Articles By Steven Lassan
Florida State’s ACC title defense begins on Saturday night, as the Seminoles host Clemson in one of the conference’s emerging rivalries. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team opened the year with a closer-than-expected win over Oklahoma State and cruised to an easy win over Citadel in Week 2.
A win over Clemson would give Florida State an early commanding lead in the Atlantic Division, and allow Fisher and his team to cross one of the few hurdles on a schedule that is considered one of the most favorable in the nation.
Fisher would prefer the focus of Week 4 to be strictly on Clemson-Florida State, but instead, he’s dealing with a controversy surrounding quarterback Jameis Winston. The sophomore was suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game due to inappropriate comments made on campus earlier in the week. And on Friday night, the defending heisman winner was suspended for the entire game. Sophomore Sean Maguire will start in place of Winston, but the Seminoles are still a 16-point favorite over the Tigers.
Florida State has won three out of the last four meetings against Clemson. The Tigers have not won in Tallahassee since 2006.
Clemson at Florida State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Florida State -16.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Sean Maguire's Debut
With Jameis Winston suspended for the entire game, how will coach Jimbo Fisher approach Sean Maguire’s first start? Will the Seminoles attempt to use up as much clock as possible in order to limit Clemson’s opportunities without Winston in the lineup? Or will Fisher allow Maguire to have the full playbook at his disposal? Maguire has been solid in limited action (16 of 26 for 144 yards and two scores), but this is the biggest test of his career. Luckily for Maguire, he has one of the nation’s top supporting casts at his disposal. Karlos Williams and Mario Pender headline a deep backfield, receiver Rashad Greene is averaging 18.9 yards per reception, and the offensive line features five senior starters. Maguire doesn’t need to win this game on his own, as simply managing the offense and limiting mistakes would be enough for Florida State.
2. Florida State’s Defense
Without Winston, every other unit on Florida State’s team has to step up. The defense held an explosive Clemson offense to just 14 points last year, and the Tigers will have their hands full with the Seminoles once again. Coordinator Chad Morris is breaking in a new quarterback (Cole Stoudt), has a committee of options at running back, and no longer has Sammy Watkins or Martavis Bryant at receiver. But Morris is one of the nation’s best play-callers, and Clemson is averaging 6.1 yards per play through two contests. Stoudt threw for 302 yards against South Carolina State but struggled against Georgia (16 of 29, 144 yards). Freshman Deshaun Watson will also see time under center and could see more snaps if Stoudt struggles early. Freshman Artavis Scott is emerging as one of the top targets at receiver, while four running backs have at least 10 carries in 2014. Florida State’s defense is under the direction of a new coordinator (Charles Kelly), but this unit returns a good chunk of its core from last year’s title team. Can Clemson’s offense pickup where it left off against South Carolina State? Or is this unit closer to the offense that struggled to get on track against Georgia? Defensive tackle was arguably the biggest concern for the Seminoles this preseason, and injuries hit the position hard against Citadel. However, all signs point to Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample playing on Saturday night, which is bad news for a suspect Clemson offensive line.
3. Florida State’s OL vs. Clemson’s DL
This is a matchup of strength versus strength. Florida State’s line features five senior starters, while Clemson’s starting four on the defensive front is also comprised of seniors. In last year’s matchup, the Tigers recorded six tackles for a loss and three sacks against the Seminoles. If Clemson wants to pull off the upset, it needs to up those totals in 2014 and limit the pressure on its secondary. Winston torched the Tigers for 444 yards last year, and regardless of who is under center for Florida State, a similar theme could play out if end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett don’t win the battle at the point of attack.
Will Florida State be aggressive or play it safe with Maguire under center? As long as Maguire doesn’t make a huge mistake and put the Seminoles in a deficit, the Seminoles should cruise in the second half to a convincing win. Clemson has the necessary talent to pull an upset but several factors have to go its way. The Tigers were a better team last year and was easily handled by the Seminoles in Death Valley. Without Winston, the door is open for Clemson to hang around in this game. Even with Maguire making his first start, Florida State has simply too much talent to lose on Saturday night.
Prediction: Florida State 30, Clemson 20
There’s plenty of history between Miami and Nebraska, but when these two teams play on Saturday night, the focus will shift to 2014 and two programs that are looking to reclaim their place among college football’s elite.
After going 9-3 in back-to-back years from 2004-05, Miami is just 57-44 since 2006 (and 72-50 if you include 2004-05). Nebraska saw its share of ups and downs since 2004, including a 5-6 mark ('04) and a 5-7 record in 2007. However, the Cornhuskers have fared much better in its overall mark, recording an 84-46 mark since the start of the 2004 season.
A win on Saturday night won’t move Miami or Nebraska back to the top of college football’s elite. But this game has plenty of importance for both programs as a key non-conference matchup, as well as a good barometer test before conference play begins in full.
The all-time series is tied at five between Nebraska and Miami. The last meeting was in the 2001 Rose Bowl, with the Hurricanes winning 37-14.
Miami at Nebraska
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Nebraska -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback play
As simple as it sounds, this is where the game could be won or lost. Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong are two quarterbacks with bright futures. However, both quarterbacks are still developing, and with a tight game expected, a mistake or two could be magnified. Kaaya – a true freshman – has thrown for 693 yards and seven touchdowns on 45 completions. Kaaya is coming off his best performance of 2014 (342 yards, four scores) and faces a Nebraska secondary that has allowed just two passing touchdowns. Of course, the Cornhuskers haven’t exactly faced the gauntlet of quarterbacks, but the secondary is limiting opponents to just 9.4 yards per completion. On the other sideline, Armstrong is off to a fast start, completing 43 passes for 773 yards and seven scores. The sophomore has only one interception and has been an effective runner (258 yards, 9.6 ypc). Considering Armstrong’s experience and growth from 2013 to 2014, the edge at quarterback should go to Nebraska. Can Kaaya pickup where he left off against Arkansas State? Or will the Cornhuskers’ defense simply be too much?
2. Improvement for Miami’s defense?
The Hurricanes struggled mightily on defense last year. But through three games, there’s some optimism in Coral Gables for some improvement on the stat sheet in 2014. Miami is allowing only 19.3 points per game through three weeks, a significant step forward after giving up 26.8 in 2013. The Hurricanes are also allowing 3.7 yards per play, a major improvement after allowing 5.8 last year. And Mark D’Onofrio’s group has been tougher against the run so far, giving up just 2.0 yards per rush after giving up 4.4 last year. Considering Miami was big favorites in two out of its three games, it’s tough to read too much into these stats. However, the addition of junior college recruit Calvin Heurtelou, along with the steady play of senior linebacker Denzel Perryman has made Miami’s front seven a tougher matchup for opposing offenses. But will that hold true on Saturday? Nebraska’s offensive line and rushing attack will be the best Miami has played this year. Can running back Ameer Abdullah find rushing lanes? Or will the Hurricanes hold the Cornhuskers to less than three yards per carry?
3. Ameer Abdullah vs. Duke Johnson
Normally, we would devote one of the three keys to breaking down a matchup, but let’s give some attention to the battle at running back on Saturday night. Ameer Abdullah and Duke Johnson were both popular selections on preseason All-America teams, and neither have done anything to dispel the notion they will finish with high accolades this year. Johnson is returning from a leg injury that ended his 2013 season early, but the junior has yet to show any rust. In three games, Johnson is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and has scored twice. Abdullah has already provided one of the year’s highlight plays by taking a short reception for a 58-yard score to beat McNeese State. The senior ranks second among Big Ten rushers by averaging 132.0 yards per game and leads the conference with 17 runs of 10 or more yards. Watching two of the nation’s top 10 running backs makes the Nebraska-Miami matchup one of the key reasons to tune in on Saturday night.
In terms of name value, it doesn’t get much better than Nebraska and Miami. While both programs have dropped in national hierarchy in recent years, this game still has plenty of intrigue. The battle between Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah will produce plenty of highlights, but quarterback play and defense will decide this one. Can Kaaya be trusted to win a huge road test? Will Miami’s defense revert to its old form against a good offense? For the Cornhuskers, can Armstrong continue his solid start to the season? With this game in Lincoln, combined with an edge at quarterback, Nebraska should win this one by a touchdown or 10 points.
