Articles By Steven Lassan

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College football’s coach carousel has been active this season, as four FBS programs have already announced their intentions to have a new coach in place for 2015.

And that list is expected to grow over the next few weeks, as a handful of coaches will be under pressure to win in November.

Florida coach Will Muschamp is on shaky ground after an awful showing against Missouri, while Michigan’s Brady Hoke needs a strong finish to the year to have any chance to return in 2015.

The pressure isn’t just limited to Michigan and Florida, as Illinois’ Tim Beckman and Tulsa’s Bill Blankenship are squarely on the hot seat.


College Football’s Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 8

 

1. Will Muschamp, Florida
2014 Record:
3-3
Career Record at Florida: 25-19 (4 years)

It seems almost certain Muschamp won’t be back at Florida next year. Athletic director Jeremy Foley’s statement after the Gators’ loss to Missouri did nothing to cool Muschamp’s seat. Florida is just 3-3 after six games and faces an uphill battle to bowl eligibility. The Gators should beat Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky, leaving Muschamp’s team one win short of the postseason. However, knocking off Florida State, Georgia or South Carolina does not appear likely this year. The biggest problem for Muschamp remains on offense. Florida is averaging just 4.3 yards per play and 21.4 points per game in SEC play. Muschamp’s defense – supposed to be a strength – allowed 30 points to Kentucky, 42 to Alabama and 30 to LSU.

 

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan
2014 Record:
3-4
Career Record at Michigan: 29-17 (4 years)

Much like Will Muschamp at Florida, the clock on Brady Hoke’s tenure at Michigan is ready to strike midnight. The Wolverines have regressed since an 11-2 mark in 2011, with the win total trending in the wrong direction (eight in 2012 and seven in 2013). Hoke changed offensive coordinators in the offseason, hoping to find a spark for a unit averaging 5.2 yards per play (eighth in Big Ten last year). Michigan also averaged only 3.3 yards per rush in 2013, but the changes haven’t worked so far. New coordinator Doug Nussmeier is dealing with many of the same problems as Al Borges (offensive line, rushing attack and quarterback play), and the Wolverines have not scored more than 20 points in four out of their five games against Power 5 opponents. Games against Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland should allow Michigan to make a run at the postseason. But in Ann Arbor, getting to 6-6 isn’t good enough. Of course, the ongoing debate regarding athletic director Dave Brandon’s status may cloud Hoke’s future – at least temporarily – at the conclusion of the Ohio State game on Nov. 29.

 

3. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
2014 Record:
1-6
Career Record at Tulsa: 23-23 (4 years)


Blankenship began his tenure at Tulsa with a 19-8 overall mark and a solid 14-2 record in conference play. But since 2013, the Golden Hurricane is 4-15 and won just two games in Conference USA last season. Blankenship’s initial success were largely due to a solid core of players returning from the Todd Graham era, but Tulsa has slipped over the last two years and cannot afford to fall too far behind in its new conference home (American Athletic). Blankenship’s job prospects certainly weren’t helped in Week 8, as the Golden Hurricane blew a 27-7 halftime lead against USF to lose 38-30.
 

4. Tim Beckman, Illinois
2014 Record:
3-4
Career Record at Illinois: 9-22 (3 years)

 

After a 3-1 start, Illinois has lost its last three games and won’t have starting quarterback Wes Lunt for a couple of weeks due to a leg injury. Needless to say, that’s bad news for Beckman. The Fighting Illini has to play Minnesota and Ohio State over the next two weeks – a combined 11-2 this season – followed by games against Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern. It’s unlikely Illinois will be favored in any of its remaining games, especially with a defense allowing 7.6 yards per play in Big Ten contests. Getting to 6-6 likely saves Beckman’s job, but the Fighting Illini are likely to fall short of that mark.

 

5. Norm Chow, Hawaii

2014 Record: 2-5
Career Record at Hawaii: 6-25 (3 years)


Chow was a popular hire in Honolulu in 2012, but success has been hard to come by for the 68-year-old coach. Hawaii went 3-9 in Chow’s debut and won just one game in 2013. The Warriors are off to a 2-5 start and have already equaled their conference win total (one) from 2012-13. The upcoming schedule isn’t very forgiving, as Hawaii still has to play Nevada, Utah State, Colorado State and Fresno State this year. Chow is trying to transform the Warriors’ offense into more of a pro-style attack from a spread approach. However, while transitioning schemes takes time, Hawaii is only averaging 21 points this year and ranked near the bottom of the Mountain West in scoring offense from 2012-13.

 

6. Kevin Wilson, Indiana

2014 Record: 3-4
Career Record at Indiana: 13-30 (4 years)

Indiana is one of the toughest jobs in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have only one winning season since 1995 and have lost seven games in six consecutive seasons. Wilson has the program on the right track, as Indiana increased its win total from one (2011) to four (2012) and five (2013). But the progress will be limited in 2014, as starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld is out for the rest of the year due to a shoulder injury. But even with Sudfeld out, the Hoosiers are still searching for answers for a suspect defense, and with a tough Big Ten East Division, this program cannot afford to fall behind Maryland and Rutgers in the overall landscape. Considering the injuries and youth on the team, Wilson should not be in any danger of being fired. However, 2015 could be a make-or-break year for his tenure in Bloomington.

7. Ron Turner, FIU
2014 Record:
3-5
Career Record at FIU: 4-16 (2 years)


Turner was a surprising hire at FIU after spending 2005-12 out of the college ranks. Additionally, Turner had no coaching experience in college in the state of Florida and went 35-57 from 1997-2004 at Illinois. In two seasons, this hire has panned out as expected. Turner is 4-16 and has two losses to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman. The Panthers won only one game last year but have recorded three through eight weeks, largely due to an unsustainable +9 in turnover margin in games against FAU and UAB. FIU has some promising young players (quarterback Alex McGough, running back Alex Gardner and tight end Jonnu Smith) to build around for the future. How long will Turner have to develop that talent?

8. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
2014 Record:
2-5
Career Record at UNLV: 15-43 (5 years)

Hauck is one season removed from a breakthrough year, as the Rebels went 7-6 and played in their first bowl game since 2000. However, will that momentum be a short-lived boost? UNLV is 2-5 through seven games and are expected to be underdogs in upcoming games against Utah State, Air Force, BYU and Nevada. Prior to last year’s 7-6 record, the Rebels were 6-32 under Hauck’s watch. Was 2013 an aberration? Or does Hauck need more time to upgrade the talent and build the depth in the program?

9. Paul Haynes, Kent State
2014 Record: 1-6
Career Record at Kent State: 5-14 (2 years)

Haynes is a Kent State alum, so he’s familiar with the challenges of the job. The Golden Flashes won their last two games in 2013 but lost their first six in 2014. Kent State defeated Army 39-17 last Saturday to break into the win column and face a challenging slate the rest of the year. The Golden Flashes play at Miami (Ohio) this Saturday, followed by games against Toledo, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Akron. Haynes will get more than just two years (especially at his alma mater), but it’s important for this team to show progress, especially since Akron and Miami (Ohio) have shown improvement in 2014. The Golden Flashes simply can’t fall too far behind its East Division foes. 

10. Larry Fedora, North Carolina
2014 Record: 3-4
Career Record at North Carolina: 18-14 (3 years)
 

It’s tough to list Fedora here, but there aren’t many glaring candidates on the hot seat. And let’s make this clear: Fedora is in no danger of getting fired this season. But it’s important for Fedora and his staff to show this team is trending in the right direction over the next five games. North Carolina finished 8-4 in Fedora’s first year and needed five wins over its final six games last season to make a bowl. The Tar Heels are off to a slow start once again, sporting a 3-4 record after seven contests. Making a bowl will be a challenge for North Carolina, as road trips to Virginia, Miami and Duke remain. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Fedora’s teams, but the defense ranks last in the ACC by allowing 43.3 points per game in 2014. The Tar Heels are a young team, so there’s promise for 2015 in what could be a make-or-break year for Fedora in Chapel Hill.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 8 2014
Post date: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 10:00
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Notre Dame and the ACC (and its 14 teams) have announced future dates for matchups until 2025.

The Fighting Irish will play five ACC opponents most seasons, but there are some seasons with four or six matchups.

Of note: Notre Dame won’t play Florida State again until 2018, while the Fighting Irish play at Clemson in 2015.

 

2015


1. Notre Dame at Virginia, 9/12

2. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 9/19

3. Notre Dame at Clemson, 10/3

4. Notre Dame at Pitt, 11/7

5. Wake Forest at Notre Dame, 11/14

6. Notre Dame vs. Boston College (Fenway Park), 11/21

 

2016
 

1. Duke at Notre Dame, 9/24

2. Notre Dame vs. Syracuse (MetLife Stadium), 10/1*

3. Notre Dame at NC State, 10/8

4. Miami at Notre Dame, 10/29

5. Virginia Tech at Notre Dame, 11/19

 

2017


1. Notre Dame at Boston College, 9/16

2. Notre Dame at North Carolina, 10/07

3. NC State at Notre Dame, 10/28

4. Wake Forest at Notre Dame, 11/04

5. Notre Dame at Miami, 11/11

 

2018


1. Syracuse at Notre Dame, 9/22

2. Notre Dame at Virginia Tech, 10/13

3. Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, 10/20

4. Florida State at Notre Dame, 11/10

5. Notre Dame at Wake Forest, 11/17

 

2019


1. Notre Dame at Louisville, 9/2 (Labor Day)

2. Virginia at Notre Dame, 9/28

3. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, 10/19

4. Virginia Tech at Notre Dame, 11/02

5. Notre Dame at Duke, 11/09

6. Boston College at Notre Dame, 11/23

 

2020


1. Notre Dame at Wake Forest

2. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh

3. Duke at Notre Dame

4. Clemson at Notre Dame

5. Louisville at Notre Dame

 

2021


1. Notre Dame at Florida State, 9/6 (Labor Day)

2. Notre Dame at Virginia Tech

3. North Carolina at Notre Dame

4. Notre Dame at Virginia

5. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame

 

2022


1. Notre Dame at North Carolina

2. Notre Dame at Syracuse

3. Boston College at Notre Dame

4. Clemson at Notre Dame

 

2023


1. Notre Dame at NC State

2. Notre Dame at Duke

3. Notre Dame at Louisville

4. Wake Forest at Notre Dame

5. Notre Dame at Clemson

6. Pittsburgh at Notre Dame

 

2024


1. Miami at Notre Dame

2. Notre Dame at Georgia Tech

3. Florida State at Notre Dame

4. Virginia at Notre Dame

 

2025


1. Notre Dame at Miami

2. NC State at Notre Dame

3. Notre Dame at Boston College

4. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh

5. Syracuse at Notre Dame

 

* - Designated ‘home’ game for Syracuse

@ - Designated ‘home’ game for Notre Dame

Teaser:
Notre Dame and ACC Announce Matchup Dates Through 2025
Post date: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 15:16
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-8-bowl-projections-2014
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With eight weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is surrounded in uncertainty.

 

The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.

 

While only eight weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 8 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first eight weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks.

 

Teams just missing the projections: ULM, Texas State, USF, Syracuse, North Carolina, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Wyoming, Fresno State, UTEP, San Jose State, California and Texas. Remember: It’s only Week 8. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.


