Articles By Steven Lassan
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley suffered an elbow injury during the first half of Saturday’s game against Texas. Hundley’s injury was to his non-throwing elbow and his prognosis is uncertain.
Hundley was replaced by backup Jerry Neuheisel and returned to the locker room during the second quarter for more treatment. According to the broadcast team at FOX, Hundley was having trouble gripping a football and struggled with snaps on the sidelines.
Prior to his injury, Hundley completed all four of his passes for 48 yards and added nine yards on the ground.
UCLA’s offensive line has been a major concern this year, but a long-term injury to Hundley would be devastating for the Bruins. Coming into Saturday night’s game, Neuheisel completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards.
After injuring his elbow on a scramble, UCLA QB Brett Hundley was pushed down by Jim Mora to cause an injury timeout. http://t.co/CNEFvBDVbG— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) September 14, 2014
Hundley is headed for locker room #UCLAvsTEX— Ted Miller (@TedMillerRK) September 14, 2014
Virginia Tech scored a surprise win over Ohio State in Week 2, but the Hokies fell victim an upset-minded East Carolina team in Week 3.
The Pirates won 28-21, but there were a few highlight plays for Virginia Tech, including receiver Isaiah Ford’s touchdown catch in the second half. Ford's catch was reviewed but the touchdown was upheld.
Check out Ford's nifty one-handed grab:
Whether it’s by air or via the ground, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the nation’s best. And on Saturday against Wyoming, Mariota made a highlight reel play by taking a rushing touchdown for a score.
Mariota didn’t find an open option on his passing reads and chose to take off on the ground. The junior needed some help to score, choosing to take to the air to reach the endzone.
Check out Mariota’s touchdown run:
Arkansas and Texas Tech aren’t ranked in this week’s latest top 25 poll, but the matchup between the Razorbacks and Red Raiders is certainly one of the most intriguing games of Week 3. This contest features an interesting contrast in styles, as Texas Tech will attempt to win this one through the air, while Arkansas plans to use its ground attack to control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage. Will the Red Raiders’ high-octane style win out? Or will the Razorbacks successfully take the air out of the football and earn a key non-conference victory in Bret Bielema’s second year?
In addition to watching the style of play, this game is a matchup between two old Southwest Conference rivalries. Arkansas and Texas Tech have played 35 previous times, with the Razorbacks owning a 28-7 series edge.
Arkansas at Texas Tech
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Texas Tech -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas’ Rushing Attack Versus TTU's Defense
There’s a good chance this aspect is where Saturday’s game will be decided. Arkansas prefers a methodical approach on offense, averaging 30:26 per game in time of possession last year, while Texas Tech averages 23:42 through two games this year. Tempo is a huge factor in how Saturday’s matchup will be decided. The Razorbacks want to use their ground game to keep the Red Raiders’ passing offense off the field. Arkansas goes three-deep at running back, headlined by sophomore Alex Collins. Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall will also see significant time, but Collins (23 carries) is expected to be the workhorse. Texas Tech’s rush defense has been an issue this year, and UTEP recorded 277 yards (5.3 ypc) last week. The Red Raiders’ rush defense hopes to get a boost with the return of defensive tackle Rika Levi (367 pounds) this week. Arkansas has played only two games but is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. If the Razorbacks establish the line of scrimmage and keep Texas Tech’s offense on the sidelines, this plays significantly into Arkansas’ favor.
2. Texas Tech’s Passing Offense
As we mentioned in the section above, this game is all about tempo and controlling the pace of play. Texas Tech wants to go quick, while Arkansas plans to establish the run and own an edge in time of possession. If the Red Raiders jump out to an early lead, it’s a worst-case scenario for the Razorbacks. Texas Tech’s ability to score quick and on big plays (seven of 30 or more yards in 2014) is a tough matchup for Arkansas. Quarterback Davis Webb is off to a fast start (7 TDs, 2 INTs) and is completing 67.5 percent of his throws. He also has plenty of talent at the skill positions, starting with running back Justin Stockton and in the receiving corps with Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant. The biggest weakness on Arkansas’ defense is the secondary. The Razorbacks allowed 19 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2013, but coordinator Robb Smith can counter a questionable secondary with a good pass rush.
3. Turnovers and Special Teams
With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover battle and what transpires on special teams. Arkansas has an inexperienced kicker (John Henson), but punter Sam Irwin-Hill is one of the best in the SEC. The Razorbacks also have options on returns with D.J. Dean and Korliss Marshall. Texas Tech has the edge on field goals with Ryan Bustin (1 of 2 in 2014), while punter Taylor Symmank is in his first year as a starter. In the turnover department, Texas Tech is -3 through two games, while Arkansas sports an even margin (0). A mistake on special teams or a turnover could be the deciding factor on Saturday.
Think of this game like a basketball matchup. Which style and tempo will control the pace of play? Will Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense win out? Or will Arkansas’ ground-and-pound style dominate the clock and keep the Red Raiders’ offense on the sidelines? The guess here is both sides will land some punches. The Razorbacks will churn out a big day on the ground, but Texas Tech also lands big plays in the passing game against a suspect secondary. However, in the fourth quarter, Arkansas leans on running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams to melt the clock away, giving Bret Bielema a key non-conference win in his second year in Fayetteville.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, Texas Tech 34
UCLA and Texas meet in Arlington, Texas for a neutral site matchup that is one of the marquee games on college football’s Week 3 slate. While this game is big on name value, the actual on-field matchup has lost some of its luster. Texas is 1-1, but its depth chart has changed drastically due to suspensions and injuries since spring practice. While UCLA is off to a 2-0 start, the Bruins have not impressed. After a close call against Virginia in Week 1, Jim Mora’s team won by seven points in a home date against Memphis. Both teams have plenty to prove heading into this matchup, but it’s unlikely either program will be able to answer of all its question marks with a win in Arlington.
These two teams have met six times, and the overall series is tied at three wins apiece.
UCLA vs. Texas (Arlington)
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: UCLA -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. UCLA’s OL Against Texas’ DL
The biggest weakness of UCLA’s offense meets the strength of Texas’ defense. The Bruins have allowed 21 tackles for loss and eight sacks through two games. UCLA has played two solid defenses (Memphis and Virginia), but this unit needs to show progress if the Bruins want to win the Pac-12 title. Center Jake Brendel missed the opener due to a knee injury and returned last Saturday against Memphis. With Brendel back in the mix, UCLA should improve up front over the course of the season. Texas is allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and has registered 10 sacks in two games. End Cedric Reed and tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson are all-conference candidates and present a tough matchup for the Bruins. Can UCLA’s offensive line protect quarterback Brett Hundley?
2. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes
In Swoopes’ first career start (BYU), he completed 20 of 31 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for seven yards on seven attempts. While Swoopes’ numbers certainly won’t match those of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, there were positives for coordinator Shawn Watson to build on in Week 3. One potential problem for Swoopes is a lack of proven options at receiver. The Longhorns may not have Jaxon Shipley due to a head injury, leaving Marcus Johnson and John Harris as the team’s most experienced options. UCLA’s secondary should be one of the best in the Pac-12 this year, and the Bruins have allowed only three passing touchdowns through their first two matchups. How much will Swoopes improve in his second start? Could the sophomore make a few more plays with his legs this week?
3. Supporting Cast
With UCLA’s offensive line struggling, and Swoopes making his second start for Texas, which team’s supporting cast steps up this Saturday? Can the Bruins get consistent production from running back Paul Perkins? Or will linebacker/running back Myles Jack play a bigger role on offense this week? Will Jordan Payton or Thomas Duarte provide opportunities for big plays from Hundley? On the Texas side, the Longhorns need running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to find running room against a Bruins’ defense allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. If Shipley sits out, will Harris or Johnson provide a consistent threat at receiver?
Expect a low-scoring game on Saturday night. With UCLA’s struggles on the line, the Longhorns should be able to create pressure on quarterback Brett Hundley. But Hundley’s ability to make plays with his legs could be a valuable asset against a solid front seven. Thanks to its defense, expect Texas to hang around in this game. However, the Bruins eventually pull away in the second half and move to 3-0 before a key Pac-12 matchup against Arizona State.
Prediction: UCLA 27, Texas 13
It’s only Week 3, but the race to win the SEC's East Division heats up on Saturday, as Georgia visits South Carolina in a key conference game. The Bulldogs impressed in their Week 1 victory over Clemson, while the Gamecocks lost 52-28 in their opener to Texas A&M. South Carolina was able to regain some of its momentum by defeating East Carolina 33-23 in Week 2, but this team still has several question marks entering this Saturday’s matchup. Georgia was off last Saturday, and the Bulldogs are 16-4 under Mark Richt after a bye week.
It’s too early to call any game an elimination contest, but the Gamecocks simply can’t afford to go 0-2 in the SEC. For Georgia, this is an opportunity to beat another top-25 team and wrestle (early) control of the East Division.