Prediction: Nebraska 31, Miami 24
It’s unusual to see changes in the coordinator ranks just three weeks into the season, but Texas Tech has decided to fire co-defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt.
Wallerstedt was fired one week after the Red Raiders’ defense was gashed for 438 rushing yards in the 49-28 loss to Arkansas.
However, according to reports, Wallerstedt’s firing isn’t related to Texas Tech’s on-field performance.
ESPN’s Jake Trotter reported on Thursday that Wallerstedt was fired after being under the influence of an unknown substance in the school’s football building.
Wallerstedt shared the defensive play-calling with Mike Smith, and Smith is going to call the plays for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Most of Smith’s experience as a coach is in the NFL ranks, including three years with the Jets.
Smith played linebacker at Texas Tech from 2001-04 and recorded 104 tackles during the 2012 season.
With only three returning starters, Texas Tech’s defense was expected to be a work in progress in 2014. And so far, the Red Raiders have struggled on that side of the ball.
The Red Raiders are allowing 5.2 yards per play and ranked last in the Big 12 by giving up 36.7 points per contest.
An infusion of junior college recruits was slated to help the defensive line, but Texas Tech has just three sacks in three games and was dominated by Arkansas last Saturday – a week after struggling against UTEP.
Smith will have three tough opponents to open his tenure as the defensive coordinator, starting with the Sept. 25 date at Oklahoma State, followed by games against Kansas State and West Virginia.
Breaking: Texas Tech DC Matt Wallerstedt has been dismissed from the staff. Details coming on http://t.co/VP1ldkYydJ— Pete Roussel (@coachingsearch) September 18, 2014
Mike Smith will be #TexasTech's seventh defensive coordinator since the start of the 2007 season.— Aaron Dickens (@AaronDickens) September 18, 2014
The college football world is focused squarely on the Little Apple on Thursday night, as Auburn visits Kansas State in a high-profile non-conference matchup and one of the top games of Week 4. Tough non-conference matchups usually aren’t the norm under coach Bill Snyder, and the Tigers are the highest ranked non-league opponent to visit Manhattan since Penn State (ranked No. 2) played there in 1969.
The Wildcats are 2-0 after defeating Stephen F. Austin and Iowa in the first two weeks of the season. As expected, K-State easily defeated SFA 55-16. However, the Wildcats struggled in a 32-28 win over Iowa State – a week after the Cyclones lost to FCS opponent North Dakota State.
On the other sideline, Auburn has picked up where it left off last season. The Tigers offense is predicated on tempo and speed, and Gus Malzahn’s attack is averaging 52 points a game so far in 2014.
Auburn leads the all-time series against Kansas State at 3-0. The last meeting between these two teams occurred in 2007, with the Tigers winning 23-13 in Auburn.
Auburn at Kansas State
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday night)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Auburn -9
Three Things to Watch
1. K-State’s Rush Defense Against Auburn’s Offense
This battle is where the game could be won or lost for Kansas State. Auburn’s offensive line was one of the best in the nation last year, but the Tigers lost standout left tackle Greg Robinson to the NFL, and guard Alex Kozan suffered a back injury in the offseason and won’t play in 2014. Auburn’s revamped line has performed well through two games, allowing just one sack and paving the way for rushers to average 6.7 yards per carry. But the Wildcats’ defensive line is the best unit the Tigers will see until the LSU matchup on Oct. 4. Kansas State’s line is led by senior end Ryan Mueller and tackle Travis Britz, and both players need to win the one-on-one matchups at the point of attack. If Mueller and Britz can disrupt the Auburn rushing attack and prevent the Tigers from getting out in space, the Wildcats can limit the damage on the ground and force quarterback Nick Marshall to win this one through the air. When Marshall doesn’t run or looks to hand it off, expect senior Cameron Artis-Payne (289 yards, 6.9 ypc) and Corey Grant (8.8 ypc) to shoulder most of the load.
2. Auburn’s Defense vs. K-State’s Offense
Much of the preseason hype for this game should revolve around how Kansas State will handle Auburn’s pace on offense. While stopping the Tigers’ up-tempo attack is a huge task for the Wildcats, let’s also not forget about the Auburn defense against Kansas State’s offense. The Wildcats average 6.3 yards per play this year and scored 33.2 points per game in 2013. There’s no question Kansas State can put up enough points to keep pace with Auburn, but it’s how the Wildcats plan to attack the Tigers that is worth monitoring. Time of possession can be overrated when judging teams or using to predict the outcome of a game. However, Kansas State leads the Big 12 in time of possession in 2014 and ranked first or second in the Big 12 from 2011-13. Ball control against Auburn is critical, as limiting the possessions of Malzahn’s offense is a good (and simple) way of slowing the Tigers down. Quarterback Jake Waters isn’t flashy, but he’s quietly off to a good start this year (462 yards, 61.4%) and is an effective runner (193 yards in two games in 2014). Waters leads the team in rushing attempts, but Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson will anchor the carries from the running back spot. Auburn’s defense gave up its share of yards and points last year but was at its best on third downs and in the red zone. Can Kansas State control the tempo or will the Tigers control the line of scrimmage?
3. K-State WR Tyler Lockett
Even though Tyler Lockett received a mention on several preseason All-America teams, it’s still possible the senior might be one of the nation’s most underrated players. Lockett is an explosive athlete with the ability to score anytime he touches the ball. On offense, the Oklahoma native averages 15.6 yards per reception and has 19 career touchdown catches. Lockett is also a dangerous weapon on special teams, averaging 31.1 yards per kickoff return and has four career scores. Auburn’s secondary allowed 257.7 yards per game last year and gave up 19 touchdown tosses in 14 games. The Tigers have played two suspect passing teams this season, so it’s hard to gauge whether or not this unit has improved. But late Wednesday night, reports indicated safety Jermaine Whitehead – 41 career games – won’t play on Thursday night. Whitehead’s absence is critical against Lockett and a K-State passing attack that ranked third in the Big 12 last season by hitting on 13 passing plays of at least 40 yards. Expect the Wildcats to take a few deep shots against Auburn’s suspect secondary.
This should be one of the better Thursday night games of the season. Kansas State’s offense has just enough firepower to hang with Auburn’s high-powered attack. And as long as Bill Snyder roams the sidelines in Manhattan, the Wildcats will have a chance to win a game like this one.
Expect plenty of points, and both teams could hit on their share of big plays. Auburn’s defense struggles to stop Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett, but the Tigers have too many playmakers and too much firepower to lose.
Prediction: Auburn 38, Kansas State 30
After a week of surprises in non-conference action, the focus in the ACC shifts slightly to league play. Clemson-Florida State and Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech headline a solid slate of games for Week 4. And in non-conference matchups, East Carolina looks to knock off another ACC opponent with a home date against North Carolina, and Miami visits Nebraska.
Due to suspension, Florida State won’t have quarterback Jameis Winston available for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson. But the Seminoles are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, which should allow Jimbo Fisher’s team to hold their own in the first half.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia travels to BYU and Pittsburgh hosts Iowa in other top games around the league for Week 4.
Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Week 4 Game Power Rankings
1. Clemson at Florida State (-20)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
The outlook for this game has changed drastically since last week. On Wednesday, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for a half due to inappropriate comments made on campus. Winston’s absence leaves inexperienced Sean Maguire as the Seminoles’ No. 1 quarterback. While Winston will return to action in the third quarter, Florida State’s task of beating the Tigers is tougher without the Heisman Trophy winner under center. Clemson’s defensive line is among the nation’s best and has registered 19 tackles for a loss in two games. If the Tigers can get pressure on Maguire and force the sophomore into a mistake or two, Florida State’s margin of error gets smaller. Can Clemson take advantage of a Winston-less offense in the first half? Or can Maguire keep the Seminoles’ offense moving, while the defense contains the Tigers’ attack?