College Football's Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections

BowlDateTie-InProjection
New OrleansDec. 20Sun Belt vs.
Mountain West
 UL Lafayette vs.
Air Force 
New MexicoDec. 20C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 UAB vs.
Utah State 
Las VegasDec. 20Mountain West vs.
Pac-12
 Boise State vs.
Utah 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 20MAC vs. 
Mountain West
 Bowling Green vs.
Nevada 
CamelliaDec. 20MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Akron vs.
Arkansas State 
Miami BeachDec. 22American vs.
BYU
Cincinnati vs.
BYU 
Boca RatonDec. 23C-USA vs.
MAC
 FAU vs.
Ohio 
PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
Navy
Colorado State vs.
Navy 
BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs.
MAC
 Marshall vs.
Northern Illinois 
HawaiiDec. 24C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 MTSU vs.
San Diego State 
Heart of DallasDec. 26Big Ten vs. 
C-USA
 Rutgers vs.
Rice 
Quick LaneDec. 26ACC vs. 
Big Ten
 Boston College vs.
Penn State 
St. PetersburgDec. 26ACC vs.
American
 NC State vs.
UCF 
MilitaryDec. 27ACC vs.
American
 Pittsburgh vs.
Temple 
SunDec. 27ACC vs. 
Pac-12
 Virginia vs.
Arizona State 
IndependenceDec. 27ACC vs.
SEC
 Georgia Tech vs.
Louisiana Tech* 
PinstripeDec. 27ACC vs.
Big Ten

 Virginia Tech vs.
Maryland 

HolidayDec. 27Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Wisconsin vs.
Arizona 
LibertyDec. 29SEC vs. 
Big 12
 Tennessee vs.
West Virginia 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC vs.
Big 12
 Duke vs. 
Baylor 
TexasDec. 29Big 12 vs.
SEC
 Oklahoma vs.
Arkansas 
Music CityDec. 30ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Minnesota vs.
Kentucky 
BelkDec. 30ACC vs.
SEC
 Louisville vs.
South Carolina 
San FranciscoDec. 30Big Ten vs. 
Pac-12
 Iowa vs. 
UCLA 
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs.
SEC

 Nebraska vs.
Missouri 

CitrusJan. 1Big Ten/ACC vs.
SEC
 Ohio State vs.
LSU 
Armed ForcesJan. 2American vs.
Big 12/Army
 Houston vs.
Washington* 
TaxslayerJan. 2ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Miami vs.
Texas A&M 
AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Pac-12
 Kansas State vs.
USC 
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Pac-12
 Oklahoma State vs.
Stanford 
BirminghamJan. 3American vs.
SEC
 Memphis vs.
Northwestern* 
GoDaddyJan. 4MAC vs. 
Sun Belt
 Toledo vs.
South Alabama 
    
New Year's Bowls
PeachDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 East Carolina vs.
Auburn 
FiestaDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 Oregon vs.
Georgia 
OrangeDec. 31ACC vs.
Big Ten/SEC
 Clemson vs.
Notre Dame 
CottonJan. 1At-large vs.
At-large
 Michigan State vs.
TCU 
    
Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 8
RoseJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Florida State vs. 
Ole Miss 
SugarJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Mississippi State vs.
Alabama 
National TitleJan. 12Semifinal Winner vs.
Semifinal Winner
 Mississippi State vs.
Florida State 

* Indicates conference is not projected to fill its available bowl slots. At-large team will be selected to fill spot.

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections 2014
Post date: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-8-playoff-projection
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The new college football playoff format has added even more intrigue to the 2014 season. Instead of figuring out the top two teams in early December, the focus has shifted to finding four teams to play in the first FBS postseason playoff format.

 

To help select the four playoff teams, a 13-person committee was picked, which includes names like Barry Alvarez, Oliver Luck, Pat Haden and Jeff Long, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former coach Tyrone Willingham.

 

Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. The official playoff committee will release its rankings starting on Oct. 28, but this poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.

 

Expert Panel

 

Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports

Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
 

Post-Week 8 Playoff Projection

RankTeam12345678Total
1Mississippi State 129000000159
2Florida State 65910000142
3Ole Miss 371100000139
4Alabama 00113421095
5Auburn 0004953077
6Oregon 0003755068
7Michigan State 0000135629
8Notre Dame 0000033823
9TCU 000001138
10Georgia 000001127
11TKansas State 000001014
11TOhio State 000000204
13Baylor 000000011

Takeaways From Expert Poll Results

 

* Mississippi State, Florida State and Ole Miss are the clear frontrunners in this week’s playoff poll. Only 20 points separate the Bulldogs and Rebels from the No. 1 spot, and Florida State edged Ole Miss by just three points.

* Alabama jumps from No. 8 to No. 4 this week. The Crimson Tide rank as the highest one-loss team in the playoff projection.

* Four of the top five teams in this week’s committee vote are from the SEC.

* After losing to Florida State 31-27 on Saturday, Notre Dame only dropped three spots to No. 8. The Fighting Irish are still alive for a playoff bid, especially since coach Brian Kelly’s team has opportunities to earn quality wins against Arizona State and USC.


* In addition to the committee agreeing on a clear trio at the top, there’s a significant drop after the top six teams. Oregon ranks No. 6 with 68 points, with Michigan State checking in at No. 7 with 29 points.

* Mississippi State did not rank below second in this week’s committee vote.

* Florida State picked up three first-place votes (6) after recording only three last week.

 

Group of 5 Rankings


One team from the Group of 5 conferences - American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt - will play in one of college football's premier (New Year's Bowls) each season.

 

1. East Carolina
Record:
5-1

The Pirates were on bye last Saturday and return to action on Thursday night against Connecticut. East Carolina’s toughest remaining games follow this week’s matchup against the Huskies, as a date at Temple is ahead on Nov. 1, followed by a Nov. 13 road trip to Cincinnati.

2. Marshall
Record:
7-0

Another week, another blowout victory for Marshall. The Thundering Herd crushed FIU 45-13 to improve to 7-0. Marshall’s remaining schedule is favorable, but there’s not an opportunity to earn a victory against a ranked opponent. Doc Holliday’s team needs help to pass East Carolina in the Group of 5 rankings.

3. Boise State
Record:
5-2

Broncos used another monster effort from running back Jay Ajayi (158 yards, 2 TDs) to knock off Fresno State. Boise State takes on a BYU team riding a three-game losing streak this Friday.

4. Colorado State
Record:
6-1


Rams picked up a solid win over Utah State (16-13) on Saturday and host rival Wyoming in Week 9. Colorado State plays only one opponent (Air Force) with a winning record over the final five weeks of 2014.

 

Key Games With Playoff Implications in Week 9


Miami at Virginia Tech
8 p.m. ET, ESPN


Is this an elimination game in the Coastal Division?

BYU at Boise State
9 p.m. ET, ESPN


Broncos need to win this one to stay alive for Group of 5 New Year’s Bowl spot.

California vs. Oregon (Santa Clara)
10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1


Showdown with Stanford looming next week for the Ducks. California’s defense should be a good opportunity for quarterback Marcus Mariota to improve his Heisman stock.

Texas at Kansas State
Noon ET, ESPN


Wildcats positioned to be a Big 12 title contender thanks to win over Oklahoma last Saturday.

Mississippi State at Kentucky
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS


Bulldogs should be healthy after bye week, while the Wildcats look to bounce back after disappointing performance at LSU. After giving up 41 points to the Tigers, can Kentucky find a way to slow down Dak Prescott?

Michigan at Michigan State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC


Spartans have won five out of the last six meetings in this series. Michigan desperately needs a win to reduce the pressure on coach Brady Hoke.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Mountaineers are one of the nation’s most-improved teams this year, and a win over Oklahoma State would setup an interesting showdown with TCU on Nov 1. Does Oklahoma State have an answer for West Virginia receiver Kevin White?  

Arizona at Washington State
5 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network


If you like offense, this is the game to watch on Saturday evening.

Ole Miss at LSU
7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Rebels are just a small favorite (3.5) on Saturday night. Was LSU’s performance in the last two games a sign of things to come? Or was that just feasting on teams from the East Division?

Alabama at Tennessee
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Crimson Tide shouldn’t have much trouble with a Tennessee offense that has scored just 12 points in its last two games against FBS opponents.

South Carolina at Auburn
7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network


Surprisingly, these two teams have met only seven times since 1996. And interestingly enough, Auburn has won all seven matchups.

Ohio State at Penn State
8 p.m. ET, ABC


Penn State’s offensive line will have its hands full against Ohio State’s aggressive defensive line. Buckeyes have two more opportunities to improve before the showdown in East Lansing against Michigan State on Nov. 8.

USC at Utah
10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1


Don’t count out Utah in the Pac-12 South title picture. Utes are quietly 5-1 and have a chance to take a step forward in division race with USC this Saturday, followed by games against Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona.

Arizona State at Washington
10:45 p.m. ET, ESPN


Taylor Kelly is expected to start at quarterback for Arizona State on Saturday night, but he will have his hands full against a tough Washington defense. 

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 8 Playoff Projection
Post date: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
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Texas A&M’s 59-0 loss to Alabama on Saturday was easily the worst of Kevin Sumlin’s three seasons in College Station. The Aggies had little margin for error coming into Tuscaloosa and were simply dominated in every facet of the matchup with the Crimson Tide.

The numbers and box score are not something most Texas A&M fans want to revisit this week – on both sides of the ball.

In Saturday’s loss, quarterback Kenny Hill turned in his third straight subpar outing. The sophomore has seven interceptions over his last three games and threw for just 138 yards against Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s defense had a lot to do with the lack of offensive production, but in the last two meetings against Nick Saban’s defense, Texas A&M scored 71 points.

Hill isn’t solely to blame for all of the offensive issues. The rushing attack has just 85 yards on 59 attempts over the last two weeks. That’s a paltry 1.4 yards per carry.

Getting more production on the ground would help to alleviate some of the pressure on Hill’s shoulders, but the sophomore needs better protection from a touted offensive line (15 sacks), and a receiving corps dealing with inconsistent performances and drops.

While the offense shares blame for managing only two drives of more than 21 yards and punting on its first six possessions, Texas A&M’s defense is once again a major concern.

The Aggies were dominated by an Alabama offense that scored just 14 points in the win over Arkansas last Saturday and scored 17 on Oct. 4 against Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide scored on their first eight possessions and averaged 7.5 yards per play on 80 snaps.

Alabama’s domination on the stat sheet was showcased on the ground (298 yards, 6.6 yards per carry) and through the air (304 yards, four touchdowns).

It’s hard to find positives for Texas A&M’s defense after Saturday’s game, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide’s first punt came almost midway through the third quarter.

After five SEC games, the Aggies are giving up 6.9 yards per play. That’s a small increase from the 6.7 mark last year. Also, conference opponents are scoring 39.6 points per game in 2014. Last season, Texas A&M allowed 37.9 per contest.

Improvement on defense has been somewhat noticeable in the trenches, as true freshman Myles Garrett leads a pass rush that has generated 22 sacks (one more than all of 2013) through eight games. Additionally, it’s hard to expect this unit to be a shutdown group with the quick-strike offense in place.

 

After picking up the pieces from Saturday’s loss to Alabama, Texas A&M’s overall record stands at 5-3 and 2-3 in the SEC. An upcoming bye week is critical to fixing some of the areas that have plagued this team through the first half of 2014. After the open date, the Aggies host ULM and end the season with a road trip to Auburn, followed by home games against Missouri and LSU.

Considering the upcoming schedule is favorable, Texas A&M still has a legitimate shot to finish 8-4 and hit .500 in SEC play. But this post-Alabama moment is arguably one of the biggest in Sumlin’s three-year stint in College Station.

Transitioning to the SEC wasn’t supposed to be easy. The Aggies exceeded initial expectations due to emergence of quarterback Johnny Manziel, and now have to continue to recruit and develop elite talent to compete with Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the SEC West. 2014 wasn't supposed to be Texas A&M's year to contend. Most expected that would be 2015 or 2016.

After going 11-2 in Sumlin’s debut (2012), Texas A&M is poised to see a reduction in its win total for the second consecutive year.

By all sources, recruiting is going well. Momentum within the state of Texas has shifted College Station – for now. There’s plenty of young talent – Garrett, safety Armani Watts, receiver Speedy Noil and linebacker Shaan Washington – waiting to develop.

That’s the good news.

The bad news? To some degree, Texas A&M is a team in transition. The Aggies are trying to recruit at a higher level to compete in the rugged SEC West and are having success. But with the attempts to upgrade the roster come moments like there was on Saturday. Right now, Alabama is simply on a different level than Texas A&M. In order for the Aggies to go higher, recruiting, player development and coaching all have to improve. 

With a plethora of young players getting snaps on both sides of the ball, there should be noticeable improvement next year. The key word in that sentence: Should.

But what changes will Sumlin make over the next few weeks? Will he give true freshman Kyle Allen an extended look under center? Will defensive coordinator Mark Snyder still have a job in College Station next year? Why has the offense regressed despite returning one of the nation’s top offensive lines and receiving corps?

Beating South Carolina in the opener changed some of the 2014 expectations for Sumlin’s team. But after eight games, it's clear there are question marks that must be answered – and potentially some difficult coaching staff decisions this offseason.