Georgia at South Carolina
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -6
Three Things to Watch
1. South Carolina’s Pass Defense
The secondary has been especially problematic for the Gamecocks in 2014. South Carolina is allowing 416 passing yards per game, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 71.7 percent of their throws. The Gamecocks’ pass defense catches a small break on Saturday, as Georgia isn’t likely to throw the ball as much as East Carolina (46) and Texas A&M (60) did in their matchups. However, the Bulldogs – even without Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley – have options at receiver. Chris Conley and Michael Bennett are expected to see the majority of targets at receiver, and tight end Jay Rome is another player to watch in the passing game. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is making just his second start on the road. Can the Gamecocks tighten up some of their struggles in the secondary? Or will Mason and the Bulldogs’ receivers torch the pass defense for another huge performance?
2. Todd Gurley and Georgia’s Running Backs
Considering South Carolina’s struggles against the pass, Georgia could open up the offense and allow Mason to throw more than he did in the opener (26 attempts). Even if coordinator Mike Bobo does allow Mason to approach 30-35 passes, the bread and butter of the Bulldogs’ offense remains on the ground. Running back Todd Gurley recorded 293 all-purpose yards in the opener and is a tough matchup for a Gamecocks’ defense allowing 5.0 yards per carry (150.5 ypg). Gurley is the nation’s top running back, but he isn’t the only option for Richt. Keith Marshall and freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will each see opportunities on Saturday afternoon. Georgia’s offense is more traditional (pro-style) than the spread attacks South Carolina has played so far. Will that help the struggling Gamecocks’ defense?
3. Dylan Thompson Versus Georgia’s Secondary
Coming into 2014, Georgia’s biggest concern on defense was its secondary. The coaching staff rotated several players into the lineup during offseason practices, and while this unit allowed only 203 passing yards to Clemson, the Tigers recorded three passing plays of 30 yards or more. Big plays have been South Carolina’s specialty in the passing game this year. Quarterback Dylan Thompson is averaging 14.0 yards per completion, while receiver Nick Jones (15.7) and Pharoh Cooper (12.9) are the preferred targets through the air. To protect their secondary, expect the Bulldogs to be active with their front seven. New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will send different blitzes at Thompson, and the Bulldogs were able to sack Clemson quarterbacks five times in the opener. If Thompson has time to throw, he could find Cooper and Jones for big plays. But if Georgia’s front seven controls the pace of the game, Thompson and the passing game will be neutralized.
Despite Georgia’s impressive showing in Week 1 and South Carolina’s sluggish start to the season, this has the makings of a close game. The last two meetings in this series were decided by more than 10 points. But from 2004-08, four out of the five matchups were decided by a touchdown or less.
After struggling to stop spread offenses in the first two games, South Carolina’s defense will have its hands full once again on Saturday. Gurley recorded 132 yards and one touchdown against the Gamecocks last season and a similar effort could be in store in Week 3. But even if the Gamecocks contain Gurley, can they stop Mason and the Bulldogs’ passing offense?
A healthy Mike Davis at running back should help South Carolina’s offense, and Thompson will have chances for big plays in the passing game. Keeping Thompson upright and away from Georgia rushers is a huge task for the Gamecocks’ offensive line.
Expect a close game into the fourth quarter, but Mason, Gurley and the Bulldogs’ front seven will be enough for Georgia to win for the first time since 2008 in Columbia.
Prediction: Georgia 31, South Carolina 24
College football’s Week 3 slate is light on good matchups, but there’s some name value in the meeting between Tennessee and Oklahoma. Both programs won national championships during the BCS era, and there’s some extra appeal in this game due to Bob Stoops’ comments about the SEC last season. Even though the Oklahoma and Tennessee brands are good enough to catch television eyeballs on Saturday night, the actual matchup may leave something to be desired. The Sooners are a threat to win the national title in 2014, while the Volunteers are rebuilding in coach Butch Jones’ second year.
This will be only the third meeting between Oklahoma and Tennessee. The Volunteers defeated the Sooners in the 1939 Orange Bowl, while Oklahoma won the second meeting 26-24.
Tennessee at Oklahoma
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Oklahoma -20.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Tennessee’s Offensive Line
The Volunteers had to replace all five starters on the line this preseason, and through two games, it’s clear this unit is a work in progress. Tennessee has allowed four sacks on 78 pass attempts and rushers are recording 3.3 yards per carry. Those numbers won’t get it done on Saturday, as Oklahoma’s defense is one of the best in the nation. The Sooners have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and opponents are averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. Will this group give quarterback Justin Worley time to throw and open up rushing lanes for the Tennessee running backs?
2. Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight
Knight’s development as Oklahoma’s quarterback was one of the biggest question marks in 2014. Sure, Knight had a huge performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But could he carry that into a full season? So far, so good. Knight’s competition hasn’t been elite, but the sophomore has thrown for 552 yards, three touchdowns and completed 58.8 percent of his passes. Knight has also rushed for 52 yards on nine attempts. Tennessee has talent in the secondary, headlined by sophomore cornerback Cameron Sutton. But while there is talent, the Volunteers are also very young in the defensive backfield. Considering Tennessee’s youth, Knight should build off a strong start to the season and will connect with Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and K.J. Young for build plays on Saturday.
3. Oklahoma’s Defense
Although Tennessee is in rebuild mode, second-year coach Butch Jones has talent to work with on offense. Running backs Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane combined for 207 yards through two games, and receiver Marquez North is one of the best in the SEC. Despite the talent at the skill positions, the Volunteers’ success on Saturday will be up to quarterback Justin Worley. The senior has thrown for 520 yards and five scores in two games, but the matchup with Oklahoma is clearly the toughest of the season. The Sooners have recorded two sacks in two games and all three touchdown passes allowed came after the score was not in doubt. The defense also received good news this week with the health status of cornerback Zack Sanchez. The sophomore was injured against Tulsa but is expected to play on Saturday. The Sooners are deep, athletic and one of the best defenses in the nation. Can Tennessee counter that with quick passes to protect an inexperienced offensive line? And if the Volunteers can’t get any push on the ground, can they throw enough to stay in this game? Against a defense like Oklahoma, no rushing attack and a shaky offensive line is not a good recipe for success.
Tennessee is making strides, but Oklahoma is simply the better team. With a collection of good talent at the skill positions – running backs Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane and receiver Marquez North – the Volunteers could have some success moving the ball early in the first half. However, the Sooners’ defense eventually wrestles control of the game, and Knight turns in another huge performance to boost Oklahoma to 3-0.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Tennessee 17
It’s hard to call Penn State and Rutgers a true rivalry since these two teams have not played since 1995. However, there’s some renewed interest in this series, as Rutgers has joined the Big Ten, and new Penn State coach James Franklin has stated his desire to dominate the region in recruiting. And Rutgers coach Kyle Flood did his best to ignite the rivalry, calling Penn State the “team from Pennsylvania.”
While the focus for both teams is on Saturday night, Penn State and Rutgers had significant off-field announcements this week. The NCAA announced the Nittany Lions’ bowl ban has been lifted, and the program can have 85 scholarship players in 2015. For the Scarlet Knights, coach Kyle Flood signed a contract extension on Thursday, extending his deal for two more years. Flood is just 17-11 in two seasons with the Scarlet Knights, but he is guiding the program through an important transition into the Big Ten.
Penn State owns a 22-2 series edge over Rutgers, with the Scarlet Knights’ last victory coming in 1988.
Penn State at Rutgers
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State - 3
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback Play
Penn State sophomore Christian Hackenberg could be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Hackenberg will thrive under coach James Franklin and coordinator John Donovan’s watch, and he has thrown for 773 yards and four scores in two games. The sophomore has room to improve after tossing four picks this year, but Penn State’s receiving corps is in transition with the departure of Allen Robinson. If Hackenberg’s line provides protection, he could pick apart Rutgers’ secondary. The Scarlet Knights ranked as one of the worst in the nation against the pass last year and have allowed five touchdown passes and 700 passing yards so far in 2014. On the other side, Gary Nova is off to a good start for Rutgers. Nova has benefitted from the arrival of Ralph Friedgen as coordinator, completing 67.4 percent of his passes and six touchdowns through two games. Which quarterback will play with more consistency and avoid the big mistake on Saturday night?
2. Penn State’s Offensive Line
The biggest concern for Penn State this preseason was its offensive line. And through two games, this unit still has question marks to answer. The Nittany Lions have allowed three sacks, and rushers are managing only 2.8 yards per carry. Rutgers possesses an underrated front seven, headlined by tackle Darius Hamilton and linebacker Steve Longa. And the Scarlet Knights’ front has been active with eight sacks this year. Can Penn State’s line give Hackenberg time to throw and open holes on the ground for its backs? Talent certainly isn’t an issue at running back for the Nittany Lions, but running room has been limited against Akron and UCF.