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2. Miami at Nebraska (-7)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
In terms of name value, it doesn’t get much better than this. Two of college football’s iconic programs square off for the first time since the 2001 Rose Bowl on Saturday night. And for both teams, this game is a good opportunity to build momentum before the bulk of conference play starts. Nebraska pounded FAU and Fresno State by a combined score of 110-26 but needed a last-minute miracle to beat McNeese State 31-24. Miami lost its opener to Louisville and rebounded by beating Florida A&M and Arkansas State. Considering the light non-conference schedules for both teams, it’s hard to gauge where both programs are entering Week 4. Running backs Duke Johnson (Miami) and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) are two of the best in the nation and will test the opposing defensive lines. But while the spotlight is on Abdullah and Johnson, it’s likely the battle between young quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong (Nebraska) and Brad Kaaya (Miami) will determine which team emerges victorious.
3. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (-8)
Noon ET, ESPN
Considering how tight the Coastal race is expected to be, this is a critical showdown for positioning within the division. Virginia Tech has won six out of the last seven matchups against Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets have lost three consecutive games in Blacksburg. As expected, Georgia Tech’s rushing offense (306 ypg) ranks as one of the best in the ACC. But in addition to his role in the ground game, quarterback Justin Thomas has added a big-play (19.4 yards per completion) component to the passing attack. Thomas and Georgia Tech’s rushing attack will test Virginia Tech’s defensive line, as tackles Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall are dealing with injuries. On offense, the Hokies need to limit their turnovers (seven in three games), but they should have the upper hand against Georgia Tech’s defense – a unit allowed 6.6 yards per play. Expect Virginia Tech’s offense to use a lot of freshmen backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams against the Yellow Jackets’ rush defense, which ranks as the worst in the ACC.
4. North Carolina at East Carolina (-2)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Can East Carolina go 2-0 against the ACC? The Pirates knocked off Virginia Tech last weekend 28-21 and are a slight favorite against the Tar Heels after winning in Chapel Hill last year. With that in mind, North Carolina won’t take East Carolina lightly, but the Tar Heels will have to overcome a few matchup problems. North Carolina’s secondary is allowing 265 yards per game, and the pass rush has struggled (two sacks in two games). That’s bad news against a Pirates’ offense that is led by quarterback Shane Carden (343.7 ypg) and a dynamic group of playmakers, headlined by receiver Justin Hardy and running back Breon Allen. Considering the Tar Heels’ concerns on defense, they may need to score over 30 points to win this one. Quarterback Marquise Williams is off to a solid start (67.2%), and coach Larry Fedora has recruited well at the skill positions. North Carolina’s offensive line is a concern without guard Landon Turner, especially against an active defensive front from ECU. If you like offense, this should be the highest-scoring game in the ACC this week.
5. Iowa at Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Noon ET, ESPNU
There are some similarities between the Iowa and Pittsburgh programs, but heading into Saturday’s game, it seems the two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Panthers have looked impressive in a 3-0 start, including a 30-20 road win at Boston College. Iowa is 2-1, but the Hawkeyes won by eight against Northern Iowa and by four to Ball State and lost 20-17 to Iowa State last week. Despite a veteran core returning, Iowa’s offense is averaging only 21.7 points per game. The Hawkeyes have also struggled to establish their ground attack (3.6 ypc). Turning those numbers around this week will be tough, as Pittsburgh is allowing just 15 points per game and ranks second in the ACC against the run. Stopping the run has been a strength of Iowa’s defense (2.3 ypc), which is a good barometer test for the running back James Conner (181 ypg). Quarterback Chad Voytik hasn’t been asked to do much this year, but he’s been efficient (58%) and has tossed just two picks on 50 attempts. The Hawkeyes’ defense is good enough to pull off an upset. However, can Iowa’s offense get anything going on Pittsburgh’s defense?
6. Virginia at BYU (-14)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Can Virginia pull off another upset? The Cavaliers knocked off Louisville 23-21 last Saturday, and a win in Provo, combined with a victory over Kent State on Sept. 27 would allow Virginia to be 4-1 heading into the heart of ACC play. Saturday’s game is a matchup of strength (BYU’s offense) versus strength (Virginia’s defense). The Cavaliers are allowing just 4.8 yards per play and holding opponents to 20.7 points per contest. BYU will test those numbers behind dynamic quarterback Taysom Hill (348.3 ypg) and running back Jamaal Williams. Even if Virginia’s defense finds a way to contain Hill, can the Cavaliers get something going on offense? BYU is allowing just 14 points per game, while Virginia is averaging just 21.5 points per contest against FBS opponents this year.
7. Maryland at Syracuse (-1.5)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
For the second consecutive season, Maryland and Syracuse meet on the gridiron – only these two teams meet as non-conference foes in 2014. The Terrapins and Orange played last year as ACC members, with Syracuse winning 20-3 in College Park. It’s tough to read too much into that game, as Maryland was without top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. The Terrapins have both back in the lineup this year, and quarterback C.J. Brown threw for a season-high 241 yards in last week’s loss to West Virginia. Syracuse looked sharp in last Saturday’s 40-3 win over Central Michigan, a clear improvement after struggling against Villanova in the opener. Expect the Orange to challenge the Terrapins’ defensive front, which has allowed 142.3 rushing yards per game. Linebacker play is a unit to watch for Maryland, especially with injuries limiting Cole Farrand, Matt Robinson and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil this year.
8. Tulane at Duke (-17)
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN
The Blue Devils look to continue their hot start to the season with a win over Tulane. With a victory over the Green Wave, Duke will have its first 4-0 start since 1994. Tulane’s defense allowed 38 points in back-to-back games to open the year and gave up 20 in a win against SE Louisiana last Saturday. This unit will be tested once again, especially with the emergence of running back Shaun Wilson (245 yards last week) and steady play of quarterback Anthony Boone. The Green Wave’s offense is led by talented freshmen Tanner Lee (QB) and Sherman Badie (RB), but a young line (six sacks) will be tested by a Duke defense that leads the ACC in fewest points per game allowed in 2014 (11.0).
9. Army (-2.5) at Wake Forest
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Brighter days and better years are ahead for Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson and Army’s Jeff Monken, but both first-year coaches have a tough job in 2014. The Demon Deacons are starting four freshmen in 2014, including quarterback John Wolford. Army went 8-28 in Rich Ellerson’s final three years and is 1-1 through Monken’s first two games. Wake Forest’s rush defense has allowed only two scores and is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. But that will be tested against the Black Knights’ option offense, averaging 269.5 yards per game. With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover margin. The Demon Deacons are -2 through three games, while Army is even through two contests.
10. Louisville (-27) at FIU
3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Pittsburgh started slow last week but eventually had no trouble putting FIU (42-25) away in the second half. Louisville dominated the Panthers 72-0 in the infamous running clock game last season. The Cardinals shouldn’t have much trouble with FIU once again, and this game is a good opportunity for this team to work out the kinks after a 23-21 loss to Virginia last week. Quarterback play is under the spotlight after Louisville’s loss last Saturday, but freshman Reggie Bonnafon won’t make the trip due to a death in his family. Coach Bobby Petrino should be able to build Will Gardner some confidence in an easy win for the Cardinals.
11. Maine at Boston College
1 p.m. ET, ESPN3
After last week’s 37-31 victory over USC, Boston College could be in for a small letdown in Week 4. Of course, the Eagles are big favorites over Maine, so even a sluggish start shouldn’t be a concern. With a punishing ground attack, quarterback Tyler Murphy hasn’t been asked to make too many plays through the air. The senior ranks second in the ACC with 133.7 rushing yards per game. However, in his last two games, Murphy has completed only 15 of 41 throws. This week’s matchup against Maine should allow the Eagles a chance to work on their passing game, along with getting some of the younger players valuable reps.
12. Presbyterian at NC State
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Wolfpack close out non-conference play as huge favorites in Saturday’s game against Presbyterian. With a win over the Blue Hose, NC State would surpass its win total from 2013 and take another step towards bowl eligibility. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is off to a fast start for the Wolfpack, completing 70.4 percent of his throws and seven touchdowns to just one interception. Presbyterian lost 55-3 to Northern Illinois in its opener in 2014 and lost to Wake Forest 31-7 last year. This should be a one-sided matchup in favor of NC State.