Texas A&M ran into a buzzsaw known as Alabama on Saturday, and the Aggies were simply no match in 2014. But in 2015? A more-experienced roster and improved depth on defense should help Sumlin’s team take another shot at the top teams in the SEC West.

Again, the key word: Should. The talent and pieces are there to improve.

 

The rest of the SEC will be watching Sumlin and this team’s development over the last four games. Winning the West title isn’t going to be easy in the current climate of the division. After three consecutive losses, it’s fair to say Texas A&M’s is reeling just a bit headed into the bye week.

Can Sumlin and his staff evaluate both sides of the ball and find answers before the next game?

Momentum isn’t easy to define. But after three consecutive losses, Texas A&M’s momentum in the SEC West seems to be up in the air heading into a critical bye week.

Teaser:
Texas A&M's and Kevin Sumlin Searching for Answers Once Again After Loss to Alabama
Post date: Monday, October 20, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/devante-parkers-return-sparks-louisvilles-offense-critical-point-season
Body:

Despite the return of coach Bobby Petrino, Louisville’s offense wasn’t incredibly prolific in the first half of the season. While the Cardinals weren’t meeting lofty preseason expectations for the offense, it’s easy to understand why this unit was averaging only 5.0 yards per play and ranked eighth in the ACC in scoring offense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is taking snaps for the Minnesota Vikings, and the offensive line struggled mightily through the first half of the year.

But in Saturday’s win over NC State, Louisville’s offense got a spark from the return of receiver DeVante Parker.

The senior was regarded as one of the top receivers in the ACC this preseason but was sidelined by a foot injury through the first seven weeks.

Parker made his debut against the Wolfpack and caught nine passes for 132 yards (14.7 ypc), which places the senior fifth on the team after eight games in receptions (nine).

With Parker back in the lineup, Louisville averaged 5.4 yards per play, which was its highest total in an ACC contest this year.

The Cardinals also scored 30 points – one off their top mark of 2014 in ACC games (31).

Quarterback Will Gardner also responded with one of his better performances of 2014, completing 21 of 36 passes for 203 yards and two scores. Gardner’s 203 passing yards ranked just three yards behind his season best mark of 206 (Miami).

A struggling NC State defense certainly has something to do with Louisville’s offensive improvement, but it’s a notable improvement for a team that is still a work in progress in Petrino’s first year.

Now, the Cardinals have a bye before taking on Florida State on Thursday, Oct. 30.

After taking on the Seminoles, Louisville plays at Boston College and Notre Dame and ends the season against Kentucky.

The offense is still developing for Petrino but getting Parker for the final four games is a huge positive and should help Gardner’s performance.

With a defense holding opponents to just 3.9 yards per play, Louisville needs more from its offense to have a shot at beating Florida State and Notre Dame.

With Parker back in the lineup, the Cardinals have one of the nation’s top 10-15 receivers in the mix, giving the offense another weapon to a unit that already features running backs Michael Dyer (238 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Radcliff (5.2 ypc).

Louisville is set to embark on arguably its toughest stretch of the season. But the Cardinals now have a No. 1 receiver to pair with improving quarterback Will Gardner. Assuming the defense continues to perform at a high level, the offensive improvement – at a critical time – will be enough for Louisville to potentially play spoiler against Florida State or Notre Dame.

Teaser:
DeVante Parker's Return Sparks Louisville's Offense at Critical Point of Season
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-emerges-big-12-title-contender-after-win-over-baylor
Body:

West Virginia is a Big 12 title contender. That seems strange to say after the Mountaineers finished 4-8 with losses to Iowa State and Kansas last year, but Saturday’s win over Baylor showed coach Dana Holgorsen’s team will be a factor in the conference race over the second half of the season.

 

West Virginia played one of the nation’s toughest schedules in the first half of 2014, and the Mountaineers fell short in upset bids against Oklahoma and Alabama. But on Saturday, the Mountaineers delivered to earn a key conference victory over Baylor.

Quarterback Clint Trickett continued to make his case as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 this year, throwing for 322 yards and three scores on 35 attempts against a Baylor secondary that allowed only five passing touchdowns through its first six games.

Trickett’s favorite target was receiver Kevin White, and the senior extended his streak of 100-yard receiving games to seven by catching eight passes for 132 yards. The senior had one of the weekend’s top catches by scoring on a 12-yard pass from Trickett to give West Virginia the lead for good in the fourth quarter.

While the offense deserves plenty of accolades, the performance by Mountaineers’ defense shouldn’t go overlooked.

Sure, Baylor recorded 318 yards and scored 27 points. But a closer look at the numbers suggest coordinator Tony Gibson and assistant coach Tom Bradley deserve a ton of credit for the performance on Saturday.

The Bears’ 318 total yards were the least since a 2010 matchup against TCU. And Baylor’s offense averaged only 4.0 yards per play, which is only the third time since 2010 Art Briles’ high-powered attack has averaged below five yards per play.

West Virginia unleashed FCS transfer Shaq Riddick against a banged up Baylor offensive line, and the senior responded with five tackles (four for a loss) and three sacks.

In addition to Riddick’s production, the Mountaineers constantly pressured Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty in the second half and held the Bears to just seven points over the final two quarters.

Also, only one Baylor drive in the second half lasted longer than 32 yards.


And here’s a critical note: West Virginia had to play without starting cornerbacks Daryl Worley and Terrell Chestnut for a good chunk of the game.

After seven games, West Virginia’s overall record stands at 5-2 and 3-1 in the Big 12.

It’s clear this Mountaineer team has exceeded preseason expectations, as most predicted Holgorsen’s team would struggle to make a bowl.

However, a healthy Trickett at quarterback, combined with the emergence of receiver Kevin White has helped West Virginia average 6.2 yards per play and 37.3 points per game, and the defense has made strides and timely stops under new coordinator Tony Gibson.

Since West Virginia has already played two of the preseason favorites (Baylor and Oklahoma), don’t overlook this team in a wide-open Big 12 title picture. The Mountaineers host TCU and Kansas State – arguably two of the contenders now – and still have to play Iowa State. Road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State won’t be easy, but it’s clear West Virginia will have an impact on the Big 12 title picture. 

Teaser:
West Virginia Emerges as Big 12 Title Contender After Win Over Baylor
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 14:50
Path: /college-football/utahs-devontae-booker-athlon-sports-week-8-player-week
Body:

Behind a solid defense and a timely offense, Utah has emerged as a contender in the Pac-12 South. The Utes took a step forward in the division race with an overtime victory over Oregon State on Thursday night, improving to 2-1 in conference play with a huge showdown against USC ahead next Saturday.

Leading the way in Utah’s victory was running back Devontae Booker, who earns Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors for Week 8. The junior college transfer gained 229 of Utah’s 315 yards in the win, averaging 7.2 yards per rush on 32 attempts.

Booker scored three times on Thursday night, including twice in overtime. The junior’s 19-yard run in the second overtime gave the Utes a 29-23 victory and put coach Kyle Whittingham’s team just one win away from earning bowl eligibility.

But with Booker’s tough running and a defense holding opponents to just 21.7 points per game, Utah has its sights set on something bigger – a Pac-12 South title – than just bowl eligibility over the next few weeks.
 

Defensive Player of the Week: Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
Missouri’s defense was simply dominant on Saturday night in the Swamp. The Tigers held the Gators to 13 points and 283 total yards, while forcing six turnovers in a 42-13 rout. Ray was the headliner for Missouri’s defense, recording six tackles (1.5 for a loss), one forced fumble and two sacks. Ray’s forced fumble resulted in a touchdown return by Markus Golden, which gave the Tigers a commanding 35-0 lead in the second half. In seven games this year, Ray has recorded 10 sacks and forced two fumbles.

 

Coordinator of the Week: Tony Gibson, West Virginia
Gibson and West Virginia’s defense had the right answers to stop Baylor’s high-powered offense in Saturday’s 41-27 upset victory. The Mountaineers held the Bears to just 318 yards (lowest mark for a Baylor offense since 2010), and Gibson’s defense limited Baylor to 4.0 yards per play (lowest since 2009). West Virginia also recorded four sacks and pressured quarterback Bryce Petty throughout the second half. The Mountaineers allowed only one touchdown in the final two quarters, while five of Baylor’s seven second-half drives traveled just 32 yards or less. The performance on defense was a big reason why West Virginia knocked off the Bears on Saturday.

 

Freshman of the Week: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Chubb is the Athlon Sports’ freshman of the week for the second week in a row. With Todd Gurley sidelined once again, Chubb handled the bulk of the workload in Georgia’s backfield and rushed for 202 yards and two scores on 30 attempts in the 45-32 win over Arkansas. In two games as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 back, Chubb has 345 yards and three scores. 

Teaser:
Utah's Devontae Booker is Athlon Sports' Week 8 Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 09:24
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-most-viral-moments-week-8
Body:

Week 8 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.

 

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 8

 

 



Teaser:
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 8
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 08:40
Path: /college-football/california-wr-chris-harper-makes-one-handed-td-catch-against-ucla
Body:

California has significantly improved in Sonny Dykes’ second year, and the offense behind quarterback Jared Goff is one of the best in the Pac-12.

Goff and Chris Harper have developed a nice rapport over the last two years, and Harper kept California’s offense on track against UCLA by catching this ridiculous one-handed touchdown pass in the first half.

Check out Harper’s touchdown catch from Week 8:

 

 

Teaser:
California WR Chris Harper Makes One-Handed TD Catch Against UCLA
Post date: Saturday, October 18, 2014 - 18:11
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-wr-kevin-white-makes-awesome-one-handed-td-catch-against-baylor
Body:

West Virginia shook up the Big 12 standings by defeating Baylor 41-27 on Saturday. The Mountaineers knocked off the Bears thanks to the prolific combination of quarterback Clint Trickett and receiver Kevin White.

Trickett threw for 322 yards, while White caught eight passes for 132 yards and two scores.

White has topped 100 receiving yards in every game this year and is clearly one of the nation’s top receivers.

Check out the senior’s awesome one-handed grab to give West Virginia a 34-27 lead in the fourth quarter:

 

Teaser:
West Virginia WR Kevin White Makes Awesome One-Handed TD Catch Against Baylor
Post date: Saturday, October 18, 2014 - 17:39
Path: /college-football/tulane-qb-nick-montana-mistakenly-spikes-ball-fourth-down
Body:

Quarterback Nick Montana and the Tulane coaching staff had a massive fail in the first half of Saturday’s game against UCF.

The Green Wave were attempting to get a field goal before the end of the quarter, and with time winding down, Montana spiked the ball to give his team a chance for points. However, there's just one problem: Montana spiked the ball on fourth down, ending any hope Tulane had of getting points.

Remember FAU doing this last year against Miami?
 

Teaser:
Tulane QB Nick Montana Spikes Ball on Fourth Down
Post date: Saturday, October 18, 2014 - 15:12
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-rb-mike-davis-delivers-punishing-stiff-arm-against-furman
Body:

Running back Mike Davis helped to lead an easy win for South Carolina against Furman on Saturday, and the junior topped 100 yards and reached the endzone twice in the first half.

Davis also delivered a highlight-reel run in the first half, which included a monster stiff arm to a Furman defender. 

Teaser:
South Carolina RB Mike Davis Delivers Punishing Stiff Arm Against Furman
Post date: Saturday, October 18, 2014 - 14:45
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-washington-huskies-game-preview-and-prediction-2014
Body:

Washington and Oregon are technically rivals, as less than five hours and 300 miles separate the two Pacific Northwest campuses. But the recent history of this rivalry has been significantly in favor of the Ducks. Oregon has won 10 in a row over the Huskies, with Washington’s last win in this series coming in 2003.

With the recent series in mind, it’s no surprise Oregon is almost a three-touchdown favorite over Washington. However, Saturday’s game represents an opportunity for both teams to make a statement. The Ducks can solidify their place at the top of the Pac-12 with a convincing win, while the Huskies can score a statement victory in coach Chris Petersen’s first year with an upset in Eugene.


And with a win on Saturday, Washington can bring some spark to a rivalry that has been significantly one-sided in favor of the Ducks.
 

