Articles By Steven Lassan
While most of the nation was watching the Big Ten stumble, the ACC was quietly putting together a solid resume from Week 2.
Florida State rolled to an easy win over Citadel, Clemson demolished South Carolina State, while Louisville and Duke also scored relatively easy non-conference victories.
However, the highlight of the weekend comes from Virginia Tech. The Hokies upset Ohio State in Columbus, emerging as the clear No. 1 team in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech's offense seems to be taking a step forward in coordinator Scot Loeffler's second year, and the defense continues to be one of the best in the nation.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 2
Virginia Tech is the Team to Beat in the Coastal Division
Yes, only two games for the Coastal teams are in the books, but Virginia Tech is the No. 1 team in the division. And is it really close at this point? The Hokies defeated Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus to move to 2-0. Virginia Tech’s offense was the biggest question mark heading into the season, but coordinator Scot Loeffler has this unit on the right track. Sure, the Hokies averaged only 4.2 yards per play, but quarterback Michael Brewer threw for 199 yards on 23 completions and appears to be in control of the offense. The rushing attack recorded just 121 yards against a stout Ohio State defensive line. However, talented running backs Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie will improve. And of course, Virginia Tech’s defense will carry this team in most of its games. The Hokies held Ohio State to just 2.7 yards per carry and intercepted quarterback J.T. Barrett three times. Coordinator Bud Foster’s defense recorded 11 tackles for a loss and seven sacks against the Buckeyes. The Coastal Division was impossible to predict in the preseason. But the favorite – for now – is clearly Virginia Tech.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
If the Hokies are No. 1 in the Coastal…Pittsburgh is No. 2?
The Coastal Division was one of the toughest to project this preseason. We have to be cautious to not overreact to just two games, but Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh appear to be the top two teams so far. The Panthers picked up a key road conference win in Week 2, defeating Boston College 30-20 on Friday night. Pittsburgh’s offense averaged 5.9 yards per play behind running back James Conner’s 213 yards. Replacing tackle Aaron Donald is a mammoth challenge for this defense, but the Panthers limited the Eagles to 4.5 yards per play and sacked quarterback Tyler Murphy four times. Duke, North Carolina, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia will all have something to say about the Coastal race. However, it’s easy to believe in Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh after two solid performances to open the year.
Florida State’s Bye Week Comes at a Good Time
The timing of bye weeks is an underrated element to any schedule, and Florida State’s Week 3 off date comes at the right time. In Saturday’s efficient 37-12 win over Citadel, the Seminoles watched a couple of key defenders suffer injuries. Defensive tackles Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Justin Shanks were injured in the victory and have two weeks to prepare for a key ACC showdown against Clemson. Outside of getting the defensive tackles healthy, Florida State can use the bye week to get its new receivers acclimated to working with quarterback Jameis Winston. Tight end Nick O’Leary led the team with five catches against Citadel, and freshman Ermon Lane stepped up with three catches for 37 yards. Winston certainly has talent on the outside, but the offense needs time to transition with the new playmakers in the receiving corps. The Seminoles haven’t played their best game this season, but with two weeks to prepare for the Tigers, it’s a safe bet we will see a better effort for Jimbo Fisher’s team on Sept. 20.
North Carolina is a Work In Progress
Despite the 2-0 start, the Tar Heels still have a lot of work to do in order to contend for the Coastal Division crown. Larry Fedora’s team has needed second-half comebacks to beat Liberty and San Diego State and ranks No. 13 in the ACC in most yards allowed per play (5.8) by a defense. North Carolina has also lost five turnovers (T-102 nationally) and allowed 28 points per game through two contests. Sure, it’s early, and the Tar Heels have 10 games to improve. However, some of the preseason concerns about this team remain. Can North Carolina take a step forward on defense? San Diego State averaged 6.9 yards per play on Saturday, the first time an opponent managed more than 5.6 against this defense since Oct. 17, 2013 against Miami. Can the offensive line improve if Landon Turner is out for a significant amount of time? Fedora has the Tar Heels trending in the right direction. However, UNC has a lot of room to improve before challenging for the Coastal title.
ACC Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 3|
|1||2-0||W, 37-12, Citadel||Bye Week|
|2||2-0||W, 35-21, Ohio State||East Carolina|
|3||1-1||W, 73-7, S.C. State||Bye Week|
|4||2-0||W, 66-21, Murray State||at Virginia|
|5||2-0||W, 30-20, BC||at FIU|
|6||2-0||W, 34-17, Troy||Kansas|
|7||2-0||W, 31-27, SDSU||Bye Week|
|8||1-1||W, 41-7, FAMU||Arkansas State|
|9||1-1||W, 45-13, Richmond||Louisville|
|10||2-0||W, 38-21, Tulane||Georgia Southern|
|11||1-1||L, 30-20, Pittsburgh||USC|
|12||1-0||Bye Week||at Central Michigan|
|13||2-0||W, 46-34, ODU||at USF|
|14||1-1||W, 23-7, Gardner-Webb||at Utah State|
The Big 12’s Week 2 slate was light, but there was plenty of intrigue around the league.
Oklahoma easily handled in-state foe Tulsa, defeating the Golden Hurricane 52-7 to improve to 2-0. And in other easy victories: West Virginia trounced Towson 54-0 and Baylor gashed Northwestern State 70-6.
Charlie Strong’s debut at Texas resulted in a blowout victory over North Texas, but the Longhorns lost 41-7 to BYU in Week 2. With three starters gone on offensive line from Week 1, along with quarterback David Ash, Texas is a team in transition.
Elsewhere in the Big 12, Texas Tech needed a late score to hold off UTEP, Kansas held off SEMO and Oklahoma State cruised to a 40-23 victory over Missouri State.
Key Takeaways from the Big 12 in Week 2
Seth Russell is a Capable Replacement
Sure, Northwestern State wasn’t the best source of competition, but Baylor has to be confident in quarterback Seth Russell if Bryce Petty is out an extended amount of time. Russell was sharp in his first career start, recording 438 yards and five passing scores on 16 completions. He also added one touchdown on three rushing attempts. It certainly doesn’t hurt Russell’s cause that he’s surrounded by a talented group of skill players – hello KD Cannon and Davion Hall – but Baylor’s offense is in good hands until Petty returns.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
It’s Daxx’s Show in Stillwater
As of Sunday night, Oklahoma State has not released an official diagnosis on J.W. Walsh’s foot injury suffered against Missouri State. However, it’s safe to say the Cowboys will be without Walsh for at least a couple of weeks. Perhaps longer. Walsh will be missed, but Oklahoma State’s offense is in good hands with Daxx Garman at the controls. In his first action since the junior year of high school (2009), Garman completed 16 of 26 passes for 244 yards and two scores. The junior averaged an impressive 15.3 yards per completion against Missouri State and could be a better fit for Oklahoma State’s offense than Walsh. UTSA will be a tough opponent this Saturday, followed by a key conference game against Texas Tech on Sept. 25. Garman lacks experience, but Oklahoma State’s offense will be fine with him at the controls.
There’s Still Fight in Iowa State
After last week’s loss to North Dakota State, it was easy to write off Iowa State for a finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12. However, one week later, the outlook for the Cyclones looks much better. Coach Paul Rhoads’ team nearly upset Kansas State, losing 32-28 after leading 28-20 going into the fourth quarter. Stopping the run and generating more big plays on offense is a must, but Iowa State got a solid effort from quarterback Sam Richardson and Jarvis West stepped up at receiver to help compensate for the loss of Quenton Bundrage. No, the Cyclones aren’t going to win the Big 12. However, after the loss to the Bison, most expected Iowa State to struggle to earn a couple of wins in conference play. One week later, the Cyclones showed they will not be an easy out in the Big 12 this season.
Texas Needs to Regroup
First-year coach Charlie Strong certainly has his work cut out for him over the next few weeks. The Longhorns lost 41-7 to BYU on Saturday, dropping their record to 1-1. Losing to the Cougars was really no surprise, as Texas played without the services of quarterback David Ash (concussion-like symptoms), center Dominic Espinosa (broken ankle) and offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle (suspension). With a patchwork line thin on depth and a young quarterback, Texas is going to have its share of growing pains on offense. And it comes at the wrong time for the Longhorns, as a neutral site date against UCLA is up next, followed by Kansas and then matchups against two top 10 teams (Oklahoma and Baylor). Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes – who didn’t play bad against BYU – should improve next week, but it’s a lot to ask him to beat Baylor and Oklahoma without more help from the defense, receiving corps, offensive line and rushing attack.
Post-Week 2 Big 12 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 3|
|1||2-0||W, 52-7, Tulsa||Tennessee|
|2||2-0||W, 70-6, NW State||at Buffalo|
|3||2-0||W, 32-28, Iowa State||Bye Week|
|4||1-1||W, 40-23, Missouri State||UTSA|
|5||1-1||W, 54-0, Towson||at Maryland|
|7||1-1||L, 41-7, BYU||UCLA (Arlington)|
|8||2-0||W, 30-26, UTEP||Arkansas|
|9||1-1||L, 32-28, K-State||at Iowa|
|10||1-0||W, 34-28, SEMO||at Duke|
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2
132: Michigan State’s Yards on Final Six Drives Against Oregon
After taking a 27-18 lead against Oregon early in the third quarter, Michigan State’s offense was stuck in neutral for the rest of the game. The Ducks’ defense put the clamps on coach Mark Dantonio’s offense, holding the Spartans to just 132 yards on the final six drives. Oregon forced two three-and-outs in the second half after recording just one in the first two quarters. The Ducks also made a key stop on fourth down and picked off quarterback Connor Cook to rally for a 46-27 victory. Oregon’s defense has been criticized for its struggles against physical rushing attacks, but Don Pellum’s unit held the Spartans to just 123 yards on the ground.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
58.2: Average Length of Baylor’s TD Passes in Week 2
No Bryce Petty? No problem. Baylor’s offense maintained its big-play ability with Seth Russell at the controls, as the sophomore completed 16 of 25 passes for 438 yards and five scores. Russell’s five touchdown tosses averaged 58.2 yards per completion, with three of those going to freshman standout KD Cannon. Fellow freshman standout Davion Hall also caught one of Russell’s passes for a score. Cannon averaged 37.2 yards per catch (six receptions), as Baylor’s offense had no trouble putting points on the board against Northwestern State.