Week 4 ACC Predictions
|Ga. Tech (+8) at Va. Tech||VT 24-14||VT 27-20||VT 30-20||VT 28-24|
|Iowa (+6.5) at Pittsburgh||Pitt 27-10||Pitt 27-20||Pitt 27-20||Pitt 27-17|
|Maryland (+1.5) at Syracuse||Cuse 17-14||Cuse 34-30||MD 27-24||MD 24-20|
|Tulane (+17) at Duke||Duke 35-10||Duke 40-17||Duke 41-17||Duke 34-16|
|Maine at Boston College||BC 42-7||BC 34-10||BC 41-7||BC 37-10|
|UNC (+2) at ECU||ECU 31-24||UNC 31-27||ECU 38-34||ECU 34-30|
|Virginia (+14) at BYU||BYU 42-28||BYU 27-24||BYU 30-20||BYU 28-20|
|Army (-2.5) at Wake||Army 28-10||Wake 21-20||Wake 24-20||Wake 20-13|
|Louisville (-27) at FIU||UL 35-14||UL 38-13||UL 52-7||UL 31-0|
|Presbyterian at NC State||NC State 42-14||NC State 45-7||NC State 48-3||NC State 34-10|
|Clemson (+20) at FSU||FSU 35-21||FSU 45-20||FSU 38-24||FSU 34-13|
|Miami (+7) at Nebraska||Nebraska 38-14||Nebraska 41-31||Nebraska 31-24||Nebraska 27-21|
Florida State has suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson due to inappropriate comments made on Tuesday on campus.
In a statement from the university, Florida State also indicated Winston will undergo internal discipline.
With Winston missing the first two quarters, the Seminoles will turn to backup Sean Maguire.
Maguire completed 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards and two scores last season and has attempted just five throws in 2014.
Maguire has not started a game during his Florida State career and was rated as a three-star prospect in the 2012 signing class.
Prior to Winston’s suspension, Florida State was considered at least a 20-point favorite on Saturday.
While the Seminoles are still likely to be picked to win by most, the margin for error for Jimbo Fisher’s team has narrowed.
Maguire has experience but none against a first-team defense. Clemson’s defensive line is one of the best in the nation and features All-American end Vic Beasley.
Expect a limited gameplan for Maguire, and Fisher will likely place the bulk of the offense on the shoulders of running backs Mario Pender and Karlos Williams.
Also, Florida State’s defense can help its offense by creating a few turnovers. The Tigers’ offense struggled in the second half against Georgia and is a work in progress with new quarterback Cole Stoudt.
Jameis Winston will miss 1st half vs Clemson (school discipline). FSU is 16-0 since he became starter at beginning of last season #CLEMvsFSU— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2014
Offensive line play is often overlooked when analyzing and predicting a college football season. Outside of quarterback play, the five players in the trenches are the most important position on offense. Good skill players won’t go far with a limited offensive line, and a passing game won’t get on track if there’s no protection.
In Athlon’s predicted top 25 offensive lines for 2014, five of the units hailed from the Pac-12. Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and UCLA ranked among the nation’s best, with the Cardinal grabbing the No. 1 spot in the conference.
While optimism ran high at those schools in the preseason, some teams are still searching for the right answers three weeks into 2014.
|Oregon's Post-Spring Projected OL|
|LT||Tyler Johnstone||26 career starts|
|LG||Hamani Stevens||16 career starts|
|C||Hroniss Grasu||43 career starts|
|RG||Cameron Hunt||9 career starts|
|RT||Jake Fisher||25 career starts|
Each team has a different story in the trenches, but for Oregon, injuries have limited a unit that returned all five starters and was poised to be one of the best in the nation.
Improving the production from the guards and overall physicality of the line was a priority in the offseason, and so far, it appears Oregon’s offensive line has answered the call. The Ducks have scored on 93.3 percent of their red zone trips in 2014. Oregon rushers are averaging 6.3 yards per carry through three weeks and that includes a solid (4.3 ypc) performance against one of the best defenses in the nation (Michigan State).
But will those numbers hold over the course of the season? The Ducks’ line has been thinned by injuries, as Tyler Johnstone was lost for the year due to a knee injury in the preseason, and tackles Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher have been injured in the last two weeks.
|Oregon's Projected OL for Week 4|
|LT Matt Pierson/Jake Fisher||Fisher's Status Uncertain|
|LG Hamani Stevens||Started all 3 games in 2014.|
|C Hroniss Grasu||Best center in nation?|
|RG Cameron Hunt||Started 2 games in 2014.|
|RT Tyrell Crosby||True freshman pressed into duty.|
Oregon is secretive with injury updates, so there’s no long-term diagnosis on Fisher or Yruretagoyena.
With Fisher and Yruretagoyena sidelined, the Ducks will rely on junior Matt Pierson and freshman Tyrell Crosby to handle the tackle duties. Crosby ranked as the No. 401 recruit in the 2014 signing class and started the Week 3 contest against Wyoming. Crosby started on the right side and is expected to stay there, even with Fisher’s absence in Week 4. Pierson is a walk-on but has game experience by playing in six contests in 2013 and three games in 2012. He also filled in against Wyoming, helping a line that did not allow a sack last Saturday.
But if either player is out for an extended period of time, the Ducks could go into the heart of their schedule (at UCLA – Oct. 11, Washington – Oct. 18 and Stanford – Nov. 1) without their top three tackles from the preseason.
Matchups against the Bruins and Cardinal will be huge for Oregon’s playoff hopes and could decide whether or not the Ducks or Stanford represents the North in the Pac-12 title game.
Will Oregon’s offensive line woes derail the offense against Washington State or Arizona? Probably not, but a thin offensive line could create more pressure on quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Cougars have just four sacks in three games and have allowed 28.7 points per game so far this year. Washington State’s defensive line is underrated, headlined by tackle Xavier Cooper. The Cougars also sacked Mariota three times in 2013.
The Wildcats have allowed 21.3 points per game and 5.2 yards per play through three weeks. Oregon’s matchup against Arizona is more favorable, as the Wildcats are breaking in two new starters on the line.
But the reality for Oregon is simple. Good luck and injuries are required to win a national title. Not having three of your top tackles from the preseason is something that will be difficult to overcome. Of course, having a quarterback like Mariota certainly alleviates the concerns up front. And the Ducks can use their spread to get rid of the ball and allow their athletes to make plays in space.
If Fisher and Yruretagoyena return soon, Oregon’s offensive line should be fine. However, if these two miss the rest of the year, the Ducks’ depth up front could be a huge issue, especially against physical defenses like Stanford, UCLA and potential matchups in the playoffs.
On the other side of the division, UCLA is also dealing with uncertainty on its offensive line.
In the opener against Virginia, the Bruins allowed 11 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Center Jake Brendel (All-Pac-12 candidate) did not play against the Cavaliers due to a knee injury, which clearly attributed to some of UCLA’s struggles up front.
|Game||YPR||Sacks Allowed||TFL Allowed|
|at UVA||3.0||5 (33 att)||11|
|Memphis||3.5||4 (44 att)||6|
|Texas||4.6||3 (34 att)||3|
Brendel returned in Week 2 against Memphis, and the Bruins allowed four sacks on 44 pass attempts, gave up six tackles for a loss and improved their yards per carry average from 3.0 in the opener to 3.5 against the Tigers.
UCLA’s line took a step forward in Week 3, recording a 4.6 yards per rush against Texas – the best defensive front the Bruins have played in 2014 – and gave up only three sacks on 34 pass attempts.
The good news for coach Jim Mora and quarterback Brett Hundley is the line seems to be improving with each game. However, tackle Malcolm Bunche was injured against Texas and his status for next week’s Thursday night showdown against Arizona State is uncertain.