Washington at Oregon


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Washington -20.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Oregon’s Offensive Line vs. Washington Front Seven
Did the Ducks fix their issues on the offensive line last week? In the 42-30 win over UCLA, the offensive line was bolstered by the return of tackle Jake Fisher, as the Bruins did not register a sack, and Oregon’s rushers averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Was that a one-game fix or a sign of things to come? Fisher is a valuable addition to the lineup to protect quarterback Marcus Mariota’s blindside, but UCLA’s pass rush ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12. Washington’s defensive front has recorded 24 sacks through six games and is headlined by linebacker Shaq Thompson (46 tackles, 1 INT, 3 FF), defensive tackle Danny Shelton (49 tackles, 7 sacks) and defensive end/linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha (10 sacks). Stopping UCLA’s defensive front is one challenge, but Washington has one of the best defensive line and linebacking corps in the nation. Is Oregon’s improvement up front a one-week mirage or a sign of things to come? This matchup should provide good insight into the Ducks’ offensive line.

2. Washington QB Cyler Miles
It’s no secret which quarterback will garner most of the nation’s attention on Saturday night. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman, and the junior has yet to throw an interception on 155 attempts in 2014. But a quick check of the Pac-12 passing stats shows there is one more starter in the Pac-12 with zero interceptions: Washington’s Cyler Miles. The sophomore missed the opener due to suspension but has passed for 896 yards and nine touchdowns over the last five games. Miles has made steady improvement in his first year as a starter and threw for a season-high of 273 yards against California last week. The Golden Bears aren’t one of the Pac-12’s elite defenses, but Miles seems to be getting more comfortable with each snap. Oregon’s defense will bend (470.3 ypg, 5.8 ypp) and ranks last in the Pac-12 in third-down stops. Don Pellum’s defense has also been opportunistic (12 forced turnovers and 18 sacks), but the Ducks will allow opposing offenses to move the ball. Can Miles play another mistake-free game? In a hostile environment, Washington needs Miles to play his best game to win on Saturday night.

3. Oregon’s Explosive Offense
Even if Washington’s front seven has success against Oregon’s offensive line, can the Huskies cover the Ducks’ big-play threats at receiver? Michigan State is the best defense the Ducks played this year, and the Spartans gave up 7.2 yards per play and 46 points. That's concerning for Washington, as Michigan State’s secondary is better than the Huskies and quarterback Marcus Mariota gashed the Spartans for 318 yards. Washington’s secondary features standout corner Marcus Peters, but two freshmen starters (Sidney Jones and Budda Baker) will be tested on Saturday night. The Huskies did not allow a touchdown pass to California last Saturday and gave up seven against Eastern Washington. The numbers are skewed slightly due to one game, but opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their throws against Washington’s defense. Getting pressure on Mariota is step No. 1 in stopping the Oregon offense. However, when he is able to deliver on time, can the Huskies slow down a group of explosive playmakers, starting with running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner and at receiver with Devon Allen (19.6 ypc)?


Final Analysis


A 21-point spread seems too much for this game. Oregon is tough to beat at home, and a healthy offensive line should bolster Mariota’s Heisman bid over the next two months. The Ducks’ explosive offense sputters early against the Huskies’ defense, but Mariota and his receiving corps eventually makes enough plays to pull away in the fourth quarter. First-year Washington coach Chris Petersen has his team prepared for the challenge, but Oregon simply has too much on offense.


Prediction: Oregon 38, Washington 27

Teaser:
Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, October 17, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-notre-dame-fighting-irish-game-preview-and-prediction
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College football’s premier matchup for Week 8 takes place in Tallahassee, as Florida State hosts Notre Dame in a meeting of two teams with national title and playoff aspirations. Off-field issues have surrounded both teams since the opener, as quarterback Jameis Winston is under the spotlight once again for the Seminoles, while the Fighting Irish finally learned the fate of the five players suspended due to academic issues earlier this week.

 

While neither team will be able to completely close the door on discussing the off-field issues over the next two days, the 60-minute matchup should at least turn the attention back to the field and the quest to finish unbeaten and earn a spot in the playoff.

 

The Seminoles enter Saturday night’s game on a 17-game winning streak, while the Fighting Irish are off to a 6-0 start and defeated their first four opponents by at least 16 points in each contest.

 

Florida State and Notre Dame have met only seven previous times. The Seminoles own a 5-2 series edge against the Fighting Irish and have won the last two games in this series. Notre Dame’s last win over the Seminoles occurred in 2002.
 

Notre Dame at Florida State


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Florida State -11.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Stopping Jameis Winston
In the first five games of the year, the Fighting Irish allowed 60 points. In last Saturday’s win over North Carolina, Notre Dame allowed 43 points and gave up 6.1 yards per play. With that in mind, which is the real Fighting Irish defense? The college football world should have a good idea by Saturday night, as Florida State’s offense is the best this defense has played in 2014. The Seminoles are averaging 39 points per game and 6.6 yards per play, and coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has a talented core of skill players, headlined by receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. At running back, Karlos Williams, Mario Pender (out for Saturday due to injury) and Dalvin Cook are all big-time talents with the threat to score each time they touch the ball. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder likes to be aggressive in his play-calling, which will allow Winston and his receivers to hit on big plays – assuming the offensive line can handle the blitz packages. If Winston has time to throw, that’s a bad sign for a Fighting Irish secondary that was torched for 326 yards against North Carolina last week. But if VanGorder can generate pressure and get Winston out of rhythm, Notre Dame’s defense will have a chance to force three-and-outs, giving the offense good field position early and often.

2. Everett Golson vs. Florida State’s Defense
Everett Golson is 16-0 as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback during the regular season. Golson’s only loss with the Fighting Irish was a loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS Championship. And after missing all of last season due to academic issues, Golson has showed little rush through the first six games. The junior has passed for 1,683 yards and 16 touchdowns and is completing 62.5 percent of his throws in 2014. While those numbers are impressive, turnovers have been a problem for the junior. Over the last three games, Golson has lost nine turnovers, including an interception in three consecutive contests. Winning in Tallahassee requires a flawless effort from Notre Dame – but there will be plays available against Florida State’s defense. The Seminoles owned one of the top defenses in the nation last year, but injuries and a turnover in personnel in the front seven have contributed to some early-season struggles. But even though Florida State is not as dominant on the defensive side as it was last year, the Seminoles are still holding opponents to 20.7 points a game and rank third in the ACC in red zone defense. Golson has a solid receiving corps at his disposal, including William Fuller (14.4 ypc, 7 TDs) and Corey Robinson (13.7 ypc). Can Golson limit his mistakes and attack a Florida State secondary that has already allowed two teams to throw for 300 yards this year?

3. Which defense steps up?
As we mentioned in the previous sections of the preview, both teams have experienced their share of problems – and success – on defense this season. Florida State’s biggest concern is the defensive tackle spot, as replacing Timmy Jernigan is no easy assignment, and starter Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the year due to injury. The Seminoles are eighth in the ACC against the run and are allowing 5.0 yards per play – almost a full yard increase from last season. But Florida State has made stops when it matters, ranking third in the ACC in red zone defense. Notre Dame has options at running back, but Tarean Folston is the team’s leading rusher at just 263 yards. If the Fighting Irish is going to win, quarterback Everett Golson has to have a huge game. Of course, that means Golson also has to limit his mistakes, and Florida State has forced 11 turnovers in six games. Can the Seminoles force a couple of turnovers? When Florida State has the ball, will Notre Dame’s defense hold its own at the point of attack and limit the Seminoles’ ground game? If the Fighting Irish can limit Florida State on early downs on rushing attempts, Winston will have third-and-long situations to navigate on offense, allowing VanGorder to send extra pressure or drop more into coverage to limit the big-play ability of Greene or Jesus Wilson.


Final Analysis

 

Florida State has yet to play a complete game this year. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the teams on the Seminoles’ schedule, starting with Notre Dame on Saturday night. Injuries and suspensions slowed Florida State’s development early in the year, but this team should get better over the second half of 2014. As long as Jameis Winston is in the lineup, the Seminoles should win this matchup. The Fighting Irish need a perfect effort to win on Saturday, including zero turnovers from Golson and better play from a secondary that was torched by North Carolina last week. Notre Dame tacks on a late touchdown to cover the spread, but Florida State controls this one from the opening kick.


Prediction: Florida State 34, Notre Dame 27

Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, October 17, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-texas-am-aggies-game-preview-and-prediction-2014
Body:

It’s another critical week of action on Saturday for the SEC West, as Alabama looks to get back on track against a Texas A&M team that comes to Tuscaloosa on a two-game losing streak. The Crimson Tide had an uninspired 14-13 win over Arkansas last week, while the Aggies were defeated 35-20 against Ole Miss.

The SEC West is the best division in college football, leaving little margin for error for the teams in the mix for a spot in the playoff. That pressure also extends to teams like Texas A&M, as the road won’t get any easier with games against Auburn, LSU and Missouri still remaining. If Kevin Sumlin’s team wants to have any shot at contending for the division title or playing in one of college football’s top bowl games in December, it has to win this game.

Meanwhile, Alabama needs this game to get back on track. Coach Nick Saban has a lot of work to do in order to transform the 2014 version of the Crimson Tide into a national title contender. The talent is still there for Alabama, but this team has holes in the secondary, offensive line and in the passing attack. Penalties, a lack of a pass rush and turnovers are other concerns for Saban and the coaching staff to address over the next few weeks.

 

Alabama and Texas A&M have played six previous times, with the Crimson Tide owning a 4-2 edge. These two teams have played only twice as SEC members, and two of the six meetings occurred in bowl games.

 

Texas A&M at Alabama

 

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Alabama -13.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Texas A&M’s Rush Defense
Stopping Alabama starts in the trenches. With center Ryan Kelly sidelined due to a knee injury, the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack was stuck in neutral last week. On 32 attempts against Arkansas, Alabama managed only 66 yards. And against Ole Miss on Oct. 4, the Crimson Tide recorded only 3.8 yards per carry. Texas A&M’s rush defense is allowing 174.9 yards per game (4.2 ypc) through all seven games, with the numbers a bit higher in SEC play (198.0). Even though Kelly won’t play this Saturday, Alabama should have an edge in this matchup. Will Texas A&M find an answer to stop T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry? In last year’s meeting, the Aggies allowed 6.3 yards per carry. If Alabama repeats that number on Saturday, it’s tough to see this matchup being close in the fourth quarter.


2. Alabama’s Secondary
Even though this may not be one of Nick Saban’s best Alabama teams, it’s hard to find many weaknesses. But if there’s one area the Crimson Tide seem to struggle more than any in recent years, it’s a secondary that gave up 365 yards to West Virginia in the opener and 251 to Ole Miss on Oct. 4. Texas A&M has the talent on offense to take advantage of Alabama’s secondary, starting at quarterback with Kenny Hill and a receiving corps that features youth and a world of talent. Hill has 23 touchdown passes this year but has tossed five interceptions – both losses by the Aggies – in the last two games. Hill has to be more careful with the ball this week, and he needs more help from an inconsistent receiving corps. The sophomore will have some additional help in the receiving department, as veteran Malcome Kennedy is back in the mix after missing the last two games due to injury. Alabama’s secondary will improve over the course of the season, especially as Eddie Jackson returns to full strength from an offseason ACL tear. If Texas A&M has success through the air, it can turn this game into a high-scoring affair and get Alabama out of its comfort zone on offense.

3. Alabama QB Blake Sims
Through the first four games, Sims completed 73.1 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. But over the last two contests, Sims has tossed one interception and his completion percentage has slipped to 58.8. Playing a stout Ole Miss defense has something to do with Sims’ numbers, but Alabama needs more from its passing game this week. Texas A&M’s secondary should allow the Crimson Tide opportunities to stretch the field through the air. The Aggies have allowed nine passing scores this year, and opposing quarterbacks in SEC play are completing 61.1 percent of their throws. Texas A&M has also allowed 22 passing plays of 20 yards or more.


