Articles By Steven Lassan
College football’s 2014 season is only five weeks old, but it’s clear some teams are already showing improvement from their 2013 performance.
Arkansas, West Virginia, California and NC State highlight just a few of the teams from Power 5 conferences taking a step forward in their development after each recorded a losing record last year.
There’s a long way to go this year, and this list could look significantly different by December. Injuries, coaching changes, emergence of quarterbacks and other various elements of surprise will create more chaos across college football. It’s always tough to put too much stock in teams that have played a weak schedule in the first month of the season, but after examining each team’s record through September, here are 12 teams we think are significantly improved from 2013.
College Football's Top 12 Most-Improved Teams in 2014
Power 5 Conference Teams
It may seem odd to call Arkansas improved at just 3-2, but the Razorbacks are making significant progress in coach Bret Bielema’s second year. Arkansas held its own against Auburn in the first half and led Texas A&M 28-14 in the fourth quarter. While both were losses, it’s a clear sign Bielema has the program on the right track – he just needs more talent. The rushing attack leads the way for Arkansas on offense, averaging 316.6 yards per game, with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both ranking among the top five backs in yards per game in the SEC. There’s also progress on defense, where first-year coordinator Robb Smith helped Arkansas lower its points allowed per game to 25.8 after giving up 30.8 in 2013.
What’s Next: The SEC West is challenging, so Arkansas has an uphill battle to make a bowl in 2014. The defense and passing attack are Bielema’s biggest areas to improve over the next seven games, and the development of both units will decide whether or not the Razorbacks can get to six wins in a brutal SEC West.
The Golden Bears slumped to 1-11 in Sonny Dykes’ first season, but due to better luck in the injury department and improvement on both sides of the ball, California is off to a 3-1 start. And if it wasn’t for Arizona’s Hail Mary connection on Sept. 20, the Golden Bears would be 4-0. Quarterback Jared Goff is off to a fast start (17 TDs, 3 INTs), guiding the offense to an average of 7.1 yards per play. Injuries hit the defense hard last season, but new coordinator Art Kaufman was a needed addition after Andy Buh’s struggles in 2013. California is allowing only 35.8 points per game after giving up 45.9 in 2013.
What’s Next: Improving the second-half defense is a priority. 71 of the 143 points allowed by the Golden Bears occurred over the final two quarters and in overtime. Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem, but California will only go to a bowl if its defense continues to show progress over the next eight games. The Golden Bears have a shot at a bowl, especially if they can beat Washington State this Saturday and beat Washington on Oct. 11.
With a 3-1 record, Kentucky is off to its best start since 2010. The Wildcats have made considerable progress under second-year coach Mark Stoops, snapping a 16-game SEC losing streak by defeating Vanderbilt 17-7 and nearly winning at Florida (36-30 3 OT) on Sept. 13. Stoops’ recruiting efforts are paying off with an upgraded roster, and the offense features a handful of young players poised to make an impact over the next couple of years. After scoring over 20 points only three times in 2013, the Wildcats have already reached that total in two games in 2014. Kentucky’s offense is averaging 31.5 points per game – a clear improvement from last season’s 20.5 mark.
What’s Next: Kentucky was picked by most to finish last in the SEC East, but with a win over Vanderbilt, the Wildcats now have an outside shot at a bowl. The schedule doesn’t provide many favors with four consecutive games against ranked foes (LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri and Georgia) in October/early November. Even if the Wildcats fall short of postseason eligibility, the program is trending in the right direction going into 2015.
The Wolfpack nearly shocked the college football world with an upset over Florida State last Saturday. Even though NC State’s upset bid fell short, second-year coach Dave Doeren has the Wolfpack on track to make a bowl after a 3-9 record last season. The key cog in the turnaround has been the play of quarterback Jacoby Brissett. After sitting out 2013 due to transfer rules, Brissett has thrown for 13 touchdowns to just one interception and is completing 68.9 percent of his passes.
What’s Next: NC State is a young team, and most of the core from this year’s squad is set to return in 2015. Getting to a bowl game would be a huge step in the right direction for Doeren. And of course, beating North Carolina on Nov. 29 wouldn’t hurt Doeren’s rebuilding effort. Brissett should be in the mix for All-ACC honors, and the offense needs to carry this team with a defense giving up 26 points per game so far in 2014.
Considering the three opponents on TCU’s schedule (Samford, Minnesota and SMU), this team is still a mystery. However, for a team that lost six games by 10 points or less last year, there are positive signs the Horned Frogs have turned things around and can contend for eight wins in 2014. After scoring just 25.1 points per game last year, TCU is averaging 44.7 through three contests. Of course, competition is a question, but quarterbacks Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel have combined for 10 passing touchdowns, which nearly equals the team’s total from 2013 (14). And as usual, Gary Patterson’s defense is slated to be one of the best in the Big 12.
What’s Next: We should find out just how good TCU is over the next two weeks. The Horned Frogs host Oklahoma this Saturday and play at Baylor on Oct. 11. After losing its share of close games last year, TCU is bound to have better luck in the win column in 2014. If the offense continues to progress under new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, the Horned Frogs can finish 8-4 or even 9-3.
Mike London entered 2014 squarely on the hot seat with an 18-31 record over the last four years. So far, London is on track to save his job, as the Cavaliers are 3-2 through the first month of the season. Virginia lost to UCLA by eight in the opener and fell by eight on the road at BYU. The Cavaliers have already exceeded their win total from last year and are squarely in the mix to compete in a wide-open Coastal Division.
What’s Next: Virginia has its share of flaws, but there’s no perfect team in the Coastal Division. Quarterback play and the offensive line are two units to watch over the next few weeks if the Cavaliers are to make a serious push for the division title. London has recruited well, so talent certainly isn’t an issue in Charlottesville. Can the Cavaliers continue to progress enough for London to reach six wins and save his job for 2015?
A tough schedule and quarterback uncertainty led many to project West Virginia to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 this year. The tough schedule remains, but the Mountaineers found an answer at quarterback in senior Clint Trickett, and coach Dana Holgorsen’s high-scoring offense is back in Morgantown. Trickett has thrown for nine touchdowns and 1,600 yards through four games, while the emergence of Kevin White has provided the passing attack with a go-to target. West Virginia’s defense still needs some work, but after playing Oklahoma and Alabama tough, Holgorsen’s team has showed it is ready to easily surpass last year’s 4-8 record.
What’s Next: The next barometer test for West Virginia is an Oct. 18 date against Baylor but most of the remaining games on the schedule are winnable. Road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State, along with home dates against TCU and Kansas State certainly aren’t easy, but if the Mountaineers can hang with Oklahoma and Alabama, they certainly have a shot to win any of those contests.
Group of 5 Teams
The Zips made a four-game improvement from 2012 to 2013 and could make a similar jump in 2014. Akron is 2-2 after beating Pittsburgh and hosts preseason MAC East favorite Bowling Green on Nov. 4. Road tests at Ohio, Ball State and Buffalo are challenging, but Terry Bowden’s Zips rank No. 1 in the MAC scoring defense, and this team has improved its overall talent and depth over the last three years.
Just four games into the season and Air Force has already exceeded its win total from 2013 (2). Victories over Nicholls State and Georgia State didn’t move the needle nationally, but the Falcons knocked off Boise State 28-14 last Saturday. Troy Calhoun’s team will have a chance to take a lead for the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy with a win over Navy on Oct. 4. With games against UNLV, New Mexico and Army remaining, Air Force should have a good chance to return to the postseason.
Coming off a 4-8 season, Louisiana Tech didn’t garner much consideration to be picked near the top of Conference USA’s West Division. But five weeks into the season, the Bulldogs have to be one of the frontrunners in a wide-open division. After a rocky debut, coach Skip Holtz seems to have the program pointed in the right direction, as Louisiana Tech has scored road wins over UL Lafayette and North Texas. Challenging non-conference games against Oklahoma and Auburn has skewed the stats, but new coordinator Manny Diaz has made a difference on defense, and quarterback Cody Sokol has already matched the team’s touchdown total (10) from all of last year.
Memphis was a program in disarray after the failed two-year stint under Larry Porter, but Justin Fuente has transformed the Tigers back into a bowl team in three seasons. Memphis has won nine games over the last three years and is off to a 2-2 start in 2014. The Tigers gave UCLA all it could handle on Sept. 6 and played Ole Miss tough in a 24-3 loss. Defense is leading the way for Memphis, as the Barry Odom’s group ranks third in the American Athletic Conference by allowing just 20.8 points per game – and that’s after playing UCLA and Ole Miss. With winnable conference games against Tulane, USF, UConn, Tulsa and SMU remaining, the Tigers should go bowling for the first time since 2008.
Temple finished 2-10 last year, but a deeper look at the Owls’ schedule shows this team was more competitive over the second half of the season and was just a couple plays away from winning four games. In Matt Rhule’s debut season, Temple lost its last four games by 10 points or less. The Owls are successfully building off last year’s improvement, jumping to a 3-1 start through the first four weeks. A huge road win at Vanderbilt got the momentum rolling, while the Owls defeated Delaware State and UConn by a combined score of 95-10. Quarterback P.J. Walker ranks second in the conference with a 65.1 completion percentage, and Temple’s defense is allowing just 4.6 yards per play.
Oregon is no stranger to alternate uniforms and designs, and the Ducks have unveiled a different look for Thursday night’s game against Arizona.
The uniforms feature pink accents, which are designed to help support breast cancer awareness.
Oregon also wore a similar design last season.
The new college football playoff format has added even more intrigue to the 2014 season. Instead of figuring out the top two teams in early December, the focus has shifted to finding four teams to play in the first FBS postseason playoff format.
To help select the four playoff teams, a 13-person committee was picked, which includes names like Barry Alvarez, Oliver Luck, Pat Haden and Jeff Long, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former coach Tyrone Willingham.
Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. The official playoff committee will release its rankings starting on Oct. 28, but this poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
Post-Week 5 Playoff Projection Results
Takeaways from Expert Poll Results
* According to the voting panel, the top four teams are clear. Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Florida State are a step above Auburn at No. 5. And there’s a 30-point gap from the Tigers to Texas A&M at No. 6.
* Alabama received eight of the 19 first-place votes. Oklahoma ranked second with seven first-place votes.
* Oregon has one of the best wins of the 2014 season (Michigan State) and accumulated only one first-place vote. The Ducks recorded three votes for No. 2 and nine for No. 3.
* Five of the 14 teams receiving votes are from the SEC. Three come from the Pac-12.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About the CFB Playoff
Group of 5 Rankings
(One team from the Group of 5 conferences - American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt - will play in one of college football's premier (New Year's Bowls) each season.
1. East Carolina
Key Wins: at Virginia Tech, North Carolina
Pirates are the clear frontrunner for the Group of 5 spot in one of college football’s premier bowl games. East Carolina may not be tested over the next three weeks (SMU, at USF and UConn), but October matchups against Cincinnati and Temple will be the toughest remaining games on the schedule – until the finale against UCF.
2. Cincinnati (2-1)
Key Wins: Toledo
Bearcats lost to Ohio State on Saturday and rank behind East Carolina due to its lack of wins against Power 5 teams. Has opportunity to climb with remaining games against Miami and East Carolina.
Related: Post-Week 5 Bowl Projections
3. Marshall (4-0)
Key Wins: at Akron
Thundering Herd has favorable path to 12-0 regular season mark, but weak strength of schedule will hurt this team.
Key Results from Week 5
UCLA 62, Arizona State 27 (Thursday)
Best performance of the year by the Bruins.
Northwestern 29, Penn State 6
Longshot playoff hopes by Nittany Lions ended by Wildcats.
Georgia 35, Tennessee 32
Bulldogs avoid upset. SEC East title hopes improve with South Carolina loss.
Florida State 56, NC State 41
Seminoles avoid upset in Raleigh to remain unbeaten.
Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT)
Aggies keep pace with Alabama and Auburn in SEC West.
Stanford 20, Washington 13
Cardinal avoids second Pac-12 loss with road win in Seattle.
Missouri 21, South Carolina 20
Tigers take a step forward in SEC East title race.
Air Force 28, Boise State 14
Broncos eliminated from contention for Group of 5 bowl spot?
Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15
Fighting Irish remain unbeaten before showdown against Stanford.
Key Games With Playoff Implications in Week 6
Arizona at Oregon (Thursday)
One more tune-up for Ducks before showdown against UCLA next Saturday.
LSU at Auburn
An 0-2 hole won’t be easy to overcome in the SEC West for LSU.
Nebraska at Michigan State
Ameer Abdullah versus Michigan State’s defense is a must-see matchup.
Alabama at Ole Miss
Can the Rebels score a breakthrough win in the SEC West?
Texas A&M at Mississippi State
Another test for Texas A&M’s defense. Can it stop Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott?
Baylor at Texas
Can the Longhorns find a way to slow down Baylor’s high-scoring offense?
Oklahoma at TCU
Horned Frogs lost by only three points to Oklahoma last season. This year’s matchup is in Fort Worth.
Stanford at Notre Dame
Last two meetings have been decided by a touchdown.
Utah at UCLA
Bruins can’t afford to look past Utes.
With five weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is surrounded in uncertainty.
The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.
While only five weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 5 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first five weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks, especially as the heart of conference play arrives in October.
College Football's Post-Week 5 Bowl Projections
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||Sun Belt vs.|
| Nevada vs.|
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||C-USA vs.|
| UTSA vs.|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Mountain West vs.|
|Boise State vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Air Force vs.|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| ULL vs.|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||American vs.|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||C-USA vs.|
| FAU vs.|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
|Colorado State vs.|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| Marshall vs.|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
| Rice vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||ACC vs. |
| North Carolina vs. |
|Bitcoin St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| UCF vs. |
|Military||Dec. 27||ACC vs. |
| Temple vs.|
|Sun||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Duke vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Virginia vs.|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Georgia Tech vs.|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs.|
| Wisconsin vs.|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||SEC vs.|
| Tennessee vs.|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC vs.|
|West Virginia vs.|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
| TCU vs.|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Iowa vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC vs.|
| Louisville vs.|
|San Francisco||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
| Nebraska vs.|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Big Ten/ACC vs.|
| Ohio State vs.|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||American/Army vs.|
|TaxSlayer||Jan. 2||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Miami vs. |
|Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
|Kansas State vs.|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs. |
|Texas vs. |
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||American vs.|
| Florida vs. |
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||MAC vs.|
| Arkansas State vs.|
|New Year's Bowls|
|Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Auburn vs.|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| UCLA vs. |
|Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Playoff |
| Florida State vs. |
| Alabama vs. |
|National Title||Jan. 12||Semifinal Winner vs.|
| Alabama vs.|
* Indicates conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 5
8.0: Michigan’s Average Points Per Game Against Power 5 Opponents
Doug Nussmeier was hired to provide a quick fix for Michigan’s offense, but the Wolverines are still stuck in neutral after five weeks. The Wolverines are averaging just eight points a game against Power 5 opponents (Minnesota, Notre Dame and Utah), and the offense recorded just 171 yards on 53 plays against the Golden Gophers. If you take into account all five games, Michigan ranks last in the Big Ten by averaging just 22 points a game. Barring a major turnaround by the offense, Nussmeier and coach Brady Hoke will both be looking for new jobs at the end of 2014.
1.9: Purdue’s Yards Per Play on Final 10 Drives
Purdue’s upset hopes against Iowa got off to a good start in Week 5, as the Boilermakers jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But it was all downhill from there. Purdue’s offense managed just 70 yards on its final 37 plays and no drive in the second half lasted more than seven plays. During the final 10 drives, the Boilermakers averaged just 1.9 yards per play.
14: Passing TDs in California-Colorado’s 59-56 Shootout
If you like offense, Saturday’s California-Colorado matchup was the game to watch. The two teams combined for 64 first downs, 1,215 yards and 115 points. The passing game for both teams thrived, as Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau completed 46 of 67 attempts for 455 yards and seven touchdowns. California’s Jared Goff matched Liufau, completing 24 of his 42 passes for seven scores and 458 yards. How impressive are the 14 passing touchdowns in a game? Only six teams in the nation have more than 14 all season.
119: Yardage by Missouri on Final Two Drives
Let’s throw out the two-play drive Missouri used to run out the clock and focus on the Tigers’ final two possessions to score a huge win at South Carolina. Missouri’s first two possessions of the game went for 102 yards on 18 plays, but the Tigers managed just 69 yards until the last two drives of the game. Missouri went 68 yards on three plays to cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 20-14 and went 51 yards on nine plays to take a 21-20 lead. The Tigers didn’t have a particularly prolific day on offense, but the offense delivered in the clutch with the game on the line.
7: TD Drives Led by LSU Freshman QB Brandon Harris Against NMSU
The quarterback controversy in Baton Rouge should be over. If coach Les Miles starts Anthony Jennings in Week 6, he’s making the wrong decision. Sure, New Mexico State's defense was the toughest opposition on Saturday, but the Tigers’ offense has operated better in 2014 with Harris at the controls. Against the Aggies on Saturday night, Harris guided the offense to seven touchdowns on seven drives. The true freshman completed 11 of 14 throws for 178 yards and three scores and rushed for 36 yards and two touchdowns on five attempts. In five games, Harris has completed 22 of 30 passes for 394 yards and six scores. It’s pretty clear who is the better quarterback at LSU right now.
1: Touchdown Scored by SMU Through Four Games
SMU’s offense has been dreadful in 2014. The Mustangs have scored only 12 points through four games, with the only touchdown coming on the final play against North Texas on a 33-yard Hail Mary pass. SMU’s offense has been plagued by struggling options at quarterback, a ground attack that is averaging just 1.4 yards per rush, and an offensive line that has allowed 29 sacks through four games. Coach June Jones resigned after the loss to the Mean Green, and the road for SMU isn’t going to get any easier with Cincinnati, East Carolina and Memphis up next. To put in perspective how bad SMU's offense has struggled so far, UCLA's Ishmael Adams scored more touchdowns in one game (Arizona State) than the Mustangs have all year.
42.3: OSU QB Daxx Garman’s Average Pass TD Length Against TTU
With J.W. Walsh sidelined indefinitely, it’s Daxx Garman’s show at Oklahoma State. And Garman isn’t shy about attempting deep passes. In Thursday night’s win over Texas Tech, Garman averaged 42.3 yards on his four touchdown passes. Garman connected on a 33-yard score in the first quarter, a 39-yard touchdown toss in the second quarter and scoring plays of 47 and 50 in the third quarter. Garman completed only 17 passes and averaged 21.8 yards per completion on Thursday night.
2: Touchdowns Allowed by Stanford’s Defense in Pac-12 Games
Four new starters and a coordinator haven’t slowed Stanford’s defense through its first four games of the season. The Cardinal has allowed only two touchdowns in two Pac-12 games and limited Washington to just 179 total yards in Saturday’s 20-13 win. Stanford has also pitched two shutouts (UC Davis and Army) and has recorded 11 sacks this year. So far, the 2014 version of the Cardinal defense is shaping up to be as dominant as the one that allowed just 4.8 yards per play last season.
3: 200-Yard Games by Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah in 2014
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah continued his hot start to the season by gashing Illinois for 208 yards and three scores on 22 attempts. And if the Cornhuskers weren’t leading by a huge margin at halftime, Abdullah would have recorded a monster stat-line with a full game of opportunities. The senior has three 200-yard efforts in five games in 2014, rushing for 232 against FAU and 229 against Miami. Abdullah’s toughest test of 2014 takes place next Saturday against Michigan State.
2.7: Arkansas Yards Per Play on Final Six Drives
The Razorbacks are clearly improved in coach Bret Bielema’s second year. However, there’s no doubt Arkansas let a win slip away on Saturday against Texas A&M. But the Razorbacks had a little help, as the Aggies stepped up on defense after falling behind 28-14 in the third quarter. Over Arkansas final six drives, Texas A&M allowed just 92 yards on 34 plays (2.7 yards per play). The Aggies forced four punts over the Razorbacks final six drives, with the only other possessions resulting in a missed field goal and a turnover on downs to end the game. Texas A&M’s defense has been heavily criticized over the last two years, but the Aggies made plays at the right time on Saturday.
Other Stats to Know
* Georgia running back Todd Gurley set a career high by rushing for 208 yards in Saturday’s win over Tennessee.
* Ohio State’s pass defense continues to be a problem in 2014. The Buckeyes allowed four passing scores, averaging 60 yards per touchdown toss in the 50-28 win over the Cincinnati.
* Ole Miss has allowed just two touchdowns through four games.
* Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed 25 consecutive passes in Saturday night’s win over Syracuse.
* Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida ranks fourth nationally with eight rushing scores through five games. Breida has four touchdown runs of at least 56 yards and averages 33.5 yards per rushing score in 2014.
* NC State averaged 6.9 yards per play in the first half against Florida State. But the Seminoles tightened up on defense in the second half, allowing just 4.4 yards per play over the final two quarters.
* Temple has scored a defensive touchdown in all four games this year.
* UCLA averaged 10 yards per play in Thursday night’s win over Arizona State.
* Quarterback Brett Hundley recorded 427 total yards against Arizona State. The 427 total yards rank second in Hundley’s career for most total yards in a single game.
* Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is averaging just 9.8 yards per completion in 2014.
* Wake Forest has recorded negative rushing yards in three out of its five games.
* Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for six touchdowns against North Carolina on Saturday. Watson is the first quarterback in Clemson history to throw for six touchdowns in a game.
* Ohio State recorded 710 yards and 45 first downs in Saturday’s 50-28 win over Cincinnati.
* North Carolina’s defense has allowed at least 500 yards in three out of its four games in 2014.
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for 434 yards over his last two games.
* Vanderbilt recorded only eight first downs and averaged just 3.0 yards per play in a 17-7 loss to Kentucky on Saturday.
* Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel has tossed at least four touchdowns in each of the Bearcats’ three games this year.
* UMass recorded 638 yards in Saturday’s 47-42 loss to Bowling Green. The 638 yards are the most by the Minutemen since they moved to the FBS level.
* USC is the only team in the nation to not allow a passing touchdown through Week 5.
* TCU quarterbacks Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel have thrown 10 touchdown passes through three games this year. The Horned Frogs had just 14 passing scores in 2013.
* Texas Tech committed 16 penalties in Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have committed at least 10 penalties in three out of their four games in 2014. Additionally, Texas Tech is one game of 10 penalties away from matching last year’s total (four) of games with double-digit penalties.
* Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova now owns the school record for most passing touchdowns in a career with 61. Nova threw four scores in Saturday’s 31-6 win over Tulane. That’s the second game for Nova with four passing touchdowns in 2014.
* The 24 points allowed by Florida State in the first quarter were the most allowed by the Seminoles in an opening quarter in school history.
* After throwing for 2,523 yards and 21 scores as Indiana’s part-time quarterback last year, Nate Sudfeld is off to a slow start in 2014. Sudfeld has two games of throwing for less than 130 yards and has just two scores through four contests.
* Boston College freshman running back Jon Hilliman has scored two rushing scores in three consecutive games.
* Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer has tossed at least two picks in four consecutive contests.
* On five drives in the first quarter, Iowa ran 13 plays and registered just 10 yards.
* Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff rushed for 129 yards on 17 attempts against Wake Forest. Radcliff had just 91 yards on 17 carries last season.
* Kansas State averaged 8.1 yards per play in Saturday’s win over UTEP. That’s the highest mark for the Wildcats since a 9.3 mark on Oct. 16, 2012 against Kansas.
* Army averaged 8.1 yards per play and won the turnover battle (2 to 0) over Yale, but the Black Knights lost 49-43 in overtime.
* Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 17-7 despite recording just 100 yards in the second half.
* Penn State freshman receiver DaeSean Hamilton has at least four receptions in every game and has three 100-yard efforts through five games.
* Bowling Green and UMass combined for 1,306 yards, 89 points and 59 first downs in Saturday’s 47-42 shootout. The Falcons also had three receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark.
* Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has scored in 13 consecutive games.
* Georgia converted only one third-down attempt in Saturday’s 35-32 win over Tennessee.
* By defeating Kent State 45-13 on Saturday, Virginia has already surpassed its win total (3) from last season (2).
* UAB committed six turnovers and gave up two defensive scores in Saturday’s loss to FIU on Saturday.
* Louisville true freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon completed 16 of 32 passes for 206 yards and added 46 yards in his first career start on Saturday.
* Colorado ran 110 plays in Saturday’s loss to California.
* Wyoming has played two of college football’s top 10 teams in 2014, but the Cowboys averaged 5.9 yards per play against Oregon and 5.6 against Michigan State. That’s a good sign for coach Craig Bohl’s team as it moves deep into Mountain West play.
* Boise State lost seven turnovers in Saturday’s 28-14 loss to Air Force. That’s the most turnovers the Broncos have lost in a game since 1992.
* Ohio State recorded 710 yards against Cincinnati in Saturday’s 50-28 victory. That’s the first performance for the Buckeyes over 700 yards of offense since Aug. 27, 1986.
* Seven of LSU’s nine touchdowns scored against New Mexico State were scored by true freshmen (Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette).
* Nevada was outgained 446 to 256, lost the turnover battle (3 to 0) and went 0-9 on third-down attempts against San Jose State. However, the Wolf Pack won 21-10.
* Wake Forest defensive end Tylor Harris set a FBS record by recovering three fumbles in Saturday’s loss to Louisville.
Defense hasn’t necessarily been a strength for Miami under Al Golden, but the Hurricanes delivered with a clutch performance in Saturday night’s 22-10 win over Duke.
Miami held the Blue Devils to its lowest output of the 2014 season, allowed just 3.5 yards per play and forced three turnovers. The 3.5 mark is the fewest yards per play allowed in an ACC game by the Hurricanes since 2011 (Georgia Tech).
Improving the defense was a priority for Golden after an embarrassing effort in 2013. Miami allowed 26.8 points per game (10th in the ACC) and 5.7 yards per play (12th in ACC).
The early returns were positive, as the Hurricanes held their first three opponents to 4.7 yards or fewer per play.
However, in last week’s 41-31 loss to Nebraska, Miami was dominated at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Cornhuskers to rush for 343 yards and score 41 points.
Shades of last year’s defense against Nebraska prompted criticism once again for Miami coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, and the matchup against Duke was critical to establish the direction of this unit in the heart of ACC play.
In addition to holding the Blue Devils to just 10 points and 3.5 yards per play, Miami forced punts on seven of Duke’s first eight possessions and held David Cutcliffe’s offense to just two third-down conversions on 16 attempts. Only two drives for the Blue Devils lasted longer than 50 yards, and the rushing attack was limited to 3.4 yards per carry.
Perhaps Duke isn’t as good on offense as it showcased through the first four games, and the Hurricanes still have to play Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Florida State, so the defense doesn’t have an easy path the rest of the year.
D’Onofrio entered 2014 on the hot seat, and if this coaching staff is going to succeed in Coral Gables, the defense has to take a step forward. So far, so good. But the upcoming schedule is certainly going to test the defense, especially against Florida State and Cincinnati.
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Week 5 wrapped up the first month of the college football season, but Saturday night’s
game against Duke was a critical one for Miami. The Hurricanes already lost to Louisville and an 0-2 hole in the Coastal Division is tough to rebound from.
There’s very little margin for error among the Coastal Division teams, and Miami’s improving defense is a good sign for its hopes of finally winning the division and playing for the conference title in December.
After Saturday’s win in Raleigh against NC State, it’s clear Florida State is not as dominant of a squad as coach Jimbo Fisher’s national championship winning team from 2013. However, in a season that’s lacking a clear No. 1 team, the Seminoles are still very much in the mix to factor into college football’s new four-team playoff.
And this is a team poised to improve as the season progresses, especially on defense where Florida State needed the most help on Saturday against NC State.
After a slow start against the Wolfpack, the Seminoles’ defense stepped up when it mattered.
After allowing 24 points in the first quarter, Florida State held NC State scoreless in the second quarter and limited the Wolfpack to just three points in the final period.
First-year coordinator Charles Kelly dialed up the right adjustments after the first quarter, holding the Wolfpack to three consecutive punts before the end of the first half. After NC State converted 5 of 9 third-down attempts in the first two quarters, the Wolfpack went just 2 of 7 over the final two periods.
NC State averaged 6.9 yards per play during the first half, but Florida State held Jacoby Brissett and the red-hot Wolfpack offense to just 4.4 yards per touch in the second half.
In addition to tightening the defensive scheme, the Seminoles forced three second-half turnovers, resulting in 14 points for the offense.
The defense certainly didn’t play its best game for Florida State, but in a matchup that was decided by a 15-point margin of victory, the Seminoles got two key turnovers that resulted in 14 points. Not bad.
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Some of Florida State’s defensive struggles have to be shared by the offense, as the Seminoles committed four turnovers and gave NC State a short field on drives that resulted in 13 points.
While winning a national championship has raised the expectation level for Fisher and this team in 2014, it’s important to consider this defense did not have a senior starter in Saturday’s win. And standout defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. did not play due to a concussion.
Sure, depth at defensive tackle and tackling are concerns, but Florida State picked up key performance from freshman defensive lineman Lorenzo Featherston (1.5 TFL, 1 FF), freshman linebacker Jacob Pugh (three tackles, 1 FR) and sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey (two forced fumbles).
Clearly, the youth and depth in certain positions are two issues to watch as the season progresses, but the talent is there to improve over the course of 2014. And with an explosive offense, Florida State’s defense doesn’t necessarily have to be a shutdown unit – at least right now.
Fisher’s team has delivered in the clutch in its three games against Power 5 opponents, starting with a defensive stand against Oklahoma State, a win without Jameis Winston versus Clemson and rallying from a 24-7 deficit against NC State.
The final numbers on defense won’t be pretty, but the second half performance against the Wolfpack is something Fisher and Kelly can build on over the next few weeks.
After a disastrous 6-22 record in three seasons, Charlie Weis was fired as Kansas’ head coach on Sunday. Weis went 1-18 in three years during Big 12 play in Lawrence, and the Jayhawks finished last in the conference in back-to-back years. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will serve as the interim coach for the final eight games of the year.
Kansas is not an easy job, and the last two coaches only got less than three years to show on-field progress.
And looking at the candidates, there’s not a natural fit for arguably the No. 10 job in the Big 12.
12 Coaching Candidates to Replace Fired Charlie Weis at Kansas
David Beaty, wide receivers coach, Texas A&M
Beaty has never worked as a head coach on the collegiate level, but he’s regarded as an excellent recruiter and worked as an assistant at Kansas from 2008-09 and in the 2011 season. Beaty’s ties to the Texas area would be huge for recruiting purposes, but he would need a strong staff to offset his lack of head coaching experience.
Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern
Fritz was a home-run hire by Georgia Southern. The Eagles are just 3-2 in 2014, but both losses came at the hands of ACC opponents (NC State and Georgia Tech), and Fritz’s team lost by a combined five points. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz went 40-14 at Sam Houston State and 97-47 at Central Missouri. Fritz was born in Kansas and has experience in the area from his time at Coffeyville College. Is Fritz willing to jump after one year at Georgia Southern? With his ties to the area and being a proven winner at different levels, Fritz would be an excellent fit in Lawrence.
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Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
Kansas fans are certainly familiar with Frost from his days as a Nebraska quarterback, but the Nebraska native is a rising star in the coaching ranks. After working as a graduate assistant at Nebraska and Kansas State, Frost landed a job at Northern Iowa for two years (2007-08) and left for Oregon in 2009 to coach receivers. After Chip Kelly left for the NFL, Frost was promoted to offensive coordinator. The Ducks averaged 45.5 points per game last year and lead the Pac-12 with a 48.5 average in 2014. Frost does not have any prior head coaching experience.
Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis
Don’t be fooled by Fuente’s 9-19 overall record at Memphis. The third-year coach clearly has the Tigers moving in the right direction and would be an excellent fit in Lawrence. The Oklahoma native spent five years in the Big 12 as an assistant at TCU and landed at Memphis to clean up a disaster left by previous coach Larry Porter. In three years, the Tigers have made significant progress. Memphis went 4-8 in 2012 and finished 3-9 in a tougher conference in 2013 (American Athletic Conference). And the Tigers are off to a 2-2 start with losses over Ole Miss and UCLA. Fuente’s experience in rebuilding a program at Memphis could be valuable in Lawrence. Does he want to aim higher than Kansas?
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
Herman has worked as a play-caller on the collegiate level for 10 years and is a member of Mensa. The Ohio native is a young coach (39) with a lot of energy and is ready to take on the challenge of being a head coach at a Power 5 program. Herman does not have any experience as a head coach, but he’s worked under good coaches in Paul Rhoads and Urban Meyer.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, ULL
Hudspeth is off to a slow start in his fourth season at ULL, as the Ragin’ Cajuns record stands at 1-3 after four games. But from 2011-13, Hudspeth went 28-15 and and guided ULL to three consecutive bowl games. Hudspeth’s success isn’t just limited to the Ragin’ Cajuns, as he recorded a 66-21 mark at North Alabama from 2002-08. The Mississippi native also has experience as an assistant at Mississippi State and Navy. Kansas seems like an odd fit for Hudspeth, but he’s ready for the opportunity to lead a bigger program.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State
Lembo deserves a mention in this space, but he seems more apt to take a job in the Big Ten or in the ACC. In four years at Ball State, Lembo has guided the Cardinals to a 26-16 record. And prior to taking over in Muncie, Lembo went 35-22 with a playoff appearance at Elon. Lembo also went 44-14 from 2001-05 at Lehigh with two playoff trips. It’s only a matter of time before Lembo jumps at an opportunity to coach at a Power 5 conference. Is it Kansas? Or will a five-year contract extension signed in the spring keep him in Muncie another season?
Jim McElwain, head coach, Colorado State
McElwain’s stock continues to rise after Colorado State’s upset win at Boston College in Week 5. The Rams are 15-15 under his watch, with an 11-7 mark after the 2012 season. Prior to taking over in Fort Collins, McElwain worked as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and Fresno State and served as a quarterbacks’ coach with the Raiders in 2006. Whether it means anything or not, McElwain inked a contract extension (with a hefty buyout) with Colorado State prior to the season.
Ruffin McNeill, head coach, East Carolina
McNeill is a graduate of East Carolina, so leaving his alma mater won’t be easy. McNeill paid his dues for over 20 years as an assistant before landing the head coach job at East Carolina. During his time as an assistant, McNeill worked at Clemson, North Alabama, Appalachian State, UNLV, Fresno State and Texas Tech. In five years at East Carolina, McNeill is 32-23 and guided the Pirates to a 10-3 mark in 2013. Could McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley be a package deal for Kansas? Unlikely, but worth a shot for the Jayhawks.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
It’s only a matter of time before Morris takes a job as a head coach. However, Morris can be patient and choose the right opening, as he’s one of the highest paid assistants in college football. Morris would seem to be the perfect fit for a program like Kansas, as he would provide a much-needed spark on the offensive side and knows how to recruit the Texas area. Morris is a Texas native and worked as a head coach on the high school level from 1994-2009. Under Morris’ direction, Clemson has averaged (including 2014) at least 40 points per game in each of the last three years.
Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell is another young assistant primed to take a head-coaching job in the near future. But Norvell isn’t in any hurry to jump from his current position at Arizona State, as he’s compensated well and can have his pick of jobs in the future. Under Novell’s watch, the Sun Devils ranked in the top three of scoring in the Pac-12 in each of the last three years. Norvell has worked for Arizona State coach Todd Graham at three consecutive jobs (Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State) and spent one year as a graduate assistant at Central Arkansas.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Venables has ties to the Kansas area and is one of the highest-paid coordinators in the nation. The Kansas native played at Kansas State for two seasons (1991-92) and worked in Manhattan from 1993-98. Venables also has prior Big 12 experience from a stop at Oklahoma (1993-2011) before landing the defensive coordinator job at Clemson. Under Venables’ direction, the Tigers have finished No. 3 in the ACC in scoring defense in back-to-back years.
Tim Beck, offensive coordinator, Nebraska
Beck is a former Kansas assistant and has served under Bo Pelini as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator since 2011. The Ohio native has the Cornhuskers averaging 45.4 points per game through the first five games of 2014. Beck does not have any head coach experience on the collegiate level.
Craig Bohl, head coach, Wyoming
Bohl is the best head coach in the Mountain West, but he’s in Year One at Wyoming. Don’t expect Bohl to leave after 2014, but he’s a name to watch for BCS jobs in the future.
Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo
Rising star in the coaching ranks is 20-11 entering his third full season with the Rockets. Campbell is one of the youngest head coaches in the nation (34) and is a name to file away for BCS jobs 2015 or 2016.
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama
You never know…
Jim Leavitt, 49ers assistant
Leavitt’s tenure at USF’s head coach did not end on a good note, as there were allegations of player abuse that resulted in his termination at the end of the 2009 season. From 1997-2009, Leavitt recorded a 95-57 mark as the Bulls’ head coach, including five consecutive bowl appearances once the program joined the Big East. Leavitt has ties to the Texas and Kansas areas.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi passed on the opportunity to be UConn’s head coach last year. It’s likely he will do the same to Kansas, as he can land a higher-profile job in the future.
Ed Orgeron, former USC interim coach
Orgeron’s name popped up on Sunday in the early rumor mill for the vacancy. Orgeron struggled in his previous stint as a head coach at Ole Miss but rebounded in an interim role at USC last year. Unlikely fit.
Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, East Carolina
Riley is young (31) and one of the bright offensive minds in the nation. Is it too soon to make a jump to a Power 5 program?
Ed Warinner, Co-OC/OL coach, Ohio State
Warinner is a former Kansas assistant, working from 2003-04 and 2007-09 under Mark Mangino’s staff in Lawrence. The Ohio native has never been a head coach but has 20 years of experience as an assistant. Warinner is regarded as an outstanding recruiter.
Kansas fired coach Charlie Weis after Saturday’s 23-0 loss to Texas. Weis was just 6-22 in three seasons as the Jayhawks’ head coach and had only one win in Big 12 play.
Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will serve as the interim head coach. Through four games, Kansas is 2-2 with wins over Central Michigan and SEMO.
Weis was an odd hire for athletic director Sheahon Zenger and was a questionable move for a program that has struggled to show consistent on-field progress in the Big 12.
And in Weis’ three seasons, it was hard to find progress, as Kansas continued to rank as the worst team in the Big 12.
Weis took over at Kansas after serving as Florida’s offensive coordinator for one season (2011), which came on the heels of a one-year stop with the Chiefs.
Prior to the 2011 season in the NFL, Weis went 35-27 as Notre Dame’s head coach, which included two losing seasons over his final three years.
Week 5 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 5
The Sheriff and the Brick Mason. pic.twitter.com/mk7F4Vscic— Football Time in TN (@FootballTimeMag) September 27, 2014
That's a fox running through the stands of Ford Stadium at SMU. pic.twitter.com/xSeqYj4BuE— Greg Tepper (@Tepper) September 27, 2014
Sparse really doesn't capture the, uh, crowd for TCU at SMU this morning. pic.twitter.com/Wdi6fxjJHS— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) September 27, 2014
Florida fans! You are no longer alone! pic.twitter.com/3QL80nCcSK— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) September 27, 2014
Todd Gurley hurdle. https://t.co/2B129Ht12u— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 27, 2014
Jacoby Brissett's wild TD vs. Florida State if you missed it. That's a strong dude. VIDEO: https://t.co/QFLiy3ui4P— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) September 27, 2014
Bill Snyder says he switched wind-breakers today because the Big 12 asked him to stop advertising the now defunct BWW Bowl. Not kidding.— Kellis Robinett (@KellisRobinett) September 27, 2014
Another Orange-out in Miami pic.twitter.com/eBjHbUX54m— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) September 27, 2014
… Meanwhile at FAU, Jeff Driskel is tailgating. pic.twitter.com/7cETwCEccO— Andrew Ivins (@andrewrivins) September 27, 2014
Announcer during UMASS game: "The video board just fell." pic.twitter.com/OA0LSc2lnM— Chris Hassel (@hasselESPN) September 27, 2014
The look Steve Spurrier gives Maty Mauk after this: "Son, I'll whoop your ass." https://t.co/0z4rQM57Wf— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) September 28, 2014
Bryce Petty wow https://t.co/LFPXfx1Z8p— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) September 28, 2014
Look at this photo and tell me he is not concussed, TELL ME. (Photo Credit: Leon Halip, USA TODAY) pic.twitter.com/FNR75YG2Sv— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) September 28, 2014
Missouri’s offense was stuck in neutral for most of the game, but the Tigers eventually got on track and upset South Carolina 21-20.
The top play of the game had to be Missouri’s late touchdown to go ahead 21-20 on the scoreboard.
However, a close second has to be quarterback Maty Mauk running into South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier in the second half.
Needless to say, Spurrier didn’t look very happy after this one:
The look Steve Spurrier gives Maty Mauk after this: "Son, I'll whoop your ass." https://t.co/0z4rQM57Wf— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) September 28, 2014
Ohio State assistant strength and conditioning coach Anthony Schlegel recorded one of the top plays (and hits) of Week 5 by leveling a fan that ran onto the field during Saturday night’s win over Cincinnati.
Schlegel – a former linebacker at Ohio State – bodyslammed the fan that ran onto the field and promptly escorted him off after the hit.
Best tackle of the weekend?
Washington and Stanford need to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 North Division, and Saturday’s showdown in Seattle should provide an early glimpse into which team could challenge the Ducks for the top spot in the North.
Despite a 4-0 start, Washington might be the biggest mystery in the Pac-12. The Huskies struggled to beat Hawaii and trailed at halftime against Georgia State but also hammered Illinois 44-19. Chris Petersen was one of the top hires of the offseason coach carousel, and it’s possible Petersen and his staff have been holding back a few tricks until Pac-12 play starts. Can Petersen deliver the big results at Washington like he did at Boise State? Saturday’s game against Stanford is a huge opportunity for Petersen in his first season.
Stanford lost its only Pac-12 matchup of the year – 13-10 against USC – but defeated UC Davis and Army by a combined score of 80-0. Saturday’s game against Washington headlines a tough upcoming road schedule for coach David Shaw’s team, as a trip to Notre Dame awaits next week, followed by games at Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA later this year.
Washington owns a 41-38-4 series edge over Stanford. The Huskies have won only one of the last six meetings in this series. Washington claimed a 17-13 victory over Stanford in 2012.
Stanford at Washington
Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Stanford -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Stanford OL vs. Washington DL
The strength of Stanford’s offense in recent years has been its offensive line. But coach David Shaw is dealing with transition up front, as four new starters are in place for 2014. This unit has a ton of potential and is headlined by future stars in left tackle Andrus Peat, guard Joshua Garnett and tackle Kyle Murphy. So far, it hasn’t been an easy transition for Stanford. The Cardinal averaged only 3.4 yards per carry against USC and has allowed six sacks in three games. In time, this unit will be a strength. But entering Saturday’s game against Washington, the Cardinal could have their hands full. The Huskies have a veteran front, featuring four senior starters and two potential All-America candidates in tackle Danny Shelton and end Hau’oli Kikaha. Shelton – almost unheard of from a defensive tackle – leads the team with 40 stops and has registered seven sacks. Washington leads the Pac-12 with 19 total sacks and ranks third in its conference against the run.
2. Stanford’s Passing Game
With the turnover in the trenches and at running back, Stanford needed to lean more on quarterback Kevin Hogan in 2014. The junior has been steady in his career, but his completion percentage dipped by 10 points from 2012 to 2013. Hogan has one of the Pac-12’s top receiving corps at his disposal, which should create a favorable matchup for the Cardinal with an inexperienced Washington defensive backfield. The Huskies have allowed 11 passing scores so far and two true freshmen – Sidney Jones and Budda Baker – will start on Saturday. Can Hogan take advantage of a struggling Washington secondary? Or will the Huskies’ pass rush neutralize some of the concerns on the back end?
3. Washington QB Cyler Miles
Miles was suspended for the opener due to an off-the-field incident in February, and the sophomore is just starting to get comfortable in the new offense. Through three games, Miles has passed for 525 yards and five scores and has added 114 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. While Miles still needs more snaps to get acclimated to coordinator Jonathan Smith’s offense, this is his biggest test of the season. Stanford’s defense returned seven starters from last year’s unit that limited opponents to just 19 points a game. Each level of the Cardinal defense can present problems for Washington’s offense, and Miles needs to have his best game of the season to lead the Huskies to a win. Stanford's rush defense has been vulnerable through the first three games, so Miles needs help from his ground attack to prevent a heavy pass approach against the Cardinal pass rush.
This game is full of mysteries and question marks. How far has Washington progressed under first-year coach Chris Petersen? Can the Cardinal bounce back after outplaying – but losing – to USC earlier this year? Winning on the road in the Pac-12 is never easy, and the Huskies should rise to the challenge and play their best game of 2014. Stanford’s offense does just enough, with receiver Ty Montgomery and running back Barry Sanders making a few plays in the fourth quarter to give the Cardinal a slight win over Washington.
Prediction: Stanford 27, Washington 24
With the East Division lacking a clear frontrunner, Saturday night’s matchup between South Carolina and Missouri should provide some early clarity into the pecking order at the top. The Gamecocks have played more SEC games than any other team (three) and already defeated Georgia. The Tigers have yet to play a conference game and finished their non-conference play with a 3-1 mark.
Prior to last Saturday’s game, this matchup was on track to be one of the top games in Week 5. Considering how light of a slate this week is, this matchup is still one of the better games on Saturday. However, Missouri’s surprising loss to Indiana dissipated some of the intrigue.
South Carolina and Missouri have met four times. The series is tied at two wins apiece, but the Gamecocks have won the only two meetings as SEC members.
Missouri vs. South Carolina
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: South Carolina –5
Three Things to Watch
1. Missouri’s Offensive Line
If you want to figure out why Missouri lost to Indiana last Saturday, the Hoosiers’ defensive stats paint an interesting picture. Indiana’s struggling defense recorded two sacks and 11 tackles for a loss. The 11 tackles for a loss are the highest for the Hoosiers since recording 12 on Oct. 27, 2012. And in addition to the tackles for loss and sacks, Indiana was able to generate consistent pressure on Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk. Can South Carolina follow a similar gameplan on Thursday? The Gamecocks have registered just four sacks in four games, and the defense is in transition with the departures of end Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles. The Tigers will have a new look on the offensive line, as guard Anthony Gatti was lost for the season due to a knee injury last Saturday. Conner McGovern will slide from right tackle to right guard, Taylor Chappell steps into the lineup at right tackle, while Brad McNulty is slated to start at left guard. Will this group give Mauk time to throw? Or will a struggling South Carolina pass rush get on track?
2. South Carolina’s Ground Attack
Missouri’s rush defense is off to a slow start, ranking No. 10 in the SEC against opposing ground attacks. The Tigers are giving up only 3.9 yards per carry this year. However, Indiana and Toledo both averaged 4.8 yards per rush. Defensive end Markus Golden is one of the SEC’s top defenders, but he was sidelined against Indiana due to injury. Having Golden back in the lineup is critical for Missouri’s ability to rush the passer and should help with the Tigers’ ability to disrupt South Carolina’s rushing game at the point of attack. The Gamecocks average 4.6 yards per rush and have two backs – Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds – over the 200-yard mark. Davis is the team’s leader on the ground (264 yards) and will test a Missouri defense that was torched by Indiana’s rushing attack (241 yards) last week. Can the Tigers handle the run better this week? If they can’t, Davis will have a huge game on the ground, opening some easy shots for quarterback Dylan Thompson and the receiving corps.
3. Maty Mauk vs. South Carolina’s Secondary
Total yardage allowed on pass defense is often misleading, but it’s noteworthy South Carolina ranks No. 13 in the SEC in most passing yards allowed in the SEC. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 69.9 percent of their throws on this defense, and the Gamecocks have allowed 17 passing plays of 20 yards or more in 2014. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk spent most of last Saturday running to escape Indiana’s defensive front. But when Mauk is able to stand in the pocket and deliver, the sophomore has quickly emerged as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks. Mauk is completing 61.6 percent of his throws and has tossed 14 scores to just four interceptions. The Gamecocks’ secondary has struggled mightily through four games, so opportunities will be there for Mauk and the Tigers’ receiving corps.
Despite Missouri’s surprising loss to Indiana last week, the Tigers are only a five-point underdog on the road against South Carolina. Interesting, isn’t it? With both teams dealing with flaws on defense, this one could be a shootout. Missouri needs to protect Mauk and allow its receivers to make plays downfield. Expect South Carolina to use its rushing attack to protect its defense, but coach Steve Spurrier will take a few shots downfield too. Both teams land a few big plays. However, the Gamecocks are tough to beat at home.
Prediction: South Carolina 34, Missouri 27
The Week 5 slate is light on top 25 must-see matchups, but Texas A&M-Arkansas is perhaps the most intriguing game on Saturday. The SEC West is college football’s toughest division, and the strength of the West is underscored by the emergence of the Aggies as a top 10 team, while the Razorbacks are clearly headed in the right direction in coach Bret Bielema’s second year.
Arkansas lost its SEC opener to Auburn but has rallied with three consecutive victories. Bielema’s ground-and-pound offense is taking shape, as evidenced by the Razorbacks 49-28 win at Texas Tech. With a victory over Texas A&M, Arkansas will surpass its win total from last year.
For Texas A&M, this matchup is an opportunity to build on its early momentum and start the SEC play with a 2-0 mark for the first time in school history. The Aggies won a 52-28 showdown at South Carolina in the opener and have cruised to easy wins over Lamar, Rice and SMU over the last three weeks.
Arkansas owns a 41-25-3 series edge over Texas A&M. The Aggies have won the only two matchups between these programs as SEC members. However, the Razorbacks have won three out of the last five meetings in this series.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Texas A&M -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas A&M’s Rush Defense
So far, so good for Texas A&M’s rush defense. The Aggies have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and rank fifth in the SEC in rush yards allowed through four games. Texas A&M is also limiting opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry, a clear improvement off last season’s 5.4 mark. But here’s the bad news for coordinator Mark Snyder: The competition has been iffy. Lamar, Rice and SMU aren’t going to tell much about how far this defense has improved since last year, although it has to be encouraging for Snyder that the Aggies held South Carolina to just 67 yards in the opener. Of course, the Gamecocks had only 22 attempts and abandoned the run after an early lead. With the addition freshmen Myles Garrett, Qualen Cunningham, Zaycoven Henderson and Jarrett Johnson, Texas A&M’s defensive line has more depth than it has in the last few years. Is this unit up to the challenge? Because…
2. Arkansas’ Rushing Attack and QB Brandon Allen
Bret Bielema had to deal with plenty of growing pains in his first season at Fayetteville, but his vision of Razorbacks’ identity to be is starting to take shape. Arkansas has developed a punishing ground attack, averaging 7.1 yards per carry and 324.5 yards per game. Alex Collins – 7.5 yards per carry and 490 yards – headlines the backfield, but Jonathan Williams (391 yards) and Korliss Marshall (5.2 ypc) also factor into the gameplan. Even though Collins is the backfield’s most-talented player, there’s little drop in production with Williams or Marshall in his place. In addition to the talent at running back, Arkansas’ offensive line has emerged as one of the best in the SEC. Left tackle Dan Skipper and guard Denver Kirkland are two rising stars on the line, and the front five has allowed just one sack through four games. Bielema has built the offense from the inside, adding mauling linemen to companion with a power rushing attack. But a key question still remains for the Razorbacks: Can they throw it if needed? Quarterback Brandon Allen has been efficient (8 TDs, 61.4%), but this offense does not want to get behind and eliminate the threat of the run from the gameplan.
3. Texas A&M’s Explosive Offense
Even without quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and tackle Jake Matthews, the Aggies haven’t missed a beat on offense. Texas A&M is averaging 55.3 points per game and 8.1 yards per play. Quarterback Kenny Hill has been nearly perfect in replacing Manziel (13 TDs, 1 INT) and has already proved himself in a hostile environment in the opener (South Carolina). Hill is the triggerman for the high-powered offense, but Texas A&M is loaded with talent at the skill positions and has one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Make no mistake: The Aggies are going to score. But can Arkansas limit their big-play opportunities? Texas A&M has 18 plays of 30 yards or more in 2014 and will test a Razorbacks’ defense that held their last three opponents to at least 353 yards. Arkansas limited Texas Tech’s high-powered offense to just 252 yards through the air, largely due to the strength of the rushing attack and limiting the Red Raiders to just three second-half possessions. As strange as it may sound, stopping Texas A&M’s offense isn’t just a problem for the Razorbacks’ defense. Instead, it also requires a huge day by the offense, limiting the Aggies’ possessions and opportunities to make plays on offense.
This matchup is similar to Arkansas’ victory over Texas Tech. The Razorbacks need to control the pace and flow of the game to prevent the Aggies from jumping out to a big lead. Arkansas needs to have success on early downs with its rushing attack, then allow Allen and his receivers to hit on plays via play-action passes. Texas A&M’s defense has improved since last year, but expect the Razorbacks to still have success on the ground. If the Aggies score and jump out to a big lead, Arkansas is in trouble. If the Razorbacks limit Texas A&M’s possessions, and Collins, Williams and a talented offensive line control the tempo, the Aggies would be fighting an uphill battle in the second half. Expect Arkansas and Texas A&M to trade punches for four quarters, but the Aggies have too much firepower in the passing attack to keep the Razorbacks from pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Arkansas 34
Clemson and North Carolina head into Week 5 with two totally different vibes surrounding both programs. Sure, the Tigers lost at Florida State, but there’s plenty of excitement with freshman Deshaun Watson ready to takeover as the starting quarterback. On the North Carolina sideline, question marks and uncertainty are hanging over the program after last week’s 70-41 loss to East Carolina. The Tar Heels have plenty of young talent and promise for the future, but coach Larry Fedora has to find answers now to avoid a repeat of last year’s 6-6 regular season record.
Clemson owns a 34-18-1 edge in the series against North Carolina. The Tigers won the last meeting 59-38 in 2011. The Tar Heels won 21-16 in Chapel Hill in 2010.
North Carolina at Clemson
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Clemson -14.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Deshaun Watson
Watson’s career is only three games old, but it’s hard to ignore how impressive he has been in that stretch. The true freshman is averaging 16.5 yards per completion, 11.7 yards per attempt and passed for 479 yards and four scores on just 29 completions. Barring a huge regression in talent or a departure by coordinator Chad Morris, Watson is going to thrive at Clemson over the next three seasons. And the freshman has a good opportunity to post huge numbers in his debut, as North Carolina’s secondary has allowed the most passing yards per game in the ACC (325.3) and opposing quarterbacks are completed 57.7 percent of their throws. With the Tar Heels struggling to stop the pass, Watson could have a monster debut in his first start with the Tigers.
Related: Week 5 ACC Previews and Predictions
2. North Carolina’s Offense
Scoring points certainly hasn’t been a problem for North Carolina in 2014. The Tar Heels rank No. 2 in the ACC by averaging 42.7 points per game and rank fifth in the conference in passing yards per game (264). With the troubles on defense, the Tar Heels have to score at least 30 points to win on Saturday night. Quarterback Marquise Williams has been sharing some snaps with Mitch Trubisky, and the two passers have combined for eight touchdowns and a completion percentage of 62 percent. In addition to Williams, North Carolina has talent at the skill positions, headlined by Ryan Switzer and Quinshad Davis at receiver, along with T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood at running back. The pieces are in place to match Clemson score-for-score. But there’s just one problem…
3. Clemson’s Defensive Line
In addition to the play of Deshaun Watson, the other bright spot for Clemson in last week’s loss to Florida State was the defensive line. The Tigers’ defensive front dominated the Seminoles’ offensive line, recording five sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. North Carolina’s offensive line returned three starters from 2013, but this unit is young and could be without standout guard Landon Turner and tackle Jon Heck this Saturday. Considering Clemson’s strength in the trenches - headlined by standout end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett – can the Tar Heels’ front five provide enough protection for quarterback Marquise Williams?
Both teams should have plenty to prove after last week’s losses, but unless North Carolina can solve its defensive concerns, this game is shaping up to be a Clemson blowout. The Tigers should have no trouble moving the ball on the Tar Heels’ defense, and quarterback Deshaun Watson delivers a huge performance in his debut. If North Carolina’s offensive line provides ample protection for quarterback Marquise Williams, the Tar Heels can have success moving the ball. Expect plenty of points, but Clemson’s defense gets enough stops for a runaway win by the Tigers in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Clemson 45, North Carolina 20
Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb suffered a shoulder injury in Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State and did not return to game action. Webb was injured at the beginning of the fourth quarter and was taken to the locker room for examination. The injury affected Webb's non-throwing shoulder.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury did not have an update on Webb’s status following the game, and the sophomore’s status for Texas Tech’s Oct. 4 matchup against Kansas State is uncertain.
Prior to leaving the game, Webb threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
If Webb is out for next week’s game, true freshman Patrick Mahomes will get the start. Mahomes was a three-star recruit in the 2014 signing class, and Thursday night’s snaps against Oklahoma State was the first extended action of his career.
Mahomes finished with 20 passing yards, one interception and one touchdown and completed just two of five passes. He also rushed for 16 yards on seven attempts.
Texas Tech has two games in a row after a 2-0 start. Losing Webb for a period of time would be a huge loss for the Red Raiders, as a road trip to Kansas State is up next week, followed by a home game against West Virginia on Oct. 11.
Webb’s potential absence isn’t the only problem for Texas Tech to worry about over the next week, as the defense remains a major concern after allowing at least 26 points in every game this year.
More about Webb’s status for next week should be known early next week.
No immediate word on extent of Davis Webb's injury, but Kliff Kingsbury was open to talking about how he'd prepare Mahomes if Webb's out.— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) September 26, 2014
Kingsbury on QB Davis Webb's status: "I just know they didn't feel like he could come back in tonight, but I'm not sure of his status."— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) September 26, 2014
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech’s Thursday night showdown had plenty of offense, but much of the pregame focus was on the attire for the both teams.
The Cowboys and Red Raiders unveiled alternate uniforms for the Thursday night conference game, and both teams hit a home run with the different uniforms and helmets.
Two Pac-12 South heavyweights square off on Thursday night, as Arizona State hosts UCLA in a battle of two teams surrounded in mystery. The Bruins and Sun Devils are both dealing with injuries at quarterback, but the situation differs for each team. Arizona State starter Taylor Kelly is not expected to play due to a foot injury, while UCLA starter Brett Hundley is a gametime decision due to an elbow ailment suffered against Texas. With both teams dealing with injuries at quarterback, it’s hard to know what to expect from either offense or how the overall aspect of the game has changed.
The last four meetings in this series have been split evenly at two victories apiece for both teams. Arizona State won 38-33 in Pasadena last year, while UCLA won in Tempe 45-43 in 2012. The Bruins lead the overall series 18-11-1 over the Sun Devils.
UCLA at Arizona State
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: UCLA -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Unsolved Mysteries at QB
As we mentioned in the opening, both teams have unsettled quarterback situations. Well, at least that’s what the coaches are telling the media. Arizona State does not expect Taylor Kelly to play, which is a huge loss for coach Todd Graham’s offense. Kelly averaged 264.3 total yards per game through the first two contests and accounted for eight scores. Backup Mike Bercovici is expected to start in place of Kelly, and the junior has completed 9 of 17 throws for 79 yards and a score in 2014. Bercovici has attempted 24 passes in his Arizona State career but is not as mobile or dynamic as Kelly on the ground. How much will the Sun Devils’ offense change without Kelly’s mobility?
On the other sideline, UCLA coach Jim Mora has been coy about the status of quarterback Brett Hundley. The junior suffered an elbow injury against Texas and practiced in a limited capacity over the last week. If Hundley can’t go, backup Jerry Neuheisel will start. Neuheisel completed 23 of 30 passes for 178 yards against Texas, but the offense would not be as dynamic with the sophomore under center. Although Mora hasn’t said if Hundley will play as of Wednesday, most around the Pac-12 expect the junior to start. Hundley is completing 70.4 percent of his throws this year but needs more help from a struggling offensive line.
2. Arizona State RB D.J. Foster
Considering the injuries at quarterback, both teams need their skill players to take on a bigger role within the offensive gameplan on Thursday night. Bercovici has a standout receiver in Jaelen Strong to target in the passing attack, but running back D.J. Foster is the player to watch on Thursday night. Foster is one of the nation’s top all-around running backs and averages 9.4 yards per carry (54 attempts). The junior also has 11 receptions (No. 2 on the team) for 139 yards and one score and leads the Pac-12 with 10 plays of 20 or more yards. UCLA’s rush defense is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and held two of its three opponents to 126 yards or less on the ground. The Bruins own one of the nation’s top defensive fronts, which will test an Arizona State offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the Pac-12 and has paved the way for rushers to average 7.1 yards per carry. Big plays are needed from Foster. Can he continue to deliver against an active and aggressive front?
3. UCLA’s Offensive Line
Protecting Hundley has to be UCLA’s No. 1 priority on Thursday night. The Bruins have struggled to get consistent protection from their offensive line in the passing game and there hasn’t been much room to run created for the rushers. With Hundley (potentially) playing at less than full strength, UCLA has to keep Arizona State defenders out of the pocket. The Sun Devils have a rebuilt front seven and have generated just six sacks through three games. Even if Arizona State’s defensive front is in transition, it’s still a dangerous matchup for a Bruins’ offensive line giving up 3.7 sacks per game. Of concern for Mora on the offensive line is the health of tackle Malcolm Bunche. The senior suffered a leg injury against Texas. His status for Week 5 is uncertain.
This game is surrounded by question marks. Kelly won’t play for Arizona State, so all eyes in pregame warm-ups will be on UCLA and Hundley. If Hundley plays, this game swings in favor of the Bruins. If Hundley doesn’t go, