–3 beatdown in Columbia.
South Carolina 27-6
No. 8 Texas at No. 26 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has sandwiched lopsided wins vs. inferior opponents (Savannah State and UL Lafayette) around a 59–38 loss at Arizona. The Pokes are allowing 438.5 yards per game vs. FBS foes. Look for the outstanding Texas defensive line to make life difficult for the Oklahoma State quarterback — either true freshman Wes Lunt (if healthy) or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh.
No. 11 Ohio State at No. 21 Michigan State
Ohio State has struggled on defense the past two weeks, giving up 512 and 403 yards to California and UAB, respectively. The major issue has been stopping the pass; the Bucks currently rank 104th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards per game. Good thing for Ohio State that Michigan State has so much trouble with the forward pass.
Ohio State 17-13
No. 38 Baylor at No. 12 West Virginia
West Virginia is putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game: Quarterback Geno Smith ranks second nationally in total offense, and WVU has two players (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) ranked among the top 10 nationally in receiving yards per game. This is an underrated matchup on a rather ordinary slate of games.
West Virginia 44-34
No. 17 Clemson at No. 74 Boston College
Clemson scored 37 points and gained 426 yards of offense on the road yet still lost by 12 points to Florida State. That’s what happens when your defense allows the opposition to average 8.9 yards per snap. That won’t happen this week.
No. 17 TCU at No. 93 SMU
Here’s an incredible stat (first pointed out by Athlon colleague David Fox): SMU ranks last in the nation in total defense even though the Mustangs did not allow a point in one of its three games. That’s right, SMU is allowing 556.7 yards and 35.7 points per game despite shutting out Stephen F. Austin 52–0 two weeks ago.
No. 19 Louisville at No. 96 Southern Miss
These two former C-USA rivals are a combined 4–3. Louisville is 4–0. Southern Miss is 0–3. The Golden Eagles have been brutal on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Ellis Johnson. They rank 115th in the nation in total offense and 104th in total defense.
No. 20 Oregon State at No. 25 Arizona
Expectations were low at Oregon State this season. So naturally, Mike Riley has the Beavers off to a 2–0 start that includes wins against Wisconsin and UCLA. ). Arizona suffered its first defeat of the Rich Rodriguez era on Saturday night, a humbling 49–0 shutout at Oregon. The Wildcats hung around into the second half — they only trailed 13–0 midway through the third — but gave up five touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game.
Oregon State 23-17
No. 23 UCLA at No. 99 Colorado
Colorado is back in double-digits in the Athlon Sports 124 after its surprising win at Washington State last Saturday. The Buffaloes had played as poorly as any team in the nation in the first three weeks of the season but somehow found a way to win in Pullman. The winning ways won’t continue.
No. 47 Wisconsin at No. 24 Nebraska
We still don’t know much about Nebraska. The Huskers have defeated three overmatched teams in Lincoln and lost to UCLA in their only game vs. a school from an AQ conference. Even against this soft schedule, Nebraska is having trouble stopping the run. The Huskers have given up 185 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, 355 to UCLA and 148 to Arkansas State. Wisconsin hasn’t been productive on the ground to date, but this is a team that is still capable of running the ball well (we think).
No. 28 Boise State at No. 109 New Mexico
Boise State has been held without an offensive touchdown in two of its three games yet is still 2–1 after beating BYU 7–6 last Thursday night. New Mexcio is showing signs of life under first-year coach Bob Davie; the Lobos ended an annoying three-year losing streak to rival New Mexico State with a 27–14 win in Las Cruces last week. I’m sure Walter White was pleased.
Boise State 27-10
No. 60 Arkansas at No. 30 Texas A&M
There are so many words we can use to describe Arkansas’ season to date — debacle, train wreck, dumpster fire, nightmare, etc. One word that can’t be used? Success. Virtually nothing has gone right for the Razorbacks. They are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, and all three losses have come in the state of Arkansas. Now, John L. Smith takes his show on the road.
Texas A&M 41-20
No. 98 Indiana at No. 31 Northwestern
Northwestern is one of only 15 teams in the nation with a 4–0 record. Three of those wins have come against teams from an AQ conference — Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Indiana, meanwhile, has one win vs. an FBS team dating back to the beginning of the 2011 season. That win came in Week 2 against a UMass team that is in its first year in the FBS.
No. 32 Nevada at No. 106 Texas State
Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson leads the nation in rushing attempts (122), rushing yards (697) and rushing touchdowns (11). He should run wild this week in San Marcos.
No. 33 Missouri at No. 62 UCF
Missouri finds itself as a three-point underdog on the road to a UCF team that only beat FIU by 13 points last week. The Tigers will be eager to prove that the wrong team is favored.
No. 34 Arizona State at No. 49 California
Unless Zach Maynard, the starting quarterback at Cal, goes down with an injury in the next few days, Arizona State will be facing a team’s No. 1 quarterback for the first time since opening day (vs. Northern Arizona). The Sun Devils played Illinois without Nathan Scheelhaase, Missouri without James Franklin and Utah without Jordan Wynn (who retired from football the week before).
No. 44 Cincinnati vs. No. 35 Virginia Tech (Landover, Md.)
It’s tempting to compare these teams’ common opponent (Cincinnati beat Pitt by 24 points and Pitt beat Virginia Tech by 18 points), but applying the transitive property in college football can be dangerous.
Virginia Tech 27-24
No. 43 NC State at No. 36 Miami (Fla.)
The first thing that comes to mind about Miami football in 2012 is the Canes’ no-show in a 52–13 loss at Kansas State in Week 2. But that’s far from the complete story. Al Golden’s team is 3–1 overall and 2–0 in the ACC with both wins coming on the road. The Canes showed tremendous resolve at Georgia Tech last weekend, rallying from a 36–19 deficit in the second half to defeat the Yellow Jackets in overtime.
No. 118 Middle Tennessee at No. 37 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is averaging 42.0 points per game but only has a 2–2 record to show for it — thanks to overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami. The Yellow Jackets led Miami last week 36–19 in the second half but surrendered the final 23 points of the game.
Georgia Tech 48-10
No. 52 Texas Tech at No. 39 Iowa State
Keep in mind that the schedule has been ridiculously soft — Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico — but Texas Tech currently ranks first in the nation in total defense (160.3 ypg). That won’t last, especially with Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas looming on the Red Raiders’ schedule.
Iowa State 27-23
No. 87 Marshall at No. 40 Purdue
Don’t be surprised if Purdue emerges as one of the better teams in the Big Ten (insert Big Ten joke here). The Boilermakers are 2–1, and their only lose was by three points at Notre Dame.
No. 41 Ohio at No. 124 UMass
Ohio is 4–0 and it’s hard to find a potential loss on the Bobcats’ schedule. UMass is 0-4, and it’s difficult to find a potential win on the Minutemen’s schedule.
No. 46 Louisiana Tech at No. 65 Virginia
Louisiana Tech is 3–0 and has scored over 50 points in all three games. Last week, the Bulldogs disposed of Illinois with surprising ease, beating the Illini 52-24 in Champaign. On a negative note, Tech’s leading rusher, Tevin King, is out for the year after tearing an ACL vs. Illinois.
Louisiana Tech 38-23
No. 101 UNLV at No. 48 Utah State
UNLV suffered a horrible loss in Week 2 (17–14 at home to Northern Arizona), but the Rebels have actually played relatively well in 2012. They have lost two games to AQ conference teams by a combined 11 points (by three to Minnesota in OT and by eight to Washington State), and last week they knocked off Air Force 38–35. Winning in Logan, however, is a tough chore.
Utah State 38-20
No. 50 Minnesota at No. 67 Iowa
It hasn’t exactly been the most difficult slate — and the wins haven’t exactly been dominating — but Minnesota is 4–0 for the first time since 2008. Iowa has played three games vs. AQ conference teams, and all three games have been decided by three points or less. The Hawkeyes beat Northern Illinois by one and lost to Iowa State by three and Central Michigan by one.
No. 51 ULM at No. 117 Tulane
After opening the 2012 season with three AQ conference teams — and playing quite well in all three — ULM heads to New Orleans to take on a struggling Tulane club. The Green Wave are 0–3 and are coming off a 39–0 loss at home to Ole Miss.
No. 53 Western Kentucky at No. 78 Arkansas State
This is a pivotal clash in the Sun Belt. There was no letdown for Western Kentucky last week after its big win at Kentucky. The Hilltoppers pounded Southern Miss 42–17 in Bowling Green to improve to 3–1. Arkansas State is 2–2 but has yet to play a team with comparable abilities. The Red Wolves were big favorites over Memphis and Alcorn State and decided underdogs vs. Oregon and Nebraska.
Western Kentucky 33-30
No. 56 Ball State at No. 104 Kent State
These are two improving programs with outstanding head coaches. Ball State, led by Pete Lembo, is 3–1 with the only loss coming at Clemson. The Cardinals have two wins over AQ conference teams, Indiana and South Florida. Kent State, under the direction of former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell is 2–1.
Ball State 33-20
No. 72 Duke at No. 58 Wake Forest
Duke, off to a 3–1 start, appears to be improved, but the Blue Devils have yet to record anything close to a quality win. Wake Forest is also 3–1, and it’s a strange 3–1. The Demon Deacons struggled with Liberty and Army and got blown out (52–0) at Florida State yet beat North Carolina. I smell upset.
No. 119 Idaho at No. 59 North Carolina
Idaho made a big move in our weekly rankings, climbing from No. 124 (last) all the way to No. 119. The reason? The Vandals lost in overtime to Wyoming.
North Carolina 41-6
No. 66 Penn State at No. 63 Illinois
Penn State is not a very good team, but the Nittany Lions would be 3–1 if they had a kicker who could make a chip-shot field goal. Illinois has been brutal on defense; the Illini have given up 45 points and 52 points in their two losses (at Arizona State and vs. Louisiana Tech).
No. 73 Toledo at No. 64 Western Michigan
This is a key early season showdown between two teams expectd to be in the hunt for the MAC West title. Western Michigan has played three games vs. AQ conference teams, losing to Illinois (24–7) and Minnesota (28–3) and beating UConn (30–24). Toledo lost in Week 1 in overtime at Arizona. These are two good teams.
Western Michigan 38, Toledo 34
No. 115 Buffalo at No. 68 UConn
As expected, UConn has been very good on defense and very average on offense. The Huskies are 2–2 after losing last week at Western Michigan — their second straight loss to the Broncos.
No. 69 Tulsa at No. 97 UAB
Tulsa had a nice win last week, rallying to beat a Fresno State team that had defeated Colorado 69–14 the week before. UAB is 0–3 against a tough schedule. This team isn’t awful.
No. 94 FIU at No. 76 UL Lafayette
The folks in Lafayette can’t be thrilled that their rivals from the Northeastern part of the state, the ULM Warhawks, have been getting so much national attention.
UL Lafayette 38-30
No. 88 San Diego State at No. 77 Fresno State
With the talent in the state of California, neither of these teams should be ranked so low in our national rankings. Fresno State lost some early season momentum by letting a 13-point first half lead slip away last week at Tulsa.
Fresno State 31-20
No. 95 Central Michigan at No. 79 Northern Illinois
Central Michigan is fresh off its best win of the Dan Enos era, a 32–31 victory at Iowa. Now, we’ll find out if the Chips have staying power. Northern Illinois lost by one point in Week 1 to that same Iowa team but has reeled off three straight since.
Northern Illinois 34-14
No. 85 UTEP at No. 80 East Carolina
East Carolina is struggling on offense without Dominique Davis taking snaps at quarterback. The Pirates rank 118th in the nation in scoring vs. FBS opponents, averaging 13.3 points in three games. The schedule has been tough (South Carolina, Southern Miss and North Carolina, all on the road), but ECU needs to increase its offensive production to be a factor in C-USA East.
East Carolina 21-20
No. 82 San Jose State at No. 89 Navy
San Jose State has won three straight after losing by three points to Stanford in Week 1. The Spartans have scored 38 points or more in all three wins. Navy picked up its first win of the season last week, taking out its early season frustrations on VMI in a 41–3 win. The Middies struggled to score points in their first two games, losses to Notre Dame (50–10) and Penn State (34–7). It will be a bad sign if Navy has trouble moving the ball this weekend.
San Jose State 24-17
No. 86 Troy at No. 121 South Alabama
Troy is 2–2 with two losses (vs. UL Lafayette and Mississippi State) by a combined nine points. The Trojans rolled up 572 yards in the loss to MSU. They should win this game with ease.
No. 107 Houston vs. No. 90 Rice
Houston has arguably been the most disappointing team in the nation. Yes, record-setting quarterback Case Keenum is gone, but the Cougars welcomed back 12 starters (including seven on defense) from a team that won 13 games last season. But the 2012 season, under the direction of first-year coach Tony Levine, has been a disaster. Houston has lost all three games, most notably a 30–13 decision at home in Week 1 to FBS upstart Texas State.
Rhode Island at No. 92 Bowling Green
Bowling Green looked sharp in a Week 1 loss at Florida but has not played well since. The Falcons struggled at home to beat a bad Idaho team and then lost at Toledo and Virginia Tech by a combined 64–15. Rhode Island is 0–3.
Bowling Green 38-6
No. 113 Colorado State at No. 102 Air Force
It’s an intrastate battle between two struggling programs. Colorado State has dropped three straight since beating Colorado in Week 1. Air Force played well at Michigan in Week 2 but lost to UNLV last weekend. Not good.
Air Force 34-20
Stony Brook at No. 103 Army
Army has scored 77 points in the past two weeks but has nothing to show for it. The Black Knights are 0–3 thanks in large part to a defense that is giving up 491.7 yards and 44.0 points per game.
No. 105 North Texas at No. 122 FAU
North Texas isn’t bad. The Mean Green are 1–3 but have played relatively well against a tough schedule. Florida Atlantic can catch its breath (to a degree) after playing Georgia and Alabama the past two weeks.
North Texas 30-13
No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 114 Akron
Akron is showing signs of improvement. The Zips, under the direction of Terry Bowden, lost at FIU in overtime in Week 2 and hung with Tennessee until the fourth quarter last weekend in Knoxville.
No. 120 Texas-San Antonio at No. 116 New Mexico State
New Mexico State dropped to 1–3 with a disappointing loss at home to rival New Mexico last week. The Aggies were gashed on the ground, giving up 302 yards on 54 carries. UTSA is 4–0 with wins against South Alabama, Texas A&M-Commerce, Georgia State and Northwestern Oklahoma. Not exactly a murderer’s row.
New Mexico State 27-24
Last week: 45-12
College football’s Week 5 action features a key showdown in the Big Ten, West Virginia’s first-ever Big 12 game and Texas’ trip to Stillwater to battle Oklahoma State.
10 Biggest Games of Week 5
Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State
After opening the Urban Meyer era with four straight wins at home — some closer than the natives would have liked — the Buckeyes make the short trip to East Lansing for the Big Ten opener for both schools. Ohio State has struggled on defense the past two weeks, giving up 512 and 403 yards to California and UAB, respectively. The major issue has been stopping the pass; the Bucks currently rank 104th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 277.3 yards per game. Good thing for Ohio State that Michigan State has so much trouble with the forward pass. Andrew Maxwell’s numbers aren’t horrible, but MSU ranks 108th as a team in passing efficiency and doesn’t really have many proven downfield threats. Le’Veon Bell has been the primary weapon for the Spartans’ offense, but he hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency. The junior has two games with over 200 yards and two games with under 100. Slowing down Bell will be the key for the Ohio State defense.
Ohio State 17, Michigan State 13
Baylor (+12.5) at West Virginia
Baylor is proving there is life after Robert Griffin III. The Bears improved to 3–0 with a 47–42 win at ULM last Friday night. Nick Florence, RG3’s backup the past three seasons, completed 25-of-39 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns, to lead Baylor past a solid ULM club that opened the season with an overtime win at Arkansas and an OT loss at Auburn. West Virginia, meanwhile, has cruised to a 3–0 start with home wins over Marshall, James Madison and Maryland. The Mountaineers are putting up gaudy numbers in the passing game: Quarterback Geno Smith ranks second nationally in total offense, and WVU has two players (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey) ranked among the top 10 nationally in receiving yards per game. This is an underrated matchup on a rather ordinary slate of games.
West Virginia 44, Baylor 34
Tennessee (+13) at Georgia
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected 48-3 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night. Aaron Murray has been spectacular at quarterback, and the Bulldogs are getting great production from true freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Tennessee is 3–1, but all is not well in the land of the Volunteers. Derek Dooley’s club struggled with Akron last weekend for the first three-plus quarters before pulling away late. The defense, under the tutelage of Nick Saban disciple Sal Sunseri, is making too many mistakes. A secondary that was exposed during the 37–20 loss to Florida two weeks ago will have a very difficult time against the balanced Georgia attack.
Georgia 38, Tennessee 17
Texas (-2.5) at Oklahoma State
Is Texas back? That has been a popular question early in the 2012 season. Our answer: We think. The Longhorns, as expected, have been very good on defense. The offense, specifically the passing attack, has been better than expected — though the competition hasn’t been great. Sophomore David Ash ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency thanks in large part to his 7-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio. Oklahoma State has sandwiched lopsided wins vs. inferior opponents (Savannah State and UL Lafayette) around a 59–38 loss at Arizona. The Pokes are allowing 438.5 yards per game vs. FBS foes. Look for the outstanding Texas defensive line to make life difficult for the Oklahoma State quarterback — either true freshman Wes Lunt (if healthy) or redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh.
Texas 31, Oklahoma State 17
Stanford (-6) at Washington (Thu)
This is an intriguing game between one program eager to prove it has staying power (Stanford) and one program attempting to climb the food chain in the Pac-12 (Washington). Stanford is 3–0 and has one of the best wins by team in college football this season, a 21–14 victory over USC in Week 2. Washington is 2–1 but played poorly in its only true test this season. The Huskies managed just 157 yards of offense in a 41–3 loss at LSU. The offense, which was a strength a year ago, has scored only 24 points in two games vs. FBS opponents. Junior Keith Price will have to be at his best to give Washington a chance to win.
Stanford 28, Washington 23
Arkansas (+13) at Texas A&M
There are so many words we can use to describe Arkansas’ season to date — debacle, train wreck, dumpster fire, nightmare, etc. One word that can’t be used? Success. Virtually nothing has gone right for the Razorbacks. They are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, and all three losses have come in the state of Arkansas. There are many culprits, but enemy No. 1 has to the pass defense. Saturday night, Rutgers sophomore Gary Nova threw for 398 yards — 99 more than his previous career high — and five touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ win in Fayetteville. This week, Arkansas’ challenge will be even greater as they leave the state for the first time this season. Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel has emerged as one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the nation. Manziel has rushed for 262 yards and five touchdowns and also thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in 86 attempts. This one could get ugly.
Texas A&M 41, Arkansas 20
Oregon State (+3) at Arizona
Expectations were low at Oregon State this season. So naturally, Mike Riley has the Beavers off to a 2–0 start that includes wins against Wisconsin and UCLA. The Beavers are getting it done by passing the football and playing outstanding defense. Sean Mannion, the strong-armed sophomore, has completed 53-of-82 passes for 655 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The defense, a weakness a year ago, held Wisconsin to seven points (the Badgers’ lowest total since October 2008) — and UCLA to 20 (20.7 below its average heading into the game). Arizona suffered its first defeat of the Rich Rodriguez era on Saturday night, a humbling 49–0 shutout at Oregon. The Wildcats hung around into the second half — they only trailed 13–0 midway through the third — but gave up five touchdowns in the final 22 minutes of the game. Matt Scott, who had played so well in his first three games under RichRod, completed only 50 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times.
Oregon State 23, Arizona 17
Wisconsin (+12) at Nebraska
Wisconsin has been one of the most disappointing teams in the nation through the early part of the season. Yes, the Badgers are 3–1, but they beat Northern Iowa by five, Utah State by two (when USU missed a 37-yard field goal in the final seconds) and UTEP by 11. But there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Wisconsin is 0–0 in the Big Ten and plays in a division (the Leaders) in which two teams are ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game. Bottom line: Wisconsin doesn’t need to be very good to reach the league title game; the Badgers just need to be better than Illinois and Purdue. We still don’t know much about Nebraska. The Huskers have defeated three overmatched teams in Lincoln and lost to UCLA in their only game vs. a school from an AQ conference. Even against this soft schedule, Nebraska is having trouble stopping the run. The Huskers have given up 185 yards on the ground to Southern Miss, 355 to UCLA and 148 to Arkansas State. Wisconsin hasn’t been productive on the ground to date, but this a team that is still capable of running the ball well (we think).
Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 20
Virginia Tech (-7) vs. Cincinnati (Landover, Md.)