5: Broken Tackles by Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah on Winning TD
It’s only Week 2, but did the 58-yard touchdown reception by running back Ameer Abdullah with less than a minute to play save Nebraska’s season? Maybe so. Abdullah caught quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s pass and broke five tackles en route to scoring the game-winning touchdown. The Cornhuskers were not expected to have much trouble with McNeese State, but the FCS opponent nearly pulled a shocking upset in Lincoln. Abdullah is one of the top players in the Big Ten, and his big-play ability saved Nebraska from a disappointing loss.
27.1: UAB’s Per Completion Average Against Miss. State
UAB fell short in its upset bid against Mississippi State (47-34), but first-year coach Bill Clark’s team may have exposed a flaw in the Bulldogs’ defense. The Blazers completed only 16 passes and finished the game with 435 yards. UAB’s quarterbacks averaged 27.1 yards per completion, and all three touchdown tosses traveled at least 75 yards. Was this a one-time flaw or is pass defense a huge concern for Mississippi State?
9: Stanford Drives That Went Into USC Territory
If you didn’t see the game and read the box score, it would be easy to assume Stanford defeated USC just by this stat. After all, the Cardinal took all nine of their drives to at least the USC 32-yard line. But there’s just one problem. On those nine drives, Stanford scored only 10 points, missed two field goals and lost two fumbles. The Cardinal outgained USC 413 to 291 and held the Trojans’ passing attack to just 135 yards. However, with an inability to score or avoid turnovers on USC’s side of the field, Stanford couldn’t close out a key Pac-12 game.
596: Pitt RB James Conner’s Rushing Yards in Last 3 Games
Behind an improving offensive line and rushing attack, Pittsburgh is quietly on the rise in the Coastal Division. Sophomore James Conner has emerged as the Panthers’ workhorse, recording 596 yards over his last three games. Conner started this run by rushing for 229 yards in the bowl win over Bowling Green last season, recorded 153 in the opener against Delaware and gashed Boston College for 213 on Friday night. While the yardage is nice, Conner’s yards per carry is even better. The sophomore is averaging 7.5 yards per attempt and has five rushing scores through two games in 2014.
48.5: LSU WR Travin Dural’s YPC Through Two Games
It seems Anthony Jennings has edged Brandon Harris for LSU’s starting quarterback job – for now – and Dural has developed quite a rapport with Jennings. The sophomore has caught six passes for 291 yards and four scores this year, averaging a whopping 48.5 yards per catch. Dural has been the offense’s top big-play threat, averaging 55 yards on his four touchdown catches.
655: Florida’s Total Offense Against Eastern Michigan
Yes, total offense stats are misleading, but Florida’s offense had a solid debut. Under the direction of new coordinator Kurt Roper, the Gators recorded 655 yards – the most by a Florida team since beating Cincinnati 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl during the 2009 season. Florida also had six plays of 30 yards or more, which is nearly half of its total from 2013 (14).
6: Players That Scored a Rushing TD for Army
Army held off a furious rally by Buffalo to win 47-39 in new coach Todd Monken’s debut. The Black Knights executed the option almost to perfection against the Bulls, averaging 6.3 yards per carry and recording seven rushing touchdowns. Six of the seven rushing scores came via different players, including Larry Dixon, Terry Baggett, Raymond Maples and quarterback Angel Santiago.
73.7: Average Length of Ole Miss’ Scoring Drives in Week 2
Big plays are always preferred, but Ole Miss’ offense had a methodical (but impressive) showing in Week 2. The Rebels averaged 73.7 yards per touchdown drive in Week 2. Ole Miss recorded four offensive scores against Vanderbilt, with six of its 10 drives lasting at least 10 plays. Despite the methodical drives, Ole Miss still averaged a healthy 6.2 yards per play and never punted against the Commodores.
Other Stats to Know
* Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik completed 10 passes in Friday night’s win over Boston College. Five of those 10 passes went to sophomore receiver Tyler Boyd. The sophomore has caught three of Voytik’s four touchdown tosses in 2014.
* Alabama tight end O.J. Howard (picked by most outlets as a preseason All-American) has zero catches through two games. Meanwhile, Amari Cooper has 25 receptions through two games – more than half of his 2013 total (45).
* SMU has scored only six points in two games. Only two times from 2012-13 were the Mustangs held under 10 points in a single contest.
* Utah quarterback Travis Wilson threw five touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Fresno State. The last time the Utes had five passing scores in game was 2008 (Brian Johnson).
* Oklahoma averaged 8.4 yards per play against Tulsa in Week 2. That’s the first time since Nov. 17, 2012 the Sooners have averaged eight yards per play in a contest.
* Northwestern has lost nine out of its last 10 games.
* Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp has caught 11 passes through the first two games of the season. That’s more than half of the total he recorded all of last season (20 catches).
* Iowa State receiver Jarvis West had a standout all-around performance against Kansas State. He threw a 29-yard touchdown, caught eight passes for 77 yards and one score and returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown. According to STATS LCC, he’s only the fourth player since 1996 to score on a pass, catch and punt return in a single game.
* West Virginia recorded its first shutout since Sept. 4, 2010 by blanking Towson 54-0.
* Michigan’s zero points against Notre Dame represented the first time the program has been shut out since a loss versus Iowa in 1984.
* Washington quarterback Cyler Miles accounted for four touchdowns in his 2014 debut. Miles threw for 180 yards and rushed for 58 in the Huskies’ wild 59-52 victory over Eastern Washington.
* Washington and Eastern Washington combined for 1,109 total yards on Saturday.
* North Carolina has scored a special teams or defensive touchdown in three consecutive games.
* UMass threw only nine touchdown passes last year. Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel has tossed four scores for the Minutemen in two games this season.
* Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce has recorded 100 yards receiving in back-to-back games.
* Daxx Garman averaged 15.3 yards per completion (16 of 26) in Oklahoma State’s 40-23 win over Missouri State. Garman replaced an injured J.W. Walsh.
* Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock threw for a career-high 322 yards in Saturday’s 17-13 win over Ball State.
* Despite being outgained 419 to 280 and converting only one third-down attempt, Eastern Kentucky defeated Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks have lost 18 consecutive games.
* Northern Illinois is 5-3 against the Big Ten since 2009.
* Eight of Ohio’s 12 drives went for 10 yards or less against Kentucky. The Bobcats lost 20-3.
* Minnesota running back David Cobb recorded 220 in Saturday’s win over MTSU. That’s the first 200-yard effort from a Gophers’ running back since 2005.
* Maryland had six turnovers, yet still managed to beat USF. The Terrapins outgained the Bulls 317 to 257.
* Arkansas averaged 12.7 yards per play against Nicholls State. All four of quarterback Brandon Allen’s throws went for scores.
* Georgia Southern averaged a whopping 11.7 yards per play in a 83-9 victory over Savannah State.
* Kansas receiver Nick Harwell (Miami, Ohio transfer) caught two touchdown passes in his debut with the Jayhawks.
* Louisiana Tech averaged 7.8 yards per play against UL Lafayette. That’s the highest per game total during Skip Holtz’s tenure.
* Through two games, Vanderbilt’s offense has managed only 22 first downs.
* Auburn has rushed for 300 yards in back-to-back games.
* Arizona State averaged nine yards per play against New Mexico.
* Boise State recorded 676 yards in Saturday’s win over Colorado State. That’s the first time the Broncos went over 600 yards of offense since Oct. 15, 2011.
* After going 52 yards on eight plays in the third quarter against Hawaii, Oregon State’s final seven drives went only 49 yards.
* Clemson held FCS opponent South Carolina State to a miniscule 0.8 yards per play.
* LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings is averaging 26.7 yards per completion.
* Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk scored six times in Saturday’s win over Toledo. His five touchdown tosses tied a school record.
BYU easily handled Texas 41-7 on Saturday night. Quarterback Taysom Hill was the catalyst for the Cougars’ victory, throwing for 181 yards on 18 completions and rushing for 99 yards and three scores on 24 attempts.
Hill’s dual-threat ability gave the Texas defense fits last year, so his performance on Saturday night wasn’t a surprise.
Hill made one of the weekend’s top players by hurdling a defender on a touchdown run in the second half.
LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette was one of the nation’s top recruits and there was considerable hype surrounding his debut this year. Fournette was quiet in the opener against Wisconsin and rushed for only 18 yards on eight carries.
Fournette’s numbers against Sam Houston State were better, as the freshman recorded a touchdown and over 50 yards in just over two quarters of work.
However, Fournette’s touchdown drew the ire of coach Les Miles, as the freshman struck a Heisman pose.
Check out Fournette’s touchdown run and Heisman pose:
A week after an upset win over Northwestern, California kept the momentum going with a blowout victory over Sacramento State.
Receiver Kenny Lawler added the Golden Bears’ good vibes with one of the weekend’s best catches. Lawler made a nifty one-handed grab to put California up 28-0 in the first half.
UTSA’s upset bid against Arizona came up short in Week 2. However, the Roadrunners certainly had a good showing against the Wildcats.
One of the top highlights of Week 2 came when UTSA’s Josiah Monroe demolished an Arizona player in the first half.
Virginia Tech and Ohio State passed their opening week tests, but a tougher challenge is ahead on Saturday night in Columbus. The Hokies are one of the favorites in a wide-open Coastal Division and handled FCS opponent William & Mary 34-9 in Week 1. Virginia Tech’s offense showed signs of life in the opener, but it’s tough to glean too much from overpowering a FCS opponent. The Buckeyes began life without Braxton Miller – at least for 2014 – with a 34-17 win over Navy. With Miller sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Ohio State has to lean on its defense and skill players to help redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.
This will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. These two teams are scheduled to meet on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg next season.
Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ohio State -11
Three Things to Watch
1. The Quarterbacks
Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer have traveled an interesting road to the starting job this year, and both quarterbacks are making only their second career start on Saturday night. Barrett was pushed into the starting job after an injury to Braxton Miller and completed 12 of 15 throws for 226 yards and two scores in the win over Navy. Brewer was slated to be Texas Tech’s starter in 2013 but a back injury limited his availability for most of the season. He transferred from Texas Tech after graduating and won the starting job in the fall. Brewer completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against William & Mary. Both quarterbacks are surrounded by talent – yes it’s young – at the skill positions and play behind questionable offensive lines. However, both players have a good defense on their side. Neither quarterback needs to throw for 300 yards for their team to win on Saturday night. Which quarterback – Brewer or Barrett – will make the fewest mistakes and turn in an efficient outing to lead their team to victory?