3. Penn State’s Defense Against Paul James
Quietly, Rutgers running back Paul James has rushed for 216 yards (5.1 ypc) this season. James has provided needed balance for the Scarlet Knight offense and reduced some of the pressure on quarterback Gary Nova. But while James has been one of the Big Ten’s top running backs through two weeks, he faces a Penn State defense allowing just 1.7 yards per carry. The Nittany Lions have also allowed just three touchdowns and no rusher has managed a run of more than 20 yards in 2014. Can Rutgers establish James and keep Penn State’s defense off balance? It’s not an easy assignment with the Nittany Lions’ talent in the front seven, headlined by linebacker Mike Hull and junior tackle Anthony Zettel.
Momentum is on Rutgers’ sideline. The Scarlet Knights are at home, playing their first Big Ten game, and there’s motivation to knock off Penn State to establish some momentum in recruiting as a program against one of its Northeast rivals. Rutgers’ defensive line will give the Nittany Lions problems early, but Hackenberg is the difference in the game. Expect a close one, with Penn State pulling out a three-point victory in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Rutgers 24
It’s another light slate of games in the ACC for Week 3. For the third consecutive week, only one conference matchup highlights the schedule.
Louisville makes its first road trip as a member of the ACC with a matchup at Virginia on Saturday. The Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start under Bobby Petrino and leads the ACC in scoring by averaging 48.5 points per game. The Cavaliers have one of the ACC’s top defenses and held UCLA in check in the opener.
Outside of Charlottesville, Virginia Tech hopes to avoid a letdown against East Carolina, and Boston College hosts USC in an interesting non-conference matchup.
Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina are on bye in Week 3.
Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 3 Game Power Rankings
1. Louisville (-6.5) at Virginia
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
Louisville’s road trip to Charlottesville is its first as a member of the ACC and only the third time these two teams have met. Both teams have impressed this season, as the Cardinals opened the year with a victory against Miami, while Virginia had a good showing in a loss versus UCLA. The strength of the Cavaliers resides on defense, holding opponents to 20.5 points per game. Virginia’s front seven harassed UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in Week 1 and has recorded eight sacks in two contests. Louisville’s offensive line needs to play with more consistency after allowing five sacks in two games. The Cardinals should have extra help on Saturday with the return of running back Michael Dyer. The edge on offense is clearly in favor of Louisville. Virginia’s offense has shown brief flashes, but the Cavaliers need a low-scoring, defensive struggle to defeat the Cardinals.
Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:
2. East Carolina at Virginia Tech (-11)
Noon ET, ESPN
A week after a huge win over Ohio State, Virginia Tech has to get refocused for an upset-minded East Carolina team. The Pirates nearly defeated the Hokies last year, losing 15-10 in Greenville. Much of the same core returns in 2014, including quarterback Shane Carden and receiver Justin Hardy. Carden struggled in last season’s game (19 of 31, 3 INTs), and he may not find much success once again. Opposing quarterbacks are completing only 34.6 percent of their throws against the Hokies in 2014. Making East Carolina’s upset bid even tougher is the development of Virginia Tech’s offense this year. New quarterback Michael Brewer has tossed four touchdowns in two games, and freshmen Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie lead an improving ground attack.
3. USC (-17) at Boston College
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
After a hard-fought victory at Stanford last week, USC makes the long trek East to play at Boston College for just the second time in program history. The Eagles opened their season with a 30-7 victory over UMass but lost to Pittsburgh 30-20 in Week 2. Second-year coach Steve Addazio is breaking in a handful of new starters on both sides of the ball, and with the new faces still getting acclimated to the lineup, this is a tough matchup for Boston College. The strength of Addazio’s team should be the defense, which has to find ways to slow down the Trojans’ offense (6.1 yards per play). Quarterback Cody Kessler has a dynamic group of receivers at his disposal, along with Buck Allen (6.4 ypc) leading the way at running back. Boston College needs a big game from its quarterback (Tyler Murphy) to keep this one close in the fourth quarter.
4. NC State (-2.5) at USF
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
This game won’t garner much national attention, but there’s some intriguing between two programs in rebuild mode. NC State has played 13 true freshmen, while USF lists 10 freshmen on the two-deep for this week’s contest. Quarterback play will be under the spotlight on Saturday, as Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is off to a fast start (5 TDs, 1 INT), and USF could be without starter Mike White due to an arm injury. If White is out, Steven Bench will start. Regardless of which quarterback starts for the Bulls, freshman running back Marlon Mack should see a heavy workload against NC State’s struggling rush defense (221 ypg).
5. Syracuse (-6.5) at Central Michigan
Noon ET, ESPNEWS
Syracuse should be on upset alert this Saturday. The Orange struggled in their opener against Villanova, and Central Michigan easily handled Purdue 38-17 in Week 2. The strength of the Chippewas’ offense is on the ground, led by former Michigan back Thomas Rawls (276 yards, 4.9 ypc), while quarterback Cooper Rush is completing 61.9 percent of his throws this year. Syracuse allowed 190 rushing yards in the opener, so Rawls is a good test for Scott Shafer’s defense. The Orange will have quarterback Terrel Hunt back in the lineup after he was ejected from the opener. Hunt’s dual-threat ability will test a Central Michigan defense allowing just 4.3 yards per play.
6. Kansas at Duke (-15.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN
On the basketball court, it doesn’t get much better than these two teams. But it’s a different story on the gridiron, as Duke is coming off a Coastal Division title, while Kansas has just five wins since 2012. The Jayhawks struggled in their opener against SEMO, while the Blue Devils have cruised to a 2-0 start. Duke quarterback Anthony Boone is off to a fast start (5 TDs, 0 INTs), and he will test the strength of Kansas’ defense – the secondary. The Jayhawks rushed for 261 yards in the opener, which is a concern for the Blue Devils after the preseason injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown. Kansas is making small gains under coach Charlie Weis, but unless quarterback Montell Cozart makes a big jump in passing production this week, an upset isn’t in the cards.
7. Arkansas State at Miami (-16.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
With a road trip to Nebraska ahead next week, Miami needs to work out the kinks in its offense against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves lost 34-19 to Tennessee last week, but the Hurricanes can’t afford to take this game lightly. Arkansas State’s offense is averaging 5.7 yards per play and is led by dynamic quarterback Fredi Knighten. The Red Wolves will test Miami’s defense – a unit that has shown some improvement after allowing 26.8 points per game in 2013. But the Hurricanes offense will be a handful for Arkansas State, especially with running back Duke Johnson rounding into form, and quarterback Brad Kaaya gaining a better grasp of the offense in his third career start.
8. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (-20)
12 p.m. ET, RSN
Georgia Southern fell one point shy of an upset over NC State in Week 1, and the Eagles will have another opportunity at an upset against Georgia Tech. Georgia Southern also runs an option attack, so the forward pass won’t be utilized much in this one. The Eagles need a big performance from running back Matt Breida (8.2 ypc) and quarterback Kevin Ellison (5.6 ypc) to test a Georgia Tech rush defense that is allowing 183.5 rushing yards (yes, it’s only two games) per contest. This game is a critical tune-up for the Yellow Jackets, as conference matchups against Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke and North Carolina are up next. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson coached at Georgia Southern from 1997-01 and won two FCS national championships.
9. Wake Forest at Utah State (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
The Demon Deacons broke into the win column for the first time under new coach Dave Clawson by defeating Gardner-Webb 23-7 last Saturday. Freshman quarterback John Wolford showed signs of improvement in his second start, completing 30 of 38 throws for 291 yards and two scores. Utah State’s defense was one of the best in the Mountain West last year but lost standout linebacker Kyler Fackrell in the opener and is breaking in four new starters in the secondary. The Aggies have yet to get on track on offense, as quarterback Chuckie Keeton (47.7%, 1 TD) is still trying to shake off the rust from missing a chunk of 2013 with a torn ACL.
10. Pittsburgh (-26) at FIU
Noon ET, Fox Sports 1
This one could get ugly. Pittsburgh is off to a fast start, while FIU lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman in Week 1. The Panthers should use a heavy dose of running back James Conner (366 yards) and receiver Tyler Boyd (3 TDs) against a FIU defense with five new starters in the front seven. The Panthers’ offense is led by two freshmen: Quarterback Alex McGough and running back Alex Gardner.
Week 3 ACC Predictions
|Louisville (-6.5) at UVA||UL 35-21||UL 27-20||UL 27-20||UL 30-20|
|ECU (+11) at Va. Tech||VT 31-10||VT 30-17||VT 34-17||VT 31-22|
|USC (-17) at BC||USC 35-14||USC 41-17||USC 38-17||USC 30-20|
|NC State (-2.5) at USF||USF 14-10||USF 28-24||USF 27-24||USF 24-20|
|Syracuse (+6.5) at CMU||SU 17-10||SU 31-24||SU 31-27||CMU 21-20|
|Kansas (+15.5) at Duke||Duke 28-10||Duke 43-15||Duke 38-17||Duke 34-10|
|Ark. State (+16.5) at Miami||Miami 21-10||Miami 31-21||Miami 34-20||Miami 34-21|
|Ga. Southern (+20) at Ga. Tech||GT 35-14||GT 34-17||GT 38-20||GT 37-20|
|WF (+14.5) at Utah State||USU 21-17||USU 31-28||USU 31-17||USU 23-21|
|Pitt (-26) at FIU||Pitt 49-7||Pitt 45-14||Pitt 52-7||Pitt 41-0|
BYU crossed a major hurdle in its quest for an unbeaten record by defeating Texas 41-7 in Week 2. The Cougars handled the Longhorns with ease, scoring 28 points in the third quarter to pull away after a 6-0 halftime lead over Charlie Strong’s team. Running back Jamaal Williams returned from a one-game suspension to record 89 yards on 19 carries, but quarterback Taysom Hill carried the offense with 280 total yards and three scores.
Hill has launched himself into Heisman discussion after throwing for 489 yards and three scores (73% completion percentage) and rushing for 196 yards and five touchdowns.
But Hill isn’t a one-man show. Williams is a 1,000-yard rusher, and the defense is allowing just 4.2 yards per play this year.
Going into the season, the road trip to Texas was considered one of the toughest games on BYU’s 2014 slate. After the Cougars victory in Austin, the schedule suddenly becomes more favorable to an unbeaten record. And with an unbeaten record comes the discussion about BYU’s spot in the playoff mix.
As with any college football opinion in September, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s early and a lot is going to change over the next few weeks.
But looking at BYU’s schedule – assuming quarterback Taysom Hill stays healthy – where are the losses going to come from?
Let’s rank the Cougars’ 10 remaining games, with No. 1 the most likely loss to No. 10 being the least likely. Will BYU be favored to win all 10 remaining games?
Ranking BYU’s Toughest Remaining Games for 2014
1. at Boise State (Friday, Oct. 24)
This year’s matchup will be the third consecutive season these two teams have played. Boise State won 7-6 in 2012, but the Cougars got revenge by winning 37-20 in Provo last year. The Broncos are always tough to beat at home, and running back Jay Ajayi will challenge a BYU defense that held Texas to 82 yards on 35 attempts in Week 2. Quarterback Grant Hedrick bounced back from a rough opener against Ole Miss to throw for 352 yards and two scores against Colorado State. Boise State’s defense will also improve as the season progresses, especially with a veteran secondary and solid pass rush (four sacks in two games). It’s a close call for this spot, but winning in Boise is never easy, and this game takes place at the end of a challenging October for Bronco Mendenhall’s team.
2. at California (Saturday, Nov. 29)
The Golden Bears have made strides in coach Sonny Dykes’ second season, winning on the road at Northwestern to open the year, followed by an easy win over Sacramento State in Week 2. California is the regular season finale, so there could be a lot on the line for BYU. The Golden Bears are a work in progress on defense, but the offense is explosive (five plays of 40 or more yards in two games).
3. at UCF (Thursday, Oct. 9)
These two teams have met only once, with BYU scoring a 24-17 victory over UCF in 2011. The Knights started slow in the opener against Penn State, but the offense rallied when Justin Holman was inserted into the lineup in the second half. Depending on how Holman plays this Saturday against Missouri, UCF could rank higher on this list. The Knights return eight starters from a defense that allowed 21.3 points per game last season.
4. Virginia (Saturday, Sept. 20)
The Cavaliers knocked off BYU in a rain-soaked opener last year (19-16). Virginia’s personnel hasn’t changed much with 15 returning starters, but the offense still has uncertainty at quarterback and a questionable offensive line.
5. Nevada (Saturday, Oct. 18)
The Wolf Pack appears to be on the right track in coach Brian Polian’s second year. A healthy Cody Fajardo at quarterback certainly helps, but the defense – allowed 505.3 yards per game in 2013 – held Washington State to 13 points in Week 2. Nevada also catches BYU after a road trip to UCF.
6. Utah State (Friday, Oct. 3)
Is Chuckie Keeton back to full strength by Oct. 3? If he is, the senior quarterback is enough to give Utah State a shot at an upset. A bigger problem for the Aggies is an offensive line that lost four starters is still trying to find the right mix after two weeks. The defense also lost standout linebacker Kyler Fackrell for the season.
7. at MTSU (Saturday, Nov. 1)
The Cougars won last season’s matchup 37-10 in Provo, and the Blue Raiders return only three starters on offense from 2013. However, MTSU has a bye before playing BYU, and the defense has held opponents to a respectable 4.6 yards per play through two games.
8. Houston (Thursday, Sept. 11)
BYU and Houston played an entertaining 47-46 shootout last season, so this is no guaranteed victory. However, it’s a short week for both teams, and Houston struggled in its Week 1 loss to UTSA. Houston quarterback John O’Korn tossed four picks in the opener against the Roadrunners.
9. UNLV (Saturday, Nov. 15)
Rebels took a step forward under coach Bobby Hauck last year, making a bowl for the first time since 2000. However, the Rebels lost 58-13 to Arizona in Week 1 and barely defeated FCS opponent Northern Colorado (13-12) in Week 2.
10. Savannah State (Saturday, Nov. 22)
BYU shouldn’t have much trouble with the Tigers. Savannah State lost 61-7 to MTSU in Week 1 and was outscored by a combined score of 143-10 by Miami and Troy in 2013.
Maryland is going patriotic for Saturday’s matchup against West Virginia. The Terrapins unveiled on Tuesday a new patriotic uniform, which features the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner on the shoulder pads and helmet.
Check out the Terrapins new uniforms for Week 3:
Utah made slight changes to its uniforms for 2014, and the Utes continued with the tweaks by unveiling a new white helmet.
It’s uncertain when Utah will wear these white helmets, but it’s a pretty sharp look for Kyle Whittingham’s Utes.
Texas Tech plans to turn back the clock when Arkansas visits Lubbock on Saturday.
The Red Raiders will wear throwback uniforms in Week 3, and the overall look for Saturday is pretty sharp. The design is similar to the uniforms and helmets Texas Tech had when coach Kliff Kingsbury was playing quarterback for Mike Leach.
Check out Texas Tech’s throwback uniforms below and visit the official school site for a full gallery:
SMU coach June Jones has resigned after an 0-2 start this year. Jones is the first coach of the season to be fired or resign.
Defensive coordinator Tom Mason will be promoted to interim coach, with Dan Morrison and Jason Phillips sharing play-calling duties on offense.
Jones was a key hire for SMU, as he arrived in Dallas after recording a 76-41 record during his nine-year tenure at Hawaii. The Warriors showed immediate improvement under Jones, going from 0-12 in the year prior to his arrival, to a 9-4 mark and a bowl victory in 1999.
Jones also guided Hawaii to a BCS bowl appearance in 2007.
However, Jones left Hawaii for Dallas after that season and struggled to find early success with the Mustangs.
SMU went 1-11 in Jones’ debut and finished winless in conference play in 2008.
The Mustangs rebounded by playing in four consecutive bowl games from 2009-12 and finished 5-7 in their first season of American Athletic play in 2013.
Despite making four consecutive bowl games for a program that has struggled to maintain success since the death penalty in 1987, there were plenty of rumblings from the SMU fanbase about Jones’ tenure.
And those rumblings only grew louder once the Mustangs started 2014 with an 0-2 record, which included a 45-0 loss to Baylor and a 43-6 defeat at the hands of North Texas.
SMU is a job with plenty of potential, as its located in a fertile recruiting area and has a history of success. With an opportunity to play in the American Athletic Conference, there's also good exposure on key television networks.
Names to watch in SMU’s coaching search:
David Beaty, wide receivers coach, Texas A&M
Philip Montgomery, offensive coordinator, Baylor
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
Rick Neuheisel, former UCLA coach
Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, East Carolina
Jake Spavital, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M
Only two games onto the job and James Franklin will have the tools to return Penn State to full strength.
The NCAA and Big Ten relieved sanctions on Penn State on Monday, allowing the Nittany Lions to play in a bowl and the Big Ten title game in 2014 in addition to allowing the program to return to a full allotment of scholarships for the class of 2015.
The orginial sanctions banned Penn State from the posteason through the 2015 season and restricted scholarships through 2017.
The NCAA’s decision to restore Penn State’s bowl eligibility comes after George Mitchell, the school’s appointed athletics integrity monitor, recommended the changes in his annual report to the NCAA. Mitchell’s report helps the NCAA and Penn State gauge its athletic department and progress from the sanctions after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
This is the second reduction in penalties from the NCAA to Penn State since the sanctions were originally announced. Last year, the NCAA allowed Penn State to sign 20 players and have 75 scholarship athletes on the roster. The original plan after the reduction was to allow the program to sign 25 players for 2015 and have a full allotment of 85 players in 2016.
Read the NCAA’s full release on Penn State’s reduction in sanctions
The Main Takeaway
This is a huge boost for Penn State’s football program. After the penalties and sanctions were announced, most expected the Nittany Lions would take a huge hit in the standings for the next five-to-10 years. The impact of losing scholarship players would limit the team’s depth, and a bowl ban would prevent the program from attracting elite recruiting classes.
But that’s no longer a concern.
Penn State isn’t ready to challenge for a national championship in 2014 or 2015, but the outlook for the program, already buoyed by the hires of Bill O'Brien and James Franklin, have improved thanks to a full allotment of scholarships and the possibility of postseason play.
Here is a look at penalties were originally levied in June 2012 and what they actually turned out to be
|Penalty||As Stated on June 23, 2012||Actual impact|
|Fines/Forfeiture of Bowl Revenue||$60 million (NCAA), $13 million (Big Ten)||Enforced|
|Vacated wins||112 from 1998-2011||Enforced|
|Tranfers||Allowed players to transfer without penalty||Enforced, nine players transferred|
|Postseason bans||Banned from bowls and Big Ten championship game from 2012-15||Banned from bowls and Big Ten championship game from 2012-13|
|Scholarship reductions (by year)|
|2012||85 on roster (25 on NSD)||85 (25)|
|2013||15 on NSD||15 on NSD|
|2014||65 total (15 on NSD)||75 total (20 on NSD)|
|2015||65 (15)||85 (25)|
|2016||65 (15)||85 (25)|
|2017||65 (25)||85 (25)|
|2018||85 (25)||85 (25)|
While this is a boost to Penn State, don’t forget about the impact on the Big Ten as a whole. The conference desperately needs some good news after struggling with its on-field product in recent years. Ohio State and Michigan State have been top-10 programs in recent seasons, and Penn State – with a full roster and an outstanding coach – can join those ranks soon.
What This Means for 2014
Penn State is a contender for the Big Ten title. The Nittany Lions have yet to turn in an overwhelming performance in their two contests, but the rest of the Big Ten hasn’t either.
The strength of the Big Ten lies in the East Division, where the Nittany Lions are battling Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State for the No. 1 spot. The Spartans are the frontrunner, but Penn State hosts Mark Dantonio’s team in on Nov. 29. And here’s another element of intrigue for Penn State’s schedule: Ohio State visits Happy Valley on Oct. 25.
The schedule is in the Nittany Lions’ favor, as the top two teams in the division play at Beaver Stadium. And it’s late enough in the season where Penn State’s offensive line should have some time to develop.
There are potential landmines on the schedule outside of Ohio State and Michigan State, including a road trip to an Indiana team that defeated Penn State 44-24 in 2013. Penn State also travels to Michigan on Oct. 11.
New coach James Franklin inherited plenty of talent from Bill O’Brien, including quarterback Christian Hackenberg who has thrown for 773 yards (No. 4 nationally) and completed 65.1 percent of his passes through two games. Hackenberg’s development — along with the emergence of Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton at receiver — is critical with an offensive line that is thin on depth and proven options. Developing a rushing attack is critical for Penn State to make the jump into conference title contention, as the Nittany Lions are averaging only 2.8 yards per attempt.
Defensively, Penn State ranks among the best in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are allowing just 13.5 points per contest and 4.3 yards per play. Similar to the offense, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is also dealing with depth issues. However, Penn State’s starting 11 on defense is good enough to push for 10 wins.
It’s not tangible with a stat, but there’s also a natural boost Penn State should get from having something to play for at the end of the year. The Nittany Lions are no longer just about playing for pride. A Big Ten title, a playoff spot and a bowl game are now real possibilities.
With a proven coach like Franklin, a standout quarterback in Hackenberg and an emerging defense, Penn State has the pieces in place to push for a conference title.
Franklin is known as a relentless recruiter, and his pitch has already paid off for the Nittany Lions. Penn State inked the No. 24 class in 2014 and is off to a hot start for 2015, ranking No. 7 nationally with 19 three or four-star prospects committed.
With limited scholarships, Franklin and his staff had to be selective and depth was going to be an issue over the next few years. With a full allotment to use, Penn State will be able to sign a better class with more depth, which especially helps units like the offensive and defensive lines – two areas that are critical in the Big Ten.
With the ability to play in a bowl, it should help Franklin sell the program to more recruits who may have stayed away from the Nittany Lions with the uncertainty surrounding its postseason future.
There’s no question Franklin knows how to recruit. Under his watch, Vanderbilt signed the No. 26 class in 2013.
With the possibility of postseason play, a program on the verge of rebounding, and a young, energetic coach in Franklin, Penn State is poised to emerge as a top 15 program on a consistent basis over the next few seasons.
Here's how Penn State has fared before and after sanctions. All figures are from the 247Sports Composite. The 2015, obviously, remains a work-in-progress until commits sign letters of intent.
|National Rank||Big Ten Rank||Coach on NSD|
Bill O'Brien on PSU news: "Penn State is a fantastic place. ... Very happy for Penn State, mostly for the players and the coaching staff."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 8, 2014
Finally a correction. NCAA was wrong about the Penn State football culture and had no business handing down sanctions. Was not their case.— Todd Blackledge (@Todd_Blackledge) September 8, 2014
Today is a memorable day for these young men! The men who stayed together for each other! Today Penn State is back! pic.twitter.com/GoZXRLwL1X— Josh Gattis (@Coach_Gattis) September 8, 2014
Scott Paterno said a family lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State will continue despite the NCAA's most recent reduction in sanctions.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 8, 2014
Due to Penn State’s progress in ensuring athletics dept functions with integrity, NCAA immediately restores football postseason eligibility.— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) September 8, 2014
James Franklin statement: pic.twitter.com/vVUSG7HZ3y— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) September 8, 2014
While most of the nation was watching the Big Ten stumble, the ACC was quietly putting together a solid resume from Week 2.
Florida State rolled to an easy win over Citadel, Clemson demolished South Carolina State, while Louisville and Duke also scored relatively easy non-conference victories.
However, the highlight of the weekend comes from Virginia Tech. The Hokies upset Ohio State in Columbus, emerging as the clear No. 1 team in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech's offense seems to be taking a step forward in coordinator Scot Loeffler's second year, and the defense continues to be one of the best in the nation.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 2
Virginia Tech is the Team to Beat in the Coastal Division
Yes, only two games for the Coastal teams are in the books, but Virginia Tech is the No. 1 team in the division. And is it really close at this point? The Hokies defeated Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus to move to 2-0. Virginia Tech’s offense was the biggest question mark heading into the season, but coordinator Scot Loeffler has this unit on the right track. Sure, the Hokies averaged only 4.2 yards per play, but quarterback Michael Brewer threw for 199 yards on 23 completions and appears to be in control of the offense. The rushing attack recorded just 121 yards against a stout Ohio State defensive line. However, talented running backs Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie will improve. And of course, Virginia Tech’s defense will carry this team in most of its games. The Hokies held Ohio State to just 2.7 yards per carry and intercepted quarterback J.T. Barrett three times. Coordinator Bud Foster’s defense recorded 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks against the Buckeyes. The Coastal Division was impossible to predict in the preseason. But the favorite – for now – is clearly Virginia Tech.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
If the Hokies are No. 1 in the Coastal…Pittsburgh is No. 2?
The Coastal Division was one of the toughest to project this preseason. We have to be cautious to not overreact to just two games, but Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh appear to be the top two teams so far. The Panthers picked up a key road conference win in Week 2, defeating Boston College 30-20 on Friday night. Pittsburgh’s offense averaged 5.9 yards per play behind running back James Conner’s 213 yards. Replacing tackle Aaron Donald is a mammoth challenge for this defense, but the Panthers limited the Eagles to 4.5 yards per play and sacked quarterback Tyler Murphy four times. Duke, North Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia will all have something to say about the Coastal race. However, it’s easy to believe in Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh after two solid performances to open the year.
Florida State’s Bye Week Comes at a Good Time
The timing of bye weeks is an underrated element to any schedule, and Florida State’s Week 3 off date comes at the right time. In Saturday’s efficient 37-12 win over Citadel, the Seminoles watched a couple of key defenders suffer injuries. Defensive tackles Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Justin Shanks were injured in the victory and have two weeks to prepare for a key ACC showdown against Clemson. Outside of getting the defensive tackles healthy, Florida State can use the bye week to get its new receivers acclimated to working with quarterback Jameis Winston. Tight end Nick O’Leary led the team with five catches against Citadel, and freshman Ermon Lane stepped up with three catches for 37 yards. Winston certainly has talent on the outside, but the offense needs time to transition with the new playmakers in the receiving corps. The Seminoles haven’t played their best game this season, but with two weeks to prepare for the Tigers, it’s a safe bet we will see a better effort for Jimbo Fisher’s team on Sept. 20.