We are four weeks into the college football season, yet Cincinnati has only played two games — and only one vs. an FBS opponent. The Bearcats did well in that one game, beating Pittsburgh 34¬–10, but this team is still a mystery. George Winn has stepped in for Isaiah Pead at tailback and has 242 yards in two games. Munchie Legaux has been a playmaker at quarterback (142 yards rushing, 413 yards passing), but he threw two interceptions against Delaware State two weeks ago. Virginia Tech bounced back from its troubling loss at Pittsburgh to beat a decent Bowling Green team 37–0 in Blacksburg. Logan Thomas wasn’t sharp at quarterback (he completed only 11-of-26 attempts), but the Hokies ran the ball well, with 246 yards on 43 carries. It’s tempting to compare these teams’ common opponent (Cincinnati beat Pitt by 24 points and Pitt beat Virginia Tech by 18 points), but applying the transitive property in college football can be dangerous.
Virginia Tech 27, Cincinnati 24
NC State (+2.5) at Miami (Fla.)
The first thing that comes to mind about Miami football in 2012 is the Canes’ no-show in a 52–13 loss at Kansas State in Week 2. But that’s far from the complete story. Al Golden’s team is 3–1 overall and 2–0 in the ACC with both wins coming on the road. The Canes showed tremendous resolve at Georgia Tech last weekend, rallying from a 36–19 deficit in the second half to defeat the Yellow Jackets in overtime. NC State has won three straight after opening the season with a 35–21 loss to Tennessee in Atlanta. The schedule, however, hasn’t been too taxing. The Wolfpack won at UConn, which is mildly impressive, before beating South Alabama and The Citadel with ease. Mike Glennon has looked good at times — he was brilliant for a stretch vs. Tennessee — but needs to play well on a consistent basis to give this team a chance at being relevant in the ACC Coastal race.
Miami (Fla.) 27, NC State 20
Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 27–13 overall (21–19 against the spread)
By Mitch Light
The SEC slate in Week 5 of the college football season is highlighted by the Arkansas-Texas A&M matchup in College Station and Tennessee’s trip to Georgia. On paper, neither game is expected to be too close — both home teams are favored by about two touchdowns, but these are still compelling matchups.
Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions
SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:
1. Can James Franklin get it going on the ground
James Franklin emerged as one of the top young quarterbacks in the nation last season because of his ability to hurt defenses with his arm and his legs. In his first season as the starter, Franklin threw for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 981 yards and 15 scores on the ground. Nationally, only four quarterbacks rushed for more yards than Franklin in 2011. This year, however, the running element has been missing from his game. He has netted only 70 yards and has failed to rush for a touchdown in three games. Part of this can be blamed on his lingering shoulder injury (though he has 35 rushing attempts in his two games vs. FBS competition) and part can be attributed to the quality of competition he has faced. Franklin picked up 39 yards on six carries in the opener against Southeastern Louisiana but gained a combined 31 yards on 35 carries in SEC games vs. Georgia and South Carolina, two of the elite defensive teams in the nation. Both the Bulldogs and Gamecocks were able to get pressure on Franklin without blitzing too often, which allowed the defenses to drop seven players in coverage, and thus limited Franklin’s ability to find openings in the secondary when he was flushed out of the pocket. The question moving forward: Will he enjoy success running the ball against teams not named Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama? The next two games will serve as a barometer. The Tigers head to UCF this week and then host Vanderbilt on Oct. 6.
2. Can Knile Davis return to form?
You might not have noticed — because there are so many other problems with the Arkansas football program — but Knile Davis has been alarmingly unproductive in 2012. A first-team All-SEC back in 2010, Davis missed the entire ’11 season due to an ankle injury. But he was declared 100 percent healthy over the summer and was expected to be a key cog in the Razorbacks’ attack. Hasn’t happened. In four games, Davis has rushed for 208 yards on 64 carries for an average of only 3.3 yards per carry. There are 26 players in the SEC (with at least 30 carries) who have a better yards-per-attempt average than Davis. This week, Davis and the Hogs face a Texas A&M defense that gave up only 106 yards rushing to Florida in its only game vs. an AQ conference opponent.
3. Can the Aggies kill a wounded Hog?
This appears to be a great time to play Arkansas. The Razorbacks, a preseason top-15 team, have lost three straight games and are under the “leadership” of a lame-duck coach who has no chance of being retained once his 10-month contract expires. So, easy win for the Aggies? Maybe not. Arkansas is still a talented team that might actually benefit from leaving the Natural State for the first time this season. There are no distractions on the road. The Hogs can take an “us against the world” mentality into Kyle Field and play with nothing to lose. Meanwhile, there is considerable pressure on Texas A&M to win this game. Beginning with next week’s trip to Ole Miss, the Aggies play five of their next six on the road, and the one home game is against LSU. A&M cannot afford to drop to 0–2 at home in SEC play if it hopes to remain relevant throughout the 2012 season.
4. Can Tennessee limit the big play?
We were told not to be surprised if the Tennessee defense gave up some big plays while making the transition to Sal Sunseri’s 3–4 scheme. Well, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Through four games, the Volunteers have allowed 20 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more, which is tied with Arkansas for the most in the SEC. Included in those 20 “big plays” are three that went for at least 70 yards. Only Washington State has allowed more nationally. This could spell trouble this weekend in Athens. Guess who leads the nation in offensive plays of 20 yards or more? That’s right, Georgia with 35. The Bulldogs currently rank 13th in the nation in total offense (530 ypg) and have scored 41 points or more in all four games. Tennessee is a 13-point underdog at Sanford Stadium. The Vols must find a way to limit Georgia’s big plays to keep things close.
5. Can Marlon Brown contribute on a consistent basis?
Marlon Brown arrived at Georgia as one of the elite recruits from the Class of 2009. The Memphis native was ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver and the No. 14 overall prospect by Athlon Sports. Through three seasons, Brown was largely considered a bust. He had a total of 18 catches for 291 yards against SEC opponents, with 121 of those yards coming in one game (at Vanderbilt last season). This season, however, Brown has emerged as one of Aaron Murray’s favorite targets. The senior has 16 catches for 264 yards, including 13 for 222 and three touchdowns in the Dawgs’ two SEC games. The key now will be for Brown to maintain this level of production as the season progresses.
6. Can South Carolina continue its dominance against Kentucky?
We all remember the Saturday night in Lexington two years ago when Kentucky stormed back from a 28–10 deficit in the third quarter to steal a 31–28 victory from South Carolina, ranked No. 10 at the time. That, however, is the only time the Gamecocks have lost to Kentucky since the turn of the century. Carolina has won 11 of the past 12 vs. the Wildcats, highlighted by last season’s 54–3 beatdown in Columbia. The Gamecocks outgained UK 639-to-97 and limited the Cats to five total first downs. Following the game, Steve Spurrier offered the following assessment of his opponent: “Kentucky has a heck of a punter, I know that.” There was a time, however, when Kentucky had the upper hand in this rivalry. UK won five of the first eight after South Carolina joined the league in 1992.
7. Who will take snaps for the Wildcats?
Entering last weekend, Kentucky ranked 13th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing with 322 yards per game. But with starter Maxwell Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily. Morgan Newton, a senior who stepped in for Smith, had a nightmarish stat line: 7-of-21 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. The Wildcats are optimistic that Smith will be back, but one thing is clear: Newton, a former 4-star recruit, will not be receiving meaningful snaps. True freshman Jalen Whitlow received all of the work with the second team this week and will get the start if Smith has a setback. Whitlow had been receiving a lot of work with the second team in practice since the season-opening loss to Louisville, but the coaching staff felt more comfortable sending Newton, who has 17 career starts, to play against Florida at the Swamp. “When Max went down, we just felt like he (Jalen) wasn’t ready, wasn’t quite ready to go in (and play) in that type of environment,” UK coach Joker Phillips said earlier this week. “I’ve been down there when we put a freshman quarterback in there, and it’s pretty tough. And we just felt like we wanted to start Morgan. And we did. Didn’t work out. Didn’t play as well as we would have liked. But we still think that that was the right decision.”
8. Can LSU develop a consistent passing attack for the upcoming stretch of games?
There has been some consternation in Baton Rouge about LSU’s offense — specifically the passing attack. Zach Mettenberger, expected by many (including me!) to be the missing piece at quarterback, has been rather ordinary through three games. He has by no means been bad; he just hasn’t been a difference-maker. The Tigers rank 98th in the nation in passing with 194.5 yard per game, but that is a bit misleading. When you run the ball as well as LSU does — and when you are so often nursing a big lead — there isn’t much of a need to fling the ball all over the field. This week, LSU should have no problem moving the ball — either on the ground or through the air — against the mighty Towson Tigers, the alma mater of former New York Giant Dave Meggett. But take a look at the Tigers’ upcoming schedule, a five-game stretch that features road trips to Florida and Texas A&M and home dates with South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State. LSU will have to be balanced on offense to navigate that brutal stretch without a loss.
9. Can the Ole Miss defense stop the run?
At first glance, it would appear Ole Miss has done a decent job stopping the run. The Rebels rank 40th in the nation and seventh in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 125.3 yards per game. That, however, doesn’t really tell the story. In its only game vs. a quality opponent (Texas in Oxford), Ole Miss gave up 350 yards on the round. That’s an alarming number for a team that is preparing to visit Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide. The Alabama offense is quite capable of throwing the forward pass with efficiency, but the Tide are at their best when running the ball with their stable of outstanding tailbacks. It will be considered a victory for the Ole Miss defense if Alabama rushes for less than 250 yards on Saturday night.
10. Can Bama stay perfect in the red zone?
The Alabama offense has entered the red zone 18 times this season. And 18 times the Crimson Tide have put points on the board. Eleven other teams in the nation have been perfect in the red zone, but only Oklahoma State, with 20, has more trips inside the 20-yard line. Prior to last week, Alabama had scored a touchdown on all but one of its 12 red zone opportunities, but the Crimson Tide were forced to settle for field goals on three of their six trips inside the 20 in a 40–7 win vs. Florida Atlantic.
By Mitch Light
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Missouri (+3) at UCF||Missouri 28-17||Missouri 27-21||Missouri 27-24||Missouri 30-28|
|Arkansas (+13.5) at Texas A&M||Texas A&M 35-28||Texas A&M 34-28||Texas A&M 34-27||Texas A&M 41-20|
|Tennessee (+13) at Georgia||Georgia 31-17||Georgia 34-21||Georgia 34-20||Georgia 38-17|
|South Carolina (-20.5) at Kentucky||South Carolina 42-7||South Carolina 37-10||South Carolina 38-10||South Caroina 27-6|
|Towson at LSU||LSU 56-3||LSU 49-3||LSU 62-3||LSU 41-0|
|Ole Miss (+31) at Alabama||Alabama 49-7||Alabama 41-14||Alabama 45-7||Alabama 38-17|
The top of the SEC is as strong as ever. Alabama continues to shine, but LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and even Florida are capable of winning a conference title. The SEC East is making a comeback, as well. Alabama and LSU might be the two best teams in the league, but the next best three teams reside in the East.
Post-Week 4 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback was superb in Georgia’s 48–3 win over Vanderbilt, completing 18-of-24 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Murray ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency through four games.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — He didn’t put up big numbers against Kentucky (56 yards on 13 carries), but Gillislee has been a huge factor in the Gators’ offensive renaissance. He ranks second in the SEC in rushing, with 100.5 yards per game.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The redshirt freshman had another big game for the Aggies, throwing for 174 yards and three scores while adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground in a 70–14 win over South Carolina State. He will have to prove himself against better competition to stay on this list, but Manziel is off to a great start.
Post-Week 4 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones returned to action after missing last week with an injury, and the junior outside linebacker was his usual disruptive self. He recorded seven tackles, including three for a loss (including one sack) in Georgia’s dominating win over Vanderbilt.
2. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney, a likely top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, continues to be a force for the South Carolina defense. In four games, he has 7.0 tackles for a loss, including 2.0 sacks. The Gamceocks have given up 23 points in two SEC games.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker led Alabama with six tackles in a 40–7 win over Florida Atlantic. Through four games, he leads the Tide with 29 total tackles and has one interception.
Post-Week 4 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — The Crimson Tide have emerged as the clear No. 1 team one-quarter through the 2012 season. Right now, this looks like a team without a weakness.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators are already 3–0 in the SEC with two of the wins coming on the road. The offense, a major question mark before the season, has been sharp, while the defense remains a strength.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs continue to climb up the national rankings. They are playing extremely well on both sides of the ball and are now being mentioned with the elite teams in the nation.
Post-Week 1 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 4 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 40–7
The big news in Tuscaloosa is that Alabama was scored on for the first time since the third quarter of its Week 1 win vs. Michigan. When Florida Atlantic quarterback Graham Wilbert connected with Alex Deleon on a 6-yard pass with 2:49 remaining in the game, the Crimson Tide’s streak was snapped at 12 straight scoreless quarters — a run that lasted 192 minutes and 25 seconds of game time. FAU, which lost last week at Georgia, managed only 110 total yards and had only 45 offensive snaps. Alabama had 503 yards and scored on its first seven possessions.
2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 4 result: Beat Auburn 12-10
LSU had won 12 straight games by at least 24 points against teams not named Alabama. The Tigers, however, struggled to beat Auburn. But a win is still a win — especially on the road in the SEC. “We were tested, and we answered the call,” LSU coach Les Miles said. The Tigers, to no one’s surprise, got it done on defense. Auburn totaled only 183 yards of offense and did not have one drive that went longer than 42 yards. LSU has allowed 14 points or less in all four games in 2012.
3. Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 4 result: Beat Vanderbilt 48-3
Georgia looks more and more like a legitimate national championship contender with each passing week. The Bulldogs were sharp on both sides of the ball in an easier-than-expected win over Vanderbilt. Georgia scored on its four possessions — with touchdown drives of 68, 88, 57 and 96 yards — to put the game out of reach in the first half. In three career games vs. Vanderbilt, Aaron Murray is 55-of-86 for 863 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
4. South Carolina (4-0, 2-0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 4 result: Beat Missouri 31-10
Steve Spurrier was kidding, we think, when he offered this critique of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw: “Well, he got off to a slow start. He missed the first one, I think.” Shaw’s first pass did fall incomplete, but the junior quarterback connected on his next 20 attempts to finish a near flawless performance with a 95.2 completion percentage, 249 yards passing and two touchdowns without an interception. After surviving a scare at Vanderbilt in Week 1, South Carolina has won its three ensuing games by an average score of 43–9.
5. Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 4 result: Beat Kentucky 38-0
Florida became the first team in the nation with three conference wins — and the Gators barely had to break a sweat to do so. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in the big win at Tennessee, but he was still very efficient (18-of-27 for 203 yards with one TD and one INT) for an offense that rolled up 403 yards. The Gators shined on third down, converting 12-of-17 while limiting the Kentucky offense to only 4-of-15.
6. Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 4 result: Beat South Alabama 30-10
There wasn’t much to get excited about in Mississippi State’s win over South Alabama, one of the worst teams in the FBS ranks. The Bulldogs barely outgained the Jaguars (356 to 347); quarterback Tyler Russell completed less than 50 percent of his passes; and the running game was mediocre at best, with an average of 4.2 yards per rush. But the Dogs are 4¬¬–0 for the first time since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
7. Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 4 result: Beat South Carolina State 70-14
The Aggies did what was expected: Beat overmatched South Carolina State with ease. Johnny Manziel once again was sharp, completing 15-of-20 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns and adding 78 yards and two scores on the ground. Texas A&M set an SEC record in only its third game as a member of the league; the Aggies had 246 punt return yards, highlighted by a 96-yard return for a score by Dustin Harris.
8. Missouri (2-2, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 4 result: Lost to South Carolina 30-10
Missouri’s first SEC road trip didn’t go too well. The Tigers had only 255 yards on offense — their lowest total since gaining 173 in a loss to Texas in 2009 — and provided little resistance to Connor Shaw and the South Carolina passing game. Shaw completed 21-of-22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin threw for only 92 yards on 18 passes for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. The Tigers head to UCF next week for a tricky road game before returning home for a key three-game homestand.
8. Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 4 result: Beat Akron 47-26
The end result looked good: The Vols won the game by 21 points and outgained Akron 633 to 344. But this was far more difficult than coach Derek Dooley would have liked. The score was tied until midway through the third quarter, and the game was in doubt until Tyler Bray hooked up with Justin Hunter for a 10-yard touchdown strike with 9:18 remaining in the fourth. Tennessee was productive running the ball: Rajion Neal led the way with 151 yards on 22 carries, and Marlin Lane chipped in with 47 yards on nine attempts. Akron has now lost 22 straight road games.
9. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 4 result: Lost to LSU 12-10
It was far more competitive than most expected — Auburn was an 18-point under dog — but there are no moral victories, especially at home, for a team that won a national championship as recently as 2010. In two SEC games, Auburn is averaging 199.5 total yards and has scored one offensive touchdown. Kiehl Frazier, in his first season as the starting quarterback, has completed 47-of-89 passes for 546 yards (only 136.5 per game) with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Tigers are 1–3 for the first time since 1998 — the season in which Terry Bowden stepped down after six games.
11. Arkansas (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 4 result: Lost to Rutgers 35-26
Arkansas, ranked in the top 15 in every preseason poll, dropped to 1–3 with a 35–26 loss to Rutgers in Fayetteville. The return of Tyler Wilson, who missed last week’s 52–0 loss to Arkansas with a concussion, wasn’t enough to spark the Razorbacks. Wilson did his part, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns, but the Arkansas defense gave up five touchdowns and over 500 yards of offense. The Hogs are still looking for their first win vs. an FBS opponent; their lone win was vs. Jacksonville State in Week 1.
12. Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 4 result: Lost to Georgia 48-3
Vanderbilt never recovered from a slow start and put up little fight en route to its most lopsided loss since being shut out by Tennessee 48–0 in the final game of the 2003 season. In a bit of a surprise, Jordan Rodgers got the nod at quarterback over Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started the previous week against Presbyterian. Rodgers completed 13-of-23 for 218 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Zac Stacy ran well for Vanderbilt with 83 yards on 12 carries. The Commodores have now been outscored by a combined 91–3 in their last two trips to Athens.
13. Ole Miss (3-1, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 4 result: Beat Tulane 39-0
The Rebels completed the nonconference portion of their schedule with a 3-1 record after pounding Tulane 39-0 in New Orleans. Ole Miss jumped on the Green Wave early, with four touchdowns in the game’s first 13 minutes. The Ole Miss defense limited Tulane to 159 total yards one week after getting lit up by Texas for 676 yards in a 66–31 loss in Oxford. Tulane, playing without starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, averaged only 2.3 yards per play.
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 4 Result: Lost to Florida 38-0
Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith was forced to watch from the sideline as Kentucky dropped to 1–3 with a lopsided loss to Florida. Entering the weekend, UK ranked 13th in the nation and first in the SEC in passing with 322 yards per game. But with Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Wildcats’ offense struggled mightily. Morgan Newton, a senior who stepped in for Smith, had a nightmarish stat line: 7-of-21 for 48 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.
By Mitch Light
Related College Football Content
College football’s fourth weekend of action is highlighted by a huge battle in the ACC Coastal Division, an intriguing showdown between Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 and Michigan’s trip to Notre Dame in a rare night game in South Bend. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 37 Baylor at No. 60 UL Monroe
After splitting two overtime decisions against SEC West foes in consecutive weeks — a win at Arkansas and a loss at Auburn — UL Monroe returns home to host Baylor on national television. The Warhawks have been a popular upset pick, but Baylor is also eager to prove itself in the first season post-RG3.
No. 121 Florida Atlantic at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season.
No. 2 LSU at No. 47 Auburn
The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago.
No. 24 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes.
No. 22 Kansas State at No. 4 Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. It won’t be quite as bad this time around.
No. 108 UAB at No. 5 Ohio State
UAB’s tough road trip began with a trip to South Carolina (and a 49–6 loss) and will end in Columbus vs. the Buckeyes. Expect another productive game from sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
Ohio State 44-3
No. 53 Vanderbilt at No. 6 Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start (we think) against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge.
No. 14 Clemson at No. 7 Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game.
Florida State 34-24
No. 83 Maryland at No. 9 West Virginia
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown for 734 yards in two games. Maryland, as a team, has 775 yards in three games.
West Virginia 41-10
No. 78 Kentucky at No. 10 Florida
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7.
No. 43 California at No. 12 USC
This game features some of the elite skill-position players in the nation — especially at wide receiver — but neither team has played well defensively this season.
No. 26 Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. Both Connor Shaw and James Franklin are expected to start. The question is: Can they finish the game?
South Carolina 21-17
No. 16 Michigan at No. 15 Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games.
Notre Dame 24-21
No. 55 Virginia at No. 17 TCU
Virginia gave up 461 yards rushing last week in a 56–20 loss to Georgia Tech. TCU has given up a total of 450 yards in two games.
No. 18 Louisville at No. 96 FIU
The Cards are eager for revenge after losing last September to FIU at home. They should get it. The Golden Panthers have been a disappointment this season.
No. 110 Eastern Michigan at No. 19 Michigan State
The Le’Veon Bell for Heisman talk has cooled over the last few weeks. After bruising his way to 210 yards vs. Boise State in the opener, Bell has a total of 147 yards in the last two games.
Michigan State 38-10
No. 42 Oregon State at No. 20 UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska.
Idaho State at No. 23 Nebraska
Idaho State has got to be the first team ever to play Black Hills State and Nebraska in consecutive games. (In case you are wondering, Idaho State beat Black Hills State 38–5. And in case you were wondering, Black Hills State is in Spearfish, South Dakota).