2. Virginia Tech’s OL vs. Ohio State DL
Again, we have to point out questionable competition, but there were some positive signs for Virginia Tech’s offensive line in Week 1. The Hokies averaged 5.3 yards per carry and did not allow a sack against William & Mary. After taking a positive step forward in the opener, the matchup with Ohio State is a much better barometer test for the line. The Buckeyes won’t have end Noah Spence (suspension), but this unit is arguably the best defensive line in the nation. Tackle Michael Bennett and end Joey Bosa are two All-American candidates, and this unit averaged three sacks per game in 2013. Keeping Brewer upright and clearing rushing lanes for talented freshmen Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams on the ground will be a challenge for Virginia Tech’s line. However, this is a good opportunity for the Hokies to show how far they have progressed on offense after managing only 22.5 points per game last year.
3. Young Talent at the Skill Positions
There’s a couple of areas we could go with this last key to watch, but there’s a plethora of talent at the skill positions for both teams. In the opener against William & Mary, newcomers for Virginia Tech accounted for 422 yards. Brewer threw for 251 yards, McKenzie and Williams accounted for 147 yards on the ground, tight end Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 38 yards and a score, while true freshman Isaiah Ford grabbed four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. On the Ohio State sideline, there’s also plenty of help for young quarterback J.T. Barrett. Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson each rushed for over 40 yards against Navy, and sophomore Michael Thomas led the team with three catches. With both teams having an inexperienced signal-caller, it’s important for the players at the skill positions to provide help on Saturday night.
If you are looking for offense, this is probably not the game you want to watch. The over/under by Vegas is set at 47, and with two quarterbacks making only their second start, points could be at a premium. Virginia Tech’s offensive output in Week 1 was promising, and this group should get better with more time for Brewer, McKenzie, Williams and Ford to develop. However, it’s tough to win in Columbus, and the Buckeyes’ defense will control this game, allowing Barrett to ease into his second victory as Ohio State’s quarterback.
Prediction: Ohio State 27, Virginia Tech 17
The non-conference matchup between Michigan and Notre Dame features two of college football’s most-storied programs and has been played consecutively since 2002. But after Saturday’s game, this series is on hiatus, as the schools do not have a matchup scheduled for the future. Of course, that will likely change in a couple of years, but for now (or perhaps 5-10 years), this is it between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish.
While the future of this series has been discussed at length, this year’s game also provides plenty of intrigue. Michigan is hoping to rebound off a disappointing 7-6 season and had an impressive showing in the opener against Appalachian State. The Fighting Irish lost a couple of key players due to academic issues prior to the first game but looked sharp in a 48-17 victory over Rice.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Notre Dame -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Michigan’s OL vs. Notre Dame’s DL
Michigan’s offensive line was criticized throughout last season for lackluster play. Despite having a first-round pick on the left side in Taylor Lewan, the Wolverines managed only 125.7 rushing yards per game and allowed 36 sacks. Level of competition is certainly a factor, but the early returns on Michigan’s revamped offensive line were promising against Appalachian State. Can this unit continue its growth against Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish has shifted to a 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Brian VanGorder and allowed 5.6 yards per play in the opener to Rice. Despite the high yards per play allowed, Notre Dame held the Owls to just two drives over 40 yards in the first half. The Fighting Irish is going through a transition up front, replacing standouts Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt.
2. The Quarterbacks
All eyes are always on the quarterbacks, but Saturday night’s matchup between Everett Golson and Devin Gardner is intriguing. Golson sat out all of last season due to a suspension but turned in a sharp performance against Rice in Week 1. The junior accounted for 336 yards and five scores against the Owls and completed 14 of 22 passes. Gardner also had a standout performance last Saturday, throwing for 173 yards and three scores on 14 completions. Both quarterbacks need to be at their best in Week 2. Sure, 300 passing yards would be nice but efficiency and limiting mistakes is a bigger priority for both players, especially with a tight game expected.
3. Which team can establish the run?
Both teams entered 2014 looking for more out of their rushing attack. So far, so good. Notre Dame rushed for 281 yards in the opener against Rice, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. Michigan recorded 350 yards versus Appalachian State and averaged a whopping 9.7 yards per attempt. Derrick Green struggled in his freshman season, but he sparked the ground game by recording 170 yards on 15 attempts last week. Which team will be able to find enough balance on Saturday night? Can Green continue the momentum from the opener? Or will Notre Dame’s three-back attack perform better? Expect the Fighting Irish to use Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston on the ground to keep the Michigan defense from keying too much on Golson.
This one is a tossup. Both teams are relatively even, and it’s tough to glean much from last week’s games. Michigan found a good fit in new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and the former Alabama play-caller has Gardner and Green on the right track. For Notre Dame, Golson was impressive against Rice, and the junior’s re-emergence into the lineup is a boost for a team that has uncertainty on defense and in the receiving corps. Expect an entertaining game in South Bend, with the home team finding a way to squeeze out a three-point victory.
Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24
All eyes in the college football world will be focused on Eugene, Ore. this Saturday, as Michigan State takes on Oregon in a clash of top 10 teams. The Spartans handled Jacksonville State 45-7 last Friday and dodged a bullet after a nasty hit to quarterback Connor Cook’s knee in the first half. The Ducks had a similar Week 1 outcome, thrashing South Dakota for a 62-13 victory. Both teams are relatively healthy for this critical showdown that should have major playoff implications.
Michigan State at Oregon
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Oregon -12
Three Things to Watch
1. Oregon’s DL versus Michigan State’s Rushing Attack
The battle at the line of scrimmage is going to play a huge role in Saturday’s outcome. Oregon’s defense allowed 3.9 yards per carry in Pac-12 games last year, but one team – Stanford – has provided the Ducks with plenty of headaches over the last few seasons. Why is Stanford important? Michigan State and Stanford have similar styles on offense. There's a clear edge in offensive play to the Cardinal in recent years, but coach Mark Dantonio's line returns a veteran group up front. The Spartans were relatively balanced in 2013, recording 173.8 yards per game on the ground and 211.7 through the air. Running back Jeremy Langford leads the ground attack and could see 30-35 carries on Saturday afternoon. The Ducks spent the offseason trying to get stronger at the point of attack. No, this defense doesn’t have a huge problem against the run, but Oregon has to limit Michigan State’s production on the ground. Time of possession doesn’t mean much. However, the Ducks can’t afford to let the Spartans have several long, time-consuming (and successful) drives on Saturday.
2. Marcus Mariota versus Michigan State’s secondary
The Spartans allowed 222 passing yards in the opener, but a chunk of that yardage came with the outcome no longer in doubt. Again, it’s tough to read much into the opener, so this will be the first true test for a Michigan State secondary that has to replace two starters, including standout corner Darqueze Dennard. The cupboard isn’t bare for coordinator Pat Narduzzi, as junior Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond are All-Big Ten caliber players. Mariota is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is throwing to a revamped group of receivers. Despite the overhaul on the pass-catchers, the Ducks aren’t hurting for talent. Considering Michigan State’s strength in the trenches, will Mariota and coordinator Scott Frost look to use quick passes to neutralize the pass rush? Keep an eye on the matchup on the outside, as the Spartans’ defense tries to match the speed and quickness of the Ducks’ skill talent.
3. Michigan State’s Defensive Line
In Athlon’s 2014 preseason college football magazine, Michigan State’s defensive line ranked as the No. 3 group in the nation behind Alabama and Ohio State. And the Spartans certainly lived up to that billing in Week 1 by recording five sacks and limiting Jacksonville State to just 22 yards. Of course, the challenge is significantly tougher in Week 2. Oregon has a three-headed monster in the backfield, and junior Byron Marshall will be split more as a receiver in 2014. Marshall, sophomore Thomas Tyner and freshman Royce Freeman could find yards tough to come by against a defensive line that features All-American end Shilique Calhoun and rising stars in end Demetrius Cooper and tackle Malik McDowell. For Oregon to generate any room on the ground, it’s up to the five blockers in front of Mariota. And there’s been some shuffling this preseason with an injury to standout tackle Tyler Johnstone. If Calhoun, Cooper and Marcus Rush own the line of scrimmage, Mariota will have a tough time finding a clean pocket. One x-factor to watch: Mariota’s scrambling ability. With an active defensive front like Michigan State's, Mariota's ability to make plays outside of the pocket could be a valuable asset in Saturday's game.
Without question, this is the marquee game of Week 2. Oregon and Michigan State have national title aspirations, and the winner of this matchup will take a huge step forward to securing a playoff spot. The loser of this game certainly isn’t out of it, but the head-to-head win could be huge when it’s time to determine the playoff selections.
Pace and tempo are two keys to watch. Michigan State would prefer a methodical approach, while Oregon wants to speed up the tempo. If the Ducks are able to establish their tempo and make the Spartans play in a shootout, Mark Helfrich’s team will win.
Even though it’s difficult to win in Autzen Stadium, Michigan State is built to knock off the Ducks. The Spartans have the players in the trenches and rushing attack to move the ball on the ground and keep Oregon’s offense on the sidelines. And quarterback Connor Cook is no stranger to delivering on the big stage after standout performances against Stanford and Ohio State last year.
Prediction: Michigan State 31, Oregon 27
It’s another light slate of games in the ACC in Week 2. Virginia Tech-Ohio State is the only game with national appeal, but there’s intrigue in the Friday night matchup between Pittsburgh and Boston College.
Most of the ACC’s top teams should win big in Week 2, as Florida State takes on Citadel, Clemson hosts South Carolina State, Miami plays Florida A&M and Louisville meets Murray State on Saturday.
It’s hard to learn much from lopsided non-conference games, but Week 2 is all about getting better and finetuning some of the mistakes from Week 1 for the top teams in the conference.
