Articles By Steven Lassan
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
The Big East was dealt a surprising blow to the stability of the conference when Pittsburgh and Syracuse applied and was accepted as a member of the ACC. Although both schools would like to join the ACC sooner rather than later, the Big East plans on holding them to the league’s withdrawal policy and in the conference until 2014.
Although the Big East isn’t on its deathbed, there are concerns about its future and long-term stability. With the departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, seven teams remain in the conference – West Virginia, South Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville and TCU (joining next year).
Rutgers and Connecticut are reportedly very interested in joining the ACC and after adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh, it seems to be only a matter of time before the conference expands to 16. Additionally, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati and TCU are rumored targets of Big 12 expansion.
Although there are concerns about the future of the league, the Big East can’t continue as a seven-team conference forever. Expect the conference to pursue expansion over the next couple of months to get back to a 10 or 12-team league.
With the Big East needing to invite teams to secure its future, which teams could be targets of expansion?
Air Force: The conference is reportedly considering inviting the Falcons as a football-only member. Air Force has a national following and would be a solid addition to the conference. However, it’s an odd geographic fit and doesn’t substantially increase the Big East’s standing nationally.
Army: The Black Knights tried conference membership before and it didn’t go so well. Army was a dreadful 13-67 in Conference USA from 1998-2004. If Navy and Air Force joined, perhaps the Black Knights could be enticed. Also, coach Rich Ellerson has upgraded the football program during his tenure and it’s very likely Army would be a lot more competitive in a conference this time around.
East Carolina: The Pirates have already expressed their interest in making a conference shift, applying to join the Big East on Tuesday. Although some reports have already nixed East Carolina as an expansion candidate, the Pirates should be high on the priority list. East Carolina ranked No. 50 in attendance last year, which is higher than Rutgers, Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida and Syracuse. With BCS conference money flowing into the program, the Pirates could be a solid long-term solution.
Houston: The Cougars are under consideration for Big 12 expansion, but the Big East may end up being the more likely destination. Houston would be an attractive market for the conference to tap into and would give TCU a Big East rival. Very few cons for the conference to invite the Cougars and would be a good pick to help rebuild the Big East.
Memphis: The Tigers have long been interested in joining the Big East. This would be an invite to strengthen the conference for basketball purposes, as the football team is currently one of the worst in college football and the facilities are in need of repair.
Navy: Similar to Air Force, the Big East may invite the Midshipmen as a football-only member. Navy would be a good geographic fit and has a national following. The Midshipmen have been very competitive in recent years, winning at least eight games a season since 2003. Would the Midshipmen want to give up their football independence? If Air Force and Army say no to the Big East, Navy might not be interested.
Notre Dame: An extreme longshot. The Irish aren’t giving up independence, but the Big East can at least try. Would be a huge upset if Notre Dame joined the Big East for football.
SMU: If the Big 12 doesn’t call, would the Mustangs be interested in a spot in the Big East? If the conference has to turn outside of the BCS conferences for expansion candidates, a team in the Dallas market makes a lot of sense.
Temple: The Big East kicked out the Owls after the 2004 season, but Temple has improved its football product in recent years. The Owls would get the Big East into the Philadelphia market, but has struggled to fill Lincoln Financial Field on Saturdays.
UCF: Unless the Big East invites Boise State or BYU, the Knights are probably the most competitive and capable team for contending Big East title right now. Would South Florida block UCF from joining? Although the Bulls may not like the idea of having another Florida school in the conference, the Big East could run out of options.
Villanova: The Wildcats appeared close to joining the Big East earlier this year and are already a member in basketball. The football program is competing at the FCS level, but would help the conference get into the Philadelphia market. Villanova would likely need some time to build its program if it makes the move from the FCS level, and would not help the Big East from a national perspective much right now.
With the Pac-12’s decision not to expand and the Big 12 surviving for now, BYU will be a team in high demand. The Big 12 is currently at nine teams with Texas A&M’s departure to the SEC and the conference is expected to explore expansion to provide stability.
The Cougars are in their first season of football independence, but will that last? BYU should be target No. 1 for any Big 12 expansion and an invite to join for 2012 could be coming in the next couple of months.
In addition to BYU, the conference is rumored to be interested in West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati from the Big East. SMU, Houston and Air Force have also been mentioned. However, considering the Big East teams recently met to commit to the conference and SMU, Houston and Air Force don’t add much to the conference, BYU stands out as the clear option for any Big 12 expansion.
Not only is BYU a great fit geographically, but it would be competitive right away in the Big 12. Competing in the Big 12 is a step up from the Mountain West, but the Cougars would have the opportunity to play for an automatic bid into the BCS every year.
There’s no question BYU should accept a bid to the Big 12 if it’s offered. Although the Cougars would be ditching Independence after one year, it’s the smart thing to do.
The Cougars can schedule nationally as an Independent, but the Big 12 can provide just as much exposure with its new television contract. Playing on ESPN, ABC, FX and Fox will be a solid showcase for any program.
The Big 12 had some issues with Texas’ Longhorn Network, but BYU’s television network – BYUtv – wouldn’t be an issue. BYUtv won’t be televising any high school games or highlights and the network is geared mostly for educational purposes.
If the Big 12 calls – and it should – BYU would be foolish to say no.
Consider this: If the Big 12 breaks apart in 10 years, BYU can always go back to being an Independent.
What’s BYU got to lose? Joining the Big 12 (if offered) is a no-brainer for the Cougars.
If the Cougars turn down a spot in the Big 12, they would be making a big mistake.
Who knows what conferences could look like in 10 years? If super conferences are really around the corner, BYU would be on the inside, rather than the outside if they are an Independent.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With the Pac-12 holding off on expanding to 16 teams, Oklahoma and Texas will stay in the Big 12 – for now. However, the conference is expected to pursue expansion and likely attempt to get back to 12 teams.
Texas A&M is out the door and won’t be returning to the SEC, which leaves the Big 12 at nine teams for the 2012 season. The conference could choose to expand to only 10, but getting to 12 would provide more stability.
Which schools could be added to the Big 12?
Air Force: The Falcons are a hot commodity in realignment, as the Big East and Big 12 are likely in pursuit. Air Force has a national fanbase and has been a solid program in the Mountain West. Adding the Falcons would get the Big 12 back into Colorado. However, Air Force has struggled to find success in other sports and isn’t a home run target for the Big 12.
Big East: Although the remaining football schools in the conference have pledged to stick together, there’s no guarantee that happens. The Big 12 needs to take a hard look at getting West Virginia, Louisville, or Cincinnati. Maybe the Big East will survive, but it can’t hurt the Big 12 to try.
Boise State: If the Big 12 is serious about adding competitive options, the Broncos are a good fit and should be near the top. However, it's a longshot Boise State gets a call from the Big 12 with an invitation.
BYU: The Cougars are in the first season of Independence, but would be a great fit for the Big 12. BYU is one of the most competitive football options available and has a national fanbase. There are zero cons about adding BYU to the Big 12, but will the Cougars ditch Independence after one year for a conference still on shaky ground? If the Big 12 is serious about securing its future, BYU should be target No. 1.
Houston: With Texas A&M gone, the Cougars are an attractive target for the conference to get back into Houston. The facilities are in the process of an upgrade, and the program could be very competitive in the Big 12 with BCS money. Houston is a very solid choice for the conference, but may also be a target for the Big East. If the Big 12 wants to strengthen its footprint in Texas, Houston is a very good choice.
Notre Dame: A very, very unlikely candidate. However, the Big 12 will at least place a call to South Bend.
SMU: After suffering from the effects of the death penalty, the Mustangs are finally competitive once again. Coach June Jones has SMU on the right track, which certainly helps to make the program more attractive in realignment. Support isn’t great, but is located in Dallas. Would probably be behind Houston in the pecking order.
TCU: Are the Horned Frogs interested in departing the Big East? With the conference dealing with instability, TCU should be a prime target for the Big 12. However, would Texas let the Horned Frogs in?
The Big 12 was on its deathbed earlier this week, but has somehow survived for the second year in a row. Thanks to the Pac-12’s decision not to expand and add Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech, the Big 12 will continue to exist – for now.
Although the Pac-12 decided not to expand, the Big 12 isn’t going to become one harmonious group overnight.
Oklahoma and Texas still have several issues to work out, particularly what happens with the Longhorn Network and establishing equal revenue distribution.
However, the Pac-12’s decision at least buys the conference and its members a little time to work something out. Oklahoma and Texas reportedly wanted the Big 12 to survive, and now the Pac-12’s announcement gives both schools that opportunity.
Expect both sides to attempt to work out the issues over the next couple of weeks, but there may be a new commissioner involved. Reports out of Oklahoma on Tuesday indicated the Sooners want to see Dan Beebe ousted, and it’s likely other schools in the conference share that desire.
Although Beebe doesn’t deserve all of the blame, like anything that goes wrong, someone has to be the fall guy. The Big 12 needs a commissioner that is a strong leader and will strengthen the conference. And someone that isn’t afraid to push back on Texas, Oklahoma or anyone that might threaten the future of the Big 12.
A new commissioner can work wonders for any conference – see Larry Scott in the Pac-12. Again, Beebe can’t be blamed for everything that occurred, but it seemed he was too interested in giving into all of Texas’ demands and forgetting about the conference’s overall health. It’s interesting to note that none of these issues that popped up in the Big 12 do not occur in the SEC or the Big Ten. Both have equal revenue sharing and it’s about helping build a strong conference – not about individual schools.
Ousting Beebe as commissioner could be the first step in what will be an extended rebuilding phase. The Big 12 must explore expansion and target schools that are going to bring stability. BYU is the perfect target for the conference, but its uncertain if the Cougars will join. If BYU turns down the Big 12, then expect the conference to turn to the Big East, Conference USA and Mountain West for replacements.
The Big 12 also has a decision on whether it wants to expand to 10 or 12 teams. Getting back to 12 would bring more stability and a conference title game for more revenue. However, the Big 12 may not see enough viable candidates to expand back to 12.
Although the Big 12 survived for at least another year, can this group hold together for 10-15 years? Considering the instability the last two seasons and the rift between schools right now, it’s uncertain the conference will be around in 2025.
Since last summer, the Big 12 has lost three solid members – Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M. The conference cannot afford to lose Oklahoma or Texas, which is why it’s imperative those two work out any differences.
The Big 12 can become a long-term success, but if the issues aren’t resolved, we can expect to see the same type of scenario that played out over the last two weeks happen again. Sure, the differences might be pretty wide in some areas, and Texas may refuse to give in on certain things – namely the concerns over the Longhorn Network. However, if Oklahoma and Texas are serious about keeping the Big 12 as a viable conference, it’s time to resolve the differences.
College football was a big winner on Tuesday night with the Pac-12’s decision not to expand. Super conferences may eventually happen, but the Pac-12’s decision not to expand puts that on hold – for now.
If you want realignment talk to end, hope the Big 12 works out all of its issues. If you want super conferences, hope Oklahoma and Texas become more frustrated with the Big 12 and decide to leave. And who knows, maybe the Pac-12 will come calling once again. If Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott sees an opportunity in a couple of years, expect him to take it.
The Big 12 has lived to see another day, but how long will it survive? The next few months could decide whether Tuesday’s announcement by the Pac-12 is just a band-aid for the Big 12 or if this strengthens the conference and this is the last of realignment talk for the next 10-15 years.
Despite all of the rumors and uncertainty involving college football and realignment, Notre Dame has continued to maintain independence is priority No. 1. Although super conferences appeared to be on the horizon earlier this week, the Pac-12 decided not to expand and for now, the Big 12 will survive.
Although Notre Dame could be forced to join a conference in the future, the Irish were a big winner in the latest round of college football realignment. Notre Dame maintained its independence without much of a concern, thanks to what transpired across the conferences earlier this week.
The Big Ten, ACC, Big East and Big 12 have all expressed interest in adding the Irish for football, but those plans will have to wait until the next round of realignment.
Why does Notre Dame want to remain Independent?
National television audience: Although the Irish could make more television money on the Big Ten Network, no team has an advantage with a national audience like Notre Dame. A good chunk of games are on NBC, which gives the Irish an opportunity to be seen by millions of people every Saturday. Great for recruiting.
National Recruiting: Most teams and conferences base a lot of their recruiting in the region they are in. However, since Notre Dame plays a national schedule and is not affiliated with any conference, the Irish have a recruiting base that expands anywhere across the United States.