Final Analysis


The outcome of this game largely depends on two areas: Alabama’s secondary and Texas A&M’s rush defense. If the Aggies stuff the Crimson Tide ground attack and force Sims and receiver Amari Cooper to win this one through the air, Sumlin’s team will have an opportunity to steal a win in Tuscaloosa. And when Texas A&M has the ball, can Alabama defend the pass? Expect plenty of up-tempo and quick passes to the receiving corps from the Aggies to take advantage of their speed and athleticism on the edge. Since winning in Tuscaloosa in 2012, Texas A&M is just 7-6 in its last 13 games. Make it 7-7 as Alabama’s offense gets back on track, and the defense makes just enough stops to keep the Aggies from pulling off the upset.


Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 24

Teaser:
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas A&M Aggies Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, October 17, 2014 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-8-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Florida State and Notre Dame are two of college football’s marquee programs, and the Fighting Irish and Seminoles meet on Saturday night in one of the top games for Week 8. The matchup between Florida State and Notre Dame headlines the action in the ACC this Saturday, but there are a few intriguing games outside of Tallahassee.

Pittsburgh hosts Virginia Tech in a critical game for positioning in the Coastal Division, while Clemson travels to Boston College on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers won’t have quarterback Deshaun Watson, but their defensive line is a good match for the Eagles’ ground game.


Georgia Tech-North Carolina has potential for plenty of fireworks on offense, while Virginia-Duke is another key game for the Coastal Division title picture.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

ACC Week 8 Game Power Rankings
 

1. Notre Dame at Florida State (-11.5)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
 

Tallahassee is the epicenter of the college football world in Week 8. Notre Dame and Florida State enter Saturday night ranked among the top five teams in the nation, and both programs expect to contend for college football’s new four-team playoff in 2014. Despite the history among the programs, this is only the eighth meeting between Notre Dame and Florida State. The Seminoles own a 5-2 series edge, with the last regular season meeting taking place in 2003. An interesting note to this series: Five of the seven games were decided by a touchdown or less. With that in mind, this could be another close matchup on Saturday night. Florida State leads the ACC by averaging 462.5 yards per game, but Notre Dame will counter with a defense that’s allowing only 17.2 points per contest. However, the Fighting Irish gave up 43 points to North Carolina, and the Seminoles’ offense will be the best this defense has played in 2014. Quarterback Jameis Winston is growing more comfortable with his new receivers, and the sophomore – provided the line provides protection – should have a huge performance against the Notre Dame secondary. But the same holds true for the Fighting Irish offense, as the Seminoles are allowing opponents to average 5.0 yards per play – almost a full yard increase from 2013. Quarterback Everett Golson has to be more careful with the football, as he’s committed nine turnovers in the last three games. Golson should have opportunities to move the ball on the ground or through the air. But in Tallahassee, Notre Dame’s margin for error is small and turnovers will be costly on Saturday night. 
 

Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:



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2. Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (-1)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)


It seems like a broken record, but this is a key game for positioning in the Coastal Division. With little separating the top six teams, this is a prime opportunity for both Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh to take a step forward in the division race. The Panthers opened conference play with a win over Boston College but lost 24-19 to Virginia on Oct. 4. The Hokies are also 1-1 in ACC action, defeating North Carolina 34-17 after opening with a loss to Georgia Tech. Running back play is under the spotlight on Thursday night, as Virginia Tech will be without leading rusher Marshawn Williams due to an ankle injury, leaving J.C. Coleman (61 yards) and Joel Caleb (84 yards) as the team’s top backs. Pittsburgh’s James Conner is one of the nation’s leading rushers, but he may see time on defense as a pass-rush specialist. A key matchup to watch will be Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller against Pittsburgh receiver Tyler Boyd. Both are among the nation’s best at their position, and if Fuller contains Boyd, the Panthers need some of their secondary weapons to step up. A tight game is expected, which means both quarterbacks (Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh and Michael Brewer, Virginia Tech) have to limit their mistakes, as both teams rank near the bottom of the ACC in turnover margin.
 

3. Clemson (-5) at Boston College
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
 

If you like trench warfare, then Saturday’s matchup in Chestnut Hill is a must-see matchup. Clemson’s defensive line is one of the best in the nation, headlined by likely All-America selection in defensive end Vic Beasley and fellow senior Grady Jarrett at defensive tackle. The Eagles counter with an offensive line featuring five senior starters and a strong rushing attack led by quarterback Tyler Murphy. Clemson is holding opponents to just 100.5 yards per game on the ground, while the Eagles lead the ACC with an average of 315.7 rushing yards a contest. Murphy leads the team by averaging 118.5 rushing yards per game, but Jon Hilliman (4.4 ypc) and Myles Willis (5.0 ypc) factor into the gameplan. The Eagles hope to get their ground game on track and limit the opportunities for an explosive Clemson offense. The Tigers will turn to senior Cole Stoudt at quarterback after freshman Deshaun Watson was injured in last week’s game against NC State. Stoudt has yet to pass for a touchdown against a Power 5 opponent this year and will be tested by a Boston College defense that likes to create havoc around the line of scrimmage (17 sacks and 38 tackles for a loss).


4. Virginia at Duke (-3)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network


At the beginning of the season, it’s unlikely anyone would have pegged this matchup as a critical showdown in the ACC. But seven weeks into the season, this matchup is suddenly an important game. Virginia is the lone unbeaten team (2-0) in conference play from the Coastal Division. Duke picked up a win over Georgia Tech last Saturday, which was a key rebound victory after losing 22-10 to Miami on Sept. 27. The Blue Devils are the defending Coastal champs, and a win over the Cavaliers would allow this team to take an early lead for the division title once again. Quarterback play is critical every week, but it’s an even bigger storyline this Saturday. Virginia’s Greyson Lambert has missed the last two games due to injury, and Matt Johns is 2-0 during that stretch. Lambert could return this Saturday, but both quarterbacks are expected to play. For Duke, Anthony Boone has to play mistake-free. In the Blue Devils’ 22-10 loss to Miami, Boone tossed two picks and completed only 43.1 percent of his throws. A low-scoring game should be anticipated, as Duke ranks second in the ACC in total defense (15.5 ppg), and Virginia is among the best in the conference in sacks and tackles for a loss. This is the Cavaliers’ first road ACC game of the year, while the Blue Devils have won five out of the last six in this series.


5. Georgia Tech (-2.5) at North Carolina
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

 

Three of the last four meetings in this series were decided by eight points or less, and another close game should be anticipated in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Tar Heels enter Week 8 on a four-game losing streak, but coach Larry Fedora’s team nearly upset Notre Dame last Saturday. North Carolina needs another second-half surge to make a bowl this year, and that run has to start Saturday against the Yellow Jackets. The Tar Heels have to find a way to slow down Georgia Tech’s option attack, which is averaging 294.7 rushing yards per game. That’s bad news for a North Carolina defense allowing 191.7 yards per contest on the ground. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the headliner (6.3 ypc), but Zach Laskey (4.9 ypc) has recorded at least 70 rushing yards in every game this year. Stopping the Yellow Jackets is going to be a challenge, as their style of play is not easy to replicate in a week of practice. While the Tar Heels will struggle on defense, their offense should be able to move the ball on a Georgia Tech unit allowing 6.3 yards per play this year. Quarterback Marquise Williams is coming off his best effort of the season (510 yards) and should have another huge day against the Yellow Jackets. Turnover margin is critical in this game. Georgia Tech was +5 entering last week’s game against Duke. But the Yellow Jackets lost three turnovers in a 31-25 loss. Forcing turnovers and getting stops on third down will be crucial to North Carolina’s hopes of snapping a four-game losing streak.


6. NC State at Louisville (-17)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3


This matchup features the biggest spread from the seven games in the ACC in Week 8. Most thought NC State turned a corner after a 56-41 loss to NC State, but the Wolfpack has stumbled in its last two games. Dave Doeren’s team was soundly defeated 41-0 to Clemson in Week 6 and lost 30-14 to Boston College last Saturday. Stopping the run has been a problem for NC State, as it has allowed 536 yards and six touchdowns in its last two games. In addition to the defensive struggles, quarterback Jacoby Brissett has to get back on track after completing just 18 of his last 48 passes. Jumpstarting the offense is going to be a challenge for NC State this Saturday. Louisville’s defense is holding opponents to 3.7 yards per play and has allowed only nine touchdowns in seven games. While the Cardinals own one of the ACC’s top defenses, the offense is surprisingly averaging only 23.4 points a game in conference action. Will Gardner is set to start at quarterback after completing 10 of 16 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown against Clemson, but freshman Reggie Bonnafon will play in a limited role. Even though Louisville’s offense is off to a slow start, it could get on track against a NC State defense allowing 6.3 yards per play in conference games. The Wolfpack defense will be without starting linebacker Jerod Fernandez and safety Josh Jones due to an off-field incident.

 

7. Syracuse (-5) at Wake Forest
12 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3


With both teams at 0-2 in conference play and 2-4 overall, Saturday’s game is a must-win situation if either program wants to make a bowl this year. Syracuse is dealing with a handful of injuries on offense, and freshman A.J. Long will make his first start under center. Long showed promise in last week’s game against Florida State by recording 187 total yards and two passing touchdowns, and Wake Forest’s defense will be a good challenge in his first start. The Demon Deacons are holding opponents to 4.9 yards per play and are allowing 24 points per game. The numbers for Wake Forest’s defense are impressive considering the offense is managing just 3.3 yards per play and has not scored more than 24 points in a game this year. Points should be at a premium with two young quarterbacks – Long and Wake Forest freshman John Wolford – starting under center on Saturday. 

 

Week 8 ACC Predictions

 David
Fox
Braden
Gall
Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
Notre Dame at FSU (-11.5)ND 28-24FSU 34-28FSU 34-27FSU 30-20
Va. Tech at Pitt (-1)VT 34-31Pitt 31-30VT 27-24VT 28-24
Clemson (-5) at BC BC 28-21Clemson 34-24Clemson 31-27Clemson 33-21
Virginia at Duke (-3)Duke 21-17Duke 24-21Duke 24-20UVa 23-19
Ga. Tech (-2.5) at UNCGT 35-21GT 35-30GT 38-34GT 37-30
NC State at Louisville (-17)UL 31-14UL 30-23UL 34-13 UL 34-17
Syracuse (-5) at Wake ForestSU 27-14SU 30-27SU 24-20SU 24-17
Last Week4-24-24-24-2
Season Record53-1553-1556-1254-14

 

Teaser:
ACC 2014 Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/illinois-unveils-gray-ghost-uniforms-oct-25-game-against-minnesota
Body:

Illinois has a new uniform design for 2014, but the Fighting Illini have unveiled a special look for the Oct. 25 game against Minnesota.

The “gray ghost” uniforms are a tribute to Red Grange and the 1924 game against Michigan.

Check out Illinois’ “gray ghost” uniforms for Oct. 25:

Teaser:
Illinois Unveils "Gray Ghost" Uniforms for Oct. 25 Game Against Minnesota
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/20-predictions-second-half-college-footballs-2014-season
Body:

The first half of the 2014 college football season is in the books, and it’s time to revisit the preseason predictions and make a few changes for the next eight weeks.

No conference, team or player performs exactly how most expect from the preseason, so it’s only natural to have changes of opinion in several different areas by the midpoint of the season.

That’s the case in 2014, as it’s been an unpredictable season, and more chaos should be anticipated over the next two months.

Before Week 8 officially starts the second half of the season, let’s take a look at 20 predictions that are sure to be right by December.

First-Half Awards and Second-Half Predictions
National | ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

20 Predictions for the Second Half of the 2014 Season

 

1. Florida State Finishes the Regular Season Unbeaten
See a loss on Florida State’s schedule? We don’t either. The Seminoles will head into college football’s playoff with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a 29-game winning streak. Games against Louisville, Florida and Notre Dame are tough, but the Seminoles will be unbeaten going into the first playoff matchup.

2. Every Pac-12 Team Has At Least Two Losses
On paper, that seems like a far-fetched idea. But take a look at the standings after Week 7: Every team already has at least one loss in conference play. Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona are the frontrunners for the Pac-12 title, but there’s no dominant team in the league this year. The Ducks were the favorite by Athlon’s editors to win the Pac-12 title in midseason predictions. However, will Oregon navigate its remaining schedule – Washington, California, Stanford at Utah, Colorado and at Oregon State – unbeaten? The guess here is no. A two-loss team wins the Pac-12 title in early December.