Week 2 Previews and Predictions:
ACC Week 2 Game Power Rankings
1. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (-11)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s easy to overreact after one game. However, it’s also easy to see why Virginia Tech’s offense could be better in 2014. Quarterback Michael Brewer was steady in his Hokies’ debut (23 of 30, 251 yards and two scores), while freshmen running backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams and pass-catchers Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges played a key role in the gameplan. Of course, Saturday’s game against Ohio State will provide a much better barometer test for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ offensive line should have its hands full against the Buckeyes’ defensive line, which is arguably the best in the nation. With both teams breaking in a new starter at quarterback and youth at the skill positions, this one could be a low-scoring affair. When the Buckeyes have the ball, look for Virginia Tech’s defensive line to challenge Ohio State’s offensive line. The Buckeyes struggled up front in Week 1, and the Hokies recorded four sacks in the opener against William & Mary.
Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:
2. Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Boston College
7 p.m. ET, ESPN
This is the first meeting between these two schools as members of the ACC. Boston College and Pittsburgh are former Big East rivals but have not played since 2004. Both schools picked up victories in Week 1, but considering the opponents (UMass for Boston College and Delaware for Pittsburgh), it’s hard to take too much away from those games. Expect both teams to lean heavily on the ground in this one, as the Panthers gashed Delaware for 409 yards, and the Eagles recorded 338 against UMass. Neither team should find as much running room this week as they did last Saturday, which should put more emphasis which quarterback can make the most plays (and avoid the big mistake). This game is also a good test for both defenses, as Pittsburgh continues to search for the right mix up front without Aaron Donald, and Boston College has five new starters in the front seven.
3. Georgia Tech (-10) at Tulane
4 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
Three non-conference games to open the season is a good way for Georgia Tech to develop new quarterback Justin Thomas and find a few answers on the defensive line before ACC play starts. The Yellow Jackets averaged a whopping 8.6 yards per play in the opener against Wofford, with Thomas accounting for 353 total yards and two scores. Georgia Tech is a double-digit favorite in this one, but Tulane should be a tougher test than Wofford. The Green Wave is opening a new stadium on Saturday and averaged seven yards per play against Tulsa. The Yellow Jackets could be tested early, but Thomas’ playmaking ability will be too much for Tulane in the second half.
4. San Diego State at North Carolina (-15)
8 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
The Tar Heels had a sluggish first half against Liberty but scored 35 second-half points to win 56-29. North Carolina will need a better effort on Saturday, as San Diego State is one of the top teams in the Mountain West. Quarterback Marquise Williams will get the start over Mitch Trubisky, and Williams is hoping to bounce back after tossing two picks last week. The Aztecs won their opener 38-7 over Northern Arizona and feature a talented trio on offense, headlined by quarterback Quinn Kaehler and receiver Ezell Ruffin. San Diego State could hang around for a while, but North Carolina’s explosive offense should get on track after averaging only 4.8 yards per play in the opener.
5. Old Dominion at NC State (-16)
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Wolfpack narrowly avoided an upset in Week 1, scoring 21 points in the second half to beat Georgia Southern 24-23. Coach Dave Doeren’s team should be on upset alert once again, as Old Dominion’s passing offense – led by senior Taylor Heinicke – will be a tough matchup. Heinicke has passed for 11,764 yards in his career. The Monarchs allowed 50.4 points per game against FBS teams last season, which should allow the Wolfpack offense to build off their opening week performance (6.2 yards per play). Quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 28 of 40 passes for 291 yards and three scores last week and faces an Old Dominion secondary that allowed 407 passing yards to Hampton in Week 1.
6. Duke (-19) at Troy
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
After cruising to an easy 52-13 win over Elon in Week 1, Duke stays out of conference for another favorable matchup in Week 2. The Blue Devils make the nine-hour trek to Alabama to take on Troy – a team that’s reeling a bit after losing 48-10 to UAB last Saturday. The Trojans allowed 6.6 yards per play to the Blazers in Week 1, which should allow Duke’s offense to move the ball with ease on Saturday. Quarterback Anthony Boone was efficient in Week 1, completing 22 of 33 throws for 247 yards and four scores. The Blue Devils need Boone to play at that level to repeat as Coastal Division champions. Considering the injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown in the preseason, it’s important for Duke’s defense to build confidence before ACC play starts in late September. The Blue Devils shouldn’t have to sweat much in this one, and the focus for coach David Cutcliffe is keeping everyone healthy and likely playing as many players as possible.
7. Richmond at Virginia
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Virginia surprised most by hanging around against UCLA in Week 1, and coach Mike London may have found a quarterback in the process. Sophomore Matt Johns completed 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards and two scores against the Bruins and should be the Cavaliers’ starter on Saturday. If Johns plays well once again this week, it would be a huge boost for a program that has struggled to find consistent quarterback play under London. Richmond ranked as the No. 17 team in this week’s FCS poll and is coached by former Virginia assistant Danny Rocco. Quarterback Michael Strauss is a Virginia transfer and threw for 3,808 yards and 26 scores last year.
8. Citadel at Florida State
7:30 p.m. ET, RSN
The Seminoles can basically pick their final score in this one. Citadel went 5-7 last year was pounded 52-6 by Clemson last November. Florida State wasn’t as dominant in the opener as some expected, but this week’s game should give coach Jimbo Fisher an opportunity to work on a few things.
9. South Carolina State at Clemson
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
The Tigers should be an angry bunch on Saturday. Clemson was unable to contain Georgia’s rushing attack or generate any offense in the second half of last week’s loss in Athens, but Week 2’s matchup against South Carolina State should allow Dabo Swinney’s team to work out the kinks before ACC play begins against Florida State on Sept. 20. Senior Cole Stoudt is expected to start at quarterback, but true freshman Deshaun Watson will see plenty of snaps.
10. Florida A&M at Miami
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
After stumbling at Louisville on Monday night, Florida A&M is the perfect rebound opponent for Miami. The Rattlers went 3-9 last season and lost their opener to Jackson State. This game should be a good opportunity for freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya to gain experience after an inconsistent debut against the Cardinals. Kaaya completed 17 of 29 throws for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His development is critical to Miami’s hopes of contending for the Coastal Division title.
11. Murray State at Louisville
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
It’s a short turnaround for the Cardinals after playing on Monday night, but coach Bobby Petrino’s team shouldn’t have much trouble with the Racers. Quarterback Will Gardner was efficient (20 of 28) in his debut as Louisville’s starter, and the defense held Miami to just 4.4 yards per play. Gardner should have a huge performance against the Racers, and Petrino should be able to empty his bench on Saturday.
12. Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
As Thursday night’s loss to ULM showed, it’s going to be a long year for first-year coach Dave Clawson. Wake Forest managed only five first downs and 94 total yards against the Warhawks, with only one drive going more than 20 yards. Gardner-Webb opened its 2014 campaign with a loss to Furman and represents the Demon Deacons’ best shot at a win this year.
Week 2 ACC Predictions
|Va. Tech (+11) at Ohio St||OSU 24-14||OSU 24-13||OSU 31-17||OSU 21-17|
|Pitt (-4.5) at Boston College||Pitt 27-17||Pitt 33-21||Pitt 27-24||Pitt 31-17|
|Ga. Tech (-10) at Tulane||GT 35-21||GT 34-21||GT 34-20||GT 34-20|
|SDSU (+15) at UNC||UNC 28-17||UNC 41-28||UNC 38-24||UNC 30-20|
|ODU (+16) at NC State||State 28-21||State 34-21||State 41-30||State 38-28|
|Duke (-19) at Troy||Duke 42-21||Duke 41-21||Duke 45-17||Duke 37-17|
|Richmond at Virginia||UVA 24-10||UVA 27-10||UVA 31-13||UVA 21-20|
|Citadel at FSU||FSU 56-7||FSU 49-0||FSU 55-3||FSU 54-0|
|FAMU at Miami||Miami 28-10||Miami 38-10||Miami 45-7||Miami 38-10|
|Murray State at Louisville||Louisville 42-7||Louisville 34-7||Louisville 48-7||Louisville 44-7|
|SC State at Clemson||Clemson 35-14||Clemson 48-7||Clemson 52-10||Clemson 51-4|
|Gardner-Webb at Wake||Wake 21-10||Wake 24-13||Wake 30-13||Wake 17-7|
Week 1 of the 2014 college football season brought plenty of surprises and disappointments, and the ACC was a mixed bag of success. Florida State had to sweat more than expected against Oklahoma State but still managed to win 37-31. Despite the close call, the Seminoles are still the clear No. 1 team in the conference. Clemson fell on the road at Georgia, while Virginia impressed in a home loss to UCLA. Syracuse needed two overtimes to beat Villanova, while Wake Forest lost to ULM. It’s only Week 1, so it’s important not to overreact to just a single game. However, there are a few things to know from the conference after a week of action.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 1
Cole Stoudt or Deshaun Watson for Clemson?
In Cole Stoudt’s first career start, the senior completed 15 of 28 passes for 130 yards and one interception. It’s unfair to blame Stoudt for all of Clemson’s problems in Week 1, especially since Georgia’s defense found a way to contain the Tigers’ high-powered attack in the second half. But how long of a leash will Stoudt have in Week 2? True freshman Deshaun Watson threw for 59 yards and one score on two completions against the Bulldogs. Watson is clearly more talented and represents the future of the program. Could he see more time over the next few weeks?
Did Virginia Find a Quarterback?
Going into Week 1, there was no doubt Virginia had a defense capable of contending for a bowl in 2014. However, significant question marks existed on an offense that averaged only 19.8 points per game last season. The Cavaliers’ offense started slow against UCLA, managing only 163 yards (3.8 yards per play) through the first eight drives. Greyson Lambert was benched in favor of Matt Johns, and the sophomore responded by completing 13 of 22 throws for 154 yards and two scores. Prior to Saturday, Johns did not have a career pass attempt. Johns should get the start against Richmond and could be the answer for an offense that has struggled to get consistent quarterback play in recent years.
Listen to the Cover 2 Week 1 recap podcast:
Florida State Needs a Little Work
It’s only Week 1, so there’s no reason to panic in Tallahassee. The defending champs had to sweat a little more than expected against Oklahoma State, holding on for a 37-31 victory. The Seminoles are a team with few flaws, but coach Jimbo Fisher’s team needs to address a few things in order to repeat. Oklahoma State’s defensive line held its own at the line of scrimmage, limiting Florida State to just 106 rushing yards (3.4 ypc). And we are being nitpicky here, but will the Seminoles find another receiver or two to take some of the pressure off of Rashad Greene? The Cowboys’ 31 points was only the fifth time in 29 games that Florida State allowed more than 30 points. Keep in mind: It’s game one and the Seminoles have new faces stepping into roles on both sides of the ball. Sure, this one was closer than expected, but Florida State is still the team to beat.