No. 119 South Alabama at No. 28 Mississippi State
Mississippi State is after its first 4–0 start since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
Mississippi State 42-10
No. 29 Rutgers at No. 52 Arkansas
Rutgers isn’t Alabama — which shut out Arkansas 52–0 last week —but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13).
No. 61 Miami (Fla.) at No. 30 Georgia Tech
Kansas State rushed for 288 vs. the Canes in a 52–13 win two weeks ago. That’s a troubling number for a Miami team that is preparing to face Georgia Tech’s option attack.
Georgia Tech 37-24
South Carolina State at No. 31 Texas A&M
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He’s good.
Texas A&M 41-0
No. 32 South Florida at No. 93 Ball State
Ball State is 2–1 with wins over Eastern Michigan and Indiana sandwiched around a 52–27 loss at Clemson. The Cardinals have been able to move the ball in every game; they had 380 yards (including 252 on the ground) vs. Clemson and 440 yards (200-plus through the air and on the ground) vs. Indiana. This is a solid team that is good enough to beat South Florida straight up.
Ball State 34-31
No. 33 Nevada at No. 107 Hawaii
Nevada features two of the most explosive playmakers in college football. Tailback Stefphon Jefferson ranks second nationally in rushing (176.3 ypg), and quarterback Cody Fajardo is eighth in total offense (362.3 ypg).
No. 120 Akron at No. 34 Tennessee
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
South Dakota at No. 35 Northwestern
After opening the season with wins over three AQ conference teams, Northwestern dips down into the FCS ranks for what should bean easy win.
No. 91 Bowling Green at No. 36 Virginia Tech
The Hokies were on the wrong end of one of the most surprising scores of the season: Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17. Frank Beamer’s club should get back in the win column this week, but the Hokies will have issues the rest of the season unless some playmakers emerge on offense to complement quarterback Logan Thomas.
Virginia Tech 34-13
No. 38 Utah at No. 50 Arizona State
For the third straight week, Arizona State will be facing a backup quarterback. Nathan Scheelhaase (Illinois) and James Franklin (Missouri) were hurt, and Utah’s Jordan Wynn retired from football due to injury after a Week 2 loss to Utah State.
Arizona State 27-17
Norfolk State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio survived a scare last week but held on for a 27–24 win at Marshall, keeping its dream of a perfect season alive. There is no significant danger of losing this weekend.
The Citadel at No. 41 NC State
This might not be as easy as some Wolfpack fans would like. The Citadel is 3–0 highlighted by a 52–28 win over Appalachian State last week. This is a solid FCS club.
NC State 30-17
No. 86 UTEP at No. 46 Wisconsin
UTEP is playing an AQ conference team for the third time in four weeks. Wisconsin isn’t nearly as formidable as we thought before the season started, but it’s still a very tall order for the Miners to win in Madison.
No. 48 Utah State at No. 109 Colorado State
Utah State is a missed 37-yard field goal away from being 3–0 with wins over Utah and Wisconsin. Still, this is a very good team that will challenge Louisiana Tech for supremacy in the WAC.
Utah State 30-7
No. 56 Louisiana Tech at No. 54 Illinois
Louisiana Tech has scored exactly 56 points in its first two games and is ranked No. 56 in the Athlon Sports 124. Very interesting.
Louisiana Tech 31-23
No. 100 Army at No. 57 Wake Forest
Army is up to its old tricks: The Black Knights rank second in the nation in rushing (384.0 ypg) and No. 120 in passing (29.0 ypg). Wake must rebound after a humbling 52–0 loss at Florida State last weekend.
Wake Forest 30-10
No. 68 East Carolina at No. 58 North Carolina
North Carolina came extremely close to completing one of the great comebacks in college football history last weekend. The Tar Heels cut a 36–7 halftime deficit to 39–34 with 4:23 remaining. Louisville fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but North Carolina was unable to punch the ball in the end zone in the final minute. It will be interesting to see how this team responds.
North Carolina 27-10
No. 111 Central Michigan at No. 59 Iowa
Iowa is the only team in the nation that has not converted an extra point vs. another FBS opponent this season. That better not be the case after this week’s game vs. Central Michigan.
No. 84 Temple at No. 62 Penn State
Penn State struggled to beat Temple in Philadelphia last year, escaping with a 14–10 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. And that Nittany Lion team had far more talent than the 2012 version. But this game is at home, and I’d expect Penn State — with a win under its belt — to play well.
Penn State 24-13
No. 63 Connecticut at No. 79 Western Michigan
These two teams played one of the most exciting fourth quarters of the 2011 season. Western Michigan outscored UConn 21–14 in the final 15 minutes en route to a 38–31 win in West Hartford. The two quarterbacks, Johnny McEntree and Alex Carder, combined to throw for 779 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. Don’t expect as many fireworks this time around.
No. 65 Syracuse at No. 64 Minnesota
Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Coastal Carolina at No. 66 Toledo
Toledo is off to a solid start under first-year coach Matt Campbell. The Rockets aren’t quite as explosive on offense as a year ago, but they are 2–1 with the only loss coming in overtime at Arizona.
Gardner-Webb at No. 69 Pittsburgh
College football can be tough to figure out. The same Pittsburgh team that lost by 14 points at home to Youngstown State beat Virginia Tech by 18 points. How does that happen?
No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 70 Western Kentucky
The challenge for Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart this week — other than scoring more points than Southern Miss — is to keep his team grounded. The Hilltoppers have been the talk of the state after beating Kentucky in overtime in Lexington last week. If the Toppers can play with focus, they should pick up win No. 3.
Western Kentucky 27-23
No. 122 Memphis at No. 71 Duke
Duke should be halfway to bowl-eligibility at about 9 p.m. on Saturday night. Getting three more wins, however, will be a challenge for a program that hasn’t played in the postseason since 1995.
No. 73 Fresno State at No. 72 Tulsa
Fresno State delivered one of the epic beatings in recent memory last weekend. The Bulldogs led Colorado 35–0 after one quarter and 55–7 at the half on their way to a 69–14 win. Colorado is bad (obviously), but I think Fresno State is better than we think.
Fresno State 30-28
Alcorn State at No. 75 Arkansas State
Alcorn State has scored a total of nine points in its last two games, losses at James Madison and vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Braves will need to score about 40 to beat Arkansas State.
Arkansas State 40-3
No. 77 Ole Miss at No. 114 Tulane
Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Note to Hugh Freeze: Give Scott the ball.
Ole Miss 31-10
No. 112 Colorado at No. 80 Washington State
There is still a lot of football to be played, but Colorado is in the midst of an historically bad season. The Buffs are 0–3 with losses to Colorado State (which lost to an FCS team the next week), Sacramento State and Fresno State. And while there’s no shame in losing to Fresno State, there is plenty of shame in being down 35–0 at the end of one quarter.
Washington State 41-10
No. 90 Kansas at No. 81 Northern Illinois
Kansas is a 9-point underdog to a team from the MAC. That tells you all you need to know about how far this program has fallen in recent years. Just five years ago, the Jayhawks capped a 12–1 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois 31-30
No. 85 San Jose State at No. 88 San Diego State
San Jose State is very quietly having a solid season. The Spartans are 2–1, and the only loss came by three points at Stanford. This would be a huge win for Mike MacIntyre’s club.
San Jose State 30-27
VMI at No. 87 Navy
Navy should break into the win column this week, but the Midshipmen have not looked very good this year. The schedule has been relatively difficult — Notre Dame in Ireland and at Penn State — but they are averaging only 366.0 yards per game and have scored a total of 17 points.
No. 89 Rice at No. 94 Marshall
Rice is scoring some points this year — the Owls have averaged 28.7 against UCLA, Kansas and Louisiana Tech — but is also having trouble stopping the opposition. The Owls rank 117th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense.
No. 92 Air Force at No. 116 UNLV
Air Force leads the nation in rushing, averaging 387.0 yards in its two games, a win over Idaho State and a six-point loss at Michigan. The Falcons could run for 500 yards vs. UNLV.
Air Force 38-17
No 97 Troy at No. 102 North Texas
Troy rolled up 572 yards of offense against Mississippi State in a 30–24 loss last week. To put that in perspective, Auburn had 216 total yards the week before vs. MSU.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 99 Texas State
Texas State dips into the FCS ranks after splitting its first two games against in-state foes. The Bobcats stunned Houston in the opener before falling at Texas Tech 58–10.
Texas State 31-13
No. 123 UMass at No. 104 Miami (Ohio)
UMass’ first season in the FBS isn’t going too well. The Minutemen aren’t quite giving up a point per minute, but it’s close (48.3 ppg). Miami quarterback Zac Dysert should have a productive game.
Miami (Ohio) 37-10
No. 105 Wyoming at No. 124 Idaho
Wyoming’s season has taken several disappointing turns. After losing the opener at Texas (no shame), the Cowboys have lost consecutive games at home to Toledo and Cal Poly.
No. 117 New Mexico at No. 113 New Mexico State
New Mexico State has won three straight in the Battle for the Land of Enchantment. Neither team is very good, but the Aggies are not quite as bad.
New Mexico State 34-20
Last week: 58–9
By Mitch Light
College football’s fourth week of action features a huge showdown in the ACC Coastal Division, a big matchup in South Bend between Michigan and surging Notre Dame and key battle in the Big 12 between Kansas State and Oklahoma.
Clemson (+14) at Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game. Now, however, comes the first true test of the season. Clemson, also 3–0, is loaded with playmakers who will challenge the stout Florida State defense. The Tigers boast star power at quarterback (Tajh Boyd), running back (Andre Ellington) and wide receiver (Sammy Watkins). Last year, Clemson beat Florida State 35–30 in a game that featured two 300-yard passers (Boyd and Clint Trickett) and no 100-yard rushers. Establishing the running game will be key for both teams.
Florida State 34, Clemson 24
Michigan (+6) at Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games. The defensive front, which lost its best player in the spring when Aaron Lynch transferred to South Florida, was effective against both the pass and the run. This week, Notre Dame faces a dynamic offensive attack led by unconventional quarterback Denard Robinson. Last year, he threw for 338 yards and rushed for 108 in Michigan’s thrilling 35–31 win in Ann Arbor. Obviously, the Irish must do a better job controlling Robinson this time around. If you can take away his ability to run — which is easier said than done unless you are Alabama — you can limit the Michigan offense.
Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21
Kansas State (+14) at Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. Kansas State is once again undefeated, with all three wins coming at home by at least 14 points. It has to be a bit of a concern, however, that North Texas was able to score 21 points and pick up 353 yards of offense in last week’s game. The Oklahoma offense isn’t quite as potent as it was when these teams met last season, but the Sooners are still capable of scoring a bunch of points.
Oklahoma 36, Kansas State 21
Arizona (+23.5) at Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. After struggling a bit to beat Toledo in the opener — the Cats won 24–17 in overtime — Arizona pounded defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma State 59–38 and then rolled past FCS foe South Carolina State 56–0. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes. The Ducks have found their next great quarterback (redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota) and feature elite talent at the running back position. The Arizona defense has already faced two quality offensive teams (Toledo and Oklahoma State), but there is nothing quite like playing the mighty Ducks at cozy Autzen Stadium.
Oregon 48, Arizona 23
Missouri (+10) at South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State and is questionable for Saturday. Missouri obviously stands a better chance to win the game with Franklin at quarterback, but a big key for the Tigers will be the play of their makeshift offensive line. This group had trouble with Georgia’s defensive front in the loss two weeks ago. South Carolina’s defensive line, led by ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, presents a huge challenge.
South Carolina 21, Missouri 17
Oregon State (+8) at UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska. Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman, has been terrific at quarterback, and the Bruins are getting great production from tailback Johnathan Franklin, the nation’s leading rusher. The sample size — only one game — has been much smaller for Oregon State, but the Beavers have also been a surprise. They opened the season two weeks ago with a 10–7 win over Wisconsin at home. The Badgers clearly aren’t as good as we expected, but this is still a good win for a program that has suffered through two straight losing seasons.
Rutgers at Arkansas
In one of the low points in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks put up little fight in a 52–0 loss to Alabama. The Hogs, playing without quarterback Tyler Wilson, managed only 137 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per snap. (Last year, in a 38–14 loss to the Tide in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas averaged 3.9 yards per play.) Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). Arkansas is hoping to have Wilson back at quarterback — and they need him. Last week, Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell combined to complete 11-of-25 attempts for 79 yards. If Wilson plays, the pick is Arkansas. If he doesn’t, flip a coin.
Arkansas 28, Rutgers 24
Vanderbilt (+15.5) at Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia in a 33–28 loss in Nashville, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.
Georgia 28, Vanderbilt 10
Syracuse (-2) at Minnesota
Minnesota is favored vs. an AQ conference team for the first time since the 2009 Insight Bowl vs. Iowa State. The Gophers are 3–0, but it’s a rather soft 3–0. Their two wins against FBS teams are by three in triple OT at UNLV and by five at home vs. Western Michigan. Quarterback MarQueis Gray isn’t expected to start due to a sprained ankle, but that might not be a bad thing. Sophomore Max Shortell has played well in relief, combining to complete 15-of-23 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Syracuse 42, Minnesota 39
Utah (+7) at Arizona State
Give Utah a ton of credit. The Utes bounced back from a disappointing overtime loss at Utah State to beat hated rival BYU in the Holy War. And they did so without their projected starting quarterback (Jordan Wynn retired from football after suffering a shoulder injury vs. Utah State) and All-Pac-12 running back John White (injured). Arizona State is coming off its first loss of the season, a 24–20 setback in Columbia to a Missouri team playing without its starting quarterback (James Franklin). The Sun Devils had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes but had two drives deep in Mizzou territory end without points. We still don’t know too much about Arizona State. The Devils have played two AQ conference teams that didn’t have their No. 1 quarterback; they pounded Illinois at home and lost to Missouri on the road. We’ll know more after this weekend.
Arizona State 27, Utah 17
Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 21–9 overall (16–14 against the spread)
Week 4 action in the SEC is highlighted by the Battle of Columbia, Vanderbilt's trip to face Georgia and LSU's visit to Auburn.
Other Week 4 Previews and Predictions
SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4:
1. Todd Grantham vs. the Vanderbilt coaching staff
This is not a creation of the media: There is legitimately bad blood between the Vanderbilt coaching staff and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Last year’s game, won by Georgia 33–28 in Nashville, ended with Grantham and Commodore head coach James Franklin jawing near midfield before being separated by a Vanderbilt police officer. The Vanderbilt staff thought that some Georgia players, specifically safety Shawn Williams, were a bit too chippy during and immediately following the game. Grantham didn’t appreciate Franklin talking to his players on the field. Fortunately, no punches were thrown, but there is no denying this was a heated exchange.
Both parties are saying all the right things — Franklin recently joked that his family vacationed with the Granthams during the offseason — but there is no doubt there is some lingering animosity.
2. Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. the Georgia defense
Grantham’s defense will be facing a quarterback, junior Austyn Carta-Samuels, making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.
3. Can Arkansas beat an FBS opponent?
Arkansas was touted by some as a legitimate national championship contender during the offseason. Now, the Hogs are simply hoping to win a game. The Razorbacks are 0–2 vs. FBS competition, with a loss to UL Monroe in overtime and a 52–0 debacle against Alabama last Saturday. The good news is that Tyler Wilson likely will be back at quarterback after missing the Bama game with a concussion. The bad news is that Wilson can’t help a defense that is allowing 436.7 yards per game. The Hogs’ issues on defense will put pressure on the offense to score a bunch of points in virtually every game. And that could be a problem on Saturday. Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). This will be a significant test for Arkansas.
4. The Battle of Columbia
South Carolina and Missouri meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. All things equal, you probably have to give South Carolina the edge due to the location of the game (Columbia, S.C.) and the Gamecocks’ advantage on defense. But all things might not be equal. Both quarterbacks are nursing injuries. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Shaw will get the start on Saturday, but he has yet to complete a game this season. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State but is expected back on Saturday. South Carolina is better suited at this point to win with its No. 2 quarterback in the game. After struggling in a brief appearance in the opener against Vanderbilt, Dylan Thompson has been solid in relief of Shaw — albeit against inferior competition. Missouri’s backup, Corbin Berkstresser, played relatively well in the Tigers’ 24–20 win over Arizona State, but he is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap on the road.
5. Can Auburn be competitive?
Even the most ardent Auburn fan realizes it will be a tall order for the Tigers to beat mighty LSU this Saturday — even at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But it’s not too much for the Auburn faithful to expect their team to be more competitive against the elite programs in the league. The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago. Through three games, Auburn ranks 102nd in the nation in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. In the two games vs. AQ conference opponents (Clemson and Mississippi State), the Tigers have scored a total of one touchdown.
6. How ugly will get it in Gainesville?
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7. And barring a major reversal from both teams, Saturday’s game at Florida Field figures to be just as one-sided. Florida returns home with a ton of swagger after winning two tough SEC road games. The Gators played the finest game of the Will Muschamp era on Saturday night, surging past Tennessee 37–20 in Neyland Stadium. Kentucky, meanwhile, is fresh off a humbling overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky. UK has now lost to the other two FBS programs in the state of Kentucky. This is a tough spot for Joker Phillips and the wounded Wildcats.
7. Can Ole Miss get more touches for Jeff Scott?
Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Hugh Freeze acknowledged on Monday that he would like to get Scott, one of the few proven playmakers on the Ole Miss offense, more touches. But Scott is only 5-7 and 170 pounds, which can cause some problems when he is asked to get involved in protecting the quarterback. “If he’s in there for a consistent amount of time, we’re going to have to ask him to (pass protect) also,” Freeze said. “I don’t question Jeff’s or (tailback) Jaylen (Walton)’s heart at all with that. (But) we had defensive ends the other night (vs. Texas) that are 6-5 and 280 pounds.”
8. Can the Alabama defense pitch another shutout?
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season. This Saturday, the Tide will seeking their third straight shutout — something that hasn’t happened since 1966 — against a Florida Atlantic team that ranks 116th in the nation in scoring (14.7 ppg).
9. Bowden returns to the SEC … sort of
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. The Zips, 1–2 in ’12, visit Neyland Stadium on Saturday to a face a Tennessee team eager to get back on track after losing to Florida. “I’ve had the fortune of coaching in all the SEC venues,” Bowden said earlier this week. “And this is one of the most electric.” Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
10. Will Johnny Manziel ever throw a pick?
We don’t expect Manziel to navigate Texas A&M’s brutal SEC slate without making his share of mistakes, but the Aggies’ redshirt freshman quarterback is off to a great start. Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He is also a threat on the ground, with 184 yards rushing on 30 carries. “He’s a very talented guy,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said earlier this week. “He has to continue to work on moving from an athlete that’s playing quarterback to a quarterback that’s an athlete. And there’s a big difference.”
By Mitch Light
WEEK 4 SEC PREDICTIONS
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Ole Miss (-17.5) at Tulane||Ole Miss 21-7||Ole Miss 24-10||Ole Miss 40-14||Ole Miss 31-10|
|Kentucky (+24) at Florida||Florida 35-7||Florida 41-0||Florida 45-13||Florida 38-17|
|Missouri (+10) at South Carolina||South Carolina 28-14||South Carolina 35-24||South Carolina 31-20||South Carolina 21-17|
|Florida Atlantic (+49.5) at Alabama||Alabama 56-3||Alabama 41-0||Alabama 55-0||Alabama 45-0|
|Rutgers (+7) at Arkansas||Arkansas 21-17||Arkansas 34-20||Arkansas 28-20||Arkansas 28-24|
|LSU (-20.5) at Auburn||LSU 38-10||LSU 41-10||LSU 34-7||LSU 28-14|
|South Alabama (+34) at Mississippi State||Mississippi State 42-7||Mississippi State 35-7||Mississippi State 45-10||Mississippi State 42-10|
|S.C. State at Texas A&M||Texas A&M 45-10||Texas A&M 45-14||Texas A&M 58-0||Texas A&M 41-0|
|Akron (+35) at Tennessee||Tennessee 56-10||Tennessee 44-0||Tennessee 48-17||Tennessee 44-3|
|Vanderbilt (+16) at Georgia||Georgia 28-10||Georgia 34-10||Georgia 34-20||Georgia 28-10|
It was an interesting week in the SEC. Alabama made another huge statement with a convincing win at Arkansas, but the most noteworthy game took place in Knoxville. Florida was sensational in the second half of a 37-20 win over Tennessee. The Gators are already 2-0 in the SEC with both wins coming on the road.
Post-Week 3 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Aaron Murray, Georgia — The junior quarterback is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 842 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw for a career-high 342 yards in the Bulldogs’ win over FAU last weekend.
2. Mike Gillislee, Florida — The Gators’ rejuvenated offense has leaned on Gillislee in key road wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee. Saturday night in Knoxville, he ran for 115 yards on 18 carries, and he leads the SEC after three games with 346 yards.
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — The Texas high school legend has been terrific through two games for the Aggies. He has thrown for 467 yards and four touchdowns (with no INTs) and has added 184 yards and three scores on the ground.