Scheduling: Playing in the Big Ten could actually be easier on Notre Dame’s schedule. However, the Irish prefer to have a national slate every year, which definitely helps visibility in recruiting. If Notre Dame joined the Big Ten, it could probably continue to schedule USC or Stanford, but some of the flexibility would be gone.
The landscape in college football is due to change in the future. However, the Irish are in a good position to choose their path.
Other sports outside of football will continue to compete in the Big East, barring any collapse of the conference. At least for the next couple of years, Notre Dame is set as an independent in football. And that’s exactly what it wants. While it may not be the most popular decision among college football fans, the Irish continue to maintain their belief independence is the best course of action for Notre Dame.
There’s little doubt the Irish cherish their independence and as each rumor about conference realignment pops up, things start to get a little uneasy in South Bend.
There will come a time where Notre Dame has to consider joining the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC or Big East. But not in 2011.
The Pac-12’s decision not to expand made the Irish a big winner on Tuesday night and barring a drastic change in the college football landscape, Notre Dame plans on remaining independent.
The SEC has already unofficially secured Texas A&M from the Big 12 – could Missouri be next? The Kansas City Star is reporting Missouri has been extended an offer to join the SEC. However, the Tigers aren’t ready to act on the offer and are waiting to see what happens with the Big 12.
With the Big 12 on the verge of collapse, all 10 teams have been scrambling to secure a future home for 2012 and beyond. Missouri has been committed to making the Big 12 work, but the clock is ticking and the conference could be approaching its final hours.
The future of the Big 12 is squarely locked into Norman, Okla. and Austin, Texas. The Sooners have indicated heavy interest in joining the Pac-12, but could remain in the Big 12. Texas has also shown interest in the Pac-12, but may not be willing to fold its Longhorn Network into a conference regional network.
The Pac-12 could take Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and get to 14 teams, but Texas is unlikely to stick with a watered-down Big 12.
Texas A&M has yet to officially be announced as a SEC member, but all signs point to the Aggies joining the conference next season. However, when Texas A&M joins, the SEC would be at 13 teams, which creates unbalanced divisions and why the conference is interested in Missouri.
The Tigers may seem like an odd fit for the SEC to some, but Missouri is bordered by Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas (three SEC states). And Columbia, Mo. is almost halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City – two key markets the SEC would love to tap into.
If the Tigers join the SEC, they could be placed in the West, while Auburn is moved to the East to balance out the divisions.
Although Missouri has an offer on the table, the report indicates saving the Big 12 is still priority No. 1. However, if the conference implodes, the Tigers would have an opportunity to join the SEC.
But would the Tigers accept an invite to the SEC?
Missouri was believed to have interest in joining the Big Ten during last year’s expansion craze.
If the Big Ten decides it needs to expand, would the Tigers be more interested in staying in the Midwest or joining the SEC?
There are still a lot of scenarios still to play out with conference realignment, but it appears Missouri is going to be attracting a lot of interest from a couple of conferences over the next couple of weeks.
There are still several dominos to fall in college football’s great realignment of 2011, but the picture is starting to clear just a bit. West Virginia has been rumored as a potential candidate for SEC or ACC expansion over the past few weeks, but it appears that talk can quiet down. According to CBSSports.com Brett McMurphy, West Virginia officials have indicated they have been turned down by the SEC and ACC for membership.
Considering the uncertain landscape across college football, there are a lot of teams searching for a new home or at least developing contingency plans. West Virginia was a rumored target to be the SEC’s No. 14 team and under consideration to be the No. 15 or No. 16 team into the ACC.
However, the options seem to be limited for a future home for the Mountaineers.
What happens to the Big 12 will play a key role in determining where several teams will end up.
The Mountaineers could decide to stay in a revamped Big East, if the Big 12 doesn’t break apart. While this option isn’t overly attractive, the conference does have a solid building block with West Virginia, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut – provided none of those teams depart for the ACC. TCU is also scheduled to join the Big East in 2012. With that block of six teams to start with, the conference could look to add UCF, Houston, East Carolina and SMU from Conference USA for future members.
If the Big 12 breaks apart, there will be a lot of changes coming to all conferences. What’s left of the Big 12 – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri – could choose to merge with the remaining schools of the Big East. Although it’s not going to challenge the SEC, Big Ten or ACC in terms of overall strength, the conference would keep an automatic bid to the BCS.
In terms of overall competitiveness, the Mountaineers are one of the top options on the board for the ACC or SEC to expand. However, with the ACC’s desire to explore adding Connecticut and Rutgers, it’s clear the move is not about play on the field.
If adding Connecticut and Rutgers helps the ACC get a better television deal or helps to strengthen the conference's hold on the East Coast, then that’s what it will take. And don’t rule out the conference from making a run at Notre Dame. It’s a longshot that the Irish will join the ACC, but the conference will at least place a phone call to South Bend.
The SEC has already taken the steps to add Texas A&M, but will need a 14th team. Is the conference waiting to pounce on Missouri or Kansas?
Barring a change of direction, it appears West Virginia will not be joining the SEC or ACC. With today’s news, all signs point to the Mountaineers sticking around in a revamped Big East or Big 12.
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel could be sidelined for Saturday’s game against Clemson. The junior suffered a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma.
Manuel did not practice on Monday and is considered day-to-day by coach Jimbo Fisher. If he cannot start against Clemson, redshirt freshman Clint Trickett will start. Trickett completed 7 of 15 throws for 134 yards and one touchdown in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma. However, Trickett has only 23 career attempts and has yet to make a start.
This is not the Manuel’s first shoulder injury. In 2010, Manuel had surgery on his throwing shoulder, which prevented him from suiting up in spring practice.
Manuel is off to a good start this season, throwing for 666 yards and six touchdowns in three games. The junior completed 13 of 19 passes for 85 yards and two interceptions before leaving with an injury against the Sooners. Manuel is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC and should be battling with Maryland’s Danny O’Brien to earn first-team all-conference honors at the end of the year.
Saturday’s matchup against Clemson is a big one in the ACC Atlantic race. The Seminoles are considered the favorite to win the division, but the Tigers are a dangerous team, especially with the offense starting to click. Clemson has played well at home against Florida State in recent years, winning the last four matchups in Death Valley. The Tigers are also coming off a huge win over Auburn, which has given the team momentum going into Week 4.
Manuel’s status is even more important to this matchup, considering the struggles of Florida State's offensive line and running backs so far this year. The Seminoles rank 100th nationally in rushing offense and are managing only 3.2 yards per carry.
Florida State can certainly lean on its defense to win in Death Valley on Saturday. However, a healthy Manuel would certainly help the Seminoles’ chances of victory.
Expect Manuel to be a gametime decision for Florida State, but Fisher and the staff will have Trickett prepped throughout the week in case he needs to start.
Even if Florida State has to go without Manuel, don't be surprised if the Seminoles find a way to win, thanks to one of the nation's best defenses.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Nebraska (3-0) – The Cornhuskers still aren’t hitting on all cylinders, but Saturday’s win over Washington was a step in the right direction. The Huskers’ defense has allowed over 400 yards in back-to-back games, but cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is getting closer to returning to the lineup. Nebraska travels to Laramie to take on Wyoming this Saturday.
2. Wisconsin (3-0) – The Badgers have turned in three sharp performances and should be 4-0 after playing South Dakota this Saturday. Although Wisconsin has looked very good and a case could be made they should be No. 1 in the Big Ten power rankings, Nebraska has the best win so far (Washington). Don’t worry, these two teams play on Oct. 1, which will decide who takes over the top spot in these rankings.
3. Illinois (3-0) – The Fighting Illini scored an impressive non-conference win in Week 3 by defeating Arizona State 17-14. Considering the upcoming schedule, Illinois could be 6-0 when Ohio State travels to Champaign on Oct. 15. Despite some key losses on defense, the Fighting Illini has allowed only 32 points through three games.
4. Michigan (3-0) – It wasn’t nearly as exciting as the Week 2 victory against Notre Dame, but the Wolverines improved to 3-0 with Saturday’s victory over Eastern Michigan. This ought to be an interesting week for new Michigan coach Brady Hoke, as the Wolverines take on his former team – San Diego State.
5. Michigan State (2-1) – After allowing only six points through the first two weeks of 2011, the Spartans gave up 31 in a loss to Notre Dame. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 329 yards, but got little help from the rushing attack and offensive line. Michigan State takes on Central Michigan this week, before opening Big Ten play on Oct. 1 against Ohio State.
6. Ohio State (2-1) – The Buckeyes were thoroughly dominated in Saturday’s loss to the Hurricanes. The offense struggled to get anything going, while the defense couldn’t stop Miami running back Lamar Miller. Ohio State has slipped in the Big Ten power rankings over the last two weeks, but still has plenty of time to climb back to the top.
7. Penn State (2-1) – Saturday’s win over Temple wasn’t pretty, but it’s a victory and something for the Nittany Lions to build on. Neither quarterback (Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin) played well enough to provide some separation in the battle to be the No. 1 passer. With Eastern Michigan this Saturday, Penn State has another opportunity to iron out some of the kinks before Big Ten play begins.
8. Iowa (2-1) – The Hawkeyes looked sluggish for most of the game, but a furious fourth quarter rally propelled them to a win over Pittsburgh. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw for 399 yards and three scores in the victory and has only one interception this year. Iowa hosts UL Monroe this Saturday, which should be an easy tune-up before conference play starts on Oct. 8 at Penn State.
9. Northwestern (2-1) – Army is a difficult opponent to prepare for in a week, but is still an opponent the Wildcats cannot afford to lose to. Northwestern does not play in Week 4, but quarterback Dan Persa is expected to return for the Big Ten opener on Oct. 1 against Illinois.
10. Purdue (2-1) – After the loss to Rice in Week 2, the Boilermakers needed an easy victory to gain some confidence before Big Ten play starts. And that's exactly what they got on Saturday against Southeast Missouri State. Quarterback Robert Marve made his return to the field, completing 7 of 8 passes for 91 yards and one score. Saturday’s appearance was the first for Marve since tearing his ACL against Toledo last season.
11. Minnesota (1-2) – The Golden Gophers finally broke into the win column with Saturday’s 29-23 victory over Miami, Ohio. The team also got a boost from the return of coach Jerry Kill, who suffered a seizure in the final moments of the 28-21 loss to New Mexico State. Look for the Gophers to beat North Dakota State and move to 2-2 this Saturday.
12. Indiana (1-2) – New coach Kevin Wilson earned his first win in Bloomington with Saturday’s 38-21 victory over South Carolina State. The Hoosiers are making slow progress under Wilson, but still have a long way to go in order to challenge for a bowl. Indiana travels to Denton to take on North Texas this Saturday.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (3-0) – The Crimson Tide continue to reside atop the SEC power rankings. LSU has the best win among teams in the SEC (Oregon), but Athlon is projecting Alabama to play for the national championship. The Crimson Tide open SEC play with Arkansas this week, followed by a trip to Gainesville on Oct. 1.
2. LSU (3-0) – The Tigers aren’t the flashiest team, but just find ways to win games. Thursday night’s victory over Mississippi State was another example of that. The LSU defense kept the Bulldogs’ rushing attack in check, while the offense made timely plays through the air. The Tigers have another tough road trip ahead this week, traveling to Morgantown to take on undefeated and Big East favorite West Virginia.
3. Arkansas (3-0) – After three non-conference matchups, it’s time to see just how Arkansas stacks up in the SEC race. The Razorbacks' defense struggled with Troy on Saturday, which has to be a concern with Alabama running back Trent Richardson up next. If Arkansas wants to be a factor in the SEC West race, winning in Tuscaloosa is a must.
4. Florida (3-0) – Through three weeks, the Gators have looked like the most impressive team in the SEC East. Quarterback John Brantley isn’t posting big numbers, but turned in an efficient and effective performance against Tennessee. Running back Chris Rainey has been one of the SEC’s best players through three weeks, posting 520 total yards and four touchdowns on offense. The Gators face Kentucky on the road this Saturday, before a key two-game stretch against Alabama and LSU.
5. South Carolina (3-0) – Navy gave South Carolina all it could handle, but sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore proved to be too much to handle for the Midshipmen defense. Two concerns for the Gamecocks that continue to show up – pass defense and quarterback play. There’s a lot of time to sort out those issues, but South Carolina can’t afford to give Vanderbilt any help this Saturday.