3. Oklahoma Rebounds to Win the Big 12
Oklahoma needs a little help to win the outright conference title, as TCU holds the tiebreaker over the Sooners. But Bob Stoops' team will have an opportunity to work their way back to the top of the Big 12 over the next few weeks, starting with Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State. After playing the Wildcats in Week 8, Oklahoma hits the road to take on Iowa State before Baylor – which has never won in Norman – visits on Nov. 8. With the Bears coming to Norman, Oklahoma wins that game and finishes 11-1. That’s enough to win the Big 12 title.

4. Florida Barely Makes a Bowl
With the opener against Idaho canceled due to weather, Florida doesn’t have much margin for error to make a bowl game. At 3-2, the Gators need three wins to play in a bowl after missing out on the postseason last year. Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky should be wins, which leaves Florida with matchups against Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State to get win No. 6. It won’t be easy, but the Gators win one of those games and finish with a 6-5 regular season mark.

5. Justin Fuente is a Hot Commodity for Open Coaching Jobs
Memphis has made significant progress under Justin Fuente over the last three years. The Tigers went 3-21 under Larry Porter, but Fuente has guided the program to 10 wins since 2012 and is on track to make a bowl this season. Memphis is 3-3 after six contests this year and has a good opportunity to finish in the top four of the final American Athletic Conference standings. Fuente is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks, and his rebuilding efforts should draw the attention of open jobs (Kansas) in the Power 5 conferences this offseason.

6. Arkansas Wins a Game in SEC Play This Year
That prediction may seem like no big deal, but Arkansas has a 15-game losing streak in SEC play. The Razorbacks have been close to breaking through in 2014, losing by seven to Texas A&M and by one to Alabama. A tough schedule may prevent a bowl appearance, but coach Bret Bielema gets a win in SEC play this year, setting up Arkansas to take another step forward in 2015.

7. Clemson Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris is Hired as a Head Coach
Morris is one of the nation’s top assistant coaches, and he’s ready for his chance to run a program. The Texas native has worked as an assistant on the FBS level since 2010, with the last four years coming at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. Considering his ties in the state of Texas, SMU or Tulsa (if Bill Blankenship doesn’t return) would be a good landing spot for Morris.

 

8. East Carolina Represents the Group of 5 in New Year’s Bowls
With wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech, East Carolina has the best resume from a Group of 5 school for a spot in college football’s top bowl games. The bigger question: Could East Carolina lose a game in conference play and still get the bid? An undefeated Marshall is in the mix, but strength of schedule is not on the Thundering Herd’s side.

9. One SEC Job Will Open This Offseason
Florida is the job most likely vacancy, but would Dan Mullen leave Mississippi State for Michigan or to replace Will Muschamp in Gainesville? How about Les Miles if Michigan is open? The guess here is the SEC will have at least one new coach in 2014.

 

10. SMU Finishes 0-12
The Mustangs are 0-5 entering Week 8 and still have to play Cincinnati, Memphis, UCF and Houston. Games against UConn, Tulsa and USF are more manageable, but SMU has just four offensive touchdowns all year and has been outscored 247-36 this year. Interim coach Tom Mason has a tough assignment to guide this team to a win in the second half of 2014.

 

11. Three Big Ten Running Backs Earn All-America Honors
Three of the nation’s top four leading rushers (yards per game) hail from the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon has 1,046 yards and 13 scores through six games, while Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah has 878 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. But the player no one is talking about – Indiana’s Tevin Coleman – leads the nation by averaging 176.7 yards per game. All three running backs will earn All-America honors in December.

12. Georgia Wins the SEC East…With or Without Todd Gurley
Georgia took a step forward in the SEC East title race with a 34-0 win over Missouri last Saturday. The convincing win over the Tigers came without running back Todd Gurley, and the junior’s status for the rest of the year is uncertain due to an investigation into violation of NCAA rules. Regardless of whether or not Gurley returns won’t matter: Georgia will win the East Division. The Bulldogs still have to play Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas, but Georgia is the best team in the division and will find a way to get to Atlanta.

13. Miami Finishes 7-5
Miami is still looking for its first appearance in the ACC Championship game. And barring a sweep of the remaining schedule, the Hurricanes will have to wait another year to play in the conference title game. Miami is 4-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play after Week 7, and Al Golden’s team still has to play Florida State, Virginia Tech and Virginia. Road trips to Tallahassee and Blacksburg result in losses, leaving Miami a disappointing 7-5 before the bowl season.

14. The SEC West Champ Has One Loss
The SEC’s West Division is the best in college football. Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Alabama all rank as top 10 teams following Week 7, and the depth extends to talented teams like Texas A&M and LSU, along with an improving Arkansas’ squad in Bret Bielema’s second year. Even though Mississippi State and Ole Miss are unbeaten in conference play after three games, it’s tough to envision both making it through the regular season without a loss. The West Division is simply too tough for the champion of the division to make it through without a loss.

15. Virginia Tech Emerges to Win Coastal Division
Good luck sorting out the Coastal Division at the midpoint of the 2014 season. Virginia and Georgia Tech – two teams picked near the bottom of the Coastal – are at the top, and North Carolina and Miami are a combined 1-4 in conference play. No team is going to go through the Coastal with an unbeaten record, and it’s unlikely one loss wins the division. But after sorting out the schedules for the rest of the way, it’s apparent Virginia Tech has a good shot to rebound and win the division. The Hokies play two of their toughest games – Miami and Virginia – at home and catch Wake Forest (the ACC’s worst team) in crossover play.

16. Washington State QB Connor Halliday Falls Short of Single-Season Yardage Record
After seven games, Halliday has 3,344 passing yards. To break the NCAA single-season record held by Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons (5,833 yards), Halliday needs to average at 498 yards per game over his final five contests. With Washington State at 2-5, it’s unlikely Halliday will get an opportunity to play in a bowl this year. Averaging 498 yards per game isn’t out of the question, especially since Halliday has three 500-yard games in 2014. The guess here is Halliday surpasses 5,000 yards but falls short of Symons’ record.

17. Michigan Finishes With a Losing Record
At 3-4 through seven weeks, Michigan needs three wins over its final five games to make a bowl. With trips (and likely losses) to Ohio State and Michigan State ahead, that leaves the Wolverines with no margin for error in their other three games. Assuming Michigan loses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes, it has to sweep these matchups: Indiana, at Northwestern and Maryland. It’s not out of the question, but Michigan needs major improvement from its offense to sweep that stretch.

18. One Mississippi School Makes the Playoff
Take your pick: Mississippi State or Ole Miss will make the college football playoff. Expect Alabama to improve over the second half of the season, and if that happens, the Crimson Tide will be the biggest obstacle to the Rebels and Bulldogs in the division. And of course, it’s also too early to discount Auburn and its explosive offense from making a run at a playoff spot. But the guess here is at least one team from the SEC makes the playoff – with one coming from the Magnolia State. 

19. Marshall Doesn’t Lose a Game in 2014
Unless Marshall gets the spot from the Group of 5 in one of the New Year’s Day bowls, the Thundering Herd should go 14-0. Check out the remaining schedule for Doc Holliday’s team: at FIU, FAU, at Southern Miss, Rice, at UAB and Western Kentucky. Assuming Marshall wins the East Division, it will play in the C-USA Championship and should be a heavy favorite over the West Division champ. Unless there’s a switch in bowl tie-ins to get Marshall in a higher-profile spot, the Thundering Herd won’t have a major obstacle in C-USA’s designated bowls to an unbeaten record.

20. The Heisman Winner is…
Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. But Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is a close second. This year’s race is close, and with both teams likely to lose a game before the year ends, this battle will go down to the final week. Oregon still has to play Stanford’s rugged defense, while Mississippi State has a favorable stretch of games before playing Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. The late-November matchups against the Crimson Tide and Rebels are a good opportunity for Prescott to build his Heisman resume. If Mariota or Prescott doesn't win the award, keep an eye on Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon.

Teaser:
20 Predictions for the Second Half of College Football's 2014 Season
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-2014-midseason-awards-and-recap
Body:

The first half of the 2014 college football season is officially in the books. And at the midpoint of 2014, it’s time to look back at the first seven weeks, examine preseason predictions and take a glimpse at what the second half of the season has to offer.

With half of a season still to go, plenty of changes, surprises and disappointments should be expected this year.

Mississippi State ranks as the No. 1 team in Athlon’s projected playoff poll after seven weeks, but will the Bulldogs remain at the top in December? Quarterback Dak Prescott and coach Dan Mullen are big winners in our midseason awards, and both should have a strong case at the end of the year for some of the year’s end-of-season awards in December.

As the second half of the season gets underway, let’s take a look back at some of the top players, coaches and freshmen from Weeks 1-7. 


Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions:
ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SEC


2014 College Football First-Half Awards

 

Coach of the Year: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mississippi State is a tough SEC job, and Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to four consecutive bowl appearances and winning seasons. But the 2014 edition of Mississippi State is poised to be Mullen’s best team. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 after beating Auburn and are one of the top contenders for a spot in college football’s four-team playoff.

2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
3. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
4. Gary Patterson, TCU
5. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
 

Best Assistant Coach Hire of Offseason: Doug Meacham/Sonny Cumbie, OC, TCU
TCU’s offense was in need of a spark after averaging just 20.9 points per game in Big 12 play last year. Meacham was hired from Houston to call the plays, while Cumbie joined the staff under the shared co-offensive coordinator tag. The duo has helped the Horned Frogs average 47.5 points per game in two Big 12 contests. Also, quarterback Trevone Boykin is one of the nation’s most-improved players.


2. Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

3. Todd Grantham, Defensive Coordinator, Louisville

4. Lance Anderson, Defensive Coordinator, Stanford
5. Ralph Friedgen, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers

Best First-Year Coach: Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern is transitioning to the FBS level, but the Eagles are 4-0 in Sun Belt play and 5-2 overall. The only two losses suffered by Georgia Southern this season came against NC State (one point) and Georgia Tech (four points). Fritz has a strong track record of success, and he’s already making an impact in his first season in Statesboro.   

2. Bill Clark, UAB
3. Chris Petersen, Washington
4. Dino Babers, Bowling Green
5. Charlie Strong, Texas

Offensive Player of the Year: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott’s emergence is a big reason why Mississippi State is ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation. The junior finished 2013 by recording at least 300 total yards in four out of his last five games. And so far, Prescott has picked up where he left off and then some. He’s averaging 342.3 yards per game and has accounted for 22 total scores. The junior also recorded at least three touchdowns in each of his last three SEC games.

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
5. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
6. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
7. Amari Cooper, WR, Baylor

Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Washington’s defense has a handful of standouts, but Thompson has made the biggest impact in 2014. The junior ranks second on the team with 46 tackles (two for a loss), has recorded one sack and one interception this year and forced three fumbles. Those stats are more than enough to get Thompson in consideration for a spot among the top five defensive players at the midway point, but the junior has scored four touchdowns on defense this year and took one of his nine carries on offense for a score. Thompson’s five touchdowns are more than SMU’s offense has scored all season (four) in five games.


2. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
3. Leonard Williams, DE, USC
4. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
5. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

 

Best True Freshman: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett has been one of the bright spots on a struggling Texas A&M defense. The freshman has recorded 33 tackles (nine for a loss) and 7.5 sacks through seven games. Garrett is just one sack away from breaking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s record for most sacks as a freshman in the SEC. Garrett was one of the top prospects in the 2014 signing class and has lived up to the hype. Expect to hear more from the Texas native over the next couple of seasons.

 

2. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

3. KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

4. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
5. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
6. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

Best Redshirt Freshman: Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
Solomon’s emergence is a big reason why Arizona is squarely in the mix to win the Pac-12 South this year. The redshirt freshman has passed for 2,136 yards and 15 touchdowns through six games, guiding Rich Rodriguez’s high-powered offense to an average of 37.5 points per game.

2. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
3. Devon Allen, WR, Oregon
4. Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers
5. DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
 

Biggest Surprise (Team): Mississippi State

It’s no surprise Mississippi State is ranked and in the top 25. But it’s a surprise the Bulldogs have improved from finishing 7-6 last year to a potential spot in college football’s playoff. Mississippi State still has to navigate a schedule that features road games at Alabama and Ole Miss, but this team ranks No. 1 after seven weeks, has a Heisman contender in quarterback Dak Prescott, along with a defense that leads the SEC in red zone defense. If there were any doubts regarding the coaching ability of Dan Mullen, they should be answered after this season.
 