Post-Week 3 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones remains on top of the this list despite sitting out the FAU game with an injury. The junior outside linebacker has emerged as one of the most disruptive forces in the nation.
2. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State — Banks is one of the nation’s premier cornerbacks. He has two interceptions and 12 total tackles for the 3–0 Bulldogs.
3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama — The junior linebacker has been a consistent force on the dominant Alabama defense. He had five tackles in the Tide’s 52–0 win over Arkansas on Saturday.
Post-Week 3 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — He is the coach of the nearly unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. His offense is brutally efficient, and his defense is dominant.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — Two weeks ago, many were wondering if Muschamp was the right fit in Gainesville. Now, after two come-from-behind wins on the road in league play, he is being mentioned as a possible SEC Coach of the Year.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia — The Bulldogs survived a Week 2 scare at Missouri and then returned home and pounded Florida Atlantic. This team remains the favorite to win the SEC East.
Post-Week 3 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 3 result: Beat Arkansas 52-0
In one of the most impressive performances of the Nick Saban era, Alabama routed the Tyler Wilson-less Razorbacks with surprising ease. Bama outgained Arkansas 438-to-137 with a balanced offense (200-plus yards passing and rushing) and a dominating defense that allowed an average of only 2.2 yards per play. The Crimson Tide has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season.
Next Game: FAU
2. LSU (3-0, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 3 result: Beat Idaho 63-14
LSU completed its season-opening three-game homestand with its third straight blowout victory. The Tigers blew open a relatively close game — they only led 21–14 late in the second quarter vs. the winless Vandals — by scoring the final six touchdowns of the game. Zach Mettenberger, making his third career start, completed 17-of-22 passes for 22 yards and two touchdowns. LSU has now won an NCAA FBS record 40 straight regular-season non-conference games.
Next Game: Auburn
3. Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 3 result: Beat Florida Atlantic 56-20
Georgia averaged a staggering 11.3 yards per play on the way to setting a single-game school record with 713 total yards in the easy win over Florida Atlantic. Junior quarterback Aaron Murray threw for a career-high 342 yards (on only 19 attempts) and two running backs, true freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, topped the 100-yard mark despite each getting only 10 carries. Georgia has scored more than 40 points in its first three games for the first time in school history.
Next Game: Vanderbilt
4. Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 3 result: Beat Tennessee 37-20
Since struggling to beat Bowling Green in Week 1, Florida has been one of the most impressive teams in the nation. First the Gators won at Texas A&M in the Aggies’ first-ever SEC game. Then, on Saturday night, Florida dominated Tennessee in the second half on its way to an eighth straight victory over the Volunteers. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel was sharp (he threw 219 yards on 20 attempts), but the Gators did most of their work on the ground. Mike Gillislee gained 115 yards on 18 carries to lead a running attack that gained 336 yards on 43 attempts. The Gators are the only team in the nation with two conference wins.
Next Game: Kentucky
5. South Carolina (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 3 result: Beat UAB 49-6
The Gamecocks cruised to their second straight lopsided win at home, pulling away in the second half to defeat UAB 49-6. After struggling on offense in the season-opening win over Vanderbilt, South Carolina has topped the 500-yard mark in consecutive games. Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. South Carolina has only given up two touchdowns in 12 quarters this season.
Next Game: Missouri
6. Mississippi State (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 3 result: Beat Troy 30-24
Mississippi State is 3–0 for the first time since 1999 after holding on to beat Troy on the road. It was a big night for two Bulldog skill players: Tailback LaDarius Perkins rushed for 179 yards on 23 carries, and wide receiver Chad Bumphis became the first MSU player with three touchdown catches since 1969. Bumphis caught six passes for 180 yards. The Bulldogs gave up 572 total yards but won the turnover battle 4-to-0.
Next Game: South Alabama
7. Missouri (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 3 result: Beat Arizona State 24-20
Playing with a backup quarterback in front of a patchwork offensive line, Missouri gutted out a four-point win over a solid Arizona State team Saturday night. Corbin Berkstresser made his first career start in place of the injured James Franklin, and the redshirt freshman from Lee’s Summit, Mo., completed 26-of-46 passes for 258 yards and one touchdown. This game, however, was won on defense. The Tigers forced four turnovers and held an Arizona State offense that topped 500 yards in its first two games to 296 yards.
Next Game: at South Carolina
8. Texas A&M (1-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 3 result: Beat SMU 48-3
The Aggies bounced back from the emotional loss at home to Florida in the school’s SEC debut by rolling past SMU in Dallas with ease. Redshirt freshman Johny Manziel was sensational for Texas A&M, throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns and adding 124 yards and two scores on the ground. The Aggies struggled a bit in the first quarter, but scored touchdowns on seven of eight drives during one stretch — four of which that went for 70 yards or longer.
Next Game: South Carolina State
9. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 3 result: Lost to Florida 37-20
The Volunteers weren’t quite ready for the national stage. In the most anticipated game of the Derek Dooley era, Tennessee watched Florida score the game’s final 24 points — including two on touchdowns that covered at least 75 yards — of a disheartening 37–20 loss. Tennessee struggled to run the ball, averaging only 3.0 yards on 28 rushing attempts. Conversely, Florida ran for 336 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per rush.
Next Game: Akron
10. Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 3 result: Beat UL Monroe 31-28 in OT
Auburn averted disaster — and its first 0–3 start since 1950 — by edging giant killer UL Monroe in overtime. The biggest positive for the Tigers was a running game that picked up 255 yards on 42 carries. Onterio McCalebb led the way with 128 yards on 11 carries, and Tre Mason added 90 yards on 22 carries. Kiehl Frazier continued to struggle at quarterback. The sophomore completed 10-of-18 passes for 130 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Those aren’t bad numbers, but the Tigers would like see more production against a Sun Belt foe.
Next Game: at LSU
11. Arkansas (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 3 result: Lost to Alabama 52-0
In one of the low points in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks put up little fight in a 52–0 loss to Alabama on national television. The Hogs, playing without quarterback Tyler Wilson, managed only 137 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per snap. Brandon Allen went 10-of-18 for 60 yards and two interceptions, and Brandon Mitchell, last year’s backup quarterback who had moved to receiver, completed 1-of-7 for 19 yards.
Next Game: Rutgers
12. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 3 result: Beat Presbyterian 58-0
The Commodores broke into the win column with an easy victory over FCS foe Presbyterian. The Commodores scored on their first nine possessions and rolled up over 600 yards of offense en route to their most decisive win since blanking The Citadel 58–0 in 1999. In a surprising move, second-year coach James Franklin went with junior Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback in favor of senior Jordan Rodgers. Carta-Samuels, a transfer from Wyoming, completed 13-of-20 for 195 yards and one touchdown.
Next Game: at Georgia
13. Ole Miss (2-1, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 3 result: Lost to Texas 66-31
After starting the Hugh Freeze era with two wins over inferior competition, Ole Miss was ambushed at home by a Texas offense that totaled 676 yards. The Rebels had success of their own on offense — they had nearly 400 yards and 31 points against one of the nation’s top defenses — but had no answer for the balanced Longhorn attack. Texas rushed 350 yards and threw for 326 more.
Next Game: at Tulane
14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 4 result: Lost to Western Kentucky 32-31 in OT
Joker Phillips' worst fears became a reality: His team lost at home to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers were in control for most of the night — they held leads of 17–0 and 24–10 — but Kentucky forced overtime by scoring on a 22-yard touchdown strike from Maxwell Smith to DeMarcus Sweat in the final minute. That, however, just delayed the agony for UK fans, who watched in horror as WKU converted a 2-point conversion for the win after scoring a touchdown in the first overtime session. Kentucky has now lost to the other two FBS schools in the state. Not good for Joker.
Next Game: at Florida
Related College Football Content
College football's third weekend of action is highlighted by Notre Dame’s trip to Michigan State and a huge showdown in the SEC East. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 78 Washington State at No. 115 UNLV
Mike Leach and the struggling Cougars take their show to Sin City this weekend. Wazzu likely will send out Connor Halliday at quarterback due to a knee injury to starter Jeff Tuel.
Washington State 27-13
No. 1 Alabama at No. 34 Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.
No. 2 USC at No. 24 Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level.
No. 124 Idaho at No. 3 LSU
Idaho is 0–2 with a 20–3 loss at home to Eastern Washington and a 21–13 loss at Bowling Green. The Vandals have scored one touchdown in eight quarters. They will have one touchdown after 12 quarters.
Tennessee Tech at No. 4 Oregon
Oregon is the far superior team, but the best wide receiver in the game will be wearing a Tennessee Tech uniform. Da’Rick Rogers, an All-SEC pick last year while at Tennessee, has caught eight passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns in his two games with the Golden Eagles.
No. 48 California at No. 6 Ohio State
Cal’s defense has been a disappointment through two games, giving up an average of 410.5 yards and 31.0 points against Nevada (loss) and Southern Utah (win). This was looking like a potential upset back in August. Not anymore.
Ohio State 28-14
No. 121 FAU at No. 7 Georgia
After an emotional win at Missouri last week, the Bulldogs return home to face one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. This will be an easy win.
No. 53 Wake Forest at No. 8 Florida State
The betting line, FSU by 24 points, seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team.
Florida State 30-17
No. 9 Texas at No. 72 Ole Miss
Ole Miss sophomore Bo Wallace has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback for first-year coach Huge Freeze. The junior college transfer has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 438 yards with five touchdowns and one interception and has also rushed for 135 yards and two scores. Those stats, however, were accumulated against Central Arkansas and UTEP. Now, the Tennessee native will test his mettle against a ferocious Texas defense that has allowed a total of 17 points in two games.
James Madison at No. 10 West Virginia
James Madison has allowed only one touchdown in two games this season. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns in its only game this season.
West Virginia 44-17
No. 109 UAB at No. 11 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier has been quick to point out that first-year UAB head coach Garrick McGee experienced a ton of success against South Carolina while the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. UAB, however, doesn’t have Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, Greg Childs, Joe Adams, etc. on its roster.
South Carolina 38-0
Furman at No. 12 Clemson
Furman has lost its first two games by a total of five points, including a 47–45 triple-overtime thriller to Coastal Carolina last week. The Paladins won’t have to worry about a close loss this week.
No. 16 Notre Dame at No. 13 Michigan State
The key for Notre Dame will be its ability to slow down Le’Veon Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State two weeks ago. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field.
Michigan State 27-21
No. 123 UMass at No. 14 Michigan
UMass is an FBS team in name only. The Minutemen are 0–2 and have lost their two games by a combined score of 78–6. They are also one of two teams in the nation (joining Iowa) that does not have an extra point.
No. 15 Virginia Tech at No. 99 Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s season has been a disaster. The Panthers opened with a demoralizing loss at home to Youngstown State and then looked bad in a 34–10 loss to Big East rival Cincinnati last Thursday night. Paul Chryst needs something to go well this weekend.
Virginia Tech 27-17
No. 17 TCU at No. 84 Kansas
TCU ventures into Big 12 play with a trip to Lawrence to play the worst team in the league. The Jayhawks lost last week at home to a Rice team that gave up 646 yards to UCLA at home in a Week 1 loss.
No. 54 Louisville at No. 18 Louisville
The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game.
No. 29 Florida at No. 19 Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference.
No. 100 Miami (Ohio) at No. 20 Boise State
Ready for a misleading stat? Boise State ranks 120th in the nation in total offense with 206 yards per game. The Broncos have played one game — on the road at Michigan State, one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Boise State 40-17
No. 101 Houston at No. 21 UCLA
It’s arguably the nation’s most disappointing team (Houston) vs. the most surprising team (UCLA). The Bruins have been putting up Houston-like offensive numbers, ranking third in the nation in total offense (649.5 ypg) and 18th in scoring (42.5 ppg).
No. 103 North Texas at No. 22 Kansas State
K-State is fresh off one of the most impressive victories of the young college football season, a 52–13 win over Miami (Fla.) in Manhattan. The Wildcats will be 3–0 when they head to Norman next weekend.
Kansas State 31-10
No. 65 Arkansas State at No. 23 Nebraska
It should be noted that Arkansas State did a bunch of damage during garbage time in its Week 1 loss at Oregon, but the Red Wolves are averaging 574.5 yards per game. They will move the ball on Nebraska, which has given up over 900 yards total in its two games.
South Carolina State at No. 25 Arizona
The Wildcats can relax this week before a brutal six-game stretch that features road trips to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA and home dates with Oregon State, Washington and USC.
No. 70 UL Lafayette at No. 26 Oklahoma State
These teams met last September in Stillwater in a game that featured 986 yards of offense (666 by O-State) and 95 points (61 by the Pokes). The scoring might be down a bit this time around.
Oklahoma State 44-28
Portland State at No. 27 Washington
The Huskies need a get-well game after their humbling trip to Baton Rouge. They picked up a total of 183 yards in a 41–3 loss.
Northwestern State at No. 30 Nevada
Nevada would be 2–0 with wins over two AQ conference teams if it hadn’t given up two touchdown passes of 50-plus yards in the final three minutes in last week’s 32–31 loss to South Florida.
No. 31 Mississippi State at No. 105 Troy
The Bulldogs have struggled in recent years with some teams from so-called lesser conferences. They beat Louisiana Tech last season and UAB in 2010 by an average of 5.5 points and lost to Houston 31–24 in ’09 and Louisiana Tech 22–14 in ’08. Dan Mullen is well aware of what his team can accomplish this season and will do everything in his power to be sure the Bulldogs are mentally ready to take care of business at the venue formerly known as Movie Gallery Stadium.
Mississippi State 33-14
No. 46 Arizona State at No. 32 Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game.
No. 33 Texas A&M at No. 94 SMU
The Aggies are no doubt disappointed with their loss to Florida in the school’s SEC debut, but they had to like what they saw from redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The Texas high school legend threw for 173 yards and added 60 on the ground and did not turn the ball over.
Texas A&M 38-20
No. 37 Virginia at No. 35 Georgia Tech
This is pretty much a must win for Georgia Tech if it hopes to compete with Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal Division title. The Yellow Jackets are already 0–1 in the league after losing at Virginia Tech in the opener. Virginia is 2–0 but struggled a bit in last week’s 17–16 win over Penn State at home. The Cavs will have to play better to be a factor in the ACC.
Georgia Tech 28-21
No. 36 BYU at No. 62 Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly gone as planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. BYU will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by its hated rivals from Salt Lake City.
Sam Houston State at No. 38 Baylor
Sam Houston State is 1–0 with a 54–7 win over Incarnate Word. I don’t think Incarnate Word is very good.
Western Illinois at No. 39 Iowa State
Iowa State will be halfway to bowl-eligibility after beating Western Illinois on Saturday. But then the fun begins — a stretch of nine straight Big 12 games.
Iowa State 37-7
No. 40 Ohio at No. 92 Marshall
There was no letdown for Ohio last week after its big win at Penn State on opening day. The Bobcats rolled past New Mexico State 51–24. Their third win should come this Saturday in Huntington.
No. 119 South Alabama at No. 41 NC State
NC State gutted out a 10–7 win at Connecticut last week, but the Wolfpack have to be a bit worried about an offense that picked up only 258 yards.
NC State 41-10
No. 61 Utah State at No. 43 Wisconsin
One team is fresh off one of its best wins in school history. The other must regroup after a surprising loss on the road. Utah State snapped a 12-game losing streak to hated rival Utah, knocking off the Utes, 27–20, in overtime Friday night. I smell upset.
Utah State 24-23
No. 66 UL-Monroe at No. 44 Auburn
This game Saturday features one of the nation’s hottest quarterbacks (Kolton Browning) vs. one of the most maligned (Kiehl Frazier). Browning, a former 3-star recruit (Scout) who had no BCS offers, threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 69 more and one score in the Warhawks’ thrilling overtime win at Arkansas last weekend. Meanwhile, Frazier, a consensus top-100 national recruit two years ago, is struggling mightily in his first season as the starter.
No. 77 Boston College at No. 45 Northwestern
Northwestern in the only school from an AQ conference to open the season with three non-league games vs. AQ conference opponents. The Wildcats beat the first two, Syracuse and Vanderbilt, and should make it No. 3 on Saturday.
Delaware State at No. 49 Cincinnati
Munchie Legaux was outstanding in the Bearcats’ Week 2 win over Pittsburgh, throwing for 205 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 117 yards on only six carries. Expect more fireworks this week.
No. 116 New Mexico at No. 50 Texas Tech
Texas Tech’s soft early season schedule continues with a visit from New Mexico, which lost 45–0 at Texas last week. The Lobos completed only six passes vs. the Longhorns.
Texas Tech 41-14
Presbyterian at No. 51 Vanderbilt
The Commodores have held leads in the fourth quarter in both games this season but have nothing to show for it. They will break into the win column this Saturday.
Charleston Southern at No. 52 Illinois
Charleston Southern is 0–2 and has lost its two games by a total of 56 points. Illinois has some issues, but the Fighting Illini will roll.
Northern Iowa at No. 55 Iowa
Iowa is one of only three teams nationally that has played two games but scored only one touchdown. The Hawkeyes also rank in a tie for second with six field goals.
No. 111 Eastern Michigan at No. 56 Purdue
Purdue fell short last week at Notre Dame, losing 20–17 on a late field goal, but the Boilermakers will be a tough out in the Big Ten. This is team that is capable of winning eight games.
Bethune-Cookman at No. 57 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes have given up 84 points in two games this season. The 2001 Canes, who won the national title, gave up 117 for the entire season.
No. 71 Navy at No. 58 Penn State
Bill O’Brien is still searching for his first win as the head coach at Penn State. He should find it this weekend.
Penn State 17-13
No. 59 Louisiana Tech at No. 83 Rice
Louisiana Tech gave up 693 yards last week yet still beat Houston thanks to an offense that scored 56 points and rolled up 598 yards. It will be a surprise if the Bulldogs don’t top 500 yards against Rice.
Louisiana Tech 44-20
Stony Brook at No. 60 Syracuse
Ryan Nassib has thrown for a total of 804 yards and six touchdowns in two games, but the Orange have yet to win a game. They lost to Northwestern 42–41 at home and then dropped a 42–29 decision to USC at the Meadowlands.
No. 63 UConn at No. 79 Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season.
No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 64 Minnesota
This is a good measuring stick for Minnesota. We think the Gophers are improved, but this will be a nice test. Western Michigan is good enough to win this game if Jerry Kill’s club doesn’t play well.
No. 102 Western Kentucky at No. 67 Kentucky
After losing its first two games in the series by an average of 36.5 points (in ’08 and ’10), Western Kentucky made the boys from Big State U sweat in last season’s opener played in Nashville. The final score was 14–3, but Kentucky didn’t put the game away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
No. 86 Bowling Green at No. 68 Toledo
Toledo bounced back from a tough overtime loss at Arizona to defeat a solid Wyoming club 34–31 on the road. Bowling Green unexpectedly struggled with Idaho (the Falcons won 21–13) after giving Florida trouble in Week 1.
No. 87 FIU at No. 69 UCF
FIU has been a disappointment through the first two games of the season. The Golden Panthers were blown out at Duke by 20 (and Duke went on to lose badly at Stanford) and then had to go to overtime to beat Akron at home.
North Carolina Central at No. 73 Duke
Duke expected to be a bit more competitive last week at Stanford, but the Blue Devils were soundly beaten (50–13) in Palo Alto. They threw for 363 yards but managed only 37 rushing yards.
No. 81 East Carolina at No. 74 Southern Miss
We still don’t know too much about this Southern Miss team. The Golden Eagles have only played once and gave up 632 yards en route to a 49–20 loss at Nebraska.
Southern Miss 34-28
Nicholls State at No. 75 Tulsa
Nichols State picked up a grand total of 118 yards in its only game this season, a 9–3 loss at South Alabama. This will get out of hand very early.
No. 82 Northern Illinois at No. 97 Army
Northern Illinois isn’t usually known for its defense, but the Huskies have only given up two touchdowns in two games this season — an 18–17 loss to Iowa in Chicago and a 35–7 win over Tennessee-Martin.
Northern Illinois 31-13
No. 110 Colorado at No. 85 Fresno State
The optimist points to the fact that Colorado has lost its two games — vs. Colorado State in Denver and Sacramento State at home — by a total of five points. The realist points to the fact that Colorado is not good at football.
Fresno State 30-17
No. 114 New Mexico State at No. 88 UTEP
UTEP is struggling to score points. The Miners have one offensive touchdown and are averaging 283.0 yards per game. It might be time to panic if they have trouble scoring this weekend.
No. 107 Colorado State at No. 89 San Jose State
Colorado State’s Week 1 win over rival Colorado was followed up by a sobering 22–7 loss at home to North Dakota State. San Jose State continues to improve under third-year coach Mike MacIntyre. This is a game the Spartans should win.
San Jose State 24-13
No. 104 Ball State at No. 91 Indiana
I realize that Ball State beat IU on a neutral field last year, but it has to be alarming for Kevin Wilson that his team is only a three-point favorite at home to a middle-of-the-pack (at best) team from the MAC.
North Dakota at No. 94 San Diego State
Ryan Katz, a former starter at Oregon State, is off to a solid start in his only season with the Aztecs. He has completed 24-of-40 passes for 343 yards and two scores and has added 86 yards rushing.