6. Auburn (2-1) – All good things eventually come to an end. The Tigers 17-game winning streak was snapped in Saturday’s loss to Clemson. Auburn dodged a bullet with comebacks in the first two games of the year, but wasn’t able to rally in Week 3. The Tigers should get back on the winning side with a victory over FAU this week, but upcoming SEC games against South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and LSU will be difficult.
7. Mississippi State (1-2) – The Bulldogs had a chance to score a marquee win for coach Dan Mullen on Thursday night, but fell just short, losing 19-6 to LSU. The Mississippi State offense never got on track, with quarterback Chris Relf only throwing for 96 yards and running back Vick Ballard held to 38 yards and no touchdowns. Look for Mississippi State to get back in the win column against Louisiana Tech this Saturday.
8. Georgia (1-2) – With all of the turmoil surrounding Mark Richt, Saturday’s win over Coastal Carolina provided some much-needed relief for the Bulldogs. The two-game stretch of Boise State and South Carolina was one of the most difficult starts for any team in college football, but despite the 0-2 start, Georgia could still win the SEC East. The Bulldogs should get their first conference win of the year against Ole Miss this Saturday.
9. Tennessee (2-1) – Saturday’s loss to Florida showed the Volunteers still have a lot of work to do to become a SEC East contender. Quarterback Tyler Bray tossed two picks, the rushing attack never got on track and the defense didn’t have an answer for Florida running back Chris Rainey. The Volunteers' offense suffered a huge blow in the loss, as receiver Justin Hunter suffered a torn ACL and is out for the year.
10. Vanderbilt (3-0) – Thanks to a 30-7 win over Ole Miss, the Commodores jump from No. 12 to No. 10 in this week’s power rankings. Could coach James Franklin reach a bowl in his first season in Nashville? With Army, Kentucky and Wake Forest remaining, it’s not out of the question.
11. Kentucky (2-1) – The Wildcats had a four-game winning streak to Louisville snapped on Saturday. Kentucky’s offense has struggled throughout 2011 and it finally caught up to the team against the Cardinals. The Wildcats have a tough three-game stretch upcoming, with Florida this Saturday, followed by road trips to LSU and South Carolina.
12. Ole Miss (1-2) – Losing to Vanderbilt isn’t bad, it’s just the manner in which it happened that is. The Rebels were dominated by the Commodores and a late touchdown was needed just to prevent a shutout. Coach Houston Nutt’s seat is beginning to get a little toasty, and one look at the schedule sees few guaranteed wins the rest of the way.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Florida State (2-1) – Coach Jimbo Fisher won’t accept moral victories, but there’s no shame in losing to one of the top teams in the nation. Florida State hung tough against Oklahoma, despite losing No. 1 quarterback EJ Manuel to a shoulder injury in the second half. The Seminoles can still finish as one of the top five teams in the nation and make a trip to a BCS bowl, but a road game at Clemson won’t be easy this Saturday.
2. Virginia Tech (3-0) – The Hokies moved to 3-0 with a 26-7 win over Arkansas State. Quarterback Logan Thomas had a so-so performance in Week 2 against East Carolina, but rebounded with 292 passing yards and two scores in the win over the Red Wolves. Virginia Tech has one more non-conference game on the schedule, traveling to Huntington to take on Marshall this Saturday.
3. Georgia Tech (3-0) – The competition hasn’t been great, but the Yellow Jackets have been one of the ACC’s most impressive teams through three weeks. The offense has posted at least 63 points in two contests and leads the nation with an average of 675.3 yards per game. Although Georgia Tech is off to a hot start, Saturday’s game against North Carolina should provide a better idea of how it stacks up in the ACC Coastal race.
4. Clemson (3-0) – Saturday’s win over Auburn was huge for coach Dabo Swinney. After sluggish performances in wins over Troy and Wofford, Clemson looked like a different team against Auburn. Quarterback Tajh Boyd looks more comfortable in the offense, completing 30 of 42 passes for 386 yards and four scores in Saturday’s win. Freshman Sammy Watkins has been the real deal and has emerged as Boyd’s go-to receiver. Can the Tigers carry the momentum from the victory over Auburn into Saturday’s game against Florida State?
5. Miami (1-1) – The Hurricanes win over Ohio State was one of the most impressive final results of Week 3. Miami running back Lamar Miller showed why he is one of the top emerging playmakers in college football, gashing the Buckeye defense for 184 yards on 26 attempts. The Hurricanes host Kansas State this Saturday, followed by Bethune-Cookman in Week 5.
6. Maryland (1-1) – Despite a furious rally in the final two quarters, the Terrapins fell short of winning their first game against West Virginia since 2004. Quarterback Danny O’Brien is one of the best in the ACC, but did not have his best performance on Saturday. The sophomore completed 34 of 52 throws, but tossed three interceptions. The Terrapins will be on upset alert against Temple this Saturday.
7. North Carolina (3-0) – The Tar Heels kicked off ACC play with a 28-17 win over Virginia. North Carolina has struggled against Virginia in recent years, losing four out of the last five in this series before Saturday’s win. Quarterback Bryn Renner continued his solid play, completing 15 of 21 throws for 143 yards and two scores. Is North Carolina a contender for the ACC Coastal title? We should get a better idea of how the Tar Heels stack up after Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.
8. Wake Forest (2-1) – The Demon Deacons are riding a two-game winning streak and easily handled Gardner-Webb 48-5 on Saturday. Quarterback Tanner Price continues to show he is one of the most-improved passers in college football, throwing for 281 yards and two scores against the Bulldogs. Wake Forest travels to Boston College on Saturday and considering the struggles of the Eagles this year, the Demon Deacons could be 2-0 in ACC play after this week.
9. NC State (2-1) – The Wolfpack took care of business on Saturday, defeating South Alabama 35-13. NCAA rules allow only one win against FCS schools to count towards bowl eligibility, which means NC State will need seven victories this year, thanks to playing Liberty and South Alabama. Quarterback Mike Glennon is off to a solid start, completing 64.1 percent of his throws and tossing only interception through 92 attempts. The Wolfpack travel to Cincinnati for a Thursday night matchup against the Bearcats.
10. Virginia (2-1) – Mike London has Virginia going in the right direction, but it’s not quite ready to contend for a spot in the top tier of the ACC Coastal. The Cavaliers opened ACC play with a 28-17 loss to North Carolina on Saturday. If Virginia wants to go bowling, the next two games against Southern Miss and Idaho are must-wins.
11. Duke (1-2) – Bowl hopes took a hit with a loss to Richmond in Week 1, but the Blue Devils picked up a key conference win in Week 3. Duke knocked off Boston College 20-19, thanks to quarterback Sean Renfree's 359 passing yards. The Blue Devils last win at Boston College was in 1927. Duke should be favored to earn its second win of the year with Tulane coming to Durham this Saturday.
12. Boston College (0-3) – Where should we start? The Eagles are off to their first 0-3 start since 1991 and have the look of a team in disarray. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers took a leave of absence before last Saturday’s game against Duke, which leaves Dave Brock as the playcaller. Running back Montel Harris is still sidelined by a knee injury and after showing promise in the opener against Northwestern, the offense has managed only 22 points in its last two games. The Eagles should get into the win column against Massachusetts this week, but it could be a long year in Chestnut Hill.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oregon (2-1) – As the last two weeks have showed, the Oregon offense is hitting on all cylinders as Pac-12 play opens against Arizona this Saturday. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in rushing, total and scoring offense. Running back LaMichael James seems to have found his rhythm, posting his best game of the year last week, rushing for 204 yards and three scores against Missouri State.
2. Stanford (3-0) – The Cardinal kicked off Pac-12 play with a convincing 37-10 win over Arizona. However, the victory came at a heavy price. Linebacker Shayne Skov suffered a knee injury and was lost for the year. Skov was one of the top defenders in college football and expected to contend for All-America honors in 2011. Stanford is off this Saturday.
3. USC (3-0) – After failing to finish in the second half during their first two wins, the Trojans finally put together a solid effort for all four quarters. Thanks to quarterback Matt Barkley’s five passing scores, USC was never really threatened by Syracuse. The Trojans hold an early lead in the Pac-12 South standings, but travel to Tempe to take on Arizona State this week.
4. Arizona State (2-1) – After beating Missouri on Friday night in Week 2, the Sun Devils looked ready for a breakthrough win against Illinois on the road. However, the Arizona State offense struggled to protect quarterback Brock Osweiler (seven sacks) and had three costly turnovers. Despite the loss to the Fighting Illini, the Sun Devils can jump back into the national spotlight with a win over USC this Saturday.
5. California (3-0) – As expected, Presbyterian didn’t provide much competition for the Golden Bears. However, it was another valuable tune-up before Pac-12 play begins with Saturday’s game against Washington. New starting quarterback Zach Maynard has played well through three starts, but this will be his biggest test in a California uniform.
6. Washington (2-1) – The rubber match between Nebraska and Washington went in favor of the Cornhuskers. However, there were positives to take away from the loss. Quarterback Keith Price continues to settle into the No. 1 role, completing 21 of 37 throws for 274 yards and four touchdowns. Washington opens conference play with an interesting matchup against California.
7. Utah (2-1) – One of the most surprising scores from Week 3 had to be Utah’s 54-10 blowout win over BYU. The Utes forced seven turnovers and got a big performance from running back John White, who rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns. The Utes are 0-1 in Pac-12 play, but with a favorable schedule, this team can’t be counted out of the South Division race.
8. Arizona (1-2) – The Wildcats have some serious work to do over the next couple of weeks. After a 37-10 loss to Stanford on Saturday night, Arizona sits at 1-2 and faces Oregon and USC the next two weeks. The Wildcats offense has struggled to establish a rushing attack, especially with a young offensive line still trying to jell.
9. UCLA (1-2) – The 2011 season has not started off well for the Bruins. After a loss to Houston in the opener, the Bruins looked sluggish in a win over San Jose State and handled easily by Texas in Week 3. Rick Neuheisel needs to show improvement to keep his job at the end of the year, which is why Saturday’s contest against Oregon State is huge. If the Bruins want to go to a bowl, this is a must-win game.
10. Colorado (1-2) – Jon Embree earned his first win as Colorado’s head coach on Saturday, defeating in-state rival Colorado State 28-14. Running back Rodney Stewart has struggled to get on track this year, which is a result of lackluster play by the offensive line. The Buffaloes travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State this Saturday, before opening up Pac-12 play against Washington State in Week 5.
11. Washington State (2-1) – The Cougars were on the doorstep for a 3-0 start, but allowed San Diego State to score 28 unanswered in the second half to claim a 42-24 victory. Washington State is clearly making progress under coach Paul Wulff – but will it be enough to save his job at the end of the year?
12. Oregon State (0-2) – The Beavers had a much-needed bye in Week 3. After a disappointing loss to Sacramento State in the opener and a blowout loss to Wisconsin in Week 2, Oregon State needs to find some answers before Saturday’s game against UCLA. Receiver James Rodgers has been out since last October with a torn ACL, but could return to the lineup this week.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With the news Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are inching closer to joining the Pac-12, the writing is on the wall for the death of the Big 12. Some issues need to be worked out, namely how the Longhorn Network will work with the Pac-12's current television plan.
Barring a miracle by commissioner Dan Beebe or the Pac-12 not approving expansion, the Big 12 is finished.
Oklahoma and Texas are holding regents meetings on Monday, which are expected to authorize school presidents to make a decision on conference realignment. After the power is handed to the presidents, it is expected Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will apply to join the Pac-12.
With Pittsburgh and Syracuse officially accepted into the ACC, realignment news is expected to dominate the college football world this week.
The Panthers were believed to be a target of Big 12 expansion, which could have helped to keep the conference together, even after Texas A&M decided to bolt for the SEC. BYU was also a rumored target and one that appeared to be a very attractive option for the conference.
The Big 12 was formed in 1994 and began athletic competition in 1996. The conference was created with the eight members of the Big Eight Conference combining with Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor.
The Big 12 began to crumble last summer with Nebraska’s departure to the Big Ten and Colorado’s exit to the Pac-12.
The Cornhuskers were fed up with unequal revenue sharing in the and wanted to get away from Texas.
Colorado was a good fit for the Pac-12, especially with a large alumni base in Los Angeles.
The Big 12 believed it could continue with 10 members, but that notion fell apart in August. Texas A&M announced its intention to withdraw for the Big 12, which caused the conference to become even more unstable.