Pieces Starting to Come Together for Pittsburgh?
It’s hard to read too much into some of the results from Week 1, but Pittsburgh’s 62-0 blasting of Delaware was impressive. The Panthers held the Blue Hens to just five first downs and 57 total yards, while coach Paul Chryst’s offense recorded 501 yards and punted only twice. Again, the competition was questionable, but it seems the pieces are starting to fall into place for Pittsburgh. Quarterback Chad Voytik was efficient (10 of 13), and running back James Conner is poised to challenge for All-ACC honors in 2014 (14 carries for 153 yards and four scores versus Delaware). Friday’s game against Boston College will be a better barometer test, but the Panthers appear poised to improve off last year’s 7-6 mark.
NC State is Still Developing Under Dave Doeren
After finishing 3-9 in coach Dave Doeren’s debut last season, the Wolfpack expected to use a favorable schedule to push for a bowl in 2014. That could still happen in Doeren’s second year, but it’s clear NC State is still a team under construction. The Wolfpack needed a late rally to defeat Georgia Southern 24-23, outscoring the Eagles 21-6 in the second half. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett started slow but completed 28 of 40 throws for 291 yards and three scores. The Florida transfer had plenty of help from freshman receiver Bo Hines (nine catches) and running back Shadrach Thornton (73 yards). Georgia Southern isn’t an easy team to prepare for, and the final result was closer than most expected. The Wolfpack are still under construction, but getting a victory in the opener is critical with a slim margin of error to get back to a bowl.
ACC Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 2|
|1||1-0||W, 37-31, Okla. State||The Citadel|
|2||0-1||L, 45-21, Georgia||South Carolina State|
|3||1-0||W, 31-13, Miami||Murray State|
|4||1-0||W, 34-9, William & Mary||at Ohio State|
|5||1-0||W, 52-13, Elon||at Troy|
|6||1-0||W, 56-29, Liberty||San Diego State|
|7||1-0||W, 62-0, Delaware||at Boston College (Friday)|
|8||0-1||L, 31-13, Louisville||Florida A&M|
|9||0-1||L, 28-20, UCLA||Richmond|
|10||1-0||W, 38-19, Wofford||at Tulane|
|11||1-0||W, 30-7, UMass||Pittsburgh (Friday)|
|12||1-0||W, 27-26, Villanova||Bye Week|
|13||1-0||W, 24-23, Ga. Southern||Old Dominion|
|14||0-1||W, 17-10, Wake Forest||Gardner-Webb|
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty suffered two cracked transverse processes in his back against SMU and is listed as day-to-day.
Petty played against SMU but was clearly limited after suffering the injury in the first half. The senior finished the opener by completing 13 of 23 passes for 161 yards and two touchdown passes. Petty also rushed for 21 yards and one score on two attempts.
While the injury sounds bad, Petty could play in Saturday’s game against Northwestern State on Sept. 6.
However, with winnable games against Northwestern State and Buffalo before Big 12 play begins versus Iowa State on Sept. 27, Petty’s game snaps could be limited over the next few weeks.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 1
77.8: BYU QB Taysom Hill’s Completion Percentage vs. UConn
Without running back Jamaal Williams and the services of receiver Devon Blackmon, BYU’s offense needed a big effort from quarterback Taysom Hill. And the junior delivered by tying a career-best 77.8 in completion percentage, threw for 308 yards and three scores on 28 completions. Hill also added 97 yards on 12 carries. The junior’s numbers and film suggest he has made significant progress as a passer since the end of 2013. And with a manageable schedule, Hill’s development could equal a special season in Provo.
10-9: Record by New Coaches in 2014
Week 1 was a mixed bag of success for the new coaches. One coach (Todd Monken, Army) did not play, while 10 won their debuts at their new school. Penn State’s James Franklin picked up a big win in Ireland, and Washington’s Chris Petersen survived a trip to Hawaii to start his tenure 1-0. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Bowling Green’s Dino Babers had disappointing debuts, but there’s plenty of time for both coaches to rebound. An under-the-radar debut: UAB’s Bill Clark. The Blazers thrashed in-state rival Troy 48-10.
422: Yards by Virginia Tech Newcomers Against William & Mary
The competition was weak, and we hate to put too much stock in total offense numbers, but it’s noteworthy how much of Virginia Tech’s offensive yardage came from newcomers. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer threw for 251 yards, while freshmen running backs Shai McKenzie (106 yards) and Marshawn Williams (41) impressed. Freshman receiver Isaiah Ford finished second on the team with 43 receiving yards. The Hokies have plenty of young talent on the roster, and several new faces are stepping into key roles this year.
1: Texas A&M Drive that Went Less than 20 Yards
We are tossing out the one-play drive at the end of the first half for this stat, but Texas A&M’s offense clearly had South Carolina’s number on Thursday night. With the exception of a three-play drive late in the third quarter, the Aggies went at least 20 yards on every drive against the Gamecocks. The first two drives by Kevin Sumlin’s offense went at least 67 yards. Overall, eight drives went for at least 60 yards.
15: Clemson’s Second-Half Yards Against Georgia
Clemson’s offense started Saturday’s matchup against Georgia by going 70 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown. And the Tigers closed the first half strong, recording at least three drives of at least 60 yards or more. However, the second half was a different story. New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt completely put the clamps on Clemson, holding Chad Morris’ offense to 15 yards in the final two quarters. The Tigers also did not have a drive of more than four plays in the second half.
32: Players Making Debut for Tennessee in Week 1
Of the 71 players that took a snap for Tennessee in its 38-7 victory over Utah State, 32 were making their debut for the Volunteers. And how’s this for a youth movement: 21 were true freshmen. Second-year coach Butch Jones is in the midst of a roster overhaul, so the significant amount of new faces seeing time isn’t a total surprise. With a tough schedule ahead, it’s a good idea for Jones and the Volunteers to get a few snaps under their belt before SEC play starts.
21.1: Notre Dame QB Everett Golson’s Average Yards Per Completion
After a year suspension, Golson showed no rust in Saturday’s 48-17 rout over Rice. Golson didn’t play a full game but completed 14 of 22 throws for 295 yards and two scores. He also added 41 yards and three scores on the ground. Most importantly, Golson averaged 21.1 yards per completion against the Owls. Even with top receiver DaVaris Daniels’ status still in limbo due to academics, Golson showed there was still plenty of big-play ability in this offense.
2: Teams that Ran At Least 100 Plays in Week 1
Northern Illinois and USC both eclipsed the 100-play mark in Week 1, as the Trojans ran 105 against Fresno State for an average of 6.9 yards per play. The Huskies led the nation with 109 plays against Presbyterian and recorded 5.8 yards per play. 11 teams ran at least 90 plays in Week 1, with 10 recording victories. The only team that ran more than 90 plays and lost was Hawaii (97).
2: Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon’s Carries in Second Half Against LSU
Until Monday, it was a mystery why Melvin Gordon only received two second-half carries against LSU. According to coach Gary Andersen, Gordon had a hip injury, which explains why one of the nation’s top running backs played sparingly in the second half of a winnable game. The junior recorded a 63-yard run on his first touch of the third quarter and was later stuffed on a first-down run at the end of the third. Gordon ended Saturday night’s game against the Tigers with 140 yards on 16 carries (8.8 ypc).
300: Alabama Allows Back-to-Back 300 Passing Yards for First Time Under Saban
Passing yards and total offense are often misleading, but it’s notable Alabama has allowed 300 passing yards in back-to-back games under coach Nick Saban. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett threw for 365 on Saturday, which comes on the heels of Trevor Knight throwing for 348 in the Sugar Bowl. The NCAA record book online goes back to 2001, and there’s not another instance of the Crimson Tide allowing 300 yards in back-to-back games. Again, these totals are often misleading, but Alabama appears vulnerable in its secondary once again.
Other Stats of Note:
* Wake Forest recorded only five first downs in its 17-10 loss to ULM. The Demon Deacons also managed only 1.9 yards per play.
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas threw for 282 yards in Saturday’s win over Wofford. That’s the most for the Yellow Jackets since throwing for 365 yards against Western Carolina in 2011.
* Arkansas recorded only 51 yards on six drives in the second half. The Razorbacks had four drives of at least 40 yards in the first half, including three that resulted in touchdowns.
* After turning the ball over on downs and punting to open the third quarter, Ole Miss finished its Thursday night win over Boise State by scoring on four consecutive drives. Three of quarterback Bo Wallace’s touchdown passes went for at least 30 yards.
* Four teams – Arizona, Nebraska, Western Kentucky and USC – recorded at least 700 yards in Week 1.
* Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty set a school-record with 569 passing yards against Bowling Green.
* Missouri receiver Darius White caught two passes for 83 yards against South Dakota State. Both passes went for scores (41.5 yards per catch average).
* Two teams – Michigan and Kentucky – averaged at least 10 yards per play in Week 1.
* Rashad Greene caught 11 of quarterback Jameis Winston’s 25 completions against Oklahoma State.
* Texas quarterback David Ash will miss Week 2’s matchup against BYU. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes is slated to replace Ash as the starter, with true freshman Jerrod Heard as the backup. Swoopes is just 5 of 13 for 26 yards in his career with the Longhorns.
* Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for a school-record 454 yards against UCF on Saturday.
* For the first time in school history, Penn State had two receivers (DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis) eclipse the 150 receiving yard mark. Hamilton recorded 165 yards on 11 receptions, and Lewis accounted for 173 yards on eight catches.
* LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings completed only nine of his 21 passes in the opener against Wisconsin. However, four of his completions accounted for 187 of his 239 yards, including two touchdowns (80 yards, 36 yards).
* USF ran for 294 yards in its 36-31 victory against Western Carolina. The 294 yards are the most in a game during the Willie Taggart era.
* Kentucky running back Braylon Heard recorded only two carries against Tennessee-Martin, but he made the most of his touches. Heard rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on two attempts.
* Temple defeated Vanderbilt 37-7, but the Owls greatly benefited from seven turnovers. Temple’s offense had only two drives of 50 or more yards. In contrast, the Commodores had only one drive that went more than 40 yards. Vanderbilt’s first three drives accounted for just one yard.
* All four of Baylor’s touchdown drives in the first half went four plays or less. Only two of the Bears’ drives in the first half went longer than 50 yards.
* Georgia recorded 201 of its 459 yards in the fourth quarter against Clemson.
* Rutgers averaged 7.1 yards per play against Washington State. That’s the first time the Scarlet Knights hit the seven-yard per play mark since last year’s opener against Fresno State.
* Arizona had three receivers (at least two receptions) average at least 25 yards per catch against UNLV. Austin Hill led the way with a 36.7 yards per catch average, while Samajie Grant caught four passes for 101 yards (25.3 ypc).
* Three teams finished Week 1 with negative rushing totals. Wake Forest recorded a -3 mark against ULM, SMU finished -24 in rushing offense against Baylor, while Houston was -26 against UTSA.
* Tulsa receiver Keevan Lucas caught 13 passes for 233 yards against Tulane. Lucas’ 233 yards are more than half of his 2013 total (442).
NC State got its 2014 season off to a good start with a victory over Georgia Southern. The Wolfpack had to rally to beat the Eagles but getting into the win column was critical for second-year coach Dave Doeren.
NC State is favored to win its second game of the year against Old Dominion, and the Wolfpack plan to play Week 2 with an alternate uniform.
Check out the “Pack in Black” uniforms that NC State will wear against the Monarchs this Saturday:
It’s Week 1 of the college football season, so it’s no surprise each team has a few kinks to work out. Of course, that also extends into the gameday operations workers, as well as cheerleaders, mascots or anyone else around a college football program.
New Mexico State’s mascot Pistol Pete and his horse (Keystone) had an unfortunate incident prior to Thursday’s kickoff versus Cal Poly.
While on Keystone, Pete clipped a New Mexico State student in the endzone, knocking her to the ground.
Luckily, the student (Zaina Atyani) wasn’t injured.
Illinois’ 28-17 victory over Youngstown State certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, but neither was this punt executed by the Penguins.
Youngstown State’s punter rolled to his right to punt, and instead of bombing the ball downfield, the punt hit one of his blockers right in the butt. Yes, that’s right – directly in the backside.
Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp made one of the best plays of Week 1 by making an acrobatic, behind-the-back catch.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s pass was on target to be intercepted, but deflected off the FAU defensive back and into the hands of Westerkamp – behind his back.
Check out Westerkamp’s crazy catch:
Penn State and UCF kicked off the first Saturday of action in the 2014 season with a thriller in Ireland. The Nittany Lions won 26-24 on a last-second field goal, but the game got off to an interesting start.
A skydiver was slated to land inside of the stadium with a UCF flag. Instead, the skydiver completely missed the stadium and landed outside of Croke Park.
Check out the video of the skydiver landing outside of the stadium:
It’s a classic Big Ten versus the SEC matchup on Saturday night, as Wisconsin and LSU meet in Houston for a neutral site kickoff for the 2014 season. The Badgers return just eight starters from last year’s 9-4 squad, but coach Gary Andersen should have this team in the thick of the Big Ten West Division race. LSU also had a significant amount of roster turnover from last year and several freshmen are expected to see time on Saturday night.
LSU owns a 2-0 series edge against Wisconsin. This is the first matchup between these two schools sine 1972. The Tigers and Badgers are slated to meet again in 2016 in Green Bay.
Wisconsin vs. LSU (Houston)
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Leonard Fournette
As mentioned above, LSU could play a handful of freshmen on Saturday night. And while several garnered national acclaim through recruiting, the one receiving the most hype is running back Leonard Fournette. The true freshman has everything coaches want in an every-down back. Fournette isn’t guaranteed to handle the full workload, as seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are slated for a big role in the offense. Fournette ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is running behind an offensive line that is considered among the best in the SEC. With Wisconsin replacing its entire front seven (in terms of starters), the Tigers should be able to use their offensive line to clear the way for Fournette to a big performance on Saturday night.
2. The Quarterbacks
Both teams enter Saturday night with question marks surrounding the quarterback position. LSU plans on using both sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris, while Wisconsin is slated to start Tanner McEvoy. Jennings played sparingly last year and completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards and one score. Harris ranked as the No. 3 dual-threat passer in the 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete with Jennings in spring practice. The gap between Jennings and Harris does not appear to be wide (if any at all), so expect to see both quarterbacks play a couple of drives. McEvoy beat out last year’s starter (Joel Stave) for the starting job this fall, and the former South Carolina passer is back under center after playing safety in 2013. McEvoy did not attempt a pass for Wisconsin last season, but he fits what coach Gary Andersen and coordinate Andy Ludwig want under center. McEvoy gives the Badgers’ offense more mobility, which could be an asset against a fast and athletic defense on the other side.
3. Melvin Gordon vs. LSU’s defense
LSU did not have a vintage shutdown defense last year, allowing 170.3 rushing yards per game in SEC contests. The Tigers allowed only 22 points per game, but there was room to improve in the yardage allowed. Coordinator John Chavis had personnel concerns to address in the offseason, starting up front at tackle. Last year’s starters (Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson) departed, leaving Frank Herron, Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture and Maquedius Bain as the top options in the middle. All four are talented, but there’s not a ton of experience returning from this group. Considering this is McEvoy’s first start, expect to see Wisconsin’s gameplan based on getting running back Melvin Gordon 25-30 carries. The Badgers own one of the Big Ten’s top offensive lines, and with the uncertainty up front for LSU, Gordon should be able to find running room. And when Gordon needs a break, expect to see talented sophomore Corey Clement in the backfield.
This matchup is perhaps the most intriguing game of Week 1. Both teams usually replace departed talent with few problems. Expect much of the same in 2014, as LSU and Wisconsin will both push for 10 wins. Both teams should have success running the ball, which is critical due to the inexperience at quarterback. The Tigers may not have a prolific day through the air, but a big offensive line and trio of backs – led by Fournette – eventually wears down the Wisconsin defense.
Prediction: LSU 30, Wisconsin 20
Week 1 isn’t full of outstanding matchups, but the Georgia-Clemson meeting on Saturday afternoon could be the best of the opening weekend. These two teams met last year, with the Tigers edging the Bulldogs 38-35. Both programs return a chunk of their core from last season’s squads, but there are new faces stepping into key roles. Clemson is breaking in a new quarterback to replace Tajh Boyd, while Georgia hands the keys to the offense to senior Hutson Mason. There’s plenty of intrigue in this matchup, and this is an early barometer test to see where Clemson and Georgia stack up after Week 1.
Clemson vs. Georgia
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Georgia -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. New Quarterbacks
Despite new quarterbacks taking over for both teams, there’s not much concern at Clemson or Georgia. Senior Cole Stoudt is slated to start for the Tigers, and talented true freshman Deshaun Watson will also factor into the mix for coordinator Chad Morris. On the Bulldogs’ sideline, senior Hutson Mason will get his third start. Mason gained valuable experience by starting the last two games of 2013 due to an injury to Aaron Murray and threw for 320 yards in the bowl loss to Nebraska and 299 in an overtime win over Georgia Tech. Although both Mason and Stoudt are expected to thrive in their starting roles, both quarterbacks will be under the spotlight on Saturday night. Georgia’s front seven is among the best in the SEC, while Clemson’s defensive line features four senior starters. Neither quarterback needs to throw for 300 yards for a win, but it’s critical for both to limit mistakes with a close game expected.
2. Clemson’s DL vs. Georgia’s OL
As we mentioned in the previous section, Clemson’s defensive line features four senior starters. End Vic Beasley – an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American – highlights the front group. On paper, an experienced defensive front for the Tigers should have an advantage on Georgia’s offensive line, which returns only two starters. But will that play out on the field? Can the Bulldogs’ revamped line hold its own and keep Mason upright in the pocket? How about clearing rushing lanes for running back Todd Gurley? Winning the battle in the trenches is critical to winning on Saturday afternoon, and the battle between Georgia’s offensive line and Clemson’s defensive line is a matchup to watch.
3. Georgia’s Defense
New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt played a key role in Florida State’s national championship last season, and coach Mark Richt hopes the former Seminoles’ play-caller is able to replicate that success for the Bulldogs in 2014. Talent in the front seven certainly isn’t an issue for Pruitt. Linebackers Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson each garnered some preseason All-SEC mention, and the defensive line should be solid once again. Despite the strength in the front seven, the secondary needs some work. Pruitt mixed and matched the personnel in the offseason, and this unit could be in flux early in the year. Can the pass defense hold up against a Clemson offense that averaged 332.9 passing yards per game last season? Even without Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, the Tigers aren't hurting for talent in the receiving corps.
New is the key word to remember in this matchup. Both teams have new quarterbacks and experienced and talented front sevens on defense. But Clemson and Georgia both have concerns in the secondary, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this one go well into the 30s for the final results. Of course, with all of the new faces and roster turnover on both sides, this could be a low-scoring affair as both teams acclimate starters to new roles. Much of this game’s outcome resides on the quarterbacks. Will it be Mason delivering with a quality performance? Or is it going to be Clemson’s Cole Stoudt (first career start)? With new faces stepping into big roles, it could be a lackluster defensive struggle, before UGA or Clemson takes control late.
Prediction: Georgia 27, Clemson 24
With 128 teams in the FBS and around 100 players on a roster, there are certainly some interesting names that pop-up throughout the course of production for Athlon's 2014 college football magazine.
We took a look through the rosters for the 128 teams and pulled out some of the funniest and more interesting names in college football for the 2014 season.
And yes, some reminded us of the famous Key & Peele college football skit.