If Bunche can’t go in Week 5, redshirt freshman Conor McDermott is listed on the backup on the depth chart, but UCLA could shuffle its line to move someone else to the left side.
Losing Bunche for an extended period of time would be a huge setback for a line that is still developing and thin on proven options off the bench. While that’s ominous for the Bruins, Bunche does have a week to get healthy before playing Arizona State (Sept. 25).
Assuming UCLA is able to win in Tempe, an aggressive Utah defense awaits on Oct. 4, followed by a date against Oregon on Oct. 11. Getting Brendel fully entrenched at center once again, along with Bunche back to full strength is critical in a key stretch run for the Bruins.
However, there’s one major caveat to UCLA’s title hopes that won’t revolve on the offensive line. Is quarterback Brett Hundley healthy and capable of returning soon? The early reports suggest Hundley’s elbow injury isn’t serious, but the Bruins need their signal-caller and No. 1 quarterback at full strength.
UCLA was Athlon’s pick to win the South Division this preseason. Even if the wins haven’t been impressive or as dominating as some may have anticipated in the preseason, the Bruins are still squarely in the mix for the division and conference title. And if UCLA wins the Pac-12 title with one loss or remains unbeaten, Jim Mora's team is going to be in college football's playoff.
The stats from the first three games suggest the offensive line is improving. But what type of impact could a long-term injury to Bunche hold for this group? And assuming Bunche does return to full strength, can this unit jell and continue to improve after a sluggish start to the season?
With its strong defense and quarterback Brett Hundley leading the way, UCLA is capable of pushing for a playoff spot. However, much like Oregon, the Bruins’ title hopes depend on the five blockers leading the way in key games against the Ducks, Sun Devils, along with late-season matchups against Washington, USC and Stanford.
It's early, but the development (and health) of offensive lines at UCLA and Oregon are going to play a huge role in determining the Pac-12 champion in 2014.
Arkansas has experienced its share of highs and lows since joining the SEC in 1992. The Razorbacks have won at least 10 games three times since 2006 but also bottomed out with an 0-8 record in conference play in 2013.
Finishing 0-8 in SEC play in 2013 was the result of several factors, but the winless season is largely attributed to the coaching carousel that transpired in Fayetteville.
Bobby Petrino’s four-year stint in Fayetteville was successful, which included 21 wins from 2010-11 and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl after the 2010 season. But Petrino’s tenure ended on a motorcycle ride in the spring of 2012, forcing the Razorbacks into uncertainty after the best two-year stint since Arkansas joined the SEC.
Athletic director Jeff Long’s options were limited in replacing Petrino and he chose familiarity by selecting former assistant John L. Smith to serve as a one-year option.
But that one year was surrounded in uncertainty in numerous ways, and the Razorbacks slipped to 4-8 overall and just 2-6 in SEC play.
Long’s hire of Bret Bielema from Wisconsin was a surprise, and Bielema endured a rough debut in 2013. Arkansas finished 3-9 overall and recorded its first winless season in conference play since joining the SEC.
While Bielema shouldered much of the criticism from the 2013 campaign, the Razorbacks’ problems were bigger than a coach.
Three coaches in three years, changes in scheme, personnel departures – including quarterback Tyler Wilson – and uncertainty in recruiting all compounded Arkansas’ issues.
Switching from Petrino’s high-powered offense to Bielema’s ground-and-pound attack required time and adjustments, but the Razorbacks started to show signs of life late in the 2013 season.
After being outscored by 139-24 against South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn, Arkansas lost by 10 to Ole Miss, lost by seven in overtime to Mississippi State and nearly upset LSU in Baton Rouge to close out 2013.
Those signs of life late in the season have carried over into 2014. Arkansas battled defending SEC champion Auburn for a half, losing 45-21 after the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points over the final two quarters.
The Razorbacks thoroughly dominated FCS opponent Nicholls State in Week 2 and gashed Texas Tech’s defense for 438 yards in a huge 49-28 road victory for Arkansas.
The Red Raiders may end 2014 as an overrated team based on the preseason rankings, but the Razorbacks are clearly improving under Bielema.
Why has Arkansas improved? Outside of the rushing attack and dynamic duo of running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, here are three reasons why the Razorbacks are improving in Bielema’s second season:
A healthy Brandon Allen at QB
In his first two starts of 2013, Allen completed 24 of 39 throws for 355 yards and five scores. After a shoulder injury against Southern Miss, Allen wasn’t the same quarterback. He finished 2013 by throwing just nine touchdowns over the final eight games and a lackluster 49.6 completion percentage. Allen is off to a good start once again, completing 28 of 48 passes for 353 yards and six scores. The Razorbacks will always lean on the run, but Allen’s health (and development) should keep opposing defenses honest.
Arkansas will always have trouble attracting five-star talent, but Bielema and his staff inked the No. 23 class in 2013 and the No. 30 haul in '14. And the Razorbacks are targeting another top 20-30 class this year, which is ranked No. 26 by 247Sports. The 2015 class already includes five four-star players. Bielema and his staff have done a good job of quickly developing talent, as eight players from the 2013 class are listed as starters. And nine players from the 2014 class are listed on the depth chart for Week 4, including nose guard Bijhon Jackson, center Frank Ragnow and cornerback Henre’ Toliver.
Reviewing Arkansas' Recruiting Over the Last Five Years
|Year||3-Stars Signed||4-Stars Signed||5-Stars Signed||SEC Class Rank||National Rank|
|Rankings compiled from 247Sports|
In the Trenches
This is one area Bielema has made an immediate difference. In a short time, Arkansas’ offensive line went from a question mark to a strength. Sophomores Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland headline a unit that bulldozed Texas Tech’s defensive line and leads the way for a rushing attack that ranks No. 2 nationally with an average of 7.9 yards per carry. The future for the offensive line looks bright with freshmen Frank Ragnow and Brian Wallace already appearing on the depth chart. Defensively, Arkansas has six freshmen or sophomores listed up front. It sounds cliché, but winning in the SEC starts in the trenches. The Razorbacks have the makings of a solid offensive and defensive line over the next few seasons.
Obstacles to Overcome
Brutal SEC West
|Arkansas 2014 Schedule|
|Sept. 6||Nicholls State|
Sure, Arkansas – yes it’s a small sample size – looks to be improved in 2014. But realistically, what’s the win total for this team by December? The SEC West is unforgiving, hosting two national title contenders in Alabama and Auburn, teams on the rise in Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, while LSU appears to be on track to quickly reload after a rash of personnel departures. Winning a game against an opponent from the West will be tough, and the Razorbacks play Missouri and Georgia in crossover play with the East. Ouch.
Developing the Passing Attack
A healthy Brandon Allen at quarterback will solve some of the Razorbacks’ passing game, but this offense averaged only 148.5 yards passing per game last year. Through three games, Arkansas is averaging just 141.7 yards per game through the air, but quarterbacks have already tossed six touchdowns after tossing a total of 15 in 12 games in 2013. In addition to Allen, the Razorbacks need more help from the receiving corps. Can Bielema and coordinator Jim Chaney develop a gamebreaker or two here?
Talent at Linebacker/Defensive Back
The Razorbacks will miss defensive end Trey Flowers next year, but the depth chart up front is mostly comprised of sophomores and freshmen. Sophomore Darius Philon is one of the SEC’s rising stars, and sophomore nose guard Taiwan Johnson has 3.5 sacks in 2014. Despite the optimism up front, the back seven is still a work in progress. Arkansas’ linebacking corps and defensive backfield ranked near the bottom of most SEC unit rankings in the preseason. If the Razorbacks are going to take a step forward on defense, secondary and linebacker play has to improve.
Looking Ahead to 2015
Arkansas is slated to lose 19 seniors this offseason. However, just nine are listed as starters on the depth chart.
Next season's schedule also is more favorable, featuring a rebuilding Tennessee team from the East and a home date against Mississippi State.
With most of the core returning, 2015 should be a better gauge of how far the Razorbacks have come in Bielema’s tenure.
Regardless of the final record in 2014, Arkansas is on the right track. The Razorbacks are building a ground-and-pound offense that resembles Bielema’s offenses at Wisconsin, and there’s young talent to build around on defense.