After the news out of College Station, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State became interested in looking to the Pac-12. Texas is in the first year of having its own television channel (Longhorn Network), which was an obstacle to joining the conference. However, it appears those issues won’t derail the Longhorns from going west.
Conferences in college football could look a lot different by next week, and the death of the Big 12 could be imminent.
While Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State head for stability in the Pac-16, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri are left to pick up the pieces.
All five schools are believed to be targets of Big East expansion, which seems likely considering the news out of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
However, as realignment has shown over the last couple of days, nothing is official until the dust clears.
Needless to say, school administrators will be sweating it out at those schools until something is finalized. If any of those five teams are left out from realignment, the losses could be significant.
Money from television contracts and an automatic spot into the BCS are incredibly valuable and you can bet Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor will be fighting to keep both of those options in the pocket.
When a conference breaks apart, there’s a lot of lost history and tradition. Sure, matchups like Texas-Oklahoma will continue in a new conference, but Missouri and Oklahoma will no longer play as conference rivals. The same for Oklahoma-Nebraska, which was one of the top rivalries in the Big Eight Conference.
New rivalries will always pop up, but there’s a certain part of college football that is lost when conferences like the Big 12 break apart.
College football will always remain the same and I don’t think most fans will turn off the television sets or stop going to games as a result of what happens with realignment.
And it’s very likely 16-team super conferences will break apart in the future, as teams are unhappy with the setup and how the money is distributed.
The clock is winding down and unless Beebe can make a last-minute appeal to Texas and Oklahoma to stay, Pac-12 presidents won't allow the conference to expand or Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott can't work out the Longhorn Network specifics, the Big 12 is done.
If the Big 12 falls apart, college football fans can welcome the first 16-team super conference to the world.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. West Virginia (3-0) – It wasn’t a perfect game for the Mountaineers, but they survived a tricky road date at Maryland to move to 3-0. The offense seems to be finding its rhythm, as Geno Smith threw for 388 yards and one score against the Terrapins. Vernard Roberts and Andrew Buie also provided timely runs, but rushing offense is still one area West Virginia needs to improve. The Mountaineers have a huge non-conference showdown against LSU this Saturday.
2. South Florida (3-0) – The Bulls easily defeated Florida A&M 70-17 on Saturday. Quarterback B.J. Daniels had a monster game, throwing for 382 yards and four scores, while adding 34 yards and a touchdown on the ground. South Florida has one more tuneup before hitting Big East play, as UTEP comes to town this Saturday.
3. Pittsburgh (2-1) – The Panthers were in control for three quarters at Iowa, but couldn’t hold on for the win. The pass defense struggled once again, allowing Hawkeye quarterback James Vandenberg to throw for 399 yards and three scores. Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri threw two picks, while running back Ray Graham was held in check. The Panthers host Notre Dame on Saturday.
4. Cincinnati (2-1) – After losing 45-23 to Tennessee in Week 2, Akron was the perfect get well medicine for the Bearcats. The defense scored three times, which was more than enough against the Zips’ lifeless offense. Cincinnati will be in the spotlight this week, as it hosts NC State on Thursday night. The Bearcats lost 30-19 to the Wolfpack last year.
5. Syracuse (2-1) – Although the Orange lost to USC, the action off the field stirred the most conversation. Syracuse accepted a bid to the ACC and will try to join the conference in time for the 2012 season. The Orange will try to bounce back on the field this week, but it won’t be easy against upset-minded Toledo. The Rockets nearly beat Ohio State in Week 2 and held tough early against Boise State on Friday.
6. Louisville (2-1) – The Cardinals snapped a four-game losing streak to Kentucky with a 24-17 win on Saturday. Starting quarterback Will Stein was knocked out of the game, but true freshman Teddy Bridgewater turned in a solid effort, completing 10 of 18 throws for 106 yards and two scores. Louisville is off in Week 4 and returns to action in Week 5 against Marshall.
7. Rutgers (1-1) – The Scarlet Knights had a bye in Week 3 and gets back on the field against Ohio this week. It was a busy week for off-the-field news in Piscataway, as running back De’Antwan Williams left the team, and Rutgers reportedly contacted the ACC about joining the conference. Conference realignment isn’t finished, so the Scarlet Knights will be one team that could be on the move.
8. Connecticut (1-2) – Offensive struggles and a quarterback carousel could be a staple of the Huskies in 2011. Johnny McEntee led the team with 188 passing yards, but completed only 13 of 30 passes and tossed one pick. The rushing attack also struggled, with Lyle McCombs held to 46 yards. Considering the Cyclones had three early turnovers, this is one that Connecticut had an opportunity to take a commanding lead and faltered.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 3 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma (2-0) – One major hurdle to reaching the national title has been crossed. The Sooners are one of the favorites to play for the national championship at the end of the year, but going into Tallahassee and winning was no easy task. Oklahoma’s high-scoring offense was held in check by Florida State’s defense, but made enough timely plays to win. The Sooners’ defense got a boost with the return of linebacker Travis Lewis from a preseason foot injury. Oklahoma has to quickly refocus, as Missouri visits Norman this Saturday and is a dangerous team if the Sooners are still thinking about the win against the Seminoles.
2. Texas A&M (2-0) – After a bye in Week 2, the Aggies returned to action with a 37-7 win over Idaho. Although Texas A&M has looked good in two non-conference wins, the schedule is about to get a lot tougher. The Aggies host Oklahoma State in a key Big 12 battle this Saturday. These two teams were difficult to project at No. 2 and No. 3 in the preseason and this matchup will help sort out the pecking order in the conference.
3. Oklahoma State (3-0) – The Cowboys win over Tulsa won’t be forgotten for a while and it wasn’t due to the play on the field. Thunderstorms in Tulsa prevented the game from kicking off until after midnight and finished early Sunday morning. Oklahoma State will certainly hope for a more normal game this Saturday, as they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M. A win over the Aggies would be a boost to the Cowboys’ hopes of earning 10 wins and getting into a BCS bowl this year.
4. Texas (3-0) – Quarterback Case McCoy’s first start was a success. The sophomore turned in an efficient performance, completing 12 of 15 throws for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Although it wasn’t a flashy all-around performance by Texas, the offense seems to be finding its rhythm, and the Longhorns are undefeated entering conference play. Texas is off this Saturday, but travels to Iowa State on Oct. 1, before facing off against Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout.
5. Baylor (2-0) – Mother Nature wrecked havoc in Waco on Saturday night. The Bears were forced to end their game against Stephen F. Austin early, but there was never really any doubt about the outcome of this game. Baylor was in control early and was up 48-0 when the fourth quarter was canceled. The Bears host Rice this week and should be 3-0 after Saturday’s game.
6. Missouri (2-1) – After losing a close game to Arizona State last Friday, the Tigers took out their frustration on Western Illinois. The Missouri defense turned in a dominating performance, allowing only 44 yards to the Leathernecks. Quarterback James Franklin picked up where he left off against the Sun Devils, completing 18 of 25 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers open Big 12 play with a road date against Athlon’s No. 2 ranked team – Oklahoma.
7. Texas Tech (2-0) – The Red Raiders are 2-0, but have yet to be tested. Quarterback Seth Doege has been impressive so far, completing 40 of 44 passes for 401 yards and five scores in Saturday’s 59-13 win over lowly New Mexico. Texas Tech has one more non-conference showdown ahead, hosting Nevada this Saturday. The Red Raiders open Big 12 play on Oct. 1 against Kansas.
8. Iowa State (3-0) – Turnovers have been a real problem for the Cyclones this year, but despite the mistakes, found a way to win in the fourth quarter once again. Quarterback Steele Jantz got off to a slow start and was injured just before the first half, but helped to rally his team to a 24-20 win over Connecticut. The Cyclones have a bye this Saturday, before opening up conference play against Texas on Oct. 1.
9. Kansas (2-1) – The Jayhawks showed progress through the first two weeks of the year, but took a step back against Georgia Tech. The defense was steamrolled for 604 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Jordan Webb was only 11 of 19 for 148 yards in Saturday’s loss, but on the bright side, has yet to throw an interception this year. Kansas has a bye this Saturday.
10. Kansas State (2-0) – After a lethargic opener against Eastern Kentucky, the Wildcats turned in a more convincing effort against Kent State. Quarterback Collin Klein threw for only 74 yards and one score, but rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive breakout was critical with a road trip to Miami ahead this Saturday. If Kansas State wants to pull off the upset, Klein will need to have a big performance.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
California defense – Yes, the competition was tiny Presbyterian, but the Golden Bears allowed only 48 yards in Saturday’s game. No matter who you play, holding a team to less than 50 yards is an accomplishment.
Clemson – After struggling against Troy and Wofford, the Tigers turned in a better performance against Auburn. Coach Dabo Swinney needs to show some improvement this year and Saturday’s win was a step in the right direction.
FIU – The Golden Panthers are overlooked on the national scene, but once again, scored a solid victory. One week after beating Louisville, FIU knocked off UCF. Even with top receiver T.Y. Hilton sidelined with a hamstring injury, the Golden Panthers didn’t miss a beat. Keep an eye on FIU’s matchup against Duke on Oct. 1 – another BCS upset?
Florida – The Gators have now won seven in a row over Tennessee and look like a much-improved team in Will Muschamp’s first season. Don’t be surprised if Florida wins the SEC East this year.
Georgia Tech – There was a lot of doubt surrounding Paul Johnson’s team this year. After struggling at the end of 2010, many thought the Yellow Jackets would be lucky to reach seven wins. However, it’s time to reconsider those preseason picks. The Georgia Tech offense has posted over 60 points twice this year and demolished Kansas 66-24 on Saturday.
Iowa State – Behind the arm and legs of quarterback Steele Jantz, the Cyclones are 3-0 for the first time since 2005. Iowa State will hit conference play after a bye this Saturday, but should be in contention for a bowl trip.
Louisville – Snapped a four-game losing streak to Kentucky and bragging rights in the Bluegrass State are Louisville’s for the next year.
LSU – The offense hasn’t been flashy, but that’s not an issue. The Tigers can lean on one of the nation’s top defenses and rushing attacks to win games. LSU passed one hurdle in the tough two-game road stretch – beating Mississippi State 19-6 – and now heads to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina – With the struggles of quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks need to ride No. 21 to the SEC East title. Lattimore carried South Carolina to a win over Navy, rushing for 246 yards and three scores.
Miami – With a few more players back in the lineup from suspensions, the Hurricanes turned in an impressive win over Ohio State. This was also Al Golden’s first win as Miami’s coach.
Notre Dame – After outplaying their first two opponents and coming up empty-handed, the Irish defeated Michigan State to earn their first win of the year. BCS bowl hopes are still alive, especially when you look at the remaining schedule.
Oklahoma – Going on the road and winning against one of the top 10 teams in the country isn’t easy. Mission accomplished for the Sooners. It wasn’t pretty, but Oklahoma survived a huge test in its quest to play for the national title.
Texas – The Longhorns are 3-0 and appear to have found their quarterback. Case McCoy turned in a solid start on Saturday and has Texas on the right path, just before the Big 12 opener against Iowa State and Oklahoma on Oct. 8.
Utah – One week after a narrow loss to USC, the Utes blitzed rival BYU for a 54-10 victory. This win should provide some momentum as Utah has a bye week before hitting conference play for the rest of the season.
Vanderbilt – New coach James Franklin is off to a solid 3-0 start and continues to reel in the prospects on the recruiting trail. The Commodores defeated Ole Miss in a 30-7 rout on Saturday, but will get a step up in competition with South Carolina this week.
West Virginia – The Mountaineers had to hold on after allowing Maryland back in the game, but it appears the offense is starting to jell under new coach Dana Holgorsen. West Virginia has a huge test against LSU ahead this week.
Arizona – There’s no shame in losing to Stanford, but the Wildcats are mired in a slump. Arizona has lost seven out of its last eight games and face USC and Oregon in the next two weeks. Ouch. Coach Mike Stoops still has time to get his team back into a bowl this year, but getting off to a 1-4 start will be difficult to overcome.
Arizona State – After beating Missouri last Friday night, the Sun Devils looked primed for a breakthrough road win. Not so fast. Arizona State lost 17-14 to Illinois on Saturday, which dropped it out of the top 25. Although the Sun Devils still have a chance to win the Pac-12 South, this was a chance to make a statement on the road and they couldn’t deliver.