San Diego State 33-10
Cal Poly at No. 95 Wyoming
Wyoming let one get away last week in a loss at home to Toledo. Those are the type of games the Cowboys need to win to reach a bowl game.
Lamar at No. 108 Hawaii
Hawaii makes its home debut with native Hawaiian Norm Chow as the head coach. The Warriors lost in Week 1 at USC, 49–10.
Morgan State at No. 120 Akron
Akron showed significant improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. After losing at home 56–14 to UCF, the Zips took FIU to overtime before losing 41–38 on the road. This week, Terry Bowden’s club will break through.
No. 118 Middle Tennessee at No. 122 Memphis
For the second straight week, Middle Tennessee is involved in a game that features two of the worst 10 teams in the nation (according to our rankings). Unlike last week, the Blue Raiders won’t win.
Last week: 52–17
— By Mitch Light
UConn named Kevin Ollie to replace Jim Calhoun as the Huskies’ head coach. But Ollie was only given a one-year contract. If the school opts to go in another direction after the 2012-13 season, here are some likely candidates.
Shaka Smart, head coach, VCU
Smart is one of the most respected young coaches in the game. He has an overall record of 84–28 and a 38–16 mark in the Colonial in three seasons at VCU. He is best known for taking the ’10-12 Rams to the Final Four, but his most impressive accomplishment has to be guiding last year’s team, which had to replace four key seniors, to a 15–3 record in the CAA.
Brad Stevens, head coach, Butler
He’s considered by many college basketball observers to be among the top five coaches in the game. Stevens led Butler the National Championship game in two consecutive seasons and has an overall record of 139–40 in five years. Butler is making the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 in 2012-13, but the program is well-equipped to remain competitive in its new league with Stevens running the show.
Dan Hurley, head coach, Rhode Island
Hurley lacks experience — he’s only been a collegiate head coach for two seasons — but he could be a top candidate if he enjoys some degree of success in his first year at Rhode Island. He inherited a Wagner program that went 5–26 in ’09-10 and two years later led the Seahawks to a school-record 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Northeast Conference. He is a New Jersey native who spent 10 successful years as a high school coach.
Buzz Williams, head coach, Marquette
Williams has been a consistent winner at Marquette, with an overall record of 96–44 and a 46–26 record in the Big East. He has led all four of his Golden Eagle teams to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16. He has rebuffed overtures from other high-major programs in recent seasons.
Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is entering his second season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Marquette in the Round of 32.
Frank Martin, head coach, South Carolina
Martin recently made the move from Kansas State — which he guided to the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons — to South Carolina, where he faces a significant rebuilding project. He might be an attractive candidate to UConn if he does well in his first season in Columbia.
Anthony Grant, head coach, Alabama
Grant has a decent record in three seasons at Alabama — he is 63–39 overall and 27–21 in the SEC — but has only been to the NCAA Tournament once with the Tide. He did take VCU to the NCAAs twice in his three years with the Rams and had a 45–9 record in the Colonial. He is an outstanding recruiter.
Keep an eye on …
Neither Ralph Willard at Seton Hall or Mike Rice at Rutgers has done enough at their current jobs to warrant much interest from UConn, but either coach could emerge as a viable candidate with a breakthrough season. Both enjoyed success at previous stops — Willard at Iona and Rice at Robert Morris.
— By Mitch Light
Florida(+3) at Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference. Tennessee has looked sharp in both games — a win over NC State in Atlanta and a lopsided victory over hapless Georgia State — but Florida is the more battle-tested of the two teams. The Gators’ offense is still an issue, but there were signs of progress in the 20–17 win at Texas A&M on Saturday. The story of the game, though, was the Florida defense. After giving up three drives of more than 70 yards in the first half, UF limited A&M to a total of 65 yards in the second half. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray might be the most physically gifted quarterback in the nation, but he has yet to lead his team to a victory against a quality opponent with an elite defense.
Florida 24, Tennessee 21
Alabama (-21) at Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. To make matters worse, All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson might not play due to an injury suffered in the Monroe game. Alabama, meanwhile, is rolling right along. The Crimson Tide improved to 2–0 with a 35–0 win over Western Kentucky and looks like the best team in the country after two weeks. This trip to Fayetteville will be Bama’s first true road game, so don’t be surprised if the Tide struggles a bit — even if Wilson doesn’t play for Arkansas. In the end, though, Alabama will prevail.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 17
Notre Dame (+4) at Michigan State
For the first time since 2005, both Notre Dame and Michigan State are undefeated for their annual early season showdown. Michigan State moved to 2–0 with a 41–7 win in its first-ever visit to Central Michigan. Le’Veon Bell was “held” to 70 yards on 18 carries after exploding for 210 against Boise State. Notre Dame gutted out a 20–17 win over an underrated Purdue club that features an outstanding defensive front. The Irish had trouble running the ball, but Everett Golson and Tommy Rees combined to throw for 324 yards and one touchdown. The key for Notre Dame, however, will be on defense and its ability to slow down Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field.
Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 21
USC (-9) at Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level. USC’s defense, however, was a bit of a disappointment last week. The Trojans surrendered 455 yards to Syracuse in a 42–29 win over the Orange at the Meadowlands. We knew this wasn’t going to be one of the premier defenses in the nation, but those numbers are a bit alarming. Stanford bounced back from a lethargic Week 1 win over San Jose State by dominating Duke 50–13 in Palo Alto. The Cardinal have won three straight in this series. They won’t get to No. 4.
USC 38, Stanford 24
Arizona State (+7) at Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game. Missouri played well for much of the game but was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs’ front seven on defense in the fourth quarter. The Tigers won’t face the same type of defensive pressure this week, which is good news for the banged up Mizzou offensive line. If quarterback James Franklin has ample time to operate, the Tigers should get back in the win column this weekend.
Missouri 30, Arizona State 24
Wake Forest (+25) at Florida State
This line seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team. The Deacons had trouble running the ball vs. UNC, but Tanner Price completed 27-of-38 for 327 yards to lead the passing attack. Florida State has won its two games by a combined score of 124–3, but the two wins came against FCS opponents. We think this is a very good FSU team, but we won’t know for sure until the Noles play a few schools that hand out more than 65 scholarships. After Wake, Florida State hosts Clemson and then travels to South Florida and NC State. It’s a crucial stretch for the preseason ACC favorites.
Florida State 30, Wake Forest 17
Connecticut (-2.5) at Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season. The Terps are 2–0 in ’12, but the wins have come against William & Mary (by one) and Temple (by nine). There is some quality young talent on the roster — and the Terps are starting a true freshman quarterback (Perry Hills) — but the program has a long way to go to be relevant in the ACC. UConn has split its first two games, dominating UMass 37–0 in Week 1 before dropping a 10–7 decision to NC State at home last weekend. The sample size is small (and the first opponent was dreadful), but the Huskies have been stout on defense so far in 2012. That, combined with Maryland’s struggles on offense, gives UConn the advantage in this classic Big East vs. ACC showdown.
UConn 13, Maryland 10
BYU (-4) at Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. That leaves senior Jon Hays (12-of-26 vs. Utah State) as the starter with true freshman Travis Wilson being used as a change-of-pace option. BYU, on the other hand, has looked very good in wins at home vs. Washington State (30–6) and Weber State (45–13). The Cougars will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by their hated rivals from Salt Lake City.
BYU 24, Utah 14
North Carolina (+3.5) at Louisville
North Carolina’s hopes of contending in the ACC Coastal took a big hit with a surprising loss at Wake Forest on Saturday. The Tar Heels are ineligible to play in the league’s title game, but there was a belief among many — including Athlon Sports — that they could challenge Virginia Tech in the division. That, however, will be difficult after Saturday’s loss. Louisville remains the favorite in the Big East. The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game.
Louisville 24, North Carolina 20
Rutgers (+9) at South Florida (Thu.)
Once again, South Florida is off to a strong start. The Bulls improved to 2–0 with an impressive come-from-behind win over a solid Nevada team in Reno. Now, the Bulls need to sustain this strong play throughout the course of the season — something they haven’t been able to do in recent years. Rutgers is 2–0, but the Scarlet Knights haven’t been overly impressive in wins over Tulane (a bad FBS team) and Howard (a mediocre FCS team). The Scarlet Knights are only averaging 315 yards per game (ranks 100th in the nation), an alarmingly low number given the level of competition. Jawan Jamison has looked good running the ball (222 yards on 28 carries), but nothing else has really stood out about the RU attack.
South Florida 24, Rutgers 16
Last week: 6–4 overall (4–6 against the spread)
Season: 15–5 overall (11–9 against the spread)
— by Mitch Light
College football's second weekend of action is highlighted by three key games in the SEC. Here's a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 32 Utah at No. 85 Utah State
Utah has won 12 straight over its in-state rivals from Logan, and only two games have been decided by 10 points or less. But it would be a surprise if this one got away from the Aggies, especially on their home field. Not sure if Utah State can win, but it should be close.
No. 102 Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama
They’ve won eight of their last nine games dating back to the 2011 season with the only loss coming against LSU. No, not Alabama. We’re talking about Western Kentucky, which was the only seven-win team last season that did not go to a bowl game.
No. 2 USC vs. No. 62 Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Syracuse rolled up 596 yards of offense against Northwestern in Week 1 at home — and lost. Now, they head to the Meadowlands to face one of the elite teams in the nation. The Orange might have some success through the air against the USC defense, but they will have a very difficult time slowing down the dynamic — and balanced — Trojan attack.
No. 24 Washington at No. 3 LSU
Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers.
No. 83 Fresno State at No. 4 Oregon
The most important thing that we learned in Oregon’s Week 1 win over Arkansas State? That the quarterback’s last name is pronounced MAR-ee-oh-tah.
Florida A&M at No. 5 Oklahoma
Florida A&M scored 14 points last week against Tennessee State. The Rattlers will probably need to score about 50 to win this game. Don’t see that happening.
No. 61 UCF at No. 6 Ohio State
UCF boasts some quality talent on offense. The Knights have an outstanding quarterback (Blake Bortles) and deep backfield that includes former Miami Hurricane Storm Johnson. This game could be interesting into the second half.
Ohio State 31-14
No. 7 Georgia at No. 29 Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo.
Savannah State at No. 8 Florida State
Savannah State’s march of death continues. Last week, the Tigers fell behind Oklahoma State 35–0 after one quarter en route to an 84–0 loss that could have been much, much worse. This week, Savannah State makes the short trip to Tallahassee. This, too, will get very ugly.
Florida State 58-0
No. 116 New Mexico at No. 9 Texas
The Bob Davie era got off to a nice start with a 66–21 win over Southern. Now, however, the real fun starts for the Lobos. They play five of their next seven on the road, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Austin.
No. 71 East Carolina at No. 11 South Carolina
Conner Shaw is questionable for Saturday’s home opener after suffering a bruise to his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Vanderbilt. If Shaw can’t go, sophomore Dylan Thompson would be the next man up. The South Carolina offense sputtered with Thompson in the game last Thursday. He went 0-of-3 (and didn’t come close) and was sacked twice. This could be a struggle if Shaw isn’t healthy.
South Carolina 28-10
No. 101 UL-Monroe at No. 12 Arkansas
Arkansas struggled a bit in the first half with Jacksonville State before pulling away for a 49–24 win. The Hogs had trouble, at times, stopping the Gamecocks’ passing attack. UL-Monroe features a solid quarterback (junior Kolton Browning) and some experienced playmakers at wide receiver. The Hogs’ secondary could be tested.
No. 13 Nebraska at No. 42 UCLA
It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis.
No. 104 Ball State at No. 14 Clemson
Andre Ellington played his way into some (very) early Heisman talk by rushing for 231 yards in the Tigers’ win against Auburn. He can remain in the conversation with a big game against the Cardinals.
No. 91 Air Force at No. 15 Michigan
The Wolverines need a get-well game after their humbling loss to Alabama at Cowboys Stadium. I’m guessing that Denard Robinson will have more than 27 yards rushing.
Austin Peay at No. 16 Virginia Tech
The Hokies’ secondary doesn’t figure to be threatened too much this weekend. Austin Peay threw for 11 yards in a season-opening 49–10 loss at Western Kentucky.
Virginia Tech 61-0
No. 17 Michigan State at No. 111 Central Michigan
Michigan State makes its first-ever trip to Central Michigan in a game that is expected to set an attendance record at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Chippewas’ coach, Dan Enos, was a starting quarterback at Michigan State in 1989-90.
Michigan State 38-10
No. 18 Oklahoma State at No. 51 Arizona
Somehow, Arizona only scored 17 points in regulation vs. Toledo last week despite rolling up 599 yards of offense through the four quarters. The Wildcats will need to be far more efficient this weekend against a powerful Oklahoma State team that puts points on the board in a hurry.
Oklahoma State 34-20
No. 53 Purdue at No. 19 Notre Dame
The matchup to watch in South Bend will be Purdue’s underrated defensive tackle tandem of Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston vs. Notre Dame’s interior offensive line.
Notre Dame 28-17
Grambling at No. 20 TCU
TCU begins its 2012 season after sitting out Week 1 with a bye. Grambling is 0-1 after losing at Alcorn State 22–21.
No. 21 Wisconsin at No. 59 Oregon State
Wisconsin’s 26–21 win over Northern Iowa was a little too close for comfort. Danny O’Brien played well in his debut at quarterback, but the Badgers did not run the ball as efficiently as usual. Montee Ball topped the 100-yard mark but averaged only 3.8 yards on his 32 carries. Oregon State is making its 2012 debut.
Missouri State at No. 22 Louisville
Louisville is feeling pretty good about itself after dominating rival Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. Teddy Bridgewater was terrific at quarterback, and two running backs (Senoris Perry and Jeremy Wright) ran for more than 100 yards.
Georgia State at No. 25 Tennessee
After an impressive Week 1 win over NC State in Atlanta,
the Vols return home to Neyland Stadium for what will be a stress-free Saturday. Georgia State poses absolutely no threat.
No. 33 South Florida at No. 26 Nevada
Cody Fajardo did his best Colin Kaepernick impersonation last week, throwing for 230 yards and rushing for 97 in the Wolf Pack’s 31–24 win at Cal. South Florida held Chattanooga to 151 total yards in a 34¬13 win last week.
No. 43 Miami (Fla.) at No. 27 Kansas State
Kansas State is looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense that gave up 542 yards to Boston College last week.
Kansas State 34-28
No. 28 North Carolina at No. 73 Wake Forest
Wake Forest struggled to beat Liberty last week, holding on for a 20–17 win in Winston-Salem. North Carolina, meanwhile, dominated Elon (62–0) with surprising ease.
North Carolina 34-21
No. 63 Duke at No. 30 Stanford
Duke posted a solid Week 1 win, rolling past FIU 46-26 in Durham. The Blue Devils broke open a close game with a 30-point second quarter. Stanford had some trouble in its first game of the post-Andrew Luck era, beating San Jose State 20–17. Josh Nunes threw for 125 yards on 26 attempts for a very un-Luck-like 4.8 yards per completion.
No. 34 Florida at No. 32 Texas A&M
Florida’s search for competent quarterback play continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17-14
No. 35 Auburn at No. 47 Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson.
Presbyterian at No. 36 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech returns home after a gut-wrenching overtime loss at Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Yellow Jackets’ option attack should have little trouble with the Blue Hose defense.
Georgia Tech 50-10
Weber State at No. 37 BYU
BYU was one of the most impressive teams in Week 1, holding the Mike Leach-coached Washington State Cougars to 224 total yards in a 30–6 win in Provo.
No. 57 Penn State at No. 38 Virginia
Penn State is fresh off a humbling loss at home to Ohio in the debut of coach Bill O’Brien. Now, the Nittany Lions take their show on the road against a Virginia team that threw for 361 yards in a 43–19 win over Richmond.
No. 115 New Mexico State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio must avoid a letdown after its big win at Penn State last week. Frank Solich is a veteran coach who will make sure his team is ready to play.
No. 44 Illinois at No. 54 Arizona State
This would be a tough spot for Illinois at full strength, but the Fighting Illlini might be without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who injured his ankle in the win over Western Michigan. Arizona State scored 63 points in the first showing of the Todd Graham Experiment. Now, we will see what happens against a quality defense.
Arizona State 30-24
No. 41 NC State at No. 48 UConn
UConn didn’t allow UMass to cross its own 40-yard line in a 37–0 Week 1 win over the Minutemen. Don’t expect a repeat of that dominant defensive effort, but also don’t be surprised if the Huskies pull off the mild upset.
No. 45 Vanderbilt at No. 48 Northwestern
Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome.
No. 46 Iowa State at No. 52 Iowa
The ’12 season got off to a good start offensively for Iowa State. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21-20
Howard at No. 49 Rutgers
Rutgers survived a mild scare from Tulane in the opener, holding on for a 24–12 win over the Green Wave in New Orleans. Now, it’s time for a tune-up before a difficult road swing through South Florida and Arkansas.
Southern Utah at No. 50 California
The Golden Bears should take out the frustrations from last week’s loss at home to Nevada by pounding a Southern Utah club that gave up 569 yards to Utah State last week.
No. 87 Texas State at No. 56 Texas Tech
Texas State was the biggest mover in the post-Week 1 Athlon 124, jumping from No. 121 in the preseason to No. 87 after its stunning win at Houston. The magical run will end in Lubbock.
Texas Tech 31-17
No. 60 Louisiana Tech at No. 100 Houston
Houston, meanwhile, fell from No. 70 in the preseason to No. 100 after losing at home, 30–13, to Texas State. This is a very important game for first-year coach Tony Levine.
Louisiana Tech 31, Houston 20
New Hampshire at No. 64 Minnesota
This won’t be a gimme for Minnesota. New Hampshire rolled up 531 yards of offense in a 38–17 win at Holy Cross last weekend.
No. 122 Memphis at No. 65 Arkansas State
Memphis lost at home to UT Martin last week in Justin Fuente’s debut as the Tigers’ head coach. This could get ugly. Gus Malzahn will be eager to score a ton of points in his first game in Jonesboro.
Arkansas State 56-10
No. 98 Maryland at No. 66 Temple
People who are surprised that Maryland is a 10-point underdog at Temple must have forgotten that the Terps lost at home to the Owls 38–7 last September.
No. 97 Kent State at No. 67 Kentucky
Perhaps no coach in American needs a win this week more than Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, who is 0–1 after losing badly to rival Louisville in Week 1.
No. 68 UL-Lafayette at No. 105 Troy
UL-Lafayette has an opportunity for a big early season road win in the Sun Belt. Troy played well last week in a win at UAB, but UL-Lafayette is a more formidable foe with a bunch of offensive weapons.
No. 80 UTEP at No. 70 Ole Miss
Ole Miss hosts a UTEP team that went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma into the fourth quarter before losing 24–7. The key to avoiding the upset for Ole Miss will be slowing down tailback Nathan Jeffery, who rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries vs. Oklahoma.
Ole Miss 17-14
No. 72 Toledo at No. 93 Wyoming
Toledo gave up 624 yards but only 24 points in a Week 1 overtime loss at Arizona. Wyoming isn’t as skilled as Arizona, but the Cowboys did manage 345 yards of offense last week against a very good Texas defense.
Wyoming 41, Toledo 34
No. 114 Rice at No. 74 Kansas
Rice ranked last in the nation among the 117 teams that played last week by giving up an average of 9.36 yards per play in its loss to UCLA. That is not good.
No. 113 Tulane at No. 76 Tulsa
Tulsa has won all seven meetings (by an average of 30 points) between these two teams since Conference USA formed in 2005. Don’t expect this game to be any different.
Eastern Illinois at No. 77 Western Michigan
Eastern Illinois scored 49 points and rolled up 522 yards vs. Southern Illinois last week. Western Michigan should win, but the Broncs will have to play well.
Western Michigan 38-17
North Dakota State at No. 78 Colorado State
Jim McElwain began his tenure in style, beating rival Colorado 22–17 in Denver. Now, he makes his debut at home against a North Dakota State team that outgained Robert Morris 495-to-88 in a 52–0 win.
Colorado State 24-14
Maine at No. 79 Boston College
Boston College opened the season with 41–32 loss at home to Miami, but the Eagles did show signs of significant improvement on offense, recording 542 total yards.
Boston College 34-10
Eastern Washington at No. 81 Washington State
The Mike Leach era opened with a six-point, 224-yard effort against BYU. Not exactly what the Cougar faithful had in mind. Wazzu will have an opportunity to pick up a W this week, but it might not be easy. Eastern Washington won at Idaho last Thursday night.
Washington State 27-10
Tennessee-Martin at No. 82 Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois came close to knocking off Iowa in Chicago despite picking up only 201 yards of offense (73 on one play). The Huskies should have more success in Week 2.
Northern Illinois 37-14
No. 124 Idaho at No. 84 Bowling Green
These are not good times for the Idaho Vandals. The team without a conference — the school recently declared its Independence — lost last week 20–3 at home to Eastern Washington.
Bowling Green 34-0
No. 119 Akron at No. 86 FIU
FIU has to be a bit disappointed after losing its opener by 20 points at Duke. The Golden Panthers will take out their frustrations on Terry Bowden and the Zips.