Winning a SEC game with a difficult schedule is going to be a challenge in 2014. However, Bielema and this staff won’t have to have wins to show progress, especially if the Razorbacks are competitive in every conference game.
Patience is required with a coaching change, especially in Fayetteville – in a brutal SEC West – after going through a messy end to Petrino’s tenure and the tumultuous one-year stint under Smith.
Bielema has plenty of work to do and by no means is Arkansas a finished product. But with a talented (and youthful) core in place, combined with the improvement at the end of 2013 and start to '14, the Razorbacks are turning a corner and appear to be deepening what is already college football’s toughest division.
West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Worley’s suspension comes at a critical point for the Mountaineers, as a showdown against Big 12 title favorite Oklahoma is ahead on Saturday.
There’s no question Worley’s absence will be felt on West Virginia’s defense. Oklahoma’s passing attack is averaging 293.3 passing yards per game, and receiver Sterling Shepard has caught 17 passes for 335 yards and two scores in three contests. Individual matchups always change throughout the game, but there was a good possibility Worley and Shepard would have squared off several times on Saturday.
Shepard is one of the Big 12’s top targets, and Knight has made progress as a passer since gashing Alabama for 348 yards in the Sugar Bowl. Needless to say, keeping Knight and Shepard under wraps just got a lot tougher for West Virginia on Saturday.
With Worley anchoring the secondary, West Virginia was holding opponents to just 204.7 yards per game through the air. And the Mountaineers allowed only two passing touchdowns through their first three games.
Worley is the top cornerback for Tony Gibson’s defense, but there’s experience in place with junior Terrell Chestnut and senior Travis Bell at cornerback. Also, senior Ishmael Banks is slated to return after a three-game academic suspension to begin 2014.
Banks, Chestnut and Bell have to step up on Saturday, but the secondary could use more help from the front seven. The defensive line is averaging two sacks per game in 2014 and getting more pressure on Knight would help compensate for Worley’s absence on the back end.
Worley is already regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the Big 12 and has forced the Mountaineers’ only turnovers (two) this year.
In three games, Worley has recorded 17 tackles (two for a loss) and two interceptions.
In 11 appearances last year, the Philadelphia native recorded 45 tackles and one interception.
The length of Worley’s suspension is uncertain. But assuming he’s out of the lineup on Saturday night, it’s a huge loss for a West Virginia team that appears to be one of the most improved squads in the nation this year. And looking farther down the road on the Mountaineers’ schedule, matchups against Texas Tech and Baylor will certainly test the secondary.
West Virginia was already facing an uphill battle against Oklahoma. Without Worley, that task on Saturday night just got a lot tougher.
I'm interested to see what this ends up being. Daryl Worley would have been one of the last kids on the team I'd pick to get in trouble.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) September 16, 2014
Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly left the Week 3 victory over Colorado due to a foot injury, and the senior is not expected to play in the Sun Devils’ upcoming showdown against UCLA on Sept. 25.
With Kelly sidelined, Mike Bercovici is slated to take the first snap against the Bruins.
Bercovici played in Kelly’s absence during the second half against Colorado and completed 2 of 4 passes for eight yards.
While Kelly will be missed, Bercovici does have experience, throwing 24 passes over the last three seasons.
Bercovici is not as strong of a runner as Kelly, but the Sun Devils can lean more on D.J. Foster and freshmen Kalen Ballage and Damario Richard to carry the offense on the ground.
It’s uncertain when Kelly will be able to return to the lineup, but his absence comes at a critical time for Arizona State. Arizona Sports reported Kelly suffered a broken foot and will be out at least a month.
The Sun Devils play UCLA on Sept. 25, then travel to USC the following Thursday. If that wasn’t difficult enough, games against Washington and Stanford round out the month of October. Considering Arizona State's difficult schedule, Kelly's injury and how well Bercovici plays will determine whether or not the Sun Devils are still a threat to repeat as Pac-12 South champs.
UCLA's offensive line has struggled, and quarterback Brett Hundley was injured in Saturday's win over Texas. USC lost at Boston College and was outplayed in a win at Stanford.
Who should be the favorite in this division? As always, it's a matter of survival. UCLA continues to win close games, and USC still has depth concerns.
It's tough to count out Arizona State with explosive playmakers like Foster and receiver Jaelen Strong, but the defense featured several new faces stepping into the starting lineup.
Can Bercovici and a rebuilt defense hold the Sun Devils' title hopes together for the next few weeks? Or will Kelly's injury doom Arizona State's title hopes? For now, it's easy to assume the latter, but the rest of the struggles in the Pac-12 South suggest this race is far from over - even with Kelly sidelined.
Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly (foot) is not expected to play against UCLA on Sept. 25 due to a foot injury, per source.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 15, 2014
I'm told as of now ASU has no plans to offer an official update on Taylor Kelly today. No Todd Graham presser tomorrow due to bye week.— Tyler Lockman (@TylerLockman) September 14, 2014
Week 3 was supposed to be a quiet one in the ACC. With a slate of so-so matchups, Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina on bye, there wasn’t a ton of intrigue around the conference.
However, Week 3 brought several interesting games to the ACC, including East Carolina’s 28-21 upset over Virginia Tech and Virginia’s 23-21 win over Louisville. Boston College used its punishing ground game to shock USC 37-31, and Georgia Tech needed a late fumble recovery and touchdown on offense to rally against Georgia Southern.
Miami, NC State, Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh scored relatively easy victories on Saturday.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 3
Virginia Tech…Letdown or a Reason to be Concerned?
After pulling off a surprise win at Ohio State last Saturday, Virginia Tech fell victim to East Carolina’s upset bid in Week 3. Was it a letdown? Or is Frank Beamer’s team still dealing with concerns on both sides of the ball? It’s probably a little bit of both, but there’s no question the Hokies are a work in progress on offense. Quarterback Michael Brewer tossed two interceptions on 56 attempts, the rushing attack managed only 2.8 yards per carry, and the offensive line allowed three sacks. Virginia Tech’s woes from Week 3 also extend to the defense, giving up an uncharacteristic 427 passing yards to East Carolina’s Shane Carden. While the loss is damaging for the Hokies' playoff hopes, Virginia Tech is still unbeaten in conference play and remains the favorite in a wide-open Coastal.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Boston College’s Offense Finds its Stride
Behind a punishing rushing attack, Boston College scored one of the biggest upsets in Week 3 by defeating USC 37-31. Quarterback Tyler Murphy completed only five passes for 54 yards, but the Eagles gashed the Trojans for 452 yards and five scores on the ground. That’s right: 452 yards. Coming into Saturday’s game, USC allowed just 285 yards on the ground in its first two games. Murphy’s ability to make plays with his legs played a huge role in Boston College’s upset win, but Boston College’s five senior starters on the line also deserve credit. Even without Andre Williams, coach Steve Addazio isn’t hurting for options in the backfield. Sophomores Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse, along with freshman Jon Hilliman have proved capable of handling the duties on the ground. There will be games where Murphy has to throw for Boston College to win. However, it’s clear the Eagles are going to win their share of games by pounding opponents with their ground attack.
Progress for Brad Kaaya
Before we dive into the statistics, let’s add a disclaimer: Miami played Arkansas State in Week 3 and was a heavy favorite. With that out of the way, it’s fair to say Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya took a step forward in his third career start. Kaaya was efficient (16 of 24), threw for 342 yards and tossed four touchdown passes. The freshman averaged 21.4 yards per completion and two of his touchdown scores went more than 60 yards. Again, we don’t want to overreact to one game against an overmatched opponent, but Miami has to be pleased with Kaaya’s development, especially with games against Nebraska, Duke, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech coming up next.