Auburn defense – This unit was a problem last year and through three games, it’s apparent the defense will be a weakness once again. The Tigers allowed at least 448 yards in every game this year, including 624 in Saturday’s loss to Clemson.
Boston College – Coach Frank Spaziani’s name has been quiet in hot seat talk, but it's going to heat up. The Eagles are off to a disappointing 0-3 start after losing 20-19 to Duke on Saturday. Boston College should get into the win column on Saturday with a game against Massachusetts, but making a bowl game appears very unlikely. It’s also uncertain if running back Montel Harris (knee surgery) will be ready to return anytime soon.
Big East – Like the Big 12, the Big East is in danger of falling apart. The conference has been picked apart again by the ACC, this time with Syracuse and Pittsburgh departing. The Big East could invite a few more schools – UCF, Houston or East Carolina – but what happens with the Big 12 will have an impact on what goes on with this conference.
College football – Its not often we will lump the entire state of college football into the loser category, but could we cool the realignment/expansion news on Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the games?
Northwestern – After winning its first two games of the year without quarterback Dan Persa, the Wildcats fell to Army on Saturday. Although stopping the Black Knights is not an easy task, this is a game Northwestern should have won.
Ohio State quarterbacks - The Buckeyes offense was apparently left behind in Columbus. Quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Joe Bauserman combined to complete 4 of 18 throws for 35 yards and one interception. Ohio State will need a lot better play from its quarterbacks to think about a Big Ten title.
Ole Miss and Houston Nutt – The Rebels were flat out embarrassed in Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt. The offense ranks as one of the worst in the nation, while the defense has struggled to stop the run. Coach Houston Nutt’s seat was warm entering the year, but it’s going to get a lot hotter if the Rebels can’t turn it around. Looking at the schedule, there are few guaranteed wins left for Ole Miss.
Mississippi State – The Bulldogs didn’t play terribly in Thursday night’s defeat to LSU. However, this was a prime opportunity for Dan Mullen’s team to earn a statement win in SEC play. Mullen has yet to beat a SEC West team outside of Ole Miss and Thursday's contest was a good chance to score a huge upset, while announcing the Bulldogs as a SEC West contender.
UCLA – The Bruins had an unimpressive win over San Jose State in Week 2 and followed that up with a lethargic effort against Texas. UCLA is now 1-2 and has road trips against Oregon State and Stanford up next. If the Bruins start 1-4, it’s a safe bet they won’t go bowling and Rick Neuheisel could be on his way out.
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve made his return to the lineup in Saturday’s win over Southeast Missouri State. Marve completed 7 of 8 passes for 91 yards and one score. This was his first appearance since tearing his ACL against Toledo last September.
Just how bad is Memphis? The Tigers defeated FCS foe Austin Peay 27-6 on Saturday. The Governors just reinstated scholarship football in 2006 and kept within range of the Tigers most of the night. Will Larry Porter survive for a third season?
An interesting note while taking a look through the national leaders: Two quarterbacks rank in the top 10 for rushing yards per game – Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez.
There were some significant injuries in Week 3, including Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter and Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov. With conference play approaching, injuries are going to be a real concern for coaches.
It looks like the quarterback question marks will continue at Penn State for another week. In Saturday’s 14-10 win over Temple, Matt McGloin completed 13 of 19 for 124 yards, while Rob Bolden completed 9 of 17 for 92 yards and one interception.
Looking Ahead to Week 4
A small sample of what’s ahead
NC State at Cincinnati (Thursday)
Could be an offensive shootout with both teams struggling on defense.
UCF at BYU (Friday)
Cougars need to find some answers after Week 3 blowout loss to Utah.
North Carolina at Georgia Tech
Yellow Jackets’ option attack faces tough battle against North Carolina defensive line.
Florida State at Clemson
Key game for ACC Atlantic positioning. Will EJ Manuel play for Florida State?
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh
Irish still need to find a cure for the turnovers, but Panthers struggling to get solid QB play.
LSU at West Virginia
Mountaineers starting to click on offense, but LSU defense is a tough matchup.
San Diego State at Michigan
Simply put, this is the Brady Hoke bowl.
California at Washington
Golden Bears look like a much-improved team, but Huskies eager to get back on track.
Arkansas at Alabama
Razorbacks offense faces a difficult matchup against Crimson Tide defense.
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M
Can the Aggies defense slow down Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden?
Missouri at Oklahoma
Sooners can’t afford a letdown against upset-minded Tigers.
USC at Arizona State
The top two teams in the Pac-12 South?
Oregon at Arizona
Wildcats struggling and things won’t get any easier with Ducks traveling to Tucson.
Injuries from Week 3
Alabama S Robert Lester – back spasms – will play in Week 4
Arizona State DE Junior Onyeali – knee – questionable to play in Week 4
Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen – ankle – questionable to play in Week 4
Clemson RB Andre Ellington – hamstring – expected to play in Week 4
Clemson OL Mason Cloy – shoulder – should play in Week 4
FIU WR T.Y. Hilton – hamstring – questionable to play in Week 4
Florida State QB EJ Manuel – bruised shoulder – questionable to play in Week 4
Florida State WR Kenny Shaw – concussion – questionable to play in Week 4
Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell – ribs – will play in Week 4
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase – shoulder – expected to play in Week 4
Iowa State QB Steele Jantz – strained foot – expected to play in Cyclones’ next game
Louisville QB Will Stein – arm – uncertain to play in Week 5
Louisville CB Andrew Johnson – ankle – uncertain to play in Week 5
Michigan State OL Skyler Burkland – leg – uncertain to play in Week 4
NC State LB Terrell Manning – knee – uncertain to play in Week 4
Ole Miss QB Randall Mackey – thigh bruise – questionable to play in Week 4
Purdue DE Gerald Gooden – elbow – will likely return for Week 5
Stanford TE Coby Fleener – concussion – questionable to play in Week 5
Stanford LB Shayne Skov – knee – status uncertain for Week 4
Tennessee WR Justin Hunter – knee – out for the remainder of 2011
Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne – knee – expected to miss 2-4 weeks
UAB QB Bryan Ellis – knee – uncertain for Week 4
Utah OT Tony Bergstrom – knee – likely out 2-3 weeks
Virginia Tech WR Dyrell Roberts – broken arm – out for the remainder of 2011
Virginia Tech OL Andrew Lanier – knee – questionable for Week 4
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Realignment has been a hot topic in college football over the last couple of weeks and the ACC has struck first. Pittsburgh and Syracuse submitted applications to join the conference recently and the ACC has announced both teams as members on Sunday.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse have been confirmed as the 13th and 14th members of the ACC. The talk around college football is super conferences are around the corner, which makes the ACC’s move potentially a strike to get ahead of the SEC, Pac-12 or Big Ten.
Both teams are expected to join the ACC in time for the 2012 season. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the college football landscape, this may be the first of several moves over the next couple of weeks.
The last expansion move by the ACC occurred in 2003, when the conference added Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East.
Even though Syracuse was a charter member of the Big East, the uncertainty around the conference was too much. The Orange suffered through some down seasons under Greg Robinson, but new coach Doug Marrone has the program headed in the right direction.
Pittsburgh was not a charter member of the Big East, joining the conference in 1982. The Panthers have been a solid bowl team in recent years, but their last conference title was in 2004.
The additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh helps the ACC expand its reach and footprint. The Orange are the ACC’s first team in New York, while the Panthers are the first in Pennsylvania.
It can’t hurt for television purposes that the ACC is now into Pittsburgh and within range of New York City.
What’s next for the ACC?
Moving to a 16-team conference isn’t out of the question. Texas, Kansas and Texas Tech are believed to be targets of ACC expansion, especially with the Big 12 on shaky ground.
Adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse currently makes the ACC the largest BCS conference. However, as college football fans have learned over the last couple of weeks, realignment can change that in a matter of days.
Oklahoma and Texas will have a regents meeting on Monday, which could set the table for more realignment to occur this week.
If the Big 12 survives, then the ACC could choose to stick with 14 teams or target two more Big East teams to get to 16.
If the ACC decides to go after more Big East teams, Rutgers and Connecticut are reportedly the top targets.
What's next for the Big East?
With the departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the conference is currently left with six teams - Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati. TCU is also scheduled to join the conference in 2012.
The conference could continue with seven teams for 2012, but the future of the Big East will hinge on the future of the Big 12. If Texas and Oklahoma leave, the remaining teams in the Big East and Big 12 could combine to create a new conference.
What happens in the next week could define the future of the Big East.
Basketball Impact of Pittsburgh and Syracuse Joining the ACC
By Mitch Light
Adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse gives the ACC two elite basketball programs that will instantly make the league better. North Carolina and Duke have been the only consistent powers in the ACC over the last two decades. Other programs, like Maryland and Wake Forest, have had some great moments, but no other team has been able to consistently threaten the Big Two. Well, Syracuse and Pittsburgh might be able to do that — at least in the short team. Syracuse has staying power, but Pittsburgh might take a step back after several years in the ACC. The concern with the Panthers is recruiting; the program relies heavily on the metro New York area and uses the games against New York area teams — Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John's — as an enticement to lure players from NYC to Pittsburgh. This pipeline might dry up if Pitt is no longer in the Big East.
Here’s a look at the current ACC members and when they joined the conference –
Boston College: 2005
Florida State: 1991
Georgia Tech: 1979
North Carolina: 1953
NC State: 1953
Virginia Tech: 2004
Wake Forest: 1953
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
10 Key Storylines to Watch for Week 3
1. It’s only Week 3, but Saturday’s game between Florida State and Oklahoma will have an impact on the national title race. The winner of this matchup has a good chance to run the table and finish undefeated. With both teams expected to rank among the top 5-10 spots in the final poll, this could be an elimination game for the national championship. The Sooners have won the last five meetings between these two teams, including a 47-17 blowout last year. The Seminoles should have a better showing this time around, especially with this game in Tallahassee. Keep an eye on the matchup in the trenches. Florida State’s defensive line is one of the best in college football, which will be an issue for Oklahoma, especially with tackle Daryl Williams hobbled by a high ankle sprain.
2. The annual Florida-Tennessee game has lost some of its appeal in recent years. Under Urban Meyer, the Gators won six in a row over the Volunteers. Also, Tennessee has struggled to contend for the SEC East title, posting a 10-14 conference record since 2007. This season’s matchup features a lot of intrigue. Florida coach Will Muschamp is familiar with Tennessee coach Derek Dooley from their days as assistants under Nick Saban at LSU. Also, the Volunteers have been impressive on offense through two games, while the Gators look like they have one of the best defenses in the SEC. Tennessee’s offensive line is still a work in progress and if it struggles to protect quarterback Tyler Bray against a very good Florida defensive line, the Volunteers will have a long afternoon in the Swamp. Bray has posted some big numbers in a short time as the starter, but has yet to face a defense the caliber of Florida.
3. If not for turnovers, there’s a good chance Notre Dame would be 2-0. The Irish rank last nationally in turnover margin, which has to be corrected in Saturday’s game against Michigan State. The Spartans have won three out of the last four in this series, including a 34-31 thriller in East Lansing last year. Saturday’s game is an important one for Notre Dame, as it needs to get back on the winning track. The Irish could still finish 10-2, and contending for a spot in one of the BCS bowls isn’t dead yet. Notre Dame has struggled against the pass, allowing 233 yards per game through two weeks. The Spartans should test the Irish secondary, but protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins is a concern. It’s hard to call the third game of the year a must-win, but after outplaying its first two opponents and losing, Notre Dame really needs this one.
4. With Utah joining the Pac-12 and BYU becoming an Independent, these two rivals won’t meet as conference foes for the first time in 113 years. However, that shouldn’t change the anticipation for this matchup. The Holy War is an underappreciated rivalry on the national front. Quarterback play will be huge. BYU’s Jake Heaps looks to bounce back after a sluggish performance against Texas (22 of 38, 192 yards and two interceptions), while Utah’s Jordan Wynn needs to build some confidence as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. Five of the last six matchups have been decided by a touchdown or less. Expect a similar outcome on Saturday.