2. Kentucky

3. Arizona

4. TCU

5. California

 

Biggest Disappointment (Team): North Carolina
Miami is a possibility for this spot, but North Carolina gets the nod after a 2-4 overall and 0-2 start in ACC play. The Tar Heels were not impressive in season-opening wins over Liberty and San Diego State and have dropped four in a row since. North Carolina lost three of its four games by 15 points or more but played well in a 50-43 defeat to Notre Dame on Saturday. Problems on both sides of the ball have contributed to the 2-4 start, as the Tar Heels are allowing 6.2 yards per play on defense, and the offense has lost 12 turnovers and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in ACC games. Youth has attributed to a chunk of North Carolina’s problems, especially on the defensive side and on the offensive line. The young talent is promising for 2015 and beyond, but the thoughts of North Carolina contending for a division title in 2014 were probably premature. 

 

2. Michigan

3. South Carolina

4. Florida

5. UCLA
 

Heisman Frontrunner: Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott has emerged in a wide-open race as the clear frontrunner exiting Week 7. Georgia running back Todd Gurley was the favorite prior to his suspension, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota dipped in the rankings after the loss to Arizona. Prescott is a big reason why Mississippi State has climbed to No. 1 in the nation, as he engineers an offense averaging 6.9 yards per play this season.

 

2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

4. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

5. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

 

Coach on the Hot Seat: Will Muschamp, Florida
Time is running out for Muschamp in Gainesville. Florida’s offense ranks near the bottom of the SEC once again (4.5 yards per play), and the Gators are 3-2 after five games, with matchups remaining against Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State. Getting back to a bowl is a priority for Muschamp, and that’s no guarantee with the Gators’ remaining schedule.

 

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan

3. Tim Beckman, Illinois

4. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa

5. Norm Chow, Hawaii


Best Conference: SEC

2. Pac-12
3. Big 12
4. Big Ten
5. ACC
6. American Athletic
7. Mountain West
8. C-USA
9. MAC
10. Sun Belt

Breakout Player: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
A healthy Clint Trickett at quarterback has been a huge boost to West Virginia’s offense, and as a result, White has benefited with a monster start to 2014. Through six games, White has 61 receptions for 888 yards and five touchdowns. White has reached 100 yards in every game this year, including 173 yards on 10 receptions against Oklahoma. Just how good are White’s numbers? Last year, he had 35 catches for 507 yards and five scores in 11 games.

2. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri
3. Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado
4. Jared Goff, QB, California
5. Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

Most-Improved Player: Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Boykin has thrived in TCU’s new up-tempo, spread attack this season. The junior has also benefited from the addition of new co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, and Boykin has thrown for 1,463 yards and 11 touchdowns through five games. Boykin also has 305 rushing yards and three scores this year. The emergence of Boykin is a big reason why TCU has a chance to win the Big 12 and push for a spot in one of college football’s top bowl games this year.

2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
3. Clint Trickett, QB, West Virginia
4. Jared Goff, QB, California
5. Nate Orchard, DE, Utah

Head Coach on the Rise: Jim McElwain, Colorado State

After a 4-8 record in his first year at Colorado State, McElwain is 13-7 in his last 20 games. The Rams had their first winning record since 2008 by finishing 8-6 with a victory over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl. Despite losing four starters on the offensive line and standout running back Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State is off to a 5-1 start and recorded wins over Power 5 opponents Colorado and Boston College in non-conference play.

2. Justin Fuente, Memphis
3. Matt Wells, Utah State
4. Matt Rhule, Temple

5. Bill Clark, UAB
 

10 Must-See Games for the Second Half
 

Auburn at Ole Miss (Nov. 1)

Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)

Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)

Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)

Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 15)

Mississippi State at Alabama (Nov. 15)

USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)

Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 29)

Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 29)

Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

Teaser:
College Football 2014 Midseason Awards and Recap
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 15:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-unveils-throwback-uniforms-saturdays-game-against-washington
Body:

The Oregon-Washington matchup on Saturday is one of the top games for Week 8. The Northwest rivalry has plenty of intrigue, and the Ducks plan to go retro with their uniforms on Saturday.

Oregon is wearing throwback uniforms from 1994, which mark a critical moment in the program’s history. In 1994, cornerback Kenny Wheaton intercepted a pass from Washington quarterback Damon Huard and returned it for a touchdown, helping the Ducks reach the Rose Bowl.

Here’s a look at Oregon’s retro uniforms for Saturday’s game:

Teaser:
Oregon Unveils Throwback Uniforms Saturday's Game Against Washington
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 14:07
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-7-bowl-projections-2014
Body:

With seven weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is surrounded in uncertainty.

 

The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.

 

While only seven weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 7 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first five weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks, especially as the heart of conference play arrives in October.

 

Teams just missing the projections: USF, Northwestern, Western Kentucky, North Texas, San Diego State, Texas State, Ohio and ULM. Remember: It’s only Week 7. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.

 

College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

BowlDateTie-InProjection
New OrleansDec. 20Sun Belt vs. 
Mountain West
 UL Lafayette vs.
Air Force 
New MexicoDec. 20C-USA vs. 
Mountain West
 Louisiana Tech vs.
Utah State 
Las VegasDec. 20Mountain West vs.
Pac-12
 Boise State vs.
Arizona State 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 20MAC vs.
Mountain West
 Northern Illinois vs.
Nevada 
CamelliaDec. 20MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Akron vs.
Arkansas State 
Miami BeachDec. 22American vs.
BYU
 Cincinnati vs.
BYU 
Boca RatonDec. 23C-USA vs.
MAC
UAB vs.
Central Michigan 
PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
Navy
 Colorado State vs.
Navy 
BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs.
MAC
 Marshall vs.
Toledo 
HawaiiDec. 24C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 MTSU vs.
Fresno State 
Heart of DallasDec. 26Big Ten vs.
C-USA
Maryland vs.
Rice 
Quick LaneDec. 26ACC vs. 
Big Ten
 Boston College vs.
Rutgers 
Bitcoin St. PetersburgDec. 26ACC vs. 
American
 Pittsburgh vs.
UCF 
MilitaryDec. 27ACC vs.
American

 Virginia vs.
Temple 

SunDec. 27ACC vs. 
Pac-12
 Miami vs.
Arizona 
IndependenceDec. 27ACC vs.
SEC
 NC State vs.
Arkansas 
PinstripeDec. 27ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Duke vs.
Penn State 
HolidayDec. 27Big Ten vs.
Pac-12
 Nebraska vs.
USC 
LibertyDec. 29SEC vs. 
Big 12
 Tennessee vs.
Oklahoma State 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC vs.
Big 12
 Virginia Tech vs.
Kansas State 
TexasDec. 29Big 12 vs.
SEC
 West Virginia vs.
LSU 
Music CityDec. 30ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Iowa vs.
Kentucky 
BelkDec. 30ACC vs.
SEC
 Louisville vs.
South Carolina 
San FranciscoDec. 30Big Ten vs.
Pac-12

 Minnesota vs.
UCLA 

OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Wisconsin vs.
Missouri 
CitrusJan. 1Big Ten/ACC vs.
SEC
 Ohio State vs.
Georgia 
Armed ForcesJan. 2American/Army vs.
Big 12
 Houston vs.
Utah 
TaxslayerJan. 2ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC
 Georgia Tech vs.
Texas A&M 
AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
Pac-12
 TCU vs.
Stanford 
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
Pac-12
 Texas vs.
Washington 
BirminghamJan. 3American vs. 
SEC
 Memphis vs.
Florida 
GoDaddyJan. 4MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Bowling Green vs.
South Alabama 
    
New Year's Bowls
PeachDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 East Carolina vs.
Auburn 
FiestaDec. 31At-large vs.
At-large
 Oregon vs.
Alabama 
Capital One
Orange
Dec. 31ACC vs.
Big Ten/SEC/ND
 Clemson vs.
Notre Dame 
CottonJan. 1At-large vs.
At-large
 Michigan State vs.
Oklahoma 
    
Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 7
RoseJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Florida State vs.
Ole Miss 
SugarJan. 1Playoff
Semifinal
 Mississippi State vs.
Baylor 
National TitleJan. 12Semifinal Winner vs.
Semifinal Winner
 Mississippi State vs.
Florida State 

 

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections 2014
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-7-playoff-projection-2014
Body:

The new college football playoff format has added even more intrigue to the 2014 season. Instead of figuring out the top two teams in early December, the focus has shifted to finding four teams to play in the first FBS postseason playoff format.

 

To help select the four playoff teams, a 13-person committee was picked, which includes names like Barry Alvarez, Oliver Luck, Pat Haden and Jeff Long, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former coach Tyrone Willingham.

 

Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. The official playoff committee will release its rankings starting on Oct. 28, but this poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.

 

Expert Panel

 

Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports

Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
 

Post-Week 7 Playoff Projection

RankTeam12345678Total
1Mississippi State 165000000163
2Ole Miss 281010000137
3Florida State 37830000136
4Baylor 013115001101
5Notre Dame 0005931173
6Auburn 00013122158
7Oregon 0000063630
8Alabama 0000207426
9Michigan State 0000203317
10TCU 000000237
11Ohio State 000000204
12Oklahoma 000000113
13Georgia 000000011

Takeaways from Expert Poll Results


* Mississippi State recorded 16 of the 21 first-place votes.

* Florida State ranked second with three-first place votes, but Ole Miss edged the Seminoles for the No. 2 spot in the rankings due to eight second-place votes and 10 third-place votes.

* For the third consecutive week, the voting panel has identified a clear top four: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida State and Baylor.

* Notre Dame is a distant No. 5 to Baylor, and the Fighting Irish are just 15 points ahead of a one-loss team (Auburn).

* Oregon is the only Pac-12 team receiving consideration in the post-Week 7 poll. The Ducks rank No. 7 after defeating UCLA 42-30.

* The SEC has five teams receiving consideration in this week’s expert poll. The Big 12 ranks second with three teams receiving votes.

* Through three committee votes, Florida State is the only team to rank among the top four teams in each poll.


Group of 5 Rankings


(One team from the Group of 5 conferences - American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt - will play in one of college football's premier (New Year's Bowls) each season.

1. East Carolina
Record:
5-1

The Pirates started slow but pulled away from USF for a 28-17 win. East Carolina is the clear favorite for the top spot from the Group of Five teams, but this team will be tested in early November with road trips to Temple and Cincinnati.

2. Marshall
Record:
6-0

Another week, another blowout victory for Marshall. The Thundering Herd defeated MTSU 49-24 to improve to 6-0. Strength of schedule is the biggest obstacle for Doc Holliday’s team, and barring a loss by East Carolina, Marshall is probably on the outside for the Group of 5 spot. November games against Rice and at UAB are the Thundering Herd’s biggest remaining challenges.

3. Boise State
Record:
4-2

Boise State had a bye in Week 7 and returns to action on Friday night against Fresno State. The Broncos will have a chance to improve their standing in this ranking in the second half of the season, as games against BYU and Utah State are opportunities for good wins.

4. Colorado State
Record:
5-1

The Rams survived a late rally by Nevada to win 31-24. Jim McElwain’s team has won four in a row since losing to Boise State and hosts Utah State in a key Mountain West showdown this Saturday.

5. Utah State
Record:
4-2

The Aggies make their first appearance of the year in the Group of 5 rankings thanks to a 34-16 win over Air Force in Week 7. Utah State could move up these rankings with a win over Colorado State on Saturday.


Key Games With Playoff Implications in Week 8


Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (Thursday)
7:30 p.m. ET


Each Virginia Tech win helps to bolster East Carolina’s resume for the top spot in the Group of 5 rankings. This is also a key game for the Coastal Division.

Baylor at West Virginia
Noon ET, Fox Sports 1


Two years ago, these teams accounted for 133 points in Morgantown. Expect more fireworks once again this Saturday, as Baylor hopes to avoid a letdown in a tough road environment. 

Kansas State at Oklahoma
Noon ET, ESPN


Oklahoma needs a win to keep within distance of TCU and Baylor in the Big 12. With a win over the Sooners, Kansas State has a chance to move into consideration for the top spot in the league.