Freedom Akinmoladun, TE, Nebraska
Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois
Bozidar Antunovic, OL, SMU
Gage Batten, FB, Auburn
Faton Bauta, QB, Georgia
Bobo Beathard, WR, Appalachian State
Detric Bing-Dukes, FB, Georgia
Baylor Black, TE, Baylor
Jeb Blazevich, TE, Georgia
Cole Boozer, TE, Temple
Johnathan Boring, OL, Troy
Brandon Bourbon, RB, Kansas
Brandon Bridge, QB, South Alabama
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Evan Butts, TE, Virginia
Squally Canada, RB, Washington State
KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Freddy Canteen, WR, Michigan
B.J. Chitty, WR, Troy
Jazzmar Clax, FB, UConn
River Cracraft, WR, Washington State
Uneik Crumbley, OL, UAB
Tank Davis, OL, Texas A&M
Mak Djulbegovic, OL, USF
Centarius Donald, RB, ULM
Teven Eatmon-Nared, OL, Kentucky
Quinterrius Eatmon, OL, USF
Hoko Fanaika, OL, LSU
Tanner Farmer, OL, Nebraska
Bear Fenimore, QB, Houston
Daxx Garman, QB, Oklahoma State
Crusoe Gongbay, RB, New Mexico
John Gruenschlaeger, OG, Kentucky
Thor Jozwiak, OL, USF
Brynjar Gudmundsson, OL, USF
Justice Hansen, QB, Oklahoma
Nyiakki Height, WR, UAB
Rush Hendricks, TE, South Alabama
Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M
Gunnar Holcombe, QB, Marshall
Driphus Jackson, QB, Rice
Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati
Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati
Quantavius Leslie, WR, LSU
Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
Mikingson Marsaille, OL, FAU
I’Tavius Mathers, RB, Ole Miss
Storm McPherson, QB, West Virginia
Tommy Mister, RB, Indiana
Grayson Muehlstein, QB, TCU
Shug Oyegunle, WR, FIU
Rafe Peavey, QB, Arkansas
Ross Pierschbacher, OL, Alabama
Dalvin Populist, QB, ULL
Rich Queen, OL, UMass
Michiah Quick, WR, Oklahoma
Devine Redding, RB, Indiana
Deuce Robinson, DL, Appalachian State
Blaze Ryder, OL, Navy
Manrey Saint-Amour, OL, Georgia Southern
Harley Scioneaux, TE, ULM
Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia
Thaddeus Snodgrass, WR, Kentucky
Jack Snowball, RB, Miami (Ohio)
Shawn Stankavage, QB, Vanderbilt
Tyrin Stone-Davis, WR, Illinois
Tennessee Su’esu’e, OL, Boise State
Altee Tenpenny, RB, Alabama
Poet Thomas, OL, Texas Tech
Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, OL, New Mexico State
Stone Underwood, OL, WVU
Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
Lucky Whitehead, WR, FAU
Hosey Williams, RB, Cincinnati
T.V. Williams, WR, Kentucky
Ucambre Williams, OL, South Alabama
Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State
Bearooz Yacoobi, OL, Purdue
Gussie Busch, LB, Alabama
Imarjaye Albury, DL, FIU
Thurston Armbrister, LB, Miami
Micah Awe, LB, Texas Tech
Maquedius Bain, DT, LSU
Budda Baker, S, Washington
Will Barrow, CB, Tulsa
Zeek Bigger, LB, East Carolina
Jay-nard Bostick, DT, Florida
Bam Bradley, LB, Pittsburgh
Mookie Carlile, DB, UTEP
Destin Challenger, LB, UAB
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Wayland Coleman-Dancer, LB, Troy
Pudge Cotton, DB, Eastern Michigan
Blake Countess, DB, Michigan
Skyler Cracraft, DB, Washington State
Armonze Daniel, DL, Marshall
Prince Charles Iworah, DB, Western Kentucky
Step Durham, DB, Georgia Tech
Kingsley Ejike, DL/LB, UAB
Corn Elder, DB, Miami
Shattle Fenteng, DB, Georgia
Poona Ford, DT, Texas
Maxx Forde, DE, Idaho
Jack Gangwish, DL, Nebraska
Houston Glass, S, Buffalo
Sharrod Golightly, LB/S, South Carolina
Alanmichael Harkness, DL, Appalachian State
Vegas Harley, S, Georgia Southern
Brixx Hawthorne, S, Texas Tech
Zaycoven Henderson, DT, Texas Tech
K’Hadree Hooker, DL, East Carolina
Money Hunter, DB, Arkansas State
Great Ibe, LB, Eastern Michigan
Tank Jakes, LB, Memphis
Lion King, DL, Eastern Michigan
Abu Lamin, DL, South Carolina
Trey Lealaimatafao, DT, LSU
Nifae Lealao, DL, Vanderbilt
Dee Liner, DL, Alabama
Chaiziere Malbrue, LB, ULL
Marcus Mallet, LB, TCU
Praise Martin-Oguike, DL, Temple
Mercy Maston, CB, Boise State
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
SteveO Michel, LB, Colorado State
Finesse Middleton, DE, Louisville
Zelt Minor, DL, SMU
Wonderful Monds II, DE, FIU
Charmeachealle Moore, LB, Kansas State
Silverberry Mouhon, DL, Cincinnati
Chuka Ndulue, DL, Oklahoma
Picasso Nelson Jr., DB, Southern Miss
Noble Nwachukwu, DL, West Virginia
Tito Odenigbo, DL, Illinois
Leviticus Payne, DB, Cincinnati
Jock Petree, DL, UCF
Cody Poock, LB, Minnesota
Dad Poquie, DB, Penn State
Gimel President, DL, Auburn
Johnny Ragin III, LB, Oregon
Bruno Reagan, OL, Vanderbilt
Trevarris Saulsberry, DL, Tennessee
Gusty Schwartzmeier, DL, Buffalo
Patrick Sermersheim, DB, Kentucky
Aziz Shittu, DL, Stanford
Fish Smithson, S, Kansas
Breeland Speaks, DL, Ole Miss
Weston Steelhammer, DB, Air Force
Finis Stribling, DB, Missouri
Dwellie Striggles, DB, Buffalo
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Wonderful Terry, DB, Western Kentucky
Toronto Thomas, LB, Appalachian State
Fudge Van Hooser, CB, Tulane
Sir Calvin Wallace, DT, North Texas
Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
Freedom Whitfield, LB, FAU
Tito Windham, CB, Oklahoma
Psalm Wooching, LB, Washington
DeJazz Woods, DL, Illinois
Carlutorbantu Zaramo, DL, Ball State
Moose Bingham, K, BYU
Chris Blewitt, K, Pittsburgh
Colby Delahoussaye, K, LSU
Younghoe Koo, K, Georgia Southern
Logan McElfresh, P, Minnesota
The ACC enters 2014 with momentum. The conference survived realignment, Louisville joined the league, and Florida State ended the SEC’s run of dominance by defeating Auburn in the national championship. 13 games dot the schedule for the ACC in Week 1, including the Seminoles taking on Oklahoma State in Arlington, Clemson traveling to Athens to take on Georgia, and Miami and Louisville meeting as the only conference game of the week on Labor Day night.
ACC Week 1 Game Power Rankings
1. Clemson (-7.5) at Georgia
5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
In terms of overall intrigue and watchability, this is the premier game in the ACC for Week 1. Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last three years, while Georgia is hoping to rebound from an injury-filled 8-5 campaign. Both teams have new faces stepping into key roles, but none bigger than Tigers’ quarterback Cole Stoudt as he replaces Tajh Boyd. Stoudt faces a Georgia secondary that has been in flux throughout the offseason and needs help from a front seven that will be among the best in the SEC. A similar scenario will play out when the Bulldogs have the ball, as senior quarterback Hutson Mason is making his third career start. Mason and Georgia’s offensive line has a tough matchup against Clemson’s veteran defensive front, but the Tigers have concerns in the secondary. This one could go either way. A high-scoring affair or a low-scoring defensive struggle wouldn’t be surprise.
2. Miami at Louisville (-3.5)
Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The only game featuring two ACC opponents takes place on Labor Day night in Louisville. Miami and Louisville met in the Russell Athletic Bowl, with the Cardinals giving the Hurricanes a 36-9 whipping. But that was last season, and plenty has changed between the two programs. Louisville is now under the direction of Bobby Petrino, and Teddy Bridgewater left for the NFL. Miami returns a good chunk of last year’s roster (12 starters) but will start a true freshman under center (Brad Kaaya). Petrino and quarterback Will Gardner won’t have top receiver DeVante Parker at their disposal due to injury. Parker’s injury will create more opportunities for sophomore James Quick and seniors Eli Rogers and Kai De La Cruz in the passing game. This game also features the return of running back Duke Johnson for Miami, and it’s critical for the junior to get on track to take some of the pressure off of Kaaya in his first start. There’s a lot of new in both programs for this game. Has Miami closed the gap since last year’s bowl loss? Or is Louisville still the better program right now?
Listen to Athlon's Cover 2 Podcast: Week 1 Preview
3. Florida State (-17.5) vs. Oklahoma State (Arlington)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Florida State begins its national title defense in a neutral site environment against a rebuilding Oklahoma State team. The Seminoles are big – and for good reason – favorites in this matchup. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team returns 16 starters, including defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys return just eight starters and must replace 28 seniors from last year’s squad. A rebuilt offensive line is the biggest concern for coach Mike Gundy, but quarterback J.W. Walsh also needs to play with more consistency. Even though Oklahoma State’s defense has a couple of All-Big 12 candidates, this should be a good opportunity for Winston and his revamped receiving corps (including true freshmen Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane) to gain valuable reps before a key ACC contest against Clemson on Sept. 20. Barring a sluggish performance by Florida State, it’s hard to see this one being close in the fourth quarter.
4. UCLA (-21) at Virginia
Noon ET, ESPN
With an 18-31 record in four years, 2014 is a make-or-break season for Virginia coach Mike London. But London’s future certainly isn’t helped by a schedule that features non-conference games against UCLA and BYU, combined with a crossover division matchup against Florida State and Louisville. The Bruins are one of the favorites in the Pac-12 and return 14 starters from last year’s 10-3 team. Virginia’s defense is a good matchup for UCLA’s young offensive line, but the Cavaliers need to find a way to generate points. Sophomore Greyson Lambert edged David Watford at quarterback this offseason, and he should have his hands full against a UCLA defense that finished No. 4 in the Pac-12 in fewest points allowed (conference-only games). It’s a long road trip from Los Angeles to Charlottesville, and a Noon ET start means an early wake-up call for the Bruins. A few early struggles are possible, but UCLA has too much talent for a Virginia team that’s still searching for answers on offense.