UC Davis at No. 88 San Jose State
The Spartans played well in their opener, falling 20–17 at Stanford. Last year, the lost to Stanford 57–3.
San Jose State 31-10
Sacramento State at No. 89 Colorado
Jon Embree’s second season at his alma mater didn’t start in fine fashion. The Buffs lost to rival Colorado State — and didn’t look good doing so.
No. 90 Indiana at No. 12 UMass
The Hoosiers avoided disaster by holding on for a seven-point win over Indiana State in Week 1. Now, they hit the road to play a UMass team that has yet to advance the ball past its own 40-yard line this year.
Western Carolina at No. 92 Marshall
Marshall had some trouble on the defensive end last week, getting torched by West Virginia for 69 points. The Herd will be eager to do the torching this Saturday.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 94 SMU
SMU did some good things on offense in a 59–24 loss at Baylor last Sunday. The Mustangs picked up over 500 yards of offense but were undone by some costly turnovers. This has a chance to be a good team.
No. 96 Army at No. 95 San Diego State
San Diego State played well defensively in its 21–12 loss at Washington last week, holding the Huskies to a total of 326 yards. Army is making its 2012 debut.
San Diego State 24-17
Southern Illinois at No. 103 Miami (Ohio)
The Red Hawks held their own early vs. Ohio State before being overwhelmed by the Buckeyes’ offense in a 56–10 loss. Zac Dysert threw for 303 yards to lead the one-dimensional Miami attack.
Miami (Ohio) 33-10
Texas Southern at No. 106 North Texas
Think the talent differential is great between North Texas’ first two opponents? First LSU. Now Texas Southern.
North Texas 33-10
Illinois State at No. 107 Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan needs to get out of this game as healthy as possible with trips to Purdue and Michigan State looming.
Eastern Michigan 30-17
Morgan State at No. 110 Buffalo
Buffalo can’t be too disappointed with its performance at Georgia. The Bulls picked up 347 yards of offense and only trailed 24–16 at the half.
Northern Arizona at No. 112 UNLV
UNLV missed a golden opportunity to beat a Big Ten team, losing to Minnesota in triple-overtime. The Rebels should improve to 1-1 against a Northern Arizona team that gave up 66 points to Arizona State in Week 1.
Nicholls State at No. 118 South Alabama
South Alabama dropped its first game as an FBS school last week, falling to Texas-San Antonio (another FBS newbie) 33–31 in Mobile.
South Alabama 31-10
No. 120 FAU at No. 121 Middle Tennessee
This game is depressing. Middle Tennessee lost at home to McNeese State last week, while FAU “escaped” with a 10–7 win over Wagner. Both teams desperately need a win.
Middle Tennessee 20-3
Last Week: 55-9
College football’s second week of action features the debut of the two newest members of the SEC and a huge road trip for Nebraska.
10 Biggest Games of Week 2
Georgia (-3.5) at Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo. On a positive note, it doesn’t appear the Bulldogs will miss Isaiah Crowell too much; true freshman Todd Gurley, a 6-1, 218-pound North Carolina native, ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who underwent major shoulder surgery in the spring, was relatively sharp in the Tigers’ 62–10 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He completed 13-of-21 for 131 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Franklin, one of the top playmakers in the SEC when healthy, will have to be at his best on Saturday.
Georgia 27, Missouri 21
Florida (+2.5) at Texas A&M
The other new SEC member, Texas A&M, also plays its first league game this weekend. It will also be the first game of the season for the Aggies, who had their opener vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, quarterback Johnny Manziel will make his first career appearance against an outstanding Florida defense that gave up fewer than 300 yards per game in 2011. Speaking of quarterbacks, Florida’s search for a competent signal-caller continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17, Florida 14
Miami (Fla.)(+7) at Kansas State
Beating Boston College, even on the road, is no reason to get overly excited, but Miami has to feel good about its offense after a 41–32 win in Chestnut Hill. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris was sharp (28-of-45 for 207 yards), but the big story for the Canes was true freshman tailback Duke Johnson, who ran for 135 yards and two scores on only seven rushes. The Miami defense, however, was not quite as impressive. Boston College, which ranked 112th in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense last season, rolled up 542 total yards — 441 through the air and 101 on the ground. Kansas State struggled early against FCS foe Missouri State before pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 51–9 win. The Wildcats are looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense.
Kansas State 34, Miami (Fla.) 28
Nebraska (-5) at UCLA
It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis. There was some bad news in Lincoln, however. Tailback Rex Burkhead went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee in the first half and isn’t expected to play this weekend. UCLA pounded Rice in Houston in coach Jim L. Mora’s debut with the Bruins. Tailback Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards and three scores on 15 carries, and quarterback Brett Hundley, playing in his first career game, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. This is one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. Nebraska has the edge in the trenches, so go with the Huskers.
Nebraska 27, UCLA 21
Washington (+23.5) at LSU
Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers. Washington features some high-quality offensive players — most notably quarterback Keith Price — but its defense will have a tough time against quality competition. LSU will be tested for the first time after disposing of North Texas in predictable fashion (41–14) in Week 1. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, in his first start at LSU, completed 19-of-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown. If he plays well — and gives the Tigers’ offense balance — this team will very difficult to beat.
LSU 30, Washington 17
Purdue (+14.5) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame returns to the mainland after an impressive 50–10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson was solid in his first career start, but the Irish got it done with their rushing attack. With starter Cierre Wood back in South Bend while serving a two-game suspension, Notre Dame turned to Theo Riddick (19 carries, 107 yards) and George Atkinson III (nine for 99) to power a ground game that averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Purdue had no trouble with Eastern Kentucky, the alma mater of Boilermakers coach Danny Hope. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush was suspended for the opener, leaving Robert Marve and Rob Henry, who have played significantly at Pudue, to handle the snaps. On Monday, Hope announced that TerBush will get the start for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 28, Purdue 17
Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern
Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome. Rodgers and Matthews figure to test the Wildcats’ shaky secondary with frequency. Northwestern, too, will present some problems on offense for Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are likely to play two quarterback; Kain Colter, the starter (if healthy), is a runner who is developing as a passer, while Trevor Siemian is a polished passer who came off the bench to lead NU’s game-winning drive at Syracuse. This is an important game for two programs who are hoping to find six wins to reach bowl-eligibility.
Vanderbilt 34, Northwestern 24
Iowa State (+4) at Iowa
Iowa State scored a total of 15 points en route to losing three straight to Iowa from 2008-10. Last year, however, the Cyclones erupted for 44 points in a three-point win in Ames. The ’12 season got off to good start offensively for Paul Rhoads’ club. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. Yards will be tougher to come by in Iowa City this weekend. Iowa gave up only 201 total yards (73 on one play) in an 18–17 win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Take out that one big play — a run by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch — and the Iowa defense gave up an average of 2.4 yards per play. Offensively, Iowa had to be thrilled to get a big game from tailback Damon Bullock. A sophomore who rushed for a total of 20 yards last season, Bullock carried the ball 30 times for 150 yards. Now, Iowa just needs to keep him healthy. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21, Iowa 20
Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average of 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson. Mississippi State barely broke a sweat in a win over in-state “rival” Jackson State. The Bulldogs’ offense showed nice balance, with 202 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. They have some playmakers at the wide receiver position; it will be up to quarterback Tyler Russell to get them the ball.
Auburn 24, Mississippi State 21
Pittsburgh (+4) at Cincinnati (Thu)
Paul Chryst appears to be the ideal fit at Pittsburgh, but his tenure as the Panthers’ head coach got off to a miserable start — a 31–17 loss to FCS foe Youngstown State. The most alarming part of the loss? It wasn’t a fluke. The Penguins were the better team. Youngstown State outgained Pitt (381 to 369), converted 11-of-16 on third down and did not commit a turnover. Tino Sunseri, who struggled in Todd Graham’s system, completed 19-of-30 for 239 yards but missed on some key throws. He will need to play better to give this team a chance to be successful. Despite their poor showing, the Panthers are only a four-point underdog on the road to a Cincinnati team that has won or shared three of the past four Big East titles. The Bearcats, however, must replace several significant contributors on both sides of the ball, most notably tailback Isaiah Pead, quarterback Zach Collaros and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. We’ll find out early this season if the 2012 Bearcats are rebuilding or if they have reloaded for another Big East title run.
Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 17
Last week: 9–1 overall (7–3 against the spread)
College football's first weekend of action features games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Here's a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 24 Boise State at No. 18 Michigan State (Fri.)
Much of the focus will be on the first-time starters at quarterback, Joe Southwick for Boise State and Andrew Maxwell for Michigan State, but the key matchups will be on the line of scrimmage. Michigan State will look to attack Boise State’s inexperienced defense — only one full-time starter is back — with a heavy dose of tailback Le’Veon Bell.
Michigan State 28–14
No. 98 San Jose State at No. 21 Stanford (Fri.)
Josh Nunes gets his first start at Stanford after beating out Brett Nottingham for the right to replace Andrew Luck at quarterback. The Cardinal have won four straight and eight of nine vs. San Jose State, including a 57–3 win in last year’s opener.
No. 28 NC State vs. No. 37 Tennessee (in Atlanta) (Friday)
It’s always dangerous to put too much stock in one game, but Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could really use a win to begin his third season in Knoxville. Dooley is 11–14 overall, and only one of the wins (vs. Cincinnati in 2011) came against an FBS team that ended the season with a winning record.
Villanova at No. 73 Temple (Fri.)
Temple opens up with Villanova for the fourth straight season. The Owls rolled last year, winning 42–7, but struggled in ’10 (won 31–24) and lost in ’09 (lost 27–24). Villanova went 2–9 last year and won only one game in the Colonial.
Wagner at No. 120 Florida Atlantic
FAU scored 17 points or less in nine of 12 games en route to a 1–11 season in the final year of Howard Schnellenberger’s legendary career. Carl Pelini, the brother of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, is now in charge in South Florida.
Florida Atlantic 20–10
No. 108 Hawaii at No. 1 USC
Norm Chow makes his debut as a head coach against the No. 1 team in the land. Chow and current USC coach Lane Kiffin served on the same USC staff from 2001-04, with Chow as the offensive coordinator and Kiffin a the tight ends (’01) and wide receivers (’02-04) coach.
No. 104 North Texas at No. 2 LSU
When he signed with Georgia as a 4-star recruit in 2009, Zach Mettenberger probably didn’t think it would be four years before he would be starting his first game in the FBS ranks. But that is the reality for the 6-5, 230-pound fourth-year junior who arrived at LSU after a stop at Butler (Kan.) Community College.
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 7 Michigan (at Arlington, Texas)
There is one school of thought that says that it’s best to play Alabama early, especially with so many new starters on the defense. That’s probably true, but the Crimson Tide defense should be more than ready to slow down the Wolverines.
No. 64 Arkansas State at No. 4 Oregon
Two of the top offensive minds in college will meet in Eugene, with Gus Malzahn making his head coaching debut against Chip Kelly and the Ducks. Ryan Aplin leads an Arkansas State offense that should be able to score some points, but the Red Wolves won’t be able to stop the Oregon attack.
No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 105 UTEP
UTEP is 0–9 vs. current power conference teams during the 11-year Mike Price era. That will be 0–10 sometime last Saturday night.
No. 99 Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 Ohio State
Don’t expect much production on the ground from Miami on Saturday. Last year, there were 68 players in the nation who had more rushing yards than the entire Miami team. The Redhawks netted only 886 yards on the ground.
Ohio State 41–14
No. 111 Buffalo at No. 8 Georgia
Mark Richt said earlier this week that “Coach (Jeff) Quinn is in his third season. He’s doing an outstanding job there — no doubt about it.” Quinn is 5–19 overall and 3–13 in the MAC. Not sure what is “outstanding” about that.
Murray State at No. 9 Florida State
Murray State averaged 39.9 points in 10 games vs. FCS competition last year but scored only nine in a season-opening loss at Louisville last year.
Florida State 44–10
No. 88 Wyoming at No. 11 Texas
Wyoming could be a sleeper in the Mountain West, but the Cowboys will be outmatched in Austin on Saturday. The Longhorns will run all over a Wyoming defense that ranked 115th in the nation in stopping the run in 2011.
No. 83 Marshall at No. 12 West Virginia
Marshall is 0–11 all-time against West Virginia and only twice has the game been decided by less than 10 points — 24–21 in 2010 and 17–15 in 1911. Last year, the Herd held WVU to 291 yards, by far the fewest of the season for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia 38-14
Jacksonville State at No. 13 Arkansas
Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe was on the losing end the last time Arkansas lost to an FCS (or Division I-AA school). That was in 1992, when the Hogs lost 10–3 to The Citadel in the season-opener. Crowe was fired after the loss.
No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 14 Nebraska
Southern Miss won 12 games last year but figures to take a step back with quarterback Austin Davis no longer around. New coach Ellis Johnson, formerly the defensive boss at South Carolina, will turn to junior Chris Campbell, who has yet to throw a pass in college.
No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 30 Auburn
Don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense, now coordinated by Brian VanGorder, is vastly improved in 2012. But also don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense struggles in Week 1, even though Clemson is missing All-America wideout Sammy Watkins. The Tigers still have weapons.
Northern Iowa at No. 17 Wisconsin
Danny O’Brien makes his debut at quarterback for the Badgers, but the Wisconsin offense will still feature heavy doses of tailbacks Montee Ball and James White.
Savannah State at No. 19 Oklahoma State
Savannah State is 2–20 over the last two seasons with both wins coming over North Carolina Central. This is a colossal mismatch.
Oklahoma State 51-6
No. 65 Navy vs. No. 20 Notre Dame (Dublin, Ireland)
The storyline for this game — other than the fact that it is being played in Ireland — is the debut of redshirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback for Notre Dame. Golson is far from a finished product, but he is an outstanding athlete who has taken care of the ball — a huge focus for the Irish this season — in scrimmages.
Notre Dame 34-14
No. 95 San Diego State at No. 25 Washington
Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz will make his debut for San Diego State against a familiar foe. Katz lost his only start vs. UW — he threw for 206 yards but was picked off three times in a 35–34 loss in 2009 — but Oregon State went 2–1 vs. the Huskies in his three seasons in Corvallis.
No. 94 Bowling Green at No. 26 Florida
Florida is hoping to find some answers at quarterback this Saturday. Here’s a question: Will Matt Schilz, Bowling Green’s third-year starter, be the best quarterback on the field? My guess is yes.
Missouri State at No. 27 Kansas State
K-State struggled in its 2011 opener vs. an FCS team, holding on to beat Eastern Kentucky 10–7. It shouldn’t be so difficult this time around. Missouri State went 2–9 last season and was among the worst defensive teams in the nation.
Kansas State 41–0
Elon at No. 29 North Carolina
North Carolina is the better team, but the best player on the field might be Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette, who caught 113 passes for 1,639 yards last season, including 11 for 180 in the opener vs. Vanderbilt.
North Carolina 33–14
SE Louisiana at No. 31Missouri
The Lions from Southeastern Louisiana gave up a total of 99 points in two games vs. FBS foes last year — 47 to Tulane and 52 to Southern Miss. Points should be easy to come by for the Tigers.
Chattanooga at No. 34 South Florida
Chattanooga went 5–6 last year with a future NFL Draft pick (B.J. Coleman, seventh round to Green Bay) playing quarterback. The Mocs don’t have a future pro under center this year.
South Florida 44-10
Richmond at No. 36 Virginia
Richmond opened the 2011 season with three straight wins, highlighted by a 23–21 victory at Duke, but then lost its final eight games. That’s not very Spider-like.
No. 54 Nevada at No. 38 California
This is a tricky opener for the Golden Bears. Two years, ago Cal made the short trip to Reno and came home with a 52–31 loss. Zach Maynard must play well for Cal to win.
No. 79 Toledo at No. 43 Arizona
RichRod’s first game at Arizona is against a Toledo team that knows how to put points on the board. The Rockets averaged 42.2 points per game last season and hit the 60-point mark on two occasions.
No. 59 Ohio at No. 44 Penn State
The Bill O’Brien era begins Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions host Ohio, one of the top mid-major programs in the nation. Ohio is fresh off a 10-win season and features one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation, junior Tyler Tettleton. A true dual-threat, Tettleton threw for 3,202 yards and 28 touchdowns (with only 10 INTs) and added 658 yards on the ground in 2012.
Penn State 21–13
Youngstown State at No. 45 Pittsburgh
With Ray Graham out with an injury, don’t be surprised if Pitt freshman Rushel Shell has a huge — as in 200-plus yards — game in the coaching debut of Paul Chryst.
No. 46 Rutgers at No. 113 Tulane
Tulane has some solid skill-position players — most notably quarterback Ryan Griffin and tailback Orleans Darkwa — but Rutgers’ defense will be a bit too strong for the Green Wave.
Jackson State at No. 47 Mississippi State
Jackson Sate went 9–2 in the FCS ranks last season but shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State 41–10
No. 48 Miami (Fla.) at No. 86 Boston College
I realize expectations aren’t high at Miami this fall, but it’s got to be a bit alarming that the Hurricanes are only favored by two points over a Boston College team that is picked by most to finish in last place in the ACC Atlantic — even behind Maryland.
No. 49 Northwestern at No. 67 Syracuse
Syracuse is eager to get the 2012 season off on a good note after losing the final five games in 2011. Northwestern opens the season with three straight non-conference games vs. BCS foes. The Wildcats host Vanderbilt and Boston College in the next two weeks.
No. 50 Iowa vs. No. 85 Northern Illinois (Chicago)
Northern Illinois brings a nine-game winning streak into the 2012 opener, but the Huskies only return three starters on offense. They figure to take a step back in the competitive MAC West.
No. 77 Western Michigan at No. 52 Illinois
Western Michigan went 1–3 outright vs. teams vs. BCS conferences in 2011, with a win at UConn, a lopsided loss at Michigan (34–10) and close losses at Illinois (23–20) and vs. Purdue (37–32) in the Little Caesers Pizza Bowl. This is a team with a senior quarterback (Alex Carder) and a veteran offensive line that will not be intimidated by playing on the road at a Big Ten school.
Western Michigan 30–27
Eastern Kentucky at No. 53 Purdue
It will be an emotional day for Purdue coach Danny Hope. He served as the head coach at Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater, from 2003-07 and guided the Colonials to a 35–22 record in five seasons.
Liberty at No. 57 Wake Forest
Wake Forest ended the 2011 season with five losses in its last six games, with the only win coming at home vs. Maryland. Liberty, a solid FCS team, will not be a pushover.
Wake Forest 31–17
Northwestern State at No. 58 Texas Tech
Northwestern State scored a total of 10 points in two games vs. FBS competition last year — three vs. LSU and seven vs. SMU. Texas Tech should roll in Week 1.
Texas Tech 48–7
No. 74 Tulsa at No. 60 Iowa State
Iowa State is the only AQ conference home team that is an underdog vs. a non-AQ conference opponent. Tulsa is solid, but the Golden Hurricane didn’t play well last year against top competition. I think the wrong team is favored.
Iowa State 33–28
Nicholls State at No. 61 Oregon State
Oregon State was stunned at home in its 2011 opener, losing in overtime, 29–28, to Sacramento State. Don’t expect a repeat. Nicholls State went 1–10 last season, with its only win coming vs. Evangel.
Oregon State 41–0
No. 68 FIU at No. 80 Duke
Duke rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to win at FIU, 31–27, last season. The Golden Panthers had little trouble moving the ball, with 392 yards passing and 176 yards rushing. However, two of their top skill players (quarterback Wesley Carroll and wideout T.Y. Hilton) are gone.
No. 121 Texas State at No. 70 Houston
Dennis Franchione and Texas State make the short trip to Houston to face Houston and new coach Tony Levine. The Cougars, who won 13 games last year, will send out sophomore David Piland to replace record-setting quarterback Case Keenum. Piland threw for 2,669 yards and 24 touchdowns two years ago while filling in for the injured Keenum.
Central Arkansas at No. 71 Ole Miss
After leading Arkansas State to its first-ever Sun Belt title in 2011, Hugh Freeze is now charged with making Ole Miss relevant in the brutal SEC West. Winning this week won’t be a problem. Winning more than four games this year could be.
Ole Miss 30–7
William & Mary at No. 72 Maryland
I can’t even imagine what would happen to Randy Edsall if he opened Year 2 with a loss to an FCS school that went 5–6 last year.
Lamar at No. 76 UL-Lafayette
Mark Hudspeth did a tremendous job in his first season at UL-Lafayette, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9–4 record capped with a thrilling 32–30 win over San Diego State in the New Orleans bowl. The Cajuns should win with ease in Week 1.
Appalachian State at No. 78 East Carolina
This won’t be easy for ECU. Appalachian State went 8–4 last year and is ranked No. 8 in the 2012 FCS preseason top 25 by Athlon Sports. The Pirates, though, are set up for a nice season in Conference USA. If Rio Johnson plays well at quarterback, ECU should contend in the East Division.