Virginia Will be a Factor in the Coastal
Heading into the 2014 season, the Coastal Division favorite was anyone’s guess. Six teams were considered by most for the No. 1 spot, with Virginia slated for the basement at No. 7. However, it’s clear after three weeks it’s time to adjust that thinking. Sure, it’s only three games are in the books, but let’s place the Cavaliers in that same class as Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Duke and North Carolina. Virginia’s offense is still a work in progress, but the defense is holding opponents to 4.8 yards per play and contained Louisville to just 21 points on Saturday. Quarterback Greyson Lambert still has to play better in big games (13 of 24, 162 yards against the Cardinals) for the Cavaliers to threaten for the division. However, Virginia is no longer a guaranteed win for the rest of the Coastal. With home dates against Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Miami, the Cavaliers will have a chance to factor into the division mix and should push for a bowl.
Does Louisville have a QB Battle?
In Saturday’s loss to Virginia, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino made the switch from Will Gardner to true freshman Reggie Bonnafon to help spark an offense that managed just 282 total yards. Bonnafon’s mobility helped counter the Cavaliers’ aggressive defense and compensate for the Cardinals’ struggling line, but the true freshman only finished with 39 passing yards on six completions. Gardner’s numbers weren’t much better (14 of 34, 164 yards and two picks), especially when you consider he started 4 of 4 for 49 yards and one score on the opening drive. Both quarterbacks should see time over the next few games, but Petrino is expected to turn to Gardner to start in Week 4. Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap in Saturday’s game against FIU, they need more help from the offensive line and receiving corps.
ACC Post-Week 3 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 4|
|2||1-1||Bye Week||at Florida State|
|3||3-0||W, 42-25, FIU||Iowa|
|4||3-0||W, 41-3, Kansas||Tulane|
|5||2-1||L, 28-21, ECU||Georgia Tech|
|6||2-1||W, 23-21, Louisville||at BYU|
|7||2-1||W, 37-31, USC||Maine|
|8||2-1||L, 23-21, Virginia||at FIU|
|9||2-0||Bye Week||at ECU|
|10||2-1||W, 41-20, Ark. State||at Nebraska|
|11||2-0||W, 40-3, Syracuse||Maryland|
|12||3-0||W, 49-17, USF||Presbyterian|
|13||3-0||W, 42-38, Ga. Southern||at Va. Tech|
|14||1-2||L, 36-24, Wake Forest||Army|
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 CFB Stats from Week 3
3: Texas Tech’s Possessions in Second Half Against Arkansas
Saturday’s matchup between Arkansas and Texas Tech wasn’t just a Big 12-SEC battle, it also featured an interesting clash of styles. Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense met the ground-and-pound Arkansas attack, and there was no doubt which team was better on Saturday. The Razorbacks gashed the Red Raiders defense for 438 rushing yards (6.4 ypr) and seven scores. Time of possession is overrated stat at times, but Bret Bielema’s offense held the ball for 40:39, which limited the high-powered Texas Tech offense to just three second-half possessions. The Red Raiders only registered 6:05 in time of possession over the final two quarters. Running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams and a massive offensive line were simply too much for Texas Tech’s defense.
14: Teams Washington LB Shaq Thompson Outscored in Week 3
Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson turned in one of the top defensive performances of Week 3 by returning an interception 36 yards for a score and later scoring on a 52-yard fumble return. By scoring 12 points on those two plays, Thompson successfully outscored the following teams in Week 3: Central Michigan, Kansas, UCF, Minnesota, Tennessee, Miami (Ohio), Kent State, Rutgers, Eastern Michigan, Southern Miss, Rice, Army, South Alabama and ULM.
3: Teams that Ran 100 Plays in Week 3
Coincidence or just good luck? Three teams ran at least 100 plays in Week 3: Bowling Green, Western Kentucky and West Virginia. Two of those teams (West Virginia and Bowling Green) won, while Western Kentucky fell short in overtime against MTSU. Running a lot of plays doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s an interesting stat for up-tempo offenses. Northern Illinois leads the nation with 284 plays through three weeks, with the Hilltoppers checking in at No. 2 (276).
147:24: Minutes of Game Action in LSU’s Shutout Streak
Since allowing a two-yard touchdown run by Wisconsin running back Corey Clement in third quarter of the opener, LSU has held its opponents scoreless. The Tigers shutout streak ran to 147 minutes and 24 seconds of game action after defeating ULM 31-0 on Saturday. LSU is allowing just 3.5 yards per play and has registered eight sacks in three games. Sure, the competition will get better, but coach Les Miles and coordinator John Chavis have once again reloaded on the defensive side. The shutout streak will be put to the test in Week 4 with Mississippi State visiting Baton Rouge.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
227: Penn State’s Rushing Yardage Through 3 Games
With four new starters, it’s no surprise Penn State’s offensive line has struggled through the first three games of 2014. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been sacked eight times, and rushers are averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. In Saturday’s win over Rutgers, the Nittany Lions averaged only 1.9 yards per carry. Penn State also has only one rush of 20 or more yards this season. There’s no doubt the Nittany Lions can win a lot of games behind Hackenberg, a good defense and coach James Franklin. However, averaging only 75.7 rushing yards per contest versus Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State will be tough to overcome.
2: Touchdowns Allowed by Ole Miss in Three Games
The Rebels’ defense was one of the biggest reasons for optimism surrounding this team’s breakout potential in 2014. So far, so good. Ole Miss has allowed just two touchdowns through three games and is limiting opponents to just 10.3 points per contest. The Rebels are tied for the second-fewest touchdowns allowed in the nation with Alabama, while Stanford has surrendered just one in three contests. Ole Miss will face tougher competition ahead with matchups against Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn. However, there’s no doubt this defense is one of the best in the nation.
188: Yards by Louisville After Opening Possession
After going 75 yards in nine plays in Saturday’s matchup against Virginia, all signs pointed to a Louisville victory. However, the Cavaliers’ defense dominated for most of the game, limiting the Cardinals to just 188 yards on the next 15 possessions. Louisville managed to score touchdowns on back-to-back 50-yard drives in the second half, but Virginia forced eight punts and four turnovers after allowing the successful opening possession. Despite the Cavaliers’ shortcomings on offense, this defense is good enough to keep them in games this year.
61.6: Average Yards of Baylor WR KD Cannon’s TD Catches
Baylor is known for its big-play passing offense under coach Art Briles, but the Bears have a new weapon in true freshman receiver KD Cannon. In three games this year, Cannon has caught 14 passes for 471 yards and five scores. The true freshman is averaging 33.6 yards per catch, with his five touchdown catches averaging 61.6 yards per reception. Needless to say, this true freshman is already one of the top receivers in college football.
452: Rushing Yards by Boston College Against USC
In Saturday’s surprise 37-31 victory over USC, Boston College recorded a staggering 452 rushing yards on 54 attempts. The Eagles scored five times on the ground and averaged a whopping 8.4 yards per carry. Four Boston College rushers had at least eight carries, including quarterback Tyler Murphy (13 attempts) and Jon Hilliman (19). To put the Eagles’ 452 yards in perspective: Coming into Week 3, USC allowed only 285 yards on the ground through two games. The 452 rushing yards allowed were the most by a Trojans’ defense since the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl.
20.4: Yards Per Carry by Duke RB Shaun Wilson in Week 3
Wilson has quickly emerged as one of the top playmakers for Duke’s offense. The true freshman gashed Kansas for 245 yards and three touchdowns, along with recording one catch for seven yards. Wilson also averaged an insane 20.4 yards per carry and scored three times. The freshman’s 245 yards set a school record. Through three games, Wilson has 334 yards on 21 attempts.
Other Stats to Know
* Georgia Southern leads the nation by averaging 9.1 yards per play.
* Nebraska recorded four scoring plays of at least 50 yards against Fresno State.
* Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett averaged 50.3 yards per catch on Saturday. Four of Dorsett’s eight catches have gone for scores this year.
* Stanford has recorded two shutouts in three games this year. The Cardinal recorded only one shutout from 2011-13.
* Florida receiver Demarcus Robinson recorded 216 receiving yards on 15 catches against Kentucky. Robinson recorded the first 200-yard effort since Taylor Jacobs posted 246 receiving yards in 2002.
* In Saturday’s win over Ohio, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato became the second player (Chad Pennington) in school history to throw for 100 touchdown passes in a career.
* Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown accounted for 402 of the Terrapins’ 447 yards in the 40-37 loss to West Virginia.
* All three of TCU’s touchdown drives against Minnesota took less than two minutes. The Horned Frogs’ new up-tempo attack is paying dividends, as the offense has scored 78 points through two games.
* Michigan running back Derrick Green has rushed for 332 yards through three games. He had 270 in 13 contests last year.
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for five touchdowns and 325 total yards in Saturday’s 42-38 win over Georgia Southern.
* Wake Forest recorded -25 rushing yards against Utah State. The Demon Deacons have recorded negative rushing yards in two out of their first three games this year.
* Indiana and Bowling Green combined for 69 first downs and 1,153 yards on Saturday.
* After falling behind 3-0 to Central Michigan, Syracuse scored 40 unanswered points to win 40-3.
* Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight has two career 300-yard passing performances. Both have come against SEC opponents (Alabama and Tennessee).
* East Carolina recorded 502 yards of offense in Saturday’s upset win over Virginia Tech. The Pirates’ 533 yards were the most against the Hokies since North Carolina recorded 533 on Sept. 15, 2012.
* Louisiana Tech quarterback Cody Sokol has nine touchdown passes through three games. The Bulldogs had 10 touchdown scores all of last season.
* Virginia Tech’s first seven drives went only 30 yards against East Carolina.
* Pittsburgh running back James Conner has 544 yards through three games. That’s the most by a Panther running back in a three-game stretch since Tony Dorsett in 1973.
* Western Kentucky has recorded at least 700 yards of total offense in two out of three games this year.
* BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams recorded 499 of BYU’s 523 yards against Houston on Thursday night.
* Vanderbilt has started three different quarterbacks in three games.
* Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle has thrown for at least 400 yards in two out of his three games this year.
* Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson has thrown for 200 yards in back-to-back games.
* Colorado State averaged 10.1 yards per play in its 49-21 victory over UC Davis.
* 20 of Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer’s 30 completions went to freshmen in the 28-21 loss to East Carolina.
* Bowling Green freshman receiver Roger Lewis grabbed 16 receptions in Saturday’s win over Indiana. Lewis ranks No. 3 nationally with 30 catches through three games this year.
* Miami, Ohio recorded only eight first downs in Saturday’s 34-10 loss to Michigan.
* USF had more turnovers than third-down conversions in Saturday’s loss to NC State. The Bulls converted 2 of 10 third-down attempts and committed three turnovers.
* Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer’s 56 pass attempts against East Carolina are a school record.
* 75 of USF’s 89 passing yards against NC State came on a touchdown pass early in the first quarter.
* West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett’s 511 passing yards ranked No. 2 in school history.
* Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya’s 342 passing yards against Arkansas State were the most by a true freshman passer in school history.
* ULL has lost seven turnovers over its last two games.
* Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin ranks second nationally by averaging 186.5 yards per game. The true freshman gashed Idaho for 210 yards and three scores in Week 3.
* Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman averaged 19.8 yards per completion (16 of 30) in Saturday’s win over UTSA.
* Good sign for Texas A&M’s defense? Rice isn’t the toughest opponent, but the Aggies faced 91 plays and allowed only 10 points and held the Owls to 5.3 yards per play.
* Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson has recorded three consecutive 100-yard efforts.
* Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel threw six touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Toledo. Kiel’s set a NCAA record for the most passing touchdowns by a quarterback playing in his first FBS game.
* Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova tossed five interceptions in Saturday’s loss to Penn State. That’s the second time in Nova’s career he has tossed at least five interceptions in a game.
* In Saturday’s win over Kent State, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett tied a school record with six touchdown passes.
The third week of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. On paper, Week 3 was supposed to be boring. After all, there were few matchups featuring top 25 teams. However, Week 3 provided plenty of entertainment, including several night games that went down to the wire.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football’s Most Viral Moments from Week 3
BYU Football 9-11 fan card tribute pic.twitter.com/Dbv2U43pIU— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) September 12, 2014
North Texas Mean Green new black helmets in action pic.twitter.com/lExedmJkpr— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) September 12, 2014
Hacker? Lane Kiffin's Official Alabama bio looks a bit off... pic.twitter.com/BLhxx1K2FF— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) September 12, 2014
Ruffin McNeill looked fly when he played for East Carolina in the '70s pic.twitter.com/NhReeKMxlo— Bobby Big Wheel (@BobbyBigWheel) September 13, 2014
What did Holgorsen say to Lambert before game-winning kick? "I haven't talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus."— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) September 13, 2014
Join the club RT @Mark__Snyder: Devin Funchess is NOT dressed— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) September 13, 2014
Spotted: Brady Hoke with a headset on.— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) September 13, 2014
whoops https://t.co/dNak65nsWb— Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) September 13, 2014
5 minutes to kickoff in Miami. Canes vs. Arkansas State. pic.twitter.com/ciJiZZIril— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) September 13, 2014
Wyoming lost to Oregon today, which means Craig Bohl has lost his first game in 700 days.— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) September 13, 2014
Here's the missed FG in the UMass/Vandy game. https://t.co/OUToOj80JF— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) September 13, 2014
This game is attracting all types of fans. This guy put tape on and then went to the beach. 90 minutes later: voila pic.twitter.com/9av2AfI7h2— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) September 13, 2014
New visiting sideline field banner at FAU Stadium reads 1.8 Miles To The Beach pointing out proximity to the ocean. pic.twitter.com/WJ4bBndS2z— FAU OwlAccess (@FAUOWLACCESS) September 13, 2014
So UCLA wins the toss and elects to defer. And then Texas chooses to kickoff. So UCLA will get it twice.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) September 14, 2014
Charlie Strong is not pleased.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) September 14, 2014
UNREAL pic.twitter.com/rmdwaF5PMb— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) September 14, 2014
Look how high the Rutgers guy got on the blocked field goal. pic.twitter.com/FYYyEs59pc— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) September 14, 2014
After injuring hikens 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
Here, have a Will Muschamp vine https://t.co/WbPSHJnZBN— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 14, 2014
Steve Spurrier: "I knew we had a good chance to beat them when I heard Finebaum pick them to win by 20 points."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 14, 2014
Jordan Phillips shmoney dance https://t.co/a55fERYrLD— gifdsports (@gifdsports) September 14, 2014
Not what anyone wants to see. Chuckie Keeton on crutches. pic.twitter.com/LTCC7Rhm9k— torinkoos (@torinkoos) September 14, 2014
JerryWorld, indeed pic.twitter.com/AMnVHQjgxw— J.A. Adande (@jadande) September 14, 2014
Franklin said that students greeted the PSU buses by waving ... with one finger. Also said the stadium had a great atmosphere, great energy.— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) September 14, 2014
Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury in the second half against Colorado and did not return to the game.
After suffering the injury, Kelly went to the locker room and later returned to the sidelines using crutches and sporting a walking boot on his foot.
Prior to his injury, Kelly threw for 195 yards and rushed for 70 yards against the Buffaloes.
Kelly was replaced by Mike Bercovici against the Buffaloes, and he was able to gain valuable reps in the second half.
Kelly’s status for the Sept. 25 showdown against UCLA is uncertain. And if Kelly is out for an extended period of time, he could miss the Oct. 4 game against USC and the Oct. 18 versus Stanford.
Last season, Kelly threw for 3,365 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for 608 yards and nine scores.
On radio, @doug987FM reports Taylor Kelly near tears, getting hugs from teammates. This appears very bad.— Tyler Lockman (@TylerLockman) September 14, 2014
As expected, it was a rough day for Kent State against Ohio State. The Buckeyes easily handled the Golden Flashes, winning 66-0 to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2.
In addition to recording only 126 yards and turning the ball over three times, Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon completed only 14 of 27 passes for 76 yards.
And there was a pass Reardon would like to have back to avoid the highlight reels, as he rolled to his right and attempted to throw downfield. However, instead of the pass taking flight downfield, Reardon’s throw simply landed at his feet.
The biggest fail of Week 3?
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.