North Carolina is a Work In Progress
Despite the 2-0 start, the Tar Heels still have a lot of work to do in order to contend for the Coastal Division crown. Larry Fedora’s team has needed second-half comebacks to beat Liberty and San Diego State and ranks No. 13 in the ACC in most yards allowed per play (5.8) by a defense. North Carolina has also lost five turnovers (T-102 nationally) and allowed 28 points per game through two contests. Sure, it’s early, and the Tar Heels have 10 games to improve. However, some of the preseason concerns about this team remain. Can North Carolina take a step forward on defense? San Diego State averaged 6.9 yards per play on Saturday, the first time an opponent managed more than 5.6 against this defense since Oct. 17, 2013 against Miami. Can the offensive line improve if Landon Turner is out for a significant amount of time? Fedora has the Tar Heels trending in the right direction. However, UNC has a lot of room to improve before challenging for the Coastal title.
ACC Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 3|
|1||2-0||W, 37-12, Citadel||Bye Week|
|2||2-0||W, 35-21, Ohio State||East Carolina|
|3||1-1||W, 73-7, S.C. State||Bye Week|
|4||2-0||W, 66-21, Murray State||at Virginia|
|5||2-0||W, 30-20, BC||at FIU|
|6||2-0||W, 34-17, Troy||Kansas|
|7||2-0||W, 31-27, SDSU||Bye Week|
|8||1-1||W, 41-7, FAMU||Arkansas State|
|9||1-1||W, 45-13, Richmond||Louisville|
|10||2-0||W, 38-21, Tulane||Georgia Southern|
|11||1-1||L, 30-20, Pittsburgh||USC|
|12||1-0||Bye Week||at Central Michigan|
|13||2-0||W, 46-34, ODU||at USF|
|14||1-1||W, 23-7, Gardner-Webb||at Utah State|
The Big 12’s Week 2 slate was light, but there was plenty of intrigue around the league.
Oklahoma easily handled in-state foe Tulsa, defeating the Golden Hurricane 52-7 to improve to 2-0. And in other easy victories: West Virginia trounced Towson 54-0 and Baylor gashed Northwestern State 70-6.
Charlie Strong’s debut at Texas resulted in a blowout victory over North Texas, but the Longhorns lost 41-7 to BYU in Week 2. With three starters gone on offensive line from Week 1, along with quarterback David Ash, Texas is a team in transition.
Elsewhere in the Big 12, Texas Tech needed a late score to hold off UTEP, Kansas held off SEMO and Oklahoma State cruised to a 40-23 victory over Missouri State.
Key Takeaways from the Big 12 in Week 2
Seth Russell is a Capable Replacement
Sure, Northwestern State wasn’t the best source of competition, but Baylor has to be confident in quarterback Seth Russell if Bryce Petty is out an extended amount of time. Russell was sharp in his first career start, recording 438 yards and five passing scores on 16 completions. He also added one touchdown on three rushing attempts. It certainly doesn’t hurt Russell’s cause that he’s surrounded by a talented group of skill players – hello KD Cannon and Davion Hall – but Baylor’s offense is in good hands until Petty returns.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
It’s Daxx’s Show in Stillwater
As of Sunday night, Oklahoma State has not released an official diagnosis on J.W. Walsh’s foot injury suffered against Missouri State. However, it’s safe to say the Cowboys will be without Walsh for at least a couple of weeks. Perhaps longer. Walsh will be missed, but Oklahoma State’s offense is in good hands with Daxx Garman at the controls. In his first action since the junior year of high school (2009), Garman completed 16 of 26 passes for 244 yards and two scores. The junior averaged an impressive 15.3 yards per completion against Missouri State and could be a better fit for Oklahoma State’s offense than Walsh. UTSA will be a tough opponent this Saturday, followed by a key conference game against Texas Tech on Sept. 25. Garman lacks experience, but Oklahoma State’s offense will be fine with him at the controls.
There’s Still Fight in Iowa State
After last week’s loss to North Dakota State, it was easy to write off Iowa State for a finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12. However, one week later, the outlook for the Cyclones looks much better. Coach Paul Rhoads’ team nearly upset Kansas State, losing 32-28 after leading 28-20 going into the fourth quarter. Stopping the run and generating more big plays on offense is a must, but Iowa State got a solid effort from quarterback Sam Richardson and Jarvis West stepped up at receiver to help compensate for the loss of Quenton Bundrage. No, the Cyclones aren’t going to win the Big 12. However, after the loss to the Bison, most expected Iowa State to struggle to earn a couple of wins in conference play. One week later, the Cyclones showed they will not be an easy out in the Big 12 this season.
Texas Needs to Regroup
First-year coach Charlie Strong certainly has his work cut out for him over the next few weeks. The Longhorns lost 41-7 to BYU on Saturday, dropping their record to 1-1. Losing to the Cougars was really no surprise, as Texas played without the services of quarterback David Ash (concussion-like symptoms), center Dominic Espinosa (broken ankle) and offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle (suspension). With a patchwork line thin on depth and a young quarterback, Texas is going to have its share of growing pains on offense. And it comes at the wrong time for the Longhorns, as a neutral site date against UCLA is up next, followed by Kansas and then matchups against two top 10 teams (Oklahoma and Baylor). Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes – who didn’t play bad against BYU – should improve next week, but it’s a lot to ask him to beat Baylor and Oklahoma without more help from the defense, receiving corps, offensive line and rushing attack.
Post-Week 2 Big 12 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 3|
|1||2-0||W, 52-7, Tulsa||Tennessee|
|2||2-0||W, 70-6, NW State||at Buffalo|
|3||2-0||W, 32-28, Iowa State||Bye Week|
|4||1-1||W, 40-23, Missouri State||UTSA|
|5||1-1||W, 54-0, Towson||at Maryland|
|7||1-1||L, 41-7, BYU||UCLA (Arlington)|
|8||2-0||W, 30-26, UTEP||Arkansas|
|9||1-1||L, 32-28, K-State||at Iowa|
|10||1-0||W, 34-28, SEMO||at Duke|
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2
132: Michigan State’s Yards on Final Six Drives Against Oregon
After taking a 27-18 lead against Oregon early in the third quarter, Michigan State’s offense was stuck in neutral for the rest of the game. The Ducks’ defense put the clamps on coach Mark Dantonio’s offense, holding the Spartans to just 132 yards on the final six drives. Oregon forced two three-and-outs in the second half after recording just one in the first two quarters. The Ducks also made a key stop on fourth down and picked off quarterback Connor Cook to rally for a 46-27 victory. Oregon’s defense has been criticized for its struggles against physical rushing attacks, but Don Pellum’s unit held the Spartans to just 123 yards on the ground.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
58.2: Average Length of Baylor’s TD Passes in Week 2
No Bryce Petty? No problem. Baylor’s offense maintained its big-play ability with Seth Russell at the controls, as the sophomore completed 16 of 25 passes for 438 yards and five scores. Russell’s five touchdown tosses averaged 58.2 yards per completion, with three of those going to freshman standout KD Cannon. Fellow freshman standout Davion Hall also caught one of Russell’s passes for a score. Cannon averaged 37.2 yards per catch (six receptions), as Baylor’s offense had no trouble putting points on the board against Northwestern State.
5: Broken Tackles by Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah on Winning TD
It’s only Week 2, but did the 58-yard touchdown reception by running back Ameer Abdullah with less than a minute to play save Nebraska’s season? Maybe so. Abdullah caught quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s pass and broke five tackles en route to scoring the game-winning touchdown. The Cornhuskers were not expected to have much trouble with McNeese State, but the FCS opponent nearly pulled a shocking upset in Lincoln. Abdullah is one of the top players in the Big Ten, and his big-play ability saved Nebraska from a disappointing loss.
27.1: UAB’s Per Completion Average Against Miss. State
UAB fell short in its upset bid against Mississippi State (47-34), but first-year coach Bill Clark’s team may have exposed a flaw in the Bulldogs’ defense. The Blazers completed only 16 passes and finished the game with 435 yards. UAB’s quarterbacks averaged 27.1 yards per completion, and all three touchdown tosses traveled at least 75 yards. Was this a one-time flaw or is pass defense a huge concern for Mississippi State?
9: Stanford Drives That Went Into USC Territory
If you didn’t see the game and read the box score, it would be easy to assume Stanford defeated USC just by this stat. After all, the Cardinal took all nine of their drives to at least the USC 32-yard line. But there’s just one problem. On those nine drives, Stanford scored only 10 points, missed two field goals and lost two fumbles. The Cardinal outgained USC 413 to 291 and held the Trojans’ passing attack to just 135 yards. However, with an inability to score or avoid turnovers on USC’s side of the field, Stanford couldn’t close out a key Pac-12 game.
596: Pitt RB James Conner’s Rushing Yards in Last 3 Games
Behind an improving offensive line and rushing attack, Pittsburgh is quietly on the rise in the Coastal Division. Sophomore James Conner has emerged as the Panthers’ workhorse, recording 596 yards over his last three games. Conner started this run by rushing for 229 yards in the bowl win over Bowling Green last season, recorded 153 in the opener against Delaware and gashed Boston College for 213 on Friday night. While the yardage is nice, Conner’s yards per carry is even better. The sophomore is averaging 7.5 yards per attempt and has five rushing scores through two games in 2014.
48.5: LSU WR Travin Dural’s YPC Through Two Games
It seems Anthony Jennings has edged Brandon Harris for LSU’s starting quarterback job – for now – and Dural has developed quite a rapport with Jennings. The sophomore has caught six passes for 291 yards and four scores this year, averaging a whopping 48.5 yards per catch. Dural has been the offense’s top big-play threat, averaging 55 yards on his four touchdown catches.
655: Florida’s Total Offense Against Eastern Michigan
Yes, total offense stats are misleading, but Florida’s offense had a solid debut. Under the direction of new coordinator Kurt Roper, the Gators recorded 655 yards – the most by a Florida team since beating Cincinnati 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl during the 2009 season. Florida also had six plays of 30 yards or more, which is nearly half of its total from 2013 (14).
6: Players That Scored a Rushing TD for Army
Army held off a furious rally by Buffalo to win 47-39 in new coach Todd Monken’s debut. The Black Knights executed the option almost to perfection against the Bulls, averaging 6.3 yards per carry and recording seven rushing touchdowns. Six of the seven rushing scores came via different players, including Larry Dixon, Terry Baggett, Raymond Maples and quarterback Angel Santiago.
73.7: Average Length of Ole Miss’ Scoring Drives in Week 2
Big plays are always preferred, but Ole Miss’ offense had a methodical (but impressive) showing in Week 2. The Rebels averaged 73.7 yards per touchdown drive in Week 2. Ole Miss recorded four offensive scores against Vanderbilt, with six of its 10 drives lasting at least 10 plays. Despite the methodical drives, Ole Miss still averaged a healthy 6.2 yards per play and never punted against the Commodores.
Other Stats to Know
* Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik completed 10 passes in Friday night’s win over Boston College. Five of those 10 passes went to sophomore receiver Tyler Boyd. The sophomore has caught three of Voytik’s four touchdown tosses in 2014.
* Alabama tight end O.J. Howard (picked by most outlets as a preseason All-American) has zero catches through two games. Meanwhile, Amari Cooper has 25 receptions through two games – more than half of his 2013 total (45).
* SMU has scored only six points in two games. Only two times from 2012-13 were the Mustangs held under 10 points in a single contest.
* Utah quarterback Travis Wilson threw five touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Fresno State. The last time the Utes had five passing scores in game was 2008 (Brian Johnson).
* Oklahoma averaged 8.4 yards per play against Tulsa in Week 2. That’s the first time since Nov. 17, 2012 the Sooners have averaged eight yards per play in a contest.
* Northwestern has lost nine out of its last 10 games.
* Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp has caught 11 passes through the first two games of the season. That’s more than half of the total he recorded all of last season (20 catches).
* Iowa State receiver Jarvis West had a standout all-around performance against Kansas State. He threw a 29-yard touchdown, caught eight passes for 77 yards and one score and returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown. According to STATS LCC, he’s only the fourth player since 1996 to score on a pass, catch and punt return in a single game.
* West Virginia recorded its first shutout since Sept. 4, 2010 by blanking Towson 54-0.
* Michigan’s zero points against Notre Dame represented the first time the program has been shut out since a loss versus Iowa in 1984.
* Washington quarterback Cyler Miles accounted for four touchdowns in his 2014 debut. Miles threw for 180 yards and rushed for 58 in the Huskies’ wild 59-52 victory over Eastern Washington.
* Washington and Eastern Washington combined for 1,109 total yards on Saturday.
* North Carolina has scored a special teams or defensive touchdown in three consecutive games.
* UMass threw only nine touchdown passes last year. Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel has tossed four scores for the Minutemen in two games this season.
* Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce has recorded 100 yards receiving in back-to-back games.
* Daxx Garman averaged 15.3 yards per completion (16 of 26) in Oklahoma State’s 40-23 win over Missouri State. Garman replaced an injured J.W. Walsh.
* Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock threw for a career-high 322 yards in Saturday’s 17-13 win over Ball State.
* Despite being outgained 419 to 280 and converting only one third-down attempt, Eastern Kentucky defeated Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks have lost 18 consecutive games.
* Northern Illinois is 5-3 against the Big Ten since 2009.
* Eight of Ohio’s 12 drives went for 10 yards or less against Kentucky. The Bobcats lost 20-3.
* Minnesota running back David Cobb recorded 220 in Saturday’s win over MTSU. That’s the first 200-yard effort from a Gophers’ running back since 2005.
* Maryland had six turnovers, yet still managed to beat USF. The Terrapins outgained the Bulls 317 to 257.
* Arkansas averaged 12.7 yards per play against Nicholls State. All four of quarterback Brandon Allen’s throws went for scores.
* Georgia Southern averaged a whopping 11.7 yards per play in a 83-9 victory over Savannah State.
* Kansas receiver Nick Harwell (Miami, Ohio transfer) caught two touchdown passes in his debut with the Jayhawks.
* Louisiana Tech averaged 7.8 yards per play against UL Lafayette. That’s the highest per game total during Skip Holtz’s tenure.
* Through two games, Vanderbilt’s offense has managed only 22 first downs.
* Auburn has rushed for 300 yards in back-to-back games.
* Arizona State averaged nine yards per play against New Mexico.
* Boise State recorded 676 yards in Saturday’s win over Colorado State. That’s the first time the Broncos went over 600 yards of offense since Oct. 15, 2011.
* After going 52 yards on eight plays in the third quarter against Hawaii, Oregon State’s final seven drives went only 49 yards.
* Clemson held FCS opponent South Carolina State to a miniscule 0.8 yards per play.
* LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings is averaging 26.7 yards per completion.
* Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk scored six times in Saturday’s win over Toledo. His five touchdown tosses tied a school record.
BYU easily handled Texas 41-7 on Saturday night. Quarterback Taysom Hill was the catalyst for the Cougars’ victory, throwing for 181 yards on 18 completions and rushing for 99 yards and three scores on 24 attempts.
Hill’s dual-threat ability gave the Texas defense fits last year, so his performance on Saturday night wasn’t a surprise.
Hill made one of the weekend’s top players by hurdling a defender on a touchdown run in the second half.
LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette was one of the nation’s top recruits and there was considerable hype surrounding his debut this year. Fournette was quiet in the opener against Wisconsin and rushed for only 18 yards on eight carries.
Fournette’s numbers against Sam Houston State were better, as the freshman recorded a touchdown and over 50 yards in just over two quarters of work.
However, Fournette’s touchdown drew the ire of coach Les Miles, as the freshman struck a Heisman pose.
Check out Fournette’s touchdown run and Heisman pose:
A week after an upset win over Northwestern, California kept the momentum going with a blowout victory over Sacramento State.
Receiver Kenny Lawler added the Golden Bears’ good vibes with one of the weekend’s best catches. Lawler made a nifty one-handed grab to put California up 28-0 in the first half.
UTSA’s upset bid against Arizona came up short in Week 2. However, the Roadrunners certainly had a good showing against the Wildcats.
One of the top highlights of Week 2 came when UTSA’s Josiah Monroe demolished an Arizona player in the first half.
Virginia Tech and Ohio State passed their opening week tests, but a tougher challenge is ahead on Saturday night in Columbus. The Hokies are one of the favorites in a wide-open Coastal Division and handled FCS opponent William & Mary 34-9 in Week 1. Virginia Tech’s offense showed signs of life in the opener, but it’s tough to glean too much from overpowering a FCS opponent. The Buckeyes began life without Braxton Miller – at least for 2014 – with a 34-17 win over Navy. With Miller sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Ohio State has to lean on its defense and skill players to help redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.
This will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. These two teams are scheduled to meet on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg next season.
Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ohio State -11
Three Things to Watch
1. The Quarterbacks
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer have traveled an interesting road to the starting job this year, and both quarterbacks are making only their second career start on Saturday night. Barrett was pushed into the starting job after an injury to Braxton Miller and completed 12 of 15 throws for 226 yards and two scores in the win over Navy. Brewer was slated to be Texas Tech’s starter in 2013 but a back injury limited his availability for most of the season. He transferred from Texas Tech after graduating and won the starting job in the fall. Brewer completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against William & Mary. Both quarterbacks are surrounded by talent – yes it’s young – at the skill positions and play behind questionable offensive lines. However, both players have a good defense on their side. Neither quarterback needs to throw for 300 yards for their team to win on Saturday night. Which quarterback – Brewer or Barrett – will make the fewest mistakes and turn in an efficient outing to lead their team to victory?
2. Virginia Tech’s OL vs. Ohio State DL
Again, we have to point out questionable competition, but there were some positive signs for Virginia Tech’s offensive line in Week 1. The Hokies averaged 5.3 yards per carry and did not allow a sack against William & Mary. After taking a positive step forward in the opener, the matchup with Ohio State is a much better barometer test for the line. The Buckeyes won’t have end Noah Spence (suspension), but this unit is arguably the best defensive line in the nation. Tackle Michael Bennett and end Joey Bosa are two All-American candidates, and this unit averaged three sacks per game in 2013. Keeping Brewer upright and clearing rushing lanes for talented freshmen Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams on the ground will be a challenge for Virginia Tech’s line. However, this is a good opportunity for the Hokies to show how far they have progressed on offense after managing only 22.5 points per game last year.
3. Young Talent at the Skill Positions
There’s a couple of areas we could go with this last key to watch, but there’s a plethora of talent at the skill positions for both teams. In the opener against William & Mary, newcomers for Virginia Tech accounted for 422 yards. Brewer threw for 251 yards, McKenzie and Williams accounted for 147 yards on the ground, tight end Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 38 yards and a score, while true freshman Isaiah Ford grabbed four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. On the Ohio State sideline, there’s also plenty of help for young quarterback J.T. Barrett. Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson each rushed for over 40 yards against Navy, and sophomore Michael Thomas led the team with three catches. With both teams having an inexperienced signal-caller, it’s important for the players at the skill positions to provide help on Saturday night.
If you are looking for offense, this is probably not the game you want to watch. The over/under by Vegas is set at 47, and with two quarterbacks making only their second start, points could be at a premium. Virginia Tech’s offensive output in Week 1 was promising, and this group should get better with more time for Brewer, McKenzie, Williams and Ford to develop. However, it’s tough to win in Columbus, and the Buckeyes’ defense will control this game, allowing Barrett to ease into his second victory as Ohio State’s quarterback.
Prediction: Ohio State 27, Virginia Tech 17
The non-conference matchup between Michigan and Notre Dame features two of college football’s most-storied programs and has been played consecutively since 2002. But after Saturday’s game, this series is on hiatus, as the schools do not have a matchup scheduled for the future. Of course, that will likely change in a couple of years, but for now (or perhaps 5-10 years), this is it between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish.
While the future of this series has been discussed at length, this year’s game also provides plenty of intrigue. Michigan is hoping to rebound off a disappointing 7-6 season and had an impressive showing in the opener against Appalachian State. The Fighting Irish lost a couple of key players due to academic issues prior to the first game but looked sharp in a 48-17 victory over Rice.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Michigan’s OL vs. Notre Dame’s DL
Michigan’s offensive line was criticized throughout last season for lackluster play. Despite having a first-round pick on the left side in Taylor Lewan, the Wolverines managed only 125.7 rushing yards per game and allowed 36 sacks. Level of competition is certainly a factor, but the early returns on Michigan’s revamped offensive line were promising against Appalachian State. Can this unit continue its growth against Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish has shifted to a 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Brian VanGorder and allowed 5.6 yards per play in the opener to Rice. Despite the high yards per play allowed, Notre Dame held the Owls to just two drives over 40 yards in the first half. The Fighting Irish is going through a transition up front, replacing standouts Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt.
2. The Quarterbacks
All eyes are always on the quarterbacks, but Saturday night’s matchup between Everett Golson and Devin Gardner is intriguing. Golson sat out all of last season due to a suspension but turned in a sharp performance against Rice in Week 1. The junior accounted for 336 yards and five scores against the Owls and completed 14 of 22 passes. Gardner also had a standout performance last Saturday, throwing for 173 yards and three scores on 14 completions. Both quarterbacks need to be at their best in Week 2. Sure, 300 passing yards would be nice but efficiency and limiting mistakes is a bigger priority for both players, especially with a tight game expected.
3. Which team can establish the run?
Both teams entered 2014 looking for more out of their rushing attack. So far, so good. Notre Dame rushed for 281 yards in the opener against Rice, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. Michigan recorded 350 yards versus Appalachian State and averaged a whopping 9.7 yards per attempt. Derrick Green struggled in his freshman season, but he sparked the ground game by recording 170 yards on 15 attempts last week. Which team will be able to find enough balance on Saturday night? Can Green continue the momentum from the opener? Or will Notre Dame’s three-back attack perform better? Expect the Fighting Irish to use Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston on the ground to keep the Michigan defense from keying too much on Golson.
This one is a tossup. Both teams are relatively even, and it’s tough to glean much from last week’s games. Michigan found a good fit in new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and the former Alabama play-caller has Gardner and Green on the right track. For Notre Dame, Golson was impressive against Rice, and the junior’s re-emergence into the lineup is a boost for a team that has uncertainty on defense and in the receiving corps. Expect an entertaining game in South Bend, with the home team finding a way to squeeze out a three-point victory.
Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24
All eyes in the college football world will be focused on Eugene, Ore. this Saturday, as Michigan State takes on Oregon in a clash of top 10 teams. The Spartans handled Jacksonville State 45-7 last Friday and dodged a bullet after a nasty hit to quarterback Connor Cook’s knee in the first half. The Ducks had a similar Week 1 outcome, thrashing South Dakota for a 62-13 victory. Both teams are relatively healthy for this critical showdown that should have major playoff implications.
Michigan State at Oregon
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Oregon -12
Three Things to Watch
1. Oregon’s DL versus Michigan State’s Rushing Attack
The battle at the line of scrimmage is going to play a huge role in Saturday’s outcome. Oregon’s defense allowed 3.9 yards per carry in Pac-12 games last year, but one team – Stanford – has provided the Ducks with plenty of headaches over the last few seasons. Why is Stanford important? Michigan State and Stanford have similar styles on offense. There's a clear edge in offensive play to the Cardinal in recent years, but coach Mark Dantonio's line returns a veteran group up front. The Spartans were relatively balanced in 2013, recording 173.8 yards per game on the ground and 211.7 through the air. Running back Jeremy Langford leads the ground attack and could see 30-35 carries on Saturday afternoon. The Ducks spent the offseason trying to get stronger at the point of attack. No, this defense doesn’t have a huge problem against the run, but Oregon has to limit Michigan State’s production on the ground. Time of possession doesn’t mean much. However, the Ducks can’t afford to let the Spartans have several long, time-consuming (and successful) drives on Saturday.
2. Marcus Mariota versus Michigan State’s secondary
The Spartans allowed 222 passing yards in the opener, but a chunk of that yardage came with the outcome no longer in doubt. Again, it’s tough to read much into the opener, so this will be the first true test for a Michigan State secondary that has to replace two starters, including standout corner Darqueze Dennard. The cupboard isn’t bare for coordinator Pat Narduzzi, as junior Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond are All-Big Ten caliber players. Mariota is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is throwing to a revamped group of receivers. Despite the overhaul on the pass-catchers, the Ducks aren’t hurting for talent. Considering Michigan State’s strength in the trenches, will Mariota and coordinator Scott Frost look to use quick passes to neutralize the pass rush? Keep an eye on the matchup on the outside, as the Spartans’ defense tries to match the speed and quickness of the Ducks’ skill talent.
3. Michigan State’s Defensive Line
In Athlon’s 2014 preseason college football magazine, Michigan State’s defensive line ranked as the No. 3 group in the nation behind Alabama and Ohio State. And the Spartans certainly lived up to that billing in Week 1 by recording five sacks and limiting Jacksonville State to just 22 yards. Of course, the challenge is significantly tougher in Week 2. Oregon has a three-headed monster in the backfield, and junior Byron Marshall will be split more as a receiver in 2014. Marshall, sophomore Thomas Tyner and freshman Royce Freeman could find yards tough to come by against a defensive line that features All-American end Shilique Calhoun and rising stars in end Demetrius Cooper and tackle Malik McDowell. For Oregon to generate any room on the ground, it’s up to the five blockers in front of Mariota. And there’s been some shuffling this preseason with an injury to standout tackle Tyler Johnstone. If Calhoun, Cooper and Marcus Rush own the line of scrimmage, Mariota will have a tough time finding a clean pocket. One x-factor to watch: Mariota’s scrambling ability. With an active defensive front like Michigan State's, Mariota's ability to make plays outside of the pocket could be a valuable asset in Saturday's game.
Without question, this is the marquee game of Week 2. Oregon and Michigan State have national title aspirations, and the winner of this matchup will take a huge step forward to securing a playoff spot. The loser of this game certainly isn’t out of it, but the head-to-head win could be huge when it’s time to determine the playoff selections.
Pace and tempo are two keys to watch. Michigan State would prefer a methodical approach, while Oregon wants to speed up the tempo. If the Ducks are able to establish their tempo and make the Spartans play in a shootout, Mark Helfrich’s team will win.
Even though it’s difficult to win in Autzen Stadium, Michigan State is built to knock off the Ducks. The Spartans have the players in the trenches and rushing attack to move the ball on the ground and keep Oregon’s offense on the sidelines. And quarterback Connor Cook is no stranger to delivering on the big stage after standout performances against Stanford and Ohio State last year.