East Carolina 30–17
South Dakota State at No. 81 Kansas
Charlie Weis makes his debut at KU against a South Dakota State club that went 5–6 last year and lost to Illinois 56–3 in its only game vs. an FBS opponent. Dayne Crist, a former top recruit at Notre Dame, is the starting quarterback at Kansas.
No. 91 Colorado State vs. No. 84 Colorado (Denver)
This rivalry has lost some of its luster in recent years, but it’s still an important game in the Centennial State. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who won two national titles with the Tide, is the man in charge at Colorado State. The Rams will need a big game from underrated tailback Chris Nwoke.
Weber State at No. 87 Fresno State
New Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter has a defensive background, but the Bulldogs will be fun to watch on offense this fall with star power at quarterback in Derek Carr (David’s brother) and tailback Robbie Rouse.
Fresno State 44–14
Indiana State at No. 89 Indiana
The Hoosiers were the only AQ conference team that did not beat an FBS opponent last year. Indiana lost to Ball State in Indianapolis and at North Texas. Indiana State will make Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers sweat, but IU should prevail.
Idaho State at No. 92 Air Force
Idaho State is bad. Very bad. The Bengals went 2–9 last year and ranked in the 100s in the FCS ranks in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Air Force option attack could roll up over 400 yards on the ground.
Air Force 44–0
Austin Peay at No. 101 Western Kentucky
Austin Peay lost its two games vs. FBS opponents last season by a combined score of 99–16 — and one of those games was against Memphis. The Governors will be hard-pressed to keep this game close.
Western Kentucky 41–10
No. 109 Troy at No. 106 UAB
Troy rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter to beat UAB 24–23 last fall in a game that featured some questionable officiating down the stretch. “Everybody saw the game — bad calls by some Sun Belt referees,” UAB safety Jamie Bender said after the game. This year, the Blazers will be at home, with Conference USA officials.
Tennessee-Martin at No. 115 Memphis
The Larry Porter era mercifully came to an end after two miserable seasons. Now, it’s Justin Feunte’s turn to make Memphis a factor as it gets ready to make the move from Conference USA to the Big East. The first season figures to be a struggle, but the first week should produce a victory.
Southern at No. 117 New Mexico
Bob Davie is back in coaching for the first time since 2001. He inherited a New Mexico program that has been alarmingly uncompetitive in recent years. This is a big rebuilding project.
New Mexico 21–3
No. 124 UTSA at No. 123 South Alabama
It’s classic battle between two of the four new members of the FBS ranks. Since we’ve got South Alabama ranked higher and the Jags are at home, the pick is obvious.
South Alabama 34-30
No. 75 Kentucky at No. 23 Louisville
Establishing a running game is always important, but it takes on extra meaning in this intra-state rivalry. Consider the following: The team that has won the rushing battle has won the last 13 Kentucky-Louisville games.
No. 93 SMU at No. 40 Baylor
Former Texas Longhorn Garrett Gilbert, a one-time Gatorade National Player of the Year, makes his debut as the starting quarterback at SMU. He will be operating behind an offensive line that features five new starters.
Virginia Tech 24–17
— by Mitch Light
College football kicks of this weekend with a full slate of games. Here's a look at 10 of the top games on the Week 1 schedule.
10 Biggest Games of Week 1
Alabama (-13.5) vs. Michigan (at Arlington)
Denard Robinson, one of the nation’s most dynamic offensive players, will face his stiffest test of the season in Week 1. The Alabama defense will have a new look — only four starters return — but the Crimson Tide will no doubt still rank among the top defenses in college football. Robinson has struggled throwing the ball against elite defenses — he completed 9-of-24 against Michigan State and 9-of-21 against Virginia Tech last season — and Alabama will make the man called Shoelace prove that can he move the ball by throwing it down field. There is one school of thought that says that it’s best to play Alabama early, especially with so many new starters on the defense. That’s probably true, but the Tide defense should be more than ready to slow down the Wolverines.
Alabama 27, Michigan 13
Boise State (+7) at Michigan State (Fri.)
Boise State has won six straight games vs. BCS conference teams, with its last loss coming at Washington, 24–10, in Week 2 of the 2007 season. Three of those wins have come on the opening weekend of the season — vs. Oregon in 2009, Virginia Tech in ’10 and Georgia in ’11. This year, the Broncos head to East Lansing to face a Michigan State team that has few weaknesses. Much of the focus will be on the first-time starters at quarterback, Joe Southwick for Boise State and Andrew Maxwell for Michigan State, but the key matchups will be on the line of scrimmage. Michigan State will look to attack Boise State’s inexperienced defense — only one full-time starter is back — with a heavy dose of tailback Le’Veon Bell. The 6-2, 244-pound junior will run behind a veteran offensive line that returns four starters. It could be a tough night for the Broncos’ defense.
Michigan State 28, Boise State 14
South Carolina (-6.5) at Vanderbilt (Thu.)
The college football season kicks off Thursday night in Nashville. South Carolina has had some struggles against Vanderbilt over the past five years. The Gamecocks lost twice in that span, in 2007 and ’08, and have averaged only 15.8 points in the five games. Vanderbilt, though, has only averaged 6.7 points in the past three games and has scored only one offensive touchdown in that span. Last year, the Commodores managed a total of 77 yards in a 21–3 loss in Columbia. Don’t expect such offensive ineptitude from the 2012 Dores, however. This Vanderbilt club features arguably the best collection of skill players the school has had in the past two decades, with all-conference-caliber talent at running back (Zac Stacy) and wide receiver (Jordan Matthews) and a veteran quarterback who has played well in big spots (Jordan Rodgers). The key for Vanderbilt, though, will be on the other side of the ball. The Commodores must slow down All-America tailback Marcus Lattimore, who is playing in his first game since injuring his knee last October vs. Mississippi State. If Lattimore fails to hit the 100-yard mark, Vanderbilt has a legitimate chance to win this game.
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 24
Tennessee (-3) vs. NC State (Fri.)
It’s always dangerous to put too much stock in one game, but Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could really use a win to begin his third season in Knoxville. Dooley is 11–14 overall, and only one of the wins (vs. Cincinnati in 2011) came against an FBS team that ended the season with a winning record. Recently, much has been made about the dismissal of All-SEC wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, but the focus for Tennessee has to be on the running game. Last season, the Vols ranked last in the SEC in rushing and averaged an anemic 2.3 yards per carry vs. conference foes. That simply has to improve. It’s very difficult to beat good teams if you can’t run the ball — no matter how potent you might be in the passing game. NC State, too, is searching for offensive balance after ranking sixth in the ACC in passing and 11th in rushing in 2012. It’s a good bet that the team that runs the ball better will win this game.
Tennessee 34, NC State 27
Clemson (-3) vs. Auburn
Two new high-profile (and highly paid) defensive coordinators will making their debut at the Georgia Dome Saturday night — Brent Venables at Clemson and Brian VanGorder at Auburn. Venables’ arrival at Clemson received more pub nationally (likely because he was taking over a defense that gave up 70 points in its bowl game), but VanGorder was arguably the most important coordinator hire in the nation. The one-time coordinator at Georgia inherits a unit that ranked 11th in the SEC in both scoring defense and total defense and gave up an average of 41.6 points in its five losses. The Tigers, however, have been accumulating some solid talent on defense, especially along the line. Don’t be surprised if this unit is vastly improved in 2012. But also don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense struggles in Week 1, even though Clemson is missing All-America wideout Sammy Watkins. The Tigers still have weapons.
Clemson 30, Auburn 20
Ohio (+5.5) at Penn State
The Bill O’Brien era begins Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions host Ohio, one of the top mid-major programs in the nation. Ohio is fresh off a 10-win season and features one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation, junior Tyler Tettleton. A true dual-threat, Tettleton threw for 3,202 yards and 28 touchdowns (with only 10 INTs) and added 658 yards on the ground in 2012. In his only game vs. a BCS conference team, he completed 23-of-36 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38–26 loss at Rutgers. And keep in mind that the Scarlet Knights ranked ninth in the nation in pass defense last season. Tettleton will have to be at his best against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have some concerns in the secondary, but the front seven should be stout. Ohio will have trouble moving the ball on the ground; if the Bobcats aren’t sharp in the passing game, they will struggle to score points.
Penn State 21, Ohio 13
Notre Dame (-16.5) vs. Navy (at Dublin, Ireland)
Notre Dame won 43 straight vs. Navy from 1964 through 2006 but proceeded to lose three of four from ’07 through ’10. The Irish got back on track last fall, rolling past the Midshipmen with ease, 56–14, in South Bend. The storyline this season — other than the fact that the game is being played in Ireland — is the debut of redshirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback for Notre Dame. Golson is far from a finished product, but he is an outstanding athlete who has taken care of the ball — a huge focus for the Irish this season — in scrimmages. Notre Dame won’t have tailback Cierre Wood (suspended), but the Irish have plenty of capable ball-carriers. Don’t be surprised if George Atkinson III has a huge day.
Notre Dame 34, Navy 14
Miami (Fla.) (-2) at Boston College
I realize expectations aren’t high at Miami this fall, but it’s got to be a bit alarming that the Hurricanes are only favored by two points over a Boston College team that is picked by most to finish in last place in the ACC Atlantic — even behind Maryland. It’s worth noting that BC beat the Canes 24–17 in Miami in the 2011 season-finale. Still, Miami is the better team, even with its issues at quarterback and on the offensive line. Junior Stephen Morris, who played down the stretch as a true freshman in 2010, beat out Ryan Williams for the starting assignment. Boston College will counter with junior Chase Rettig, who has started the last 20 games. Boston College will be without two of its top skill-position players; projected starters at tailback Rolandan Finch (705 yards in 2012) and wide receiver Bobby Swigert (44 catches, 470 yards) are out with injury.
Miami 24, Boston College 20
Kentucky (+14) at Louisville (Sun.)
Establishing a running game is always important, but it takes on extra meaning in this intra-state rivalry. Consider the following: The team that has won the rushing battle has won the last 13 Kentucky-Louisville games. UK ranked 90th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in rushing last season, but the coaching staff believes the 2012 Cats will be much-improved on the ground thanks to the return of veterans CoShik Williams, Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George. Louisville, too, struggled to run the ball in ’11, ranking 93rd in the nation with a 121.5-yard average. The Cardinals have yet to settle on a feature back, so expect as many as four tailbacks to get touches on Sunday afternoon. Louisville is the popular pick for two main reasons — the Cards have a decided edge at quarterback and are playing at home.
Louisville 30, Kentucky 20
Georgia Tech (+7.5) at Virginia Tech (Mon.)
Georgia Tech is 1–3 against Virginia Tech since Paul Johnson took over in 2008, but the Yellow Jackets have had success moving the ball. They have averaged 378.3 yards in those four games, including 294.0 on the ground. Last year, Georgia Tech had no answer for the Hokies’ offense, allowing 208 yards passing (on only seven completions) and 267 yards rushing en route to a 37–26 loss in Atlanta. With David Wilson now in the NFL, Virginia Tech’s running attack figures to be a work in progress early in the season, but quarterback Logan Thomas is a dangerous weapon who is capable of taking over a game. This is a key early season battle in the Coastal. Conventional wisdom suggests that Virginia Tech should have the edge because the Hokies have had ample time to prepare for the option attack.
Virginia Tech 24, Georgia Tech 17
by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)
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Penn State was spared the Death Penalty. But it will be many, many years before the Nittany Lions will field a competitive football team again. Acting with unprecedented speed and eschewing its standard investigative process, the NCAA handed down severe penalties that are sure to cripple this once-proud program for at least the next decade. Of the four major sanctions, only two — the four-year postseason ban and the scholarship reductions (the school must be down from 85 to 65 scholarships by 2014) — will significantly affect the program going forward. The school was also fined $60 million, but that’s hardly punitive to a university with an endowment of close to $2 billion. In addition, the program must vacate all of its wins dating back to the 1998 season. But that’s more symbolic. We can’t change history.
We can, however, alter the future, and that is what the NCAA has done — and rightfully so. Arguably, the NCAA stepped outside of its jurisdiction in this case. After all, Penn State did not break black and white NCAA rules of academic integrity and amateurism. This was a criminal matter. But the NCAA did what the courts could not: Act swiftly to punish Penn State football. It is not enough that the men in charge, the men who allowed Jerry Sandusky to prey on innocent boys, will be dealt with by the legal system. It is not enough that the university’s reputation has been tarnished, maybe forever. No, the football program had to be penalized as well. There needed to be ramifications for allowing one man, head coach Joe Paterno, to become so powerful that the school’s leadership was unwilling to take measures to stop Sandusky for fear of doing harm to the football program.
“In the case of Penn State, the results were perverse and unconscionable,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said at a press conference July 23. “No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflected by Jerry Sandusky on his victims. However, we can make clear that the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in intercollegiate athletics.”
So while I’m a bit uncomfortable with the NCAA’s methods in this case — though there was a clear “lack of institutional control” in NCAA parlance — the end result more than justified the manner in which the penalties were handed down. This was a unique case that called for a unique response.
Penn State must move forward with a depleted roster and little hope for being relevant on the national stage for the foreseeable future. Several players, most notably star tailback Silas Redd, have already transferred, and others can transfer without penalty after the 2012 season.
Some have compared Penn State to USC. Don’t make that mistake. First of all, USC’s penalties — a two-year bowl ban and 10 lost scholarships per year over a three-year period — weren’t as severe. And, more important, USC was not involved in the biggest scandal in the history of college athletics. The school’s brand was not seriously damaged.
That, however, is not the case at Penn State.
Fair or not, it’s impossible to think about the university without thinking about a pedophile violating young boys in the showers of the football office and the ensuing coverup. That alone would be a tremendous hurdle for Bill O’Brien and his coaching staff to overcome on the recruiting trail. Now, add the sanctions to the mix, and Penn State will have the nearly impossible task of attracting talented football players to Happy Valley for the next four years. All of those young men from Aliquippa to Erie to Harrisburg who dreamed of one day putting on a Penn State uniform will have to question their dedication to Nittany Lion football.
So there will be football. No games will be missed — unlike at SMU, which lost two seasons of football. Instead, Penn State fans will watch a team of 60-odd scholarship players (20 fewer than most opponents), and those left likely won’t be the elite players who usually roam Beaver Stadium.
They won’t win many games. And that, to many Penn State fans, could be a fate far worse than the Death Penalty.
---By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Fred Russell, one of the preeminent sportswriters of the 20th century, spent 69 years at the Nashville Banner, including 50 as the paper’s sports editor. Russell was known throughout the South as an authority on college football — his popular “Pigskin Preview” was a staple in The Saturday Evening Post from 1949-62 — but he covered all sports with a passion and thoroughness that were unmatched in the industry.
Freelance author Andrew Derr recently published the first complete biography on Russell’s career in the business — “Life of Dreams: The Good Times of Sportswriter Fred Russell.”
We sat down with Derr, who attended Vanderbilt on the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship, in Nashville to discuss his project.
Athlon Sports: What was the inspiration to write this book?
Andrew Derr: I did an article on Mr. Russell for a Vanderbilt magazine back in the early 2000s and realized just how much of an impact he had had on so many people. There were so many writers who had either worked for him at the (Nashville) Banner or came to Vanderbilt for the (Russell-Rice) scholarship and one way or another were still active in sportswriting, whether regionally or nationally. That got me thinking that this guy really had a major impact and a sustainable legacy. And of course his impact with Vanderbilt and Nashville. He really represented Nashville well. For anybody who followed sports in the middle part of the 20th century, when you thought of Nashville, you thought of Fred Russell.
Mr. Russell was known for having great relationships with all of the subjects he covered. What do you think he would think of today’s media world, specifically the fact that it’s very, very difficult to get to know the people you are writing about?
I think he would still find a way to build the relationships, one player and one coach at a time. He would just do his thing and still use the approach that was successful back in the day. It’s certainly a different era of information gathering and accessibility with the online world, but he would still apply his basic tenets of fair reporting and informative analysis to be successful.
What was his favorite sporting even to cover?
The favorite singular events for him were The Masters and the Kentucky Derby. He loved the Derby. In his own biography, in the ‘50s, he called it the “most electric moment in sports.” He went to 40 or 50 in a row of both of those events. As far as team sports, he was a huge baseball fan. He covered spring training every year even though Nashville only had minor league teams. And then, of course, college football. That is the sport that largely put him on the national stage, when he had the opportunity to write for The Saturday Evening Post for about a dozen years.
You talked to a lot of people when you worked on the project. Who were some of the people you were surprised to get access to?
The two that stood out were George Steinbrenner and Bobby Knight. Both of those guys got back to me quickly once they found that I was doing a book on Mr. Russell, and they were excited to talk about him. He was a guy that they interacted with years ago, and they felt he did it the right way. They were very fond of him.
He was a proud Vanderbilt graduate and was probably known as a Vanderbilt homer. Was he well-liked by everyone back in the day, or did some fans of other schools not really care for him? Did you get a sense of that during your research?
Maybe it was because of the time that I was doing the biography (after his death), but everyone only had nice things to say. I talked to some people over at the University of Tennessee, and they had fond memories of Mr. Russell. They remember the battles the two schools had in the 1950s and 60s. I think the other thing to consider was that The Banner, his paper, had a heated rivalry with the other paper in town, The Tennessean. Those relationships were tense. He rubbed some people the wrong way, but there was always respect. He had so many contacts in the sports world, particularly at Vanderbilt. He had great relationships and inside access to the athletic department where the athletic department would make sure that The Banner and Fred Russell got the first word on any news, and that drove the people at The Tennessean nuts. So they did respect him, but he kept beating them on so many stories. Years later, they had great things to say about him, but if I had interviewed them back in the day, the responses might have been a bit different.
Virginia Tech has fired men's basketball coach Seth Greenberg after nine seasons with the Hokies. With that news, we compiled a list of possible replacements to take over in Blacksburg.
Blaine Taylor, head coach, Old Dominion
Taylor has a 378–192 record as a head coach, with stops at Montana (1991-98) and Old Dominion (2001-current). He has built ODU into a consistent winner in the competitive Colonial Athletic Association, with nine straight winning league seasons. He made the NCAA Tournament in 2005, ’10, ’11 with the Monarchs.
Jeff Capel, assistant coach, Duke
Capel enjoyed a successful four-year run as the head coach at VCU from 2002-06, guiding the Rams to a record of 50–22 in CAA games and a berth in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. He then served as the head coach at Oklahoma, recording an overall mark of 96–69 from 2006-11.
Dino Gaudio, analyst, ESPN
Gaudio was fired after three seasons at Wake Forest in 2010 despite an overall record of 61–31 and an ACC mark of 27–21. He also has experience as a head coach at Army (1993-97) and Loyola (Md.) (1998-00). Gaudio is an outstanding recruiter.
Ron Hunter, head coach, Georgia State
Hunter did a great job in his first season at Georgia State, improving the Panthers from 6–12 in the Colonial in 2011 to 11–7 in ’12. Previously, he served as the head coach at IUPUI for 17 seasons, overseeing the school’s move from the NAIA ranks to Division I Independent to member of the Summit League. IUPUI went 98–56 over 10 years in the Summit during Hunter’s tenure.
Scott Sutton, head coach, Oral Roberts
The son of former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton has put up gaudy numbers in 13 years at Oral Roberts. His record in the Summit League is 163–59, including a 17–1 mark this season. ORU has made three trips to the NCAA Tournament on Sutton’s watch.
Orlando Antigua, assistant coach, Kentucky
Antigua joined John Calipari’s staff in 2008-09 at Memphis and made the move to Kentucky, where is he is completing his third season. He has no experience as a head coach, but his status as one of Calipari’s top recruiters will make him a candidate for some head coaching positions in the near future.
Dan Muller, assistant coach, Vanderbilt
Muller, a 1998 graduate of Illinois State, recently completed his 12th season on Kevin Stallings’ staff at Vanderbilt. He was reportedly in the mix for head coaching vacancies at Mississippi State, Miami (Ohio), Southern Illinois and Stanford following the ’11-12 season. Muller serves as the Commodores’ recruiting coordinator.
--Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)
Athlon Sports’ Mitch Light caught up with CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg earlier this week to chat about the Final Four.
Athlon Sports: You’ve been involved in the sport for a long time, both as a player and broadcaster. Can you remember a Final Four matchup as juicy as what we have with Kentucky and Louisville?
Clark Kellogg: No, I can’t. When you consider what that rivalry means to the folks in Kentucky and also to people that follow college basketball closely, it’s way up there in the regular season — highly intense and extremely passion-driven. Now you factor in the stage that it is being played on and what is at stake, then it goes to a level that we haven’t seen in a Final Four matchup, quite honestly. This will be my fourth year calling the national championship game, and I spent 12 years as a studio analyst before that and watched it for a number of years before that, and I don’t know if we’ve ever had this kind of a matchup — a rivalry that has teams of this type of tradition, like Louisville and Kentucky.
Kentucky is the favorite. If you are looking at it from a Louisville standpoint, other than the obvious of making shots, what do the Cardinals need to do well to win this game? What’s a matchup that Louisville might need to win?