Texas A&M at Alabama
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS


Back-to-back losses have knocked Texas A&M out of the SEC West title picture, and the schedule won’t get easier with a trip to Tuscaloosa. Alabama struggled in last week’s 14-13 win over Arkansas. Can the Crimson Tide offense get back on track?

Georgia at Arkansas
4 p.m. ET, SEC Network


The Razorbacks are close to a breakthrough win in SEC play under second-year coach Bret Bielema. Can Arkansas play spoiler this Saturday? Or will Georgia continue to survive without running back Todd Gurley?

Oklahoma State at TCU
4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1


The Cowboys are quietly 5-1, but this team hasn’t faced a quality opponent since the opener against Florida State. TCU is looking to rebound after blowing a 58-37 lead against Baylor in Week 7.

Missouri at Florida
7 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Neither team is in contention for a spot in college football’s playoff, but this is a critical game for positioning in the SEC East.

Notre Dame at Florida State
8 p.m. ET, ABC


Were the Fighting Irish looking ahead in last week’s sluggish performance against North Carolina? Florida State has yet to play its best game in 2014, and with the young talent on both sides of the ball, this team can get better as the season progresses.

Washington at Oregon
8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1


Will Oregon’s offensive line contain an aggressive Washington front seven? The Huskies have a chance to get a marquee win under first-year coach Chris Petersen.

Stanford at Arizona State
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


Arizona State won’t have Taylor Kelly, but Mike Bercovici is a capable quarterback. Stanford’s offense is still a work in progress, but the defense is one of the best in the nation.

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 7 Playoff Projection 2014
Post date: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2014 season, familiarity reigns in the ACC. Florida State is clearly the No. 1 team in the league, and uncertainty overshadows the Coastal Division.

The Seminoles are likely to be favored by at least 10 points in every game the rest of the way and should be a heavy favorite over the Coastal Division champion in Charlotte. Barring an upset loss, Florida State will be one of the four teams in college football’s inaugural playoff.

Clemson is the ACC’s No. 2 team, but the Tigers suffered a setback with a hand injury to quarterback Deshaun Watson in Saturday’s win over Louisville. The talented true freshman will miss a couple of games but could return by early November. Assuming Florida State makes the playoff, Clemson – assuming it wins out or finishes 9-3 – would be the favorite to take the Seminoles’ spot in the Orange Bowl.

 

While there’s clarity on the Atlantic side, the Coastal is anyone’s guess. Virginia was projected by most to finish last in the Coastal this year. But the Cavaliers are 2-0 and sit atop the Coastal with six conference games remaining. Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh all have one loss in ACC play after Week 7. Miami and North Carolina – two preseason favorites – are in the basement with two conference losses.

Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

2014 ACC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions


Coach of the Year: Mike London, Virginia

London was squarely on the hot seat entering this season, but the fifth-year coach has the Cavaliers in the mix for the Coastal Division title at the midpoint of 2014. Virginia is 4-2 overall, and at 2-0 in conference play, is the only unbeaten team left in the Coastal. The Cavaliers still have to play Duke, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, but London has the program on the right track and poised to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

Newcomer of the Year: Tyler Murphy, QB, Boston College
Tough call for this award at the midway point. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya, NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, Virginia safety Quin Blanding and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson all deserve a mention, but Murphy gets the award after six games. The Florida transfer has thrived in Boston College’s run-first offense, averaging 118.5 rushing yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry. Murphy ranks third in the ACC in rushing yards (711). The senior is a work in progress as a passer (3 TDs, 6 INTs), but his emergence is a big reason why Boston College is on track to earn another bowl appearance in coach Steve Addazio’s second year.

Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Yes, Winston missed a game due to suspension, but he’s clearly the best player in the conference. With a struggling offensive line and rushing attack, the sophomore has even more of the offensive load on his shoulders, and Winston has responded with a strong first half. The sophomore is completing 70 percent of his passes (three points higher than 2013), has passed for 1,605 yards and 11 scores. Winston has completed at least 62 percent of his passes in four out of the five games he’s played in, and threw for 370 yards in the opener against Oklahoma State. And Winston’s passing numbers are even more impressive when you consider Florida State had to replace two of its top four receivers from last year.    

Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Beasley entered 2014 as one of the top defensive players in the nation, and the senior has picked up where he left off. In six games, Beasley has 15 tackles – nine for a loss – recorded eight sacks, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. Beasley’s eight sacks rank third nationally, and the senior has recorded at least one in every game this year. One of Beasley’s best games of 2014 took place in Tallahassee, as he recorded two sacks and two tackles for a loss against Florida State’s veteran offensive line.

Midseason Disappointment: North Carolina
Miami is a possibility for this spot, but North Carolina gets the nod after a 2-4 overall and 0-2 start in ACC play. The Tar Heels were not impressive in season-opening wins over Liberty and San Diego State and have dropped four in a row since. North Carolina lost three of its four games by 15 points or more but played well in a 50-43 defeat to Notre Dame on Saturday. Problems on both sides of the ball have contributed to the 2-4 start, as the Tar Heels are allowing 6.2 yards per play on defense, and the offense has lost 12 turnovers and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in ACC games. Youth has attributed to a chunk of North Carolina’s problems, especially on the defensive side and on the offensive line. The young talent is promising for 2015 and beyond, but the thoughts of North Carolina contending for a division title in 2014 were probably premature.  

Midseason Surprise: Georgia Tech/Virginia 
As we mentioned earlier, the Coastal Division favorite is anyone’s guess. Virginia is the only undefeated team in conference play, but the Cavaliers’ schedule will increase in difficulty over the next two months with a trip to Tallahassee to play Florida State, along with a road date at Virginia Tech in the finale. Virginia was considered the easy pick for No. 7 in the Coastal this preseason, but the Cavaliers are in the mix to win the division behind a stellar defense. Georgia Tech also entered 2014 with uncertainty, and coach Paul Johnson was on the hot seat after a 7-6 mark in 2013. The Yellow Jackets have jumped out to a 5-1 start this year and have already played Miami, Virginia Tech and Duke. The Coastal Division is unpredictable, and even though Georgia Tech and Virginia are flawed teams, both have emerged as frontrunners after being picked near the bottom in the preseason.

 

Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:



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Three Things to Watch in Second Half 

1. Florida State’s Repeat Bid
The Seminoles have dropped in the polls due to the emergence of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but Florida State is still a heavy favorite to make college football’s playoff. The path to another unbeaten season is favorable, especially if the Seminoles can navigate their next two games: Notre Dame and at Louisville. Finishing with an unbeaten record in back-to-back years is not easy, but Florida State has the talent and personnel to win it all once again. Quarterback Jameis Winston is getting more comfortable with his revamped receiving corps, and the offensive line – tagged as one of the best in the nation this preseason – can play better. On defense, the Seminoles are young and still adapting to new coordinator Charles Kelly. This unit should improve over the course of the season, especially if young players like defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi and end Lorenzo Featherston continue to emerge as options on the defensive line. Additionally, the return of linebacker Matthew Thomas should help bolster Florida State’s front seven.

2. The Coastal Division
Good luck picking a frontrunner. Is it Virginia? Georgia Tech? Miami? Virginia Tech? Pittsburgh? Duke? You get the picture. North Carolina is 0-2 and probably the biggest longshot of winning the Coastal, but any of the six teams ahead of the Tar Heels in the standings have a chance to win. This should be an entertaining race over the next half of the season, and a 5-3 record might be enough to win the division.

3. Development of Young QBs
While Florida State’s quest for a repeat and the Coastal Division are intriguing national storylines, the development of young quarterbacks in the conference is something to watch over the second half. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is out a couple of weeks due to a hand injury, but the freshman was off to an impressive debut. Will Louisville find an answer between Will Gardner or Reggie Bonnafon under center? NC State’s Jacoby Brissett played well against Florida State but struggled against Clemson and Boston College. Can Brissett work his way back into the mix for All-ACC honors? And with Terrel Hunt sidelined, keep an eye on true freshman A.J. Long at Syracuse. On the Coastal side, Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer and Pittsburgh’s Chad Voytik are all quarterbacks with an opportunity to develop over the second half of the season. There’s a lot of quarterback uncertainty in the conference after Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Which passers will emerge in the final half of the season?

Top Five Games in Second Half
 

 

1. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)
Two of college football’s top programs meet in Tallahassee for the first time since 2002. And it’s a battle of two of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Notre Dame’s Everett Golson. No shortage of intrigue in Doak Campbell Stadium on Oct. 18.

2. Florida State at Miami (Nov. 15)

What was once a great rivalry has been a one-sided affair in recent years. Florida State has won four in a row over Miami, including a 41-14 blowout against the Hurricanes last year. This could be a critical spot for Miami coach Al Golden, as he needs to have a good showing against the No. 1 team in the ACC.

3. Georgia Tech at Clemson (Nov. 15)

This rivalry has produced a few entertaining matchups and high-scoring affairs. Last year’s game alone produced 86 points and Clemson has won three out of the last four in this series. This game could be a critical one for Georgia Tech’s Coastal Division title hopes.

4. Virginia Tech at Duke (Nov. 15)
Could this game decide the Coastal Division? The Hokies lost 13-10 to Duke last year, but Virginia Tech won the previous 12 games in this series.


5. Virginia at Virginia Tech (Nov. 28)
The Commonwealth Cup is on the line, but this game also could have ACC title implications. Virginia Tech has won 10 in a row over its in-state rival.
 

Next up: Florida State at Louisville (Oct. 30), Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29), Miami at Virginia Tech (Oct. 23), Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 29)


Projecting the Final 2014 ACC Standings
 David
Fox
Braden
Gall
Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
Atlantic    
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
 David 
Fox
Braden
Gall
Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
Coastal    
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
ACC
Champ:

 

 

Teaser:
ACC 2014 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Post date: Monday, October 13, 2014 - 15:00
Path: /college-football/washingtons-offense-shows-progress-critical-showdown-against-oregon-next
Body:

Washington’s Pac-12 North title hopes took a hit after the 20-13 loss to Stanford on Sept. 27, but there’s renewed optimism about Chris Petersen’s team after a 31-7 win over California.

The 31-7 victory over the Golden Bears could be Washington’s best all-around performance from 2014. Sure, California is still progressing under second-year coach Sonny Dykes and finished 1-11 last year, but the Huskies were an underdog entering Saturday’s matchup.

Washington’s offense struggled mightily against Stanford, averaging just 2.6 yards per play and finishing with just 98 passing yards. California’s defense isn’t one of the best in the Pac-12, but the Huskies showed signs of life on Saturday. The 5.7 yards per play (just 67 plays) mark against the Golden Bears is the third-highest total of the season. That may seem like a small feat, but the highest totals came against Eastern Washington and Illinois.

Quarterback Cyler Miles benefited from the bye week and responded with his best effort of the season. Again, California’s defense isn’t one of the best in the Pac-12 and was dealing with injuries to a couple of key players, but Miles threw for a season-high 273 yards and added three scores. The sophomore also recorded a solid 12.4 yards per completion mark and did not throw an interception for the fifth consecutive game.

The offensive line gave up four sacks in the loss to Stanford but allowed Miles to be sacked just twice on 29 pass attempts. And the line’s solid play translated to the rushing attack as running backs Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington each averaged 4.4 yards per carry.

Washington’s offense is far from a finished product, but the performance against California is a good sign before a key stretch on the 2014 schedule. And a timely one.

The Huskies are still in the mix for the North Division title but need a win over Oregon this Saturday to stake their claim in the race.

After Saturday’s game against the Ducks, Washington hosts Arizona State, followed by a road date against Colorado, a home matchup against UCLA and then game at Arizona.

There are simply no breaks in the Pac-12 schedule, and a two-loss team likely wins the conference title.

Washington’s defense is already one of the best in the conference. Did its offense turn a corner in Saturday’s win over California? Perhaps. But a better gauge of where the Huskies stand in Petersen’s first year is coming next Saturday with a trip to Eugene. California was a positive step. Now, let's see if Washington's offense takes a big step forward against the Ducks. 

Teaser:
Washington's Offense Shows Progress With Critical Showdown Against Oregon Up Next
Post date: Monday, October 13, 2014 - 10:00

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