5. Wake Forest at ULM (-1.5)
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The Dave Clawson era at Wake Forest opens with a tricky road trip. ULM has improved under fifth-year coach Todd Berry and returns 14 starters from a team that finished 6-6 last year. The Warhawks also have a familiar face at quarterback in NC State transfer Pete Thomas. The Demon Deacons are a young team and plan to start only seven seniors in the opener. True freshman John Wolford is slated to open under center, and Clawson needs to find new playmakers and develop an offensive line to help his young quarterback. Points could be at a premium on Thursday night.
6. Georgia Southern at NC State (-20.5)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
The Wolfpack enter 2014 riding an eight-game losing streak, but there’s hope for a turnaround in 2014 with the arrival of transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Georgia Southern joins the FBS ranks in 2014 and ended 2013 by winning its final three games last year, including a 26-20 upset over Florida. With a favorable non-conference schedule, it’s important for NC State to get off to a good start and have a 4-0 mark before playing Florida State on Sept. 27.
7. William & Mary at Virginia Tech
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
An upset is unlikely here, but William & Mary could make Virginia Tech sweat for a while. The Tribe ranked No. 2 among FCS teams in scoring defense (14 ppg) and held opponents to just 118.1 rushing yards per game last season. It’s a good thing for William & Mary to have a good defense, especially with a new starter at quarterback (Steve Cluley) in a hostile environment. Virginia Tech’s offense is filled with unknowns, starting at quarterback with Michael Brewer and with talented, but unproven playmakers at running back and receiver. It may take a quarter or two for the Hokies’ offense to get on track, but the defense is enough for Frank Beamer’s team to pull away from the Tribe in the second half.
8. Boston College (-17) at UMass
3 p.m. ET, ESPN3
With a matchup against Pittsburgh next Friday, Boston College hopes to use UMass as a tune-up for its ACC opener. The Eagles have several new faces stepping into key roles on offense, including Florida transfer Tyler Murphy at quarterback, UConn transfer Shakim Phillips at receiver and sophomore Myles Willis replacing Andre Williams at running back. The Minutemen are 2-22 over the last two seasons and is under the direction of new coach Mark Whipple. UMass is slated to start Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel at quarterback.
9. Delaware at Pittsburgh
Noon ET, ESPN3
Openers have not been kind to Pittsburgh’s third-year coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers were upset by Youngstown State in 2012 and lost to Florida State last year. Chryst hopes the third time is a charm, taking on a Delaware team that just missed the first FCS top 25 poll. New Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik looked sharp in limited action last year, and this will be his first taste of extended action. The Panthers’ rebuilding defense also figures to get a good test from a Blue Hens’ offense that averaged 32.8 points per game last year.
10. Villanova at Syracuse
Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Orange finished 2013 with momentum on their side, winning four out of their last six games. With 13 starters back, second-year coach Scott Shafer has a chance to push Syracuse to eight wins in 2014. Shafer and coordinator George McDonald want to push the tempo on offense this season, which largely depends on the development of quarterback Terrel Hunt and the receiving corps. Villanova ranked as the No. 8 team in Athlon’s projected 2014 FCS top 25 and hope to bounce back after finishing 6-5 last year.
11. Liberty at North Carolina
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
All eyes in Chapel Hill will be at quarterback on Saturday night. North Carolina coach Larry Fedora won’t reveal his starter, as the battle between Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky continued into fall practice. In addition to the quarterbacks, the Tar Heels will play a handful of young players on defense, which could present a few headaches against a balanced Liberty offense. The Flames (led by coach Turner Gill) could hang around for a while, but North Carolina simply has too much firepower on offense.
12. Wofford at Georgia Tech
12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports South
Don’t expect the forward pass to be utilized much in this one. Georgia Tech averaged only 15.6 attempts per game and Wofford averaged 12.5 last season. This matchup against the Terriers will be the first start for new Yellow Jackets’ quarterback Justin Thomas. The sophomore’s development is critical for Georgia Tech’s Coastal Division title hopes. Paul Johnson has won five out of his six openers with the Yellow Jackets and should cruise to an easy victory.
13. Elon at Duke
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Duke shouldn’t have too much trouble in its season opener, as the defending Coastal Division champs host an Elon team that went 2-10 last year. The Blue Devils suffered season-ending injuries to tight end Braxton Deaver and linebacker Kelby Brown, and this game should allow coach David Cutcliffe a chance to play a few younger players to build depth.
Week 1 ACC Predictions
|Clemson (-7.5) at Georgia||UGA 24-14||UGA 24-21||UGA 27-24||UGA 31-24|
|Miami (+3.5) at Louisville||UL 21-14||UL 34-27||UL 31-24||UL 27-20|
|FSU (-17.5) vs. Okla. State||FSU 49-10||FSU 44-17||FSU 48-17||FSU 41-17|
|UCLA (-21) at Virginia||UCLA 42-10||UCLA 38-13||UCLA 34-13||UCLA 33-14|
|Wake Forest (+1.5) at ULM||ULM 17-14||ULM 31-28||ULM 24-20||ULM 34-24|
|Ga. Southern (+20.5) at NC State||State 21-13||State 34-17||State 38-10||State 34-17|
|William & Mary at Va. Tech||VT 35-3||VT 27-3||VT 34-10||VT 30-10|
|Boston College (-17) at UMass||BC 42-7||BC 34-17||BC 38-10||BC 37-14|
|Delaware at Pittsburgh||Pitt 31-7||Pitt 38-14||Pitt 40-20||Pitt 30-17|
|Villanova at Syracuse||SU 28-10||SU 34-17||SU 41-17||SU 33-17|
|Liberty at North Carolina||UNC 42-10||UNC 45-10||UNC 45-17||UNC 41-13|
|Wofford at Georgia Tech||GT 38-10||GT 38-17||GT 45-13||GT 41-13|
|Elon at Duke||Duke 35-13||Duke 38-10||Duke 41-13||Duke 33-14|
College football’s 2014 season officially gets underway on Thursday, as South Carolina hosts Texas A&M on the new SEC Network. The Gamecocks begin 2014 as a preseason top-10 team and should be one of the favorites to win the East Division. The Aggies are in rebuild mode without quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and offensive tackle Jake Matthews. But coach Kevin Sumlin's team features plenty of young talent, including freshmen receivers Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones. This matchup is also the first game on the new SEC Network.
This will be the first meeting between South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Texas A&M at South Carolina
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: South Carolina -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. South Carolina’s OL vs. Texas A&M’s Front Seven
South Carolina’s offensive line ranks as one of the best in the SEC and should have their way with Texas A&M’s front seven. The Aggies allowed 236.3 rushing yards per game last season (conference-only contests), and depth along the defensive front is a bigger concern after the departure of end Gavin Stansbury and the dismissal of tackle Isaiah Golden and linebacker Darian Claiborne. True freshman Myles Garrett is not listed as a starter on the first depth chart, but the five-star prospect is slated to play major snaps. Talent isn’t a problem on Texas A&M’s defensive front. However, how quickly can players like Garrett, true freshman Zaycoven Henderson and sophomore Daeshon Hall acclimate to life in the SEC? If the Aggies struggle to stop the run once again, South Carolina’s offensive line and rushing attack – led by All-SEC running back Mike Davis – will have its way up front.
2. Debut of New Quarterbacks
Thursday night’s game is the first for Texas A&M in the post-Johnny Manziel era. The Aggies will certainly miss Manziel, but this offense isn’t hurting for talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line. Sophomore Kenny Hill edged true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting job in the fall and Thursday night’s game is his first opportunity to start. Hill played limited snaps last year and finished with 183 passing yards on 16 completions and 37 rushing yards on seven attempts. On the other sideline, Dylan Thompson is no stranger to the starting lineup, as this will be his fourth start as a Gamecock. Thompson has been a capable fill-in for Connor Shaw over the last two years, but 2014 is his first chance to be the full-time starter. The South Carolina native is 3-0 as a starter and could have a huge debut against Texas A&M’s suspect defense.
3. South Carolina’s rebuilt defense
Texas A&M isn’t the only defense with concerns heading into the opener. South Carolina returns six starters on defense, but the Gamecocks suffered significant losses on the defensive line and in the secondary. Up front, end Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles depart, while three true freshman are slated for major snaps in the secondary (Wesley Green, Chris Lammons and Al Harris Jr.). Although the Aggies won’t have Johnny Manziel under center, this offense is still dangerous. New quarterback Kenny Hill has a deep group of receivers, and there’s options at running back with Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams. Coordinator Lorenzo Ward plans on mixing in more three-man fronts to take advantage of the depth at linebacker. Will this unit perform at a high level from the opening snap? Or will it take Ward a few games to find the right mix. Texas A&M should be a good barometer test.
Even with three first-round picks departing, Texas A&M’s offense will be dangerous. South Carolina’s defense has enough new pieces stepping into the lineup to keep this one close, as the Aggies should have success moving the ball. However, can Texas A&M get stops? If the defense continues to struggle, the Gamecocks will have no trouble moving the ball on the ground or through the air. Running back Mike Davis was injured in fall camp, but he is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday. Considering South Carolina’s strong offensive line and Davis leading the way on the ground, the Gamecocks will simply wear down the Aggies and open the year with a key conference victory.
Prediction: South Carolina 34, Texas A&M 24
Louisville’s offense suffered a significant setback on Monday, as top receiver DeVante Parker suffered a foot injury in fall camp and will miss 6-8 weeks.
Parker was expected to be the Cardinals’ top receiving threat after recording 55 catches for 885 yards and 12 scores last season. Parker was limited some by injury in the middle of the year but averaged 16.1 yards per reception in 2013.
The timetable for Parker’s return is uncertain, but if the 6-8 week span holds true, the senior could miss key ACC contests against Florida State and Clemson.
There’s no doubt Parker’s absence will be a huge loss for Louisville. However, coach Bobby Petrino is one of the best in the nation at maximizing the X’s and O’s. Expect to see more of sophomore James Quick and seniors Eli Rogers and Kai De La Cruz targeted in the passing game. And senior tight end Gerald Christian should be an even bigger part of the offense and should push for All-ACC honors in 2014.
Parker’s injury is a definite setback for Louisville, but the Cardinals could still be favored to win their first six games.