It is really too hard to lock into a particular matchup. The point you made, and it’s very simplistic and an obvious one, but shot-making is huge. It has such a big impact on everything, being able to set up your defense, being able to keep pressure on Kentucky. I think Louisville will be able to get good shots. They’ve got to be able to knock a high percentage of them down. Kentucky is without weaknesses, so being able to score the ball is one of the elements you have to bring to the table. I just don’t think you can out-defense Kentucky or slow them down enough to beat them just in a defensive battle. Scoring the ball and making shots is a huge, huge part of the equation for any team to beat them.
Looking at Kansas, I think a popular storyline this year has been Kansas’ relative lack of elite talent. They have good players, but they might not have a bunch of future pros on the team. Is that accurate?
It’s not elite compared to some of the recent teams that Kansas has had, particularly the 2008 national championship team, and even last year’s team when you had the Morris twins. So I can understand why people would say that. The jury is out what is going to happen in the post-college careers of players like Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson, even a guy like Jeff Withey. That being said, I think it is being overstated a tad, but compared to recent Kansas teams, yes, this is not a team that jumps out at you with a bunch of players with obvious pro potential. That being said, you don’t have to be in the pros to get to the Final Four. You just have to be able to handle the landscape in front of you, and Kansas has done that with really good defense and the play of Thomas Robinson and the improved play of Jeff Withey and the brilliance of Tyshawn Taylor for the last third of the season.
Looking at your alma mater, Ohio State, what is the key to defending Jared Sullinger? You have to kind of push him off the block and out of his comfort zone, right?
I think that is one of them. You want to be able to defend Jared Sullinger effectively one-on-one, but Kansas likes to double-team the post, and they do it aggressively and hard. If they determine that is the strategy that they want to go with, they will have to rotate well on defense. The key is you have to make it tough for a guy like Jared Sullinger. Don’t allow him to get a steady diet of a certain defense. Don’t allow him to get a rhythm. You want to minimize his deep post touches and you want to attack him at the other end of the court as well. The key matchup for me for Kansas will be Deshaun Thomas. They really don’t have a natural defender for him among their starters. I am interested to see how they deal with him. He is a scorer in the truest sense of the word. He can make threes. He can post you up. He can hit a mid-range shot. He is an elite scorer at the college level. How Kansas deals with him may be more important than what they do with Jared Sullinger.
Got to you ask about a team that is not in the Final Four, but how much fun was it for you to have your son, Nick, and his team, the Ohio Bobcats, enjoy so much success in the NCAA Tournament?
It is a thrill and a sense of pride and gratitude that I can’t adequately describe in words because of how full it makes you as a dad, as a mom, and as a sibling, to see your son or your brother out there. Just a tremendous run and an exciting run of fun for our family, and I was full beyond a measure of pride because of how Nick handled himself off the floor. He’s been grounded. He’s worked hard, and he’s been a good teammate.
I know you are involved with the Capital One Cup. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you got involved?
Certainly can. I am an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup and have been for two years. Capital One is committed to the achievement of student-athletes, both on and off the court or field, and that dedication and drive to be the best is really the reason why the Capital One Cup was created. It rewards Division I athletic programs for their cumulative on-field performance across men’s and women’s sports with over $400,000 combined student-athlete scholarships. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with the Capital One Cup. And fans have an opportunity to follow their university of choice in the Capital One Cup simply by going to CapitalOneCup.com. You can find the standings at Facebook.com/CapitalOneCup and Twitter.com/CapitalOneCup. And all four of the Final Four teams have an opportunity to win as many as 60 points by winning the National Championship.
The editors at Athlon Sports debate some of the hot topics surrounding the NCAA Tournament.
What No. 1 seed has the toughest remaining path to the Final Four?
Nathan Rush: Syracuse has not been the same since Fab Melo was suspended. The Orange were lucky to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 in their nail-biter against UNC-Asheville. Coach Jim Boeheim’s team had the talent to advance to the Sweet 16, but beating a tough Wisconsin club and either Ohio State or Cincinnati will be too tall a task without the 7-foot Brazilian big man Melo on the floor.
Mitch Light: Tough call. I don’t think it’s North Carolina, even with Kendall Marshall’s injury. I will go with Michigan State. The Spartans will be tested by Louisville in the Sweet 16, but I’ll take Tom Izzo over Rick Pitino in the showdown of coaching legends. Then, Marquette — assuming it beats Florida — awaits. The Golden Eagles are very talented and are playing with a ton of confidence. The most intriguing matchup will be Jae Crowder vs. Draymond Green, two of the most versatile big men in the nation. Marquette was my Final Four pick out of the West before the Tournament began, and I’m sticking with Buzz Williams’ club.
Patrick Snow: I think it’s close between Michigan State and Syracuse, but the Spartans look to have a slightly more difficult road to New Orleans. First up for MSU is Louisville, a red-hot team with a coach who has taken three different schools to the Final Four. The Cardinals have been a very streaky team, and the Big East Tournament champions currently seem to be on a UConn-like tear from last season. If Tom Izzo’s bunch beats Louisville, it would face the winner of Marquette and Florida. The Golden Eagles have lost only three games since Jan. 11, and they have a pair of high-scoring seniors in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Meanwhile, the Gators destroyed their competition in the first two tourney games and have five players who average in double-figures. I still expect the Spartans to make the Final Four, but the Phoenix regional will be difficult.
Braden Gall: Easily the Syracuse Orange. Wisconsin lives and dies by the 3-point shot, and we all know the easiest way to beat a zone is to knock down shots from the outside. They are physical, experienced and won’t back down from the challenge. Jim Boehiem is also staring at a matchup with either Cincinnati or Ohio State in the Elite 8. The Buckeyes offer both the interior strength to take advantage of the Melo-less defense and the outside shooting and perimeter defense to slow the outstanding trio of Syracuse guards. Even the defensively minded Bearcats have played the Orange tough this season, losing a close one at home during the regular season and knocking off the Orange in the Big East tourney. North Carolina will likely have to face Kansas, and Michigan State is staring at a brutal match-up with Marquette, but no team faces a potential two-game combo like Syracuse could endure — all without the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
Mark Ross: Just as soon as North Carolina gets John Henson back against Creighton, Kendall Marshall fractures a bone in his right wrist in the win against the Bluejays. He hasn’t been ruled out of Friday’s game against Ohio, but even if Marshall does play, you have to assume he will be limited at the very least, perhaps even to the point of playing basically one-handed. As talented as the Tar Heels are, Marshall, who ranks second in the nation in assists, is clearly the engine that makes this offense run. Marshall has also been more assertive when it comes to scoring, as he has scored 11 or more points in each of the last six games. But Roy Williams doesn’t need Marshall to score — he needs him to run the offense, because the only options behind Marshall with any experience running the point are Stilman White and Justin Watts, who combined to average less than 12 minutes per game. Marshall, not surprisingly, leads the team at 33 minutes per game. Should Carolina get by Ohio, with or without Marshall, then an even tougher task looms against the winner of the Kansas-NC State tilt. Bottom line: The one time of the year you need to be at full strength is March and Carolina is anything but at this point.
The editors at Athlon Sports tackle a few questions on college basketball with the Sweet 16 quickly approaching. Here's No. 1.
Which team are you most surprised did not make the Sweet 16?
Nathan Rush: After Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game, it looked like the Commodores were coming together at just the right time. When the bracket came out, VU appeared to have a shot to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, with matchups against Harvard and Wisconsin (most likely) on the first weekend. I doubted Duke and Missouri, but thought Vanderbilt had a team built to last in March. But John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor got cold at the wrong time against a tough Badger defense.
Mitch Light: Missouri is the obvious answer, but I picked Florida to beat the Tigers in the Round of the 32, so I can’t really say I’m surprised that Fran Haith’s team, as a No. 2 seed, is not in the Sweet 16. I’ll go with Florida State. The Seminoles played very well down the stretch and appeared to be the most complete team in the Nashville pod of the East Region. FSU survived a scare from St. Bonaventure in the first round, but could not get past the scrappy Bearcats from Cincinnati in the Round of 32. The Noles’ defense was strong, as usual, but they had trouble on the offensive end, shooting .380 from the field while committing 17 turnovers. Any team that beats both North Carolina and Duke twice in the same season is clearly talented enough to advance to the Sweet 16, but the Seminoles simply didn’t get it done when it mattered most.
Patrick Snow: I’m still shocked about Missouri, who did not even make it to the Round of 32. The senior-dominated Tigers entered the tourney at 30–4, and they had just won a Big 12 Tournament title by beating all three opponents by at least 14 points. Then came the game with Norfolk State. Most heavy favorites lose early in the tournament because they have a bad shooting night and do not take care of the basketball. However, that was not the case with Missouri. Frank Haith’s crew shot over 50 percent from the field and only committed eight turnovers in scoring 84 points. Mizzou simply did not bring it on the defensive end and could not match the hustle (14 offensive rebounds for the MEAC Tournament champions) of Anthony Evans’ club. Norfolk State did not have anyone averaging over 16 points per game on the season, yet three Spartans scored at least 20 points against the Tigers. I definitely thought ultra-experienced Missouri would make the Sweet 16, instead of becoming history’s fifth No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 15 seed.
Mark Ross: Vanderbilt seemed to have all the momentum coming off its victory over No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship and did something the Commodores had struggled to do recently — win their opening game in the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt seemed to match up well against Wisconsin, and many were even looking ahead to a potential Sweet 16 matchup against No. 1 seed Syracuse, who is without the services of big man Fab Melo. But the Badgers had other ideas. Wisconsin’s defense held Vanderbilt’s big guns John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor in check, and the Badgers took a page out of the Commodores’ play book and scored half of their 60 points via the 3-pointer. Vanderbilt shot poorly from beyond the arc (5-of-19) and committed several offensive fouls in the first half that limited their chances to put points on the board and put some players in early foul trouble. Jenkins had a chance to give Vanderbilt the lead late in the game, but his 3-pointer was long. The 60–57 loss was not how these group of Commodores envisioned their season would end back in November.
Braden Gall: The Missouri Tigers. This team featured the best backcourt combination of experience, talent, confidence and poise of any team in the nation. Mizzou rolled through the Big 12 Tournament and had won 12 straight games over teams not from Kansas. And frankly, the Tigers didn’t play a terrible game where they missed shots and committed uncharacteristic turnovers. They were simply outworked on the glass by a bigger team and didn’t deserve to win. Those Mizzou seniors will spend the rest of their lives wondering if they played with enough urgency in the second half against Norfolk State.
Doc Sadler was fired after six seasons at Nebraska. He went 101–89 overall but only 34–63 in league play (five in the Big 12, one in the Big Ten). Here is a list of 10 possible replacements.
Gregg Marshall, head coach, Wichita State
Marshall has a 303–142 record in 14 seasons as a head coach. He took Winthrop to the NCAA Tournament seven times in nine seasons and will have Wichita State in the field this year (as a high seed) for the first time in his five seasons.
John Groce, head coach, Ohio
The former aide to Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State is in his fourth season at Ohio. He has the Bobcats in the NCAA Tournament for the second time and has an overall record of 83–55. Groce is an Ohio native who has spent most of his time in the Midwest.
Danny Manning, assistant coach, Kansas
The former All-American at Kansas and No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick has been on Bill Self’s staff for the first nine seasons, the first four as in an administrative role and the last five as a full-time assistant. He has been praised for his work with the KU big men.
Ben Jacobson, head coach, Northern Iowa
Jacobson has an overall mark of 126–67 and a 64–42 record in the Missouri Valley Conference in six seasons at Northern Iowa. The Panthers have two NCAA Tournament appearance during his tenure with one trip the Sweet 16.
Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is in his first season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Johnny Jones, head coach, North Texas
Jones recently completed his 11th season as the head coach at North Texas. He has taken the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament twice (in 2007, ’10) and lost in the Sun Belt Tournament finals in each of the past two seasons. A former player and assistant coach at LSU, Jones served as the interim head coach at Memphis in 1999-2000.
Ron Hunter, head coach, Georgia State
Hunter did a great job in his first season at Georgia State, improving the Panthers from 6–12 in the Colonial in 2011 to 11–7 in ’12. Previously, he served as the head coach at IUPUI for 17 seasons, overseeing the school’s move from the NAIA ranks to Division I Independent to member of the Summit League. IUPUI went 98–56 in its 10 years in the Summit during Hunter’s tenure.
Tim Jankovich, head coach, Illinois State
Jankovich has nine years of head coaching experience, four at North Texas in the mid-1990s and the last five at Illinois State. His teams at ISU have been solid (48–42 in the MVC), but the Redbirds have yet to break through and reach the NCAA Tournament. Jankovich has worked for Bill Self at Illinois and Kansas and Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt.
Tim Miles, head coach, Colorado State
Miles, believed to be the first coach to ever tweet during halftime of an NCAA Tournament game, had Colorado State in the NCAAs for the first time since 2003. He has 17 years of head coaching experience, two at Maryville (N.D.) State, four at NW Minnesota State, six at North Dakota State and five at Colorado State.
Scott Sutton, head coach, Oral Roberts
The son of former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton has put up gaudy numbers in 13 years at Oral Roberts. His record in the Summit League is 163—59, including a 17–1 record this season. ORU has made three trips to the NCAA Tournament on Sutton’s watch.
Rick Stansbury stepped down Thursday afternoon after 14 seasons as the head coach at Mississippi State. Here is a list of possible replacements.
Johnny Jones, head coach, North Texas
Jones recently completed his 11th season as the head coach at North Texas. He has taken the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament twice (in 2007, ’10) and lost in the Sun Belt Tournament finals in each of the past two seasons. A former player and assistant coach at LSU, Jones served as the interim head coach at Memphis in 1999-2000.
Sean Woods, head coach, Mississippi Valley State
Woods completed his fourth season as the boss at Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night with a loss to Western Kentucky in the First Four. Woods is a Kentucky graduate who played for Rick Pitino in the early 1990s.
Phil Cunningham, assistant coach, Mississippi State
Cunningham has served on Rick Stansbury’s staff at Mississippi State for the past 11 seasons. He has also spent time at Georgia State and James Madison, and had as a previous stint at Mississippi State (1991-92) when he worked for Richard Williams.
Marcus Grant, assistant coach, Mississippi State
A Mississippi State alum and a three-year starter under former MSU coach Richard Williams, Grant has been on the Bulldogs’ staff since 2004. He is regarded as an outstanding recruiter.
Gregg Marshall, head coach, Wichita State
Marshall has a 303–142 record in 14 seasons as a head coach. He took Winthrop to the NCAA Tournament seven times in nine seasons and will have Wichita State in the field this year (as a high seed) for the first time in his five seasons.
Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is in his first season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
John Cooper, head coach, Tennessee State
Cooper recently completed his third season as a head coach at Tennessee State. The Tigers finished the year with an 18–12 record and lost to Murray State in the finals of the OVC Tournament. He spent six seasons as an assistant at South Carolina on Eddie Fogler’s staff from 1995-2001 and later worked at Oregon and Auburn.
Orlando Antigua, assistant coach, Kentucky
Antigua joined John Calipari’s staff in 2008-09 at Memphis and made the move to Kentucky, where is he is completing his third season. He has no experience as a head coach, but his status as one of Calipari’s top recruiters will make him a candidate for some head coaching positions in the near future.
Robert Kirby, assistant coach, Georgetown
Kirby joined the Georgetown staff in June 2010 after a 12-year stint as an assistant at Mississippi State. He also served as an assistant at State, working for Richard Williams, from 1990-93.
—by Mitch Light
The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.
If you had a choice, would you take Kentucky or the field to win the title?
Mitch Light: I’d take the field. Kentucky is, in my opinion, clearly the best team in the nation, but it’s tough to win six straight games even if you have the best players. Two years ago, the Wildcats featured the most talented roster in the nation, but lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight. A year ago, the Cats weren’t as talented yet advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. The point? Talent alone doesn’t guarantee a trip to the Final Four, let alone a national title. If you have to take one team to win it, Kentucky is the obvious pick. But if given a choice, take the field.
Mark Ross: I have become more and more of a believer in Kentucky as the season has progressed, but I will still take the field. Kentucky is immensely talented, and any team that has Anthony Davis anchoring the middle is a threat to win it all, but I think they are too young and not deep enough to do it this year. John Calipari has gone with a seven-man rotation for the most part this season, so foul trouble could be a real issue, especially if it happens to Davis or Terrence Jones. Only one player in the rotation is an upperclassman, and that’s senior guard Darius Miller, who went 7-of-17 from the field and just 2-of-9 from 3-point range in the Wildcats’ 71-64 loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday. This is the first taste of NCAA Tournament play for the rest of the young ‘Cats, and I am one who believes experience is a crucial component to having success in March. The talent’s clearly there, but you need more than that to win these next six games. Just ask the 2009-10 Kentucky team.
Nathan Rush: Kentucky has no weakness. Coach John Calipari is a master motivator who has seen it all — coming within a Derrick Rose made free throw of winning the national title at Memphis in 2008. Center Anthony Davis is the best defensive player in the nation and the likely No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones are inside-out threats who attack the rim off the dribble and can also hit open jump shots. Darius Miller is a senior leader and athletic defender. The Wildcats one “flaw” is the lack of a Rose or John Wall caliber point guard. Marquis Teaque is a ball hog, but Doron Lamb picks up the slack with his high IQ and unselfish brand of basketball. UK even has spare parts like Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas on the bench. This is the best Kentucky team since Rick Pitino left the Big Blue Nation. I’ll take the Wildcats over the 67 other teams in the field.
Patrick Snow: I feel like it’s almost crazy to take one team over the field in any NCAA Tournament, but it also feels crazy to pick against Kentucky. The Wildcats are the most talented and complete team in the tourney, and this year’s squad has been amazingly consistent. John Calipari is very controversial with his recruiting methods and powerful basketball-insider friends, but he does have this UK team playing quality defense. That may seem easy with a presence like Anthony Davis in the post, but the Cats still deserve some credit for stopping opponents. Kentucky has lost past NCAA Tournament (and the SEC Tourney title) games when it goes cold on offense, especially from 3-point range. However this UK team can win even when not shooting well because of its defensive ability. I would take the field in most years, but the gap in talent between Kentucky and the rest of the field is just too immense not to pick the Wildcats.
Braden Gall: Absolutely the field. I like Kentucky to make a deep run and play in the championship game, but if I am gambling (which, of course, we do not condone at Athlon Sports), it’s hard to not to take the 67 other basketball teams in the brackets. Vanderbilt showed the nation that Kentucky can be stopped with excellent defense and timely shooting. The Cats are the most talented team in the nation with the best player in the nation, but they can be beat if you force them to shoot from the outside, get them into early foul trouble and out-work them, which is much easier said than done.
The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.
Which team do you believe was the most under-seeded?
Mark Ross: Half of Florida’s losses this season came to three teams that are either seeded No. 1 or 2 in the bracket. Florida lost three times to No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, lost by four points on the road to Syracuse (No. 1 in the East) and by seven on the road to Ohio State (No. 2 in the East). The Gators split their season series against SEC Tournament champion Vanderbilt, who’s the No. 5 seed in the East, and with the exception of a home loss to Tennessee, their other three losses came on the road. Florida also beat ACC Tournament champion Florida State (No. 3 in the East) by 18 points in late December. The Gators got the No. 7 seed in the West region, and I think you could make a strong argument that they should be as high as No. 5 in the bracket period, but especially ahead of both Murray State (No. 6) and New Mexico (No. 5) in their region.
Mitch Light: Memphis seems to be a bit low as a No. 8 seed. The Tigers don’t have many quality wins, but they played great down the stretch, winning their final seven games by an average margin of 22.7 points. The computers also really like this team; the Tigers’ RPI is 15, and they are No. 19 in the KenPom.com efficiency ratings. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this team knock off Michigan State in the second round (or, to be politically correct, the third round).
Nathan Rush: Murray State was given a No. 6 seed despite a 30–1 record that included wins over Memphis and Saint Mary’s. The Racers have the talent, experience and swagger to prove they were “under-seeded” by the Selection Committee. In the backcourt, junior Isaiah Canaan, senior Donte Poole and Jewuan Long control the fast-paced tempo. Down low, senior Ivan Aska (6’7", 230) and junior Edward Daniel (6’7", 220) are physical enough to defend the rim but athletic enough to keep up in the open court. First-year coach Steve Prohm has a dangerous team heading into the friendly confines of Louisville — which is roughly four hours away from Murray, Ky.
Patrick Snow: I was surprised to see Memphis with an 8-seed. The Tigers won the regular-season championship in Conference USA, as well as the league tournament title. Josh Pastner scheduled tough opponents, and Memphis’ RPI was in the top 20. The Tigers did have some early losses to tourney teams like Louisville, Georgetown and Michigan, but still finished 26–8 while winning 20 of their last 23 games.
Braden Gall: I will vote Murray State as the most under-seeded team in the nation. The Racers get my nod also because of what the selection committee did to them in terms of match-ups. As the No. 23 overall seed, this makes them the No. 3 six-seed in the tourney. But the committee clearly wanted to make their path to the Final Four as difficult as possible. Games with Marquette and Mizzou loom large and are terrible guard-heavy match-ups for the Racers. For a team that won both its regular-season and tourney title with technically the best record in the nation? A four or five would have been more appropriate.