5. Two of the top offensive minds in college football will meet when Clemson hosts Auburn this Saturday. Gus Malzahn (Auburn) will square off against his protégé Chad Morris (Clemson) in what should be an entertaining non-conference matchup. Over the last four years, Malzahn’s offenses have ranked no worse than 17th in scoring offense. Morris coordinated Tulsa’s offense to a No. 6 national ranking in scoring offense. These two offensive gurus are friends off the field, but for 60 minutes, it’s all about winning. Clemson has not impressed in two games, while Auburn has needed a late play in both games to win. With suspect defenses, Auburn and Clemson could be one of this week’s highest-scoring games.
6. Less than 225 miles separate the Maryland and West Virginia campuses, but this rivalry has been pretty quiet in recent years. The Mountaineers have claimed the last five in this series, with Maryland’s last victory coming in the 2004 Gator Bowl. The Terrapins should have a good chance to break that losing streak on Saturday, especially with Danny O’Brien under center. The 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year had a stellar performance in the opener, throwing for 348 yards and one score against Miami. West Virginia’s new pass-first offense is still a work in progress, largely due to a suspect offensive line, but Geno Smith is completing 66.7 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. With both teams wanting to establish the pass, whichever offensive line can protect the best might be the deciding factor on Saturday.
7. The Arizona State-Illinois matchup might not generate as much interest as Florida State-Oklahoma, but this one has a lot of intrigue. Arizona State is coming off an overtime win over Missouri and has a key game against USC next Saturday. The Sun Devils crossed a big hurdle by beating the Tigers last week. Dennis Erickson’s team finally looks ready to contend for the Pac-12 title. Illinois has yet to be tested through two weeks, but is a dangerous team and one that could contend in the Big Ten Leaders Division. With two explosive offenses, this one could be a shootout. Both quarterbacks are off to solid starts, but this game could be decided by whichever offense imposes its will. The Illini will be more physical, while the Sun Devils are more finesse, wanting to run an up-tempo attack.
8. If you like offense, Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky matchup is not for you. The Cardinals are averaging 415.5 yards per game, but have six turnovers and are managing only 19 points a game. If those numbers weren’t bad enough, it gets worse. The Wildcats rank 110th nationally in total offense and scored only 14 points to beat Western Kentucky and struggled to score 27 against Central Michigan. Kentucky will also be without running back Raymond Sanders, who suffered a knee injury last Saturday. The Wildcats have won the last four in this series, but with both teams struggling on offense, turnovers could play a key role in determining the outcome of the game.
9. The rubber match between Washington and Nebraska should provide a good gauge for where both teams are before conference play begins. The Huskies rank last in the nation in pass defense and are allowing 29.5 points a game. Despite the loss of quarterback Jake Locker, the offense has been fine, averaging 35 points and 358 yards per game. New quarterback Keith Price has thrown seven touchdowns to only one interception this season. Nebraska’s offense has scored at least 40 points in both games this year, but the offensive line is inexperienced in spots. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is one of the nation’s leading rushers, but is completing only 48.9 percent of his throws. The Cornhuskers had trouble blocking the Huskies’ defensive line in the Holiday Bowl and the matchup in the trenches will play a key role in deciding this one.
10. Before the scandals and off-the-field incidents, the Miami-Ohio State matchup was hyped as one of the top non-conference games of 2011. With Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor no longer in Columbus, and the black cloud hanging over the Miami program, the game has lost a little of its appeal. The Hurricanes fell short in their debut under new coach Al Golden, losing 32-24 to Maryland. The Buckeyes have won both of their games, but struggled in last week’s victory over Toledo. Ohio State quarterback Joe Bauserman likely holds the keys to the outcome of the game. The senior threw for only 189 yards last week, which could be a concern if Miami contains the Ohio State rushing attack. After serving a one-game suspension, the Hurricanes will turn to Jacory Harris at quarterback. The senior has had his moments, but also struggled with interceptions. In a tight game, Miami cannot afford another bad game from Harris.
Athlon editor Mitch Light predicts the 10 biggest games for Week 3 – here’s my take on how some of the top games will play out.
Boise State 38, Toledo 20
Iowa State 24, Connecticut 17
Oklahoma 31, Florida State 27
Florida 30, Tennessee 20
Arizona State 31, Illinois 30
Georgia Tech 38, Kansas 27
Miami 24, Ohio State 20
Nebraska 31, Washington 20
Notre Dame 34, Michigan State 27
Auburn 38, Clemson 31
Maryland 34, West Virginia 31
Iowa 27, Pittsburgh 20
USC 38, Syracuse 20
BYU 24, Utah 20
Texas 24, UCLA 16
Stanford 38, Arizona 24
Looking for a few upsets? Keep a close watch on these games.
Iowa State at Connecticut (-4.5)
The Huskies have one of the best defenses in the Big East, but the offense is downright awful. New Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz has been solid through two starts, and Cyclones have an underrated defense.
Penn State (-6.5) at Temple
It’s a longshot, but the Owls have what it takes to win this one. Temple running back Bernard Pierce is off to a great start and needs to continue that success to secure a victory. Penn State’s offense needs to find a spark, particularly at quarterback.
Auburn at Clemson (-3.5)
Auburn is very fortunate to be 2-0. While Clemson has struggled to beat Troy and Wofford. Going on the road to Death Valley is no easy task and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a young Auburn team struggled. However, Auburn has looked like the better team so far.
Ole Miss (-1.5) at Vanderbilt
According to the folks out in Vegas, the Rebels are a slight favorite. However, neither team has been impressive on offense. The Commodores have won two out of the last three at home in this series and coming off a confidence-building win over Connecticut, they should be in position to open SEC play with a win.
Around the Web: College Football’s Must Read Articles to Prepare for Week 3
Remember those choose your adventure books? How about a choose your own path in conference realignment?
If the Big 12 falls apart, what's the best fit for Missouri?
TCU running back Ed Wesley and linebacker Tanner Brock are unlikely to play in Week 3.
Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham is unhappy with quarterback Tino Sunseri.
Temple has a big opportunity against Penn State this Saturday.
A week after suffering a seizure on the sidelines, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill will return to Minnesota's stadium for Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio).
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve will return to the field this Saturday against Southeast Missouri.
Clemson guard David Smith is out for Saturday's game against Auburn. The play of the offensive line has been a concern for Clemson through two weeks.
How did Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Clemson's Chad Morris become good friends?
Florida State receiver Willie Haulstead will miss Saturday's game against Oklahoma with concussion-like symptoms.
Georgia president Michael Adams would like for fans to support coach Mark Richt.
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa is expected to return to the lineup on Oct. 1 against Illinois.
Colorado has yet to get its ground attack going through two games.
Despite an 0-2 start, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly thinks his team is ready to come together.
Texas will turn to Case McCoy and David Ash at quarterback.
A Sea of Red awaits Washington in Lincoln on Saturday.
Memphis has fired defensive coordinator Jay Hopson.
Kentucky needs quarterback Morgan Newton to show improvement against Louisville.
Kansas State needs better execution on offense this week. The Wildcats struggled in their opener against Eastern Kentucky.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
For a Week 3 college football game, there’s a lot on the line for Oklahoma and Florida State. Top five matchups are rare in the non-conference portion of any team’s schedule, so this is a chance to make a big statement. Both teams are national title contenders, but a loss in this game could be a significant setback for those hopes.
Oklahoma easily handled Florida State last year, winning 47-17 in Norman. However, the scene has shifted to Tallahassee. The Seminoles are hungry to avenge last season’s defeat, while prove Florida State is back on the national scene and a title contender.
Neither team has been tested so far. Oklahoma was off last week, but routed Tulsa 47-14 in the opener.
Florida State beat UL Monroe 34-0 in Week 1, while easily taking care of Charleston Southern 62-10 last Saturday.
Although both teams have looked good against inferior competition, this matchup will provide a better gauge of where they stand before conference play begins.
When Florida State Has the Ball
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel has eight starts under his belt, but this is arguably his most important one. Manuel has thrown for 581 yards and six touchdowns this year. The junior has only rushed 10 times for 30 yards this season, but that could be one area Florida State looks to use him more on Saturday night.
Although Manuel may be used more in the running game, Florida State still needs to establish a traditional rushing attack. The Seminoles have a plethora of talented backs, with junior Chris Thompson expected to draw the start. However, senior Ty Jones and freshmen Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. will also see snaps.
Just like the running backs, the Seminoles are stocked with talented receivers. Willie Haulstead is not expected to play due to concussion-like symptoms, but senior Bert Reed and junior Rodney Smith are capable starters. Youngsters Jarred Haggins, Greg Dent, Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene will also be counted upon heavily to produce.
The one concern for the Seminoles is the offensive line. Two new starters were stepping into the lineup this season, after guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon finished their eligibility. The line did not have a great spring and a few spots could be shuffled before this game. Considering the competition through two weeks, it's impossible to know how far along this group has come.
Oklahoma’s defensive line should be in a good position to take advantage of the Seminoles’ uncertainty up front. Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander are two of the best ends in the Big 12. However, the interior is a concern for the Sooners, as Jamarkus McFarland and Casey Walker have yet to have a breakout season.
Keep a close watch on the Sooner linebacking corps. Senior Travis Lewis will miss this game due to a foot injury, which means sophomores Tony Jefferson, Tom Wort and Corey Nelson will have to step up in a hostile environment. Lewis was one of the Big 12’s top defenders and his on-field leadership will be missed.
If Alexander and Lewis spend most of the night in the Florida State backfield, the Sooners should win this game. However, if Oklahoma’s defensive line struggles to get pressure, Manuel and the Seminole receivers should have a huge performance.
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The Sooners own one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses, led by quarterback Landry Jones. He threw for 4,718 yards and 38 scores last season, while earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. Jones ripped apart the Florida State secondary for 380 yards and four scores last year.
Receivers Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills anchor one of the top receiving corps in college football. Broyles led all receivers with 130 receptions last year, while Stills is one of the rising stars in the game. Joining those two as weapons will be tight end James Hanna and receivers Trey Franks and Dejuan Miller.
The Sooners are using a running back by committee approach, but there’s no shortage of options. Brennan Clay will likely draw the start, but walk-on Dominique Whaley has been impressive and should see his share of carries. Sophomore Roy Finch will also figure into the rotation as a change of pace threat.
Similar to the Florida State offense, Oklahoma’s biggest question mark rests with the offensive line. Right tackle Daryl Williams is expected to play with a high ankle sprain, but will be less than 100 percent.
The Seminoles possess a deep defensive line, led by junior Brandon Jenkins. It will be important for the line, especially Jenkins and Bjoern Werner, to get after Jones and disrupt the timing to Broyles and Stills. The Sooners like to use a lot of quick passes to Broyles, so disrupting that timing will be critical.
Florida State’s secondary has plenty to prove this year, especially after struggling against Oklahoma last season. Corners Mike Harris, Xavier Rhodes and Greg Reid are solid, but need to be much better than they were in last season's matchup. If the Seminoles are able to get pressure on Jones, the secondary will find their job much easier.
When a game is expected to be close, an x-factor could be what happens on special teams.
The Seminoles have one of the nation’s best at kicker (Dustin Hopkins) and punter (Shawn Powell). Hopkins has a strong leg and will become a valuable weapon once Florida State crosses midfield.
The Sooners would be wise to avoid kicking to Greg Reid, one of the nation’s most electric punt returners. Reid is averaging 17.8 yards per punt return this season.
Field goals could be a question mark for Oklahoma, as kicker Jimmy Stevens has been inconsistent during his career. However, returns should be in good shape with Broyles, Clay and Franks getting most of the work.
If you only watch one game this weekend, make sure this is it. Both teams are national title contenders and are deserving of its current ranking.
This is a huge chance for Florida State to announce its place on the national stage once again. After taking a step back during Bobby Bowden’s final years, Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles back into title contention.
Both teams possess high-powered offenses, but this game will be won or lost in the trenches. If the Sooners can hold off Florida State’s pass rush, Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles will have another big game, while leading Oklahoma to a key non-conference win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Florida State 27
Click here for all of our week 3 college football predictions
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With conference realignment back in the news, college football fans are looking for someone to blame for all of this mess. Is it Texas? Texas A&M? The SEC? The Big 12? Oklahoma? Dan Beebe? Mike Slive? While it’s easy to point fingers at a villain in this time of uncertainty, it’s always interesting to look back and wonder what if.
What if Notre Dame had joined the Big Ten in 1999? Would the Big Ten still have courted Nebraska, leaving the Big 12 in a much more stable position? Would we be talking about superconferences right now? Our guess is no.
This isn’t as far-fetched as some may believe. The Big Ten approached Notre Dame in 1999 about becoming the 12th member, but the school's board of trustees voted to remain Independent.
The desire of Notre Dame to remain Independent likely spurred a domino effect across all conferences and many teams. One look at the standings from 1999 reveals college football has changed quite a bit.
Although some conferences have watched several teams come and go over the last 50 years, the Big Ten has been a picture of stability. Before Nebraska joined in 2011, Penn State was the last school to accept an invitation to the conference, joining the Big Ten as a football member in 1993.
Had Notre Dame joined the conference in 1999 or with any of the previous overtures, the Big Ten would have become the third BCS conference with 12 teams and a conference title game.
Here is Athlon’s best guess at how the college football landscape would look like today, had the Irish ditched Independence and joined the Big Ten in 1999.
Impact on the Big Ten
Nebraska became the Big Ten’s 12th member last season, but it’s unlikely that move would have occurred with the Irish in the conference.
Replace Nebraska with Notre Dame in the Legends Division and it’s probably a good idea of how the Big Ten could have looked in 1999.
As a side note, maybe the conference would have created better division names back then.
Impact on the Big 12
Thanks to overall instability and Texas A&M leaving for the SEC, the Big 12 is the conference generating the most national attention right now. Commissioner Dan Beebe is going to need to pull out a lot of stops to save his conference and keep Oklahoma and Texas happy.
Had the Big Ten already had 12 teams, it seems unlikely Nebraska would have left the Big 12 after the 2010 season. The Big Ten could certainly explore adding the Cornhuskers as part of a package to get to 14, but there’s no guarantee.
The issues that popped up last year in the Big 12 with unequal revenue sharing and the Longhorn Network would still likely face the conference. Even though the Cornhuskers may not want to stick around, where could they really turn?
Let’s also consider Colorado. The Buffaloes were an easy target for Pac-10 expansion and it’s very likely they would have left the Big 12 for a spot out west.
With the Big 12 looking to only fill one spot and Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M sticking together in this scenario, BYU would have been a very attractive candidate to fill Colorado’s spot.
Here’s what the Big 12 might’ve looked in 1999 under this scenario:
Impact on the Pac-10 in 1999
With Notre Dame in the Big Ten and Nebraska stuck in the Big 12, the Pac-10 simply invites Colorado and Utah to get to 12 teams.
Overall, the Pac-12 that could have been created in 1999 isn't much different than the current version.
Impact on the ACC
The ACC became a 12-team conference in 2005, as Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College joined from the Big East.
However, if Notre Dame had joined the Big Ten in 1999, it’s fair to say the ACC may have considered expansion a few years earlier.
Syracuse generated a lot of interest when the ACC wanted to make the jump to 12 teams and who knows, maybe the Orange would have gotten a bid over Virginia Tech or Boston College.
We’ll stick with the current ACC alignment for how things could look had Notre Dame joined the Big Ten in 1999 –
Impact on the Big East
The hardest conference to pinpoint in this scenario is the Big East. The conference has studied adding more teams, but is currently at nine with the addition of TCU in 2012.
Projecting what could have happened in 1999 is an even bigger question mark. The conference was composed of (after ACC expansion) Syracuse, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Temple and Rutgers.
It’s a safe bet the Big East would have added Louisville and Cincinnati from Conference USA once again. However, the race would be on to match the other conferences and get to 12 teams, which means the Big East would still have some work to do.
Connecticut was a FCS team until 2000, but the Huskies likely would have been invited once again with Louisville and Cincinnati.
Temple was removed from the Big East in 2004, but may have stayed if the conference wanted to get to 12 teams in 1999.
So where does that leave the Big East? Considering all of the BCS conferences would be moving to 12 teams, we’ll say the conference invites TCU, UCF, East Carolina and Houston to get to 12.
SMU, Southern Miss, Memphis, Villanova and Marshall may also have generated some interest.
Here’s how a 12-team Big East may have looked with expansion in 1999 or in the early 2000s –
Division 1 (North)
Division 2 (South)
Impact on the SEC
Likely none. Texas A&M may have still wanted out of the Big 12 – even with more stability – but it’s likely there would have been no changes in the SEC.
Impact on College Football
Let’s say Notre Dame did join the Big Ten in 1999 and the rest of the BCS conferences all quickly moved to assemble 12-team leagues to keep up. With championship games in all six of the BCS conferences from 2000 to 2010, could the national title matchups differed?
Ohio State has represented the Big Ten in the national title in 2002, 2006 and 2007. What if the Buckeyes were upset in the Big Ten championship game?
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint how the regular season may have differed, it’s certainly a possibility the matchups in the national title may have changed.
Notre Dame has continued to maintain their desire to remain an Independent, even as college football seemingly moves toward super conferences. If 16-team leagues are really around the corner, expect Notre Dame to eventually join the Big Ten.
If Notre Dame had joined the Big Ten in 1999, could college football be closer to super conferences today? Perhaps that’s the case, especially if Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska weren’t happy with the Big 12. Maybe Nebraska still joins the Big Ten in 2011, but Pittsburgh, Syracuse or Missouri follows as the 14th member.
Although 14 or 16-team conferences would remain a possibility even with Notre Dame joining the Big Ten, I think it’s a safe to say there would be less uncertainty and more stability across college football. And we would be hearing more about the play on the field, rather than the potential break up of the Big 12 and the creation of super conferences.
By Josh Kipnis
Two years after a 1-15 record, the St. Louis Rams were hoping to make 2011 a memorable year with their first playoff berth since 2004. They probably aren’t saying the same thing after the NFL’s opening weekend.
The Rams enter Week 2 of the season with question marks at five different starting positions.
Running back Steven Jackson had a promising start to the season when he busted through the Eagles defense for a 47-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, the great play had a bitter ending as Jackson limped back to the sidelines favoring his right leg. He would carry the ball one more time before leaving the game early with a strained right quad. Jackson is already listed as “out” for next week’s matchup against the New York Giants.
Another player unable to finish the game was quarterback Sam Bradford. The NFL’s 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year left in the fourth quarter after his throwing hand collided with an opponent’s helmet. Team doctors suspected the worst – nerve damage to his right index finger. Fans, however, can finally take a sigh of relief as reports have indicated the finger is simply bruised.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about cornerback Ron Bartell. Bartell was one of the few Rams to play the entire game, but the news that followed afterwards was devastating. A MRI indicated Bartell suffered two fractures in his neck and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Cornerback could be the biggest problem for the Rams with fellow starter Bradley Fletcher listed as day-to-day with a sprained toe.
The last player to suffer an injury was wide receiver Danny Amendola. The Rams’ 2010 leader in receiving yards and touchdowns, dislocated his elbow in Sunday’s game. It is still up in the air whether or not he will need surgery, in which case Amendola’s season would likely come to an end.
Plagued by injuries in Week 1, the Rams, who play Monday night against the Giants, could not be happier with the extra day of rest their players will receive.
With the injuries piling up after Week 1, it seems that the Rams’ hope of making it back to the playoffs may have to wait yet another year.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
It seems college football is preparing for a major shift in conference realignment very soon. Although the 2011 season is just getting underway, the race is on to get conference affiliation finalized in time for 2012. The first domino is ready to fall, which could spur several teams to change conferences.
However, Baylor has threatened to explore legal options if the Aggies left the conference, which has slowed the realignment talk for now.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive indicated on Monday Texas A&M was accepted as the conference’s 13th member. The conference has indicated they have also studied schedules for 13 teams for 2012.
The legal issues need to be sorted out, but all signs point to the Aggies playing in the SEC for the 2012 season.
The departure of Texas A&M has added further instability to the Big 12. The conference believed it could continue with 10 members after losing Nebraska and Colorado last season.
However, the Aggies’ desire to get away from Texas and join a conference with more stability has raised a lot of doubts about whether the Big 12 can continue to exist.
The SEC’s 14th team?
Although Slive has indicated the conference isn’t actively pursuing a 14th member, don’t expect the SEC to stick with 13 teams too long.
West Virginia, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State and Louisville have all been rumored to be in the mix to be the SEC’s 14th team.
The SEC will likely play 2012 with 13 teams, but 2013 should see the conference back to even divisions and 14 teams.
Texas and Oklahoma Hold the Cards
Reports out of Oklahoma continue to indicate the Sooners are seriously considering a move to the Pac-12. If the Sooners go west, then in-state rival Oklahoma State is coming too.
If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State depart, Texas and Texas Tech will likely join them in the Pac-12, creating college football’s first 16-team super conference. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was close to securing 16 teams last summer, but the Big 12 managed to hold together.
Although Texas is strongly considering a move to the Pac-12, the Big Ten, ACC and going Independent have been rumored as possible options.
If the Longhorns want to join the Big Ten or Pac-12, it’s very unlikely they would be allowed to keep the Longhorn Network. If Texas joins the ACC, keeping the network is a realistic possibility.
Whether or not Texas and Oklahoma can work out its differences and save the Big 12 remains to be seen.
If the Sooners and Oklahoma State depart for the Pac-12, then it’s very unlikely the Big 12 would be able to continue – even if Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor remain.
If Oklahoma leaves, Texas won’t be far behind.
What happens to the remaining Big 12 teams?
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas, Missouri and Kansas will have no trouble finding new conference homes. However, Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor have to be sweating out the uncertainty surrounding the Big 12.
Kansas and Missouri are both targets for any potential Big East expansion. And the Tigers could be a target to be the SEC’s 14th team.
Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor could be pursued by the Big East or Mountain West if the Big 12 breaks apart. However, if Missouri joins the SEC and Kansas is the Big East’s 10th team, could the Big East jump to 13 and keep Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor together? Or would the conference want to stick at 12?
Going from the Big 12 – a conference with an automatic BCS bid and significant television dollars – to one that doesn’t (Mountain West) will be a blow to any of the three schools athletic budget.
If the Big 12 survives…expansion?
If the reports out of Oklahoma are true, then we could be witnessing the final days of the Big 12.
The conference was pursuing expansion before Oklahoma’s unhappiness surfaced.
If the Big 12 manages to survive, adding at least one team seems very likely. And don’t count out going back to 12 teams and a conference championship game.
BYU was mentioned as a strong candidate, but the Cougars are likely content with their Independence with all of the uncertainty surrounding the conference – unless they can get a guarantee that Oklahoma is sticking around.
If BYU does not work out, possible targets could be Houston or SMU from Conference USA. Louisville and Pittsburgh have been mentioned as Big 12 expansion targets, but seem unlikely to leave the Big East.
What happens next?
There’s a lot of scenarios and possibilities on the table, but there could be some major shifts in conferences over the next couple of weeks.
Little doubt exists with Texas A&M: The Aggies will be in the SEC in 2012. However, it’s what happens after that is uncertain.
Oklahoma currently holds the cards to the future of the Big 12. Should the Sooners decide to leave the conference, the Big 12 will be history.
If Texas and Oklahoma can work out a solution to save the Big 12, then the realignment and expansion talk will likely cool until the SEC looks to add No. 14.
Get ready college football fans, whether we like it or not, the next few weeks are going to be filled with realignment chatter.
Athlon's look at College Football's Super Conferences
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 2 Big Ten Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Nebraska (2-0) – Saturday’s win over Fresno State wasn’t pretty. The Cornhuskers allowed 444 yards to the Bulldogs, including 169 on the ground by running back Robbie Rouse. Quarterback Taylor Martinez posted 385 total yards and three touchdowns in the victory. The Cornhuskers have a lot of work to do, but could get some help on defense this Saturday if cornerback Alfonzo Dennard returns from a leg injury. Nebraska takes on Washington this week, which is the third matchup between these teams over the last year.
2. Wisconsin (2-0) – The Badgers have been one of the most impressive teams in college football through the first two weeks of the season. Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by a score of 86 to 17 and is closing in on Nebraska for the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten power rankings. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been near-perfect through two weeks, completing 27 of 34 passes for 444 yards and five touchdowns.
3. Ohio State (2-0) – The Buckeyes needed a late defensive stand to hold off upset-minded Toledo. While it wasn’t pretty, Ohio State is 2-0 under new coach Luke Fickell. The Buckeyes will get a bigger test in Week 3, as they travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. Ohio State defeated Miami 36-24 last season, but a lot has changed since then. Although Saturday’s matchup isn’t a Big Ten game, it’s a good chance for Fickell to stake his claim for the full-time job.
4. Michigan State (2-0) – The Spartans are coming off a sharp performance in Week 2. The Michigan State defense held the Owls to only one first down and 48 yards of total offense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins also turned in an efficient performance on Saturday, completing 16 of 20 throws for 183 yards and two scores. The Spartans have been quiet on the national scene so far, but will have a chance to make some noise with a visit to South Bend to take on Notre Dame.
5. Michigan (2-0) – The ending of the Michigan-Notre Dame game won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Although the comeback was crucial, it’s important to note Michigan is still trying to find its rhythm under new coach Brady Hoke. Quarterback Denard Robinson struggled with his accuracy on Saturday, but made big plays when it counted. The defense made some solid adjustments against Notre Dame, but still lacks enough talent to contend for the Big Ten title. Hoke has Michigan headed in the right direction and with a schedule of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Minnesota over the next couple of weeks, the Wolverines should be 5-0 before their first road game of the year at Northwestern.
6. Penn State (1-1) – As expected, the offensive issues for the Nittany Lions didn’t get any better in Week 2. The quarterback battle between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden will also continue into Week 3 – with no clear frontrunner. In addition to the quarterback question marks, Penn State’s struggles in the trenches remain a cause for concern. The Nittany Lions should be on upset alert this Saturday, as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple.
7. Illinois (2-0) – The competition has been light, but the Fighting Illini has posted two solid performances. However, Illinois will get a better gauge of where its team stands this week, as they host Arizona State. Both teams have been rolling on offense so far, so the scoreboard operator could be busy on Saturday. If the Fighting Ilini can knock off the Sun Devils, they will make a case for themselves this season and should make a bit of a jump in the power rankings.
8. Northwestern (2-0) – Dan Persa was out of the lineup for the second week in a row, but once again, it was no issue for Northwestern. The Wildcats easily handled Eastern Illinois and will get another shot to rest Persa this week against Army. With Kain Colter playing well and the Wildcats playing another winnable non-conference game, coach Pat Fitzgerald can afford to rest his No. 1 quarterback another week. Persa is still day-to-day with an achilles injury, but it is still unclear when he will be back.
9. Iowa (1-1) – The Hawkeyes had a three-game winning streak over rival Iowa State snapped in Week 2. Running back Marcus Coker posted a huge performance, rushing for 137 yards and two scores on 35 attempts. However, the Iowa defense didn’t have an answer for Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz, who threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns. The Hawkeyes host Pittsburgh this Saturday in a big match-up for the Hawkeyes to get back on track.
10. Purdue (1-1) – The Boilermakers survived a close call against MTSU, but couldn’t deliver in the final moments in Week 2. Purdue had a game-winning field goal against Rice blocked in the final seconds, which dropped the Boilermakers to 1-1 on the year. Although coach Danny Hope is entering his third year at Purdue, his seat will get hotter if the Boilermakers can’t pull off a couple of wins in Big Ten play.
11. Indiana (0-2) – After a disappointing showing in the opener against Ball State, the Hoosiers bounced back with a better performance in Week 2. However, it wasn’t enough to earn the victory. Indiana had three turnovers, including a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that gave Virginia the opportunity to kick the winning field goal. New coach Kevin Wilson should get his first win at Indiana in Week 3, as the Hoosiers host South Carolina State.
12. Minnesota (0-2) – One week after nearly beating USC in Los Angeles, Minnesota failed to capitalize off that momentum. The Golden Gophers dropped a disappointing 28-21 game to New Mexico State, moving to 0-2 for the first time since 1992. Coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, but is expected to make a full recovery. Minnesota hosts Miami (Ohio) – one of the preseason favorites in the MAC East – this Saturday.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 2 ACC Power Rankings
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1. Florida State (2-0) – The Seminoles easily passed their first two tests, now it’s time for the big one. After an embarrassing showing against Oklahoma last year, Florida State is focused on getting revenge and staking its place in the national title race. The Seminoles made it through their first two contests relatively healthy, so there are no injuries to be concerned about. Coach Jimbo Fisher has done an excellent job in a short amount of time, but this will be a good test of how far the team has improved after last year’s game with the Sooners.
2. Virginia Tech (2-0) – The Hokies didn’t have an impressive performance against East Carolina, but no team is in position to threaten the No. 2 spot in the power rankings. As expected, quarterback Logan Thomas is a work in progress. The sophomore is completing only 43.6 percent of his throws and threw for only 91 yards in Week 2. Arkansas State has a solid offense, but Virginia Tech should easily move to 3-0 on Saturday.
3. Maryland (1-0) – After beating Miami on Monday night in Week 1, the Terrapins did not play on Saturday. Maryland has another chance to build momentum in coach Randy Edsall's first season, with Big East predicted champ West Virginia visiting College Park. The Mountaineers have won the last five matchups in this series.
4. Miami (0-1) – Just like Maryland, Miami was off in Week 2. The Hurricanes will get some lineup reinforcements for Saturday’s game against Ohio State, as linebacker Sean Spence, quarterback Jacory Harris, receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and defensive end Adewale Ojomo will rejoin the lineup after sitting out Week 1 due to a suspension.
5. North Carolina (2-0) – Interim coach Everett Withers is off to a good start. The Tar Heels are 2-0, and sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner looks like a future star in the ACC. The Tar Heels are coming off a victory against Rutgers and open up conference play with a home date against Virginia this Saturday.
6. Georgia Tech (2-0) – Wake Forest appears to be the ACC’s most-improved team, but Georgia Tech can’t be too far behind. The Yellow Jackets haven’t played the toughest schedule, but it looks like offseason work with the passing game paid off. Quarterback Tevin Washington is averaging 36.4 yards per completion, while throwing for five scores through two games. Georgia Tech has a good chance to move to 3-0 with Kansas visiting Atlanta this Saturday.
7. Clemson (2-0) – The Tigers are 2-0, but it has not been all that impressive. Consider this: Clemson trailed at halftime against Troy and was tied with Wofford this week. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has made strides in his first year as the starter, but the Tigers need better play from the offensive line. The defense has its own issues, as Clemson is allowing 411 yards per game. The schedule is going to get a lot tougher for the Tigers, as they host Auburn and Florida State the next two weeks.
8. Wake Forest (1-1) – It’s only Week 3, but the Demon Deacons look like the ACC’s most-improved team. Had quarterback Tanner Price avoided an injury in the opener to Syracuse, it’s likely Wake Forest would be 2-0. After winning only one conference game last year, the Demon Deacons have already equaled that mark through two weeks. With Gardner-Webb and Boston College up next, Wake Forest could be 3-1 going into a key ACC Atlantic game against Florida State.
9. NC State (1-1) – Tom O’Brien has not been pleased with his team so far. The Wolfpack did not play well in the first half of Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest, but responded with a better performance over the last two quarters. However, NC State lost 34-27 and won’t play another conference game until Oct. 1. Expect the Wolfpack to win this Saturday against FCS foe South Alabama.
10. Virginia (2-0) – The Cavaliers needed some last-minute heroics to beat Indiana on Saturday, but enter ACC play with a 2-0 record. The Cavaliers are making progress under coach Mike London and there’s enough winnable games on the schedule to contend for a bowl appearance. Just how good is Virginia? We’ll found out this Saturday against North Carolina.
11. Boston College (0-2) – The Eagles are off to a disappointing 0-2 start, and the bad news didn’t stop early this week. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers is taking a leave of absence due to health reasons and will be away from the team indefinitely. Running back Montel Harris remains uncertain to play in Week 3 with a knee injury, but sophomore Andre Williams is more than capable of carrying the rushing attack. Boston College should crack the win column this Saturday against Duke.
12. Duke (0-2) – The Blue Devils remain at the bottom of the power rankings for the second week in a row. Quarterback Sean Renfree is off to a quiet start this season, throwing for only 380 yards and no touchdowns through two games. Duke’s defense and rushing attack were a concern going into this year and neither has shown much improvement. The bottom line? It looks like another season without a bowl appearance for the Blue Devils.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 2 Pac-12 Power Rankings
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1. Oregon (1-1) - The Ducks took out their anger from the Week 1 loss to LSU on Nevada. Quarterback Darron Thomas had a huge performance with six passing scores, while true freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas continues to impress. Oregon gets another tune-up this Saturday with Missouri State visiting Eugene.
2. Stanford (2-0) – The first two teams in the Pac-12 power rankings are pretty clear. The Cardinal hold a significant edge over the rest of the teams in the conference for the No. 2 spot. Quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the early frontrunners for the Heisman, throwing 461 yards and six touchdowns in two games. A rebuilt offensive line is still a work in progress for coach David Shaw.
3. USC (2-0) – Talent isn’t a question for USC, but finding a way to close out games has been a problem. The Trojans dominated early against Minnesota and Utah, but allowed both teams to rally in the second half. The offense got a boost against the Utes with the return of running back Marc Tyler, who rushed for 113 yards and one score in Week 2. USC hosts Syracuse this Saturday, before traveling to Tempe for a key Pac-12 South game against Arizona State in Week 4.
4. Arizona State (2-0) – The Sun Devils scored a huge non-conference win against Missouri on Friday night and have one more game before opening up Pac-12 play. Arizona State travels to Champaign to take on Illinois this Saturday, which is an intriguing matchup between two teams considered sleepers in their conference race. Quarterback Brock Osweiler has been stellar so far, throwing for 615 yards and five touchdowns in two starts.
5. Washington (2-0) – The Huskies are 2-0 for the first time since 2007. However, it hasn’t been the most impressive start. Washington’s pass defense has been under fire and currently ranks as the worst in college football. New quarterback Keith Price has been solid so far, throwing seven touchdowns on 50 attempts. Washington has a difficult test in Week 3, traveling to Lincoln to take on Nebraska – the third game between these two teams over the last year.
6. California (2-0) – Quarterback Zach Maynard has provided a spark to California’s offense, throwing for 509 yards and six scores over the first two weeks. Although his accuracy needs work, Maynard’s emergence could give California a chance to push for third place in the Pac-12 North. The Golden Bears should have no trouble moving to 3-0 with Presbyterian traveling to AT&T Park this Saturday.
7. Utah (1-1) – The Utes came up just short in their first Pac-12 game. The Trojans appeared to be in control most of the way, but Utah capitalized on three USC turnovers to cut the deficit to three midway through the third quarter. However, the Utes inability to establish a consistent offense has to be a concern going forward. Quarterback Jordan Wynn needs to test opposing defenses downfield more often, but could use more help from the rushing attack. The Utes step out of conference this week, as they take on rival BYU.
8. Arizona (1-1) – The Wildcats are coming off a 37-14 defeat to Oklahoma State, but have to quickly regroup with the Pac-12 opener against Stanford this Saturday. The status of Juron Criner remains uncertain for this game, but the Wildcats are deep at receiver if the senior can’t go. Arizona has struggled with a new offensive line and the secondary and both will be a concern against the Cardinal in Week 3.
9. UCLA (1-1) – Although the Bruins got into the win column on Saturday, it wasn’t a particularly impressive performance. UCLA struggled to beat San Jose State, which does not help coach Rick Neuheisel move off the hot seat. The Bruins host Texas this Saturday, and quarterback Kevin Prince is expected to be available to play. Unless UCLA shows significant improvement over the next couple of weeks, it could be another year without a winning record.
10. Washington State (2-0) – The competition hasn’t been great, but it looks like the Cougars are making more progress under coach Paul Wulff. Despite quarterback Jeff Tuel missing most of the first two games with a clavicle injury, the Cougars rank first nationally in scoring offense. If Washington State can beat San Diego State on the road this Saturday, it might be time to start looking at the Cougars as a potential bowl team.
11. Colorado (0-2) – New coach Jon Embree is still looking for his first win on the Colorado sidelines, but this team has shown a lot of fight over the last two weeks. The Buffaloes trailed at halftime of both of their games, but have rallied in the second half. Receiver Paul Richardson is emerging as one of the top big-play threats in the Pac-12, catching 11 passes for 284 yards and two scores against California. Colorado takes on rival Colorado State in Denver this Saturday.
12. Oregon State (0-2) – After a performance like the one Oregon State posted on Saturday against Wisconsin, there’s not many positives to build upon for coach Mike Riley. The quarterback situation is a mess, while the defense ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12 in points allowed per game. The good news? The Beavers have a bye week this Saturday. The bad news? The schedule doesn’t lighten up any when they hit Pac-12 play on Sept. 24 against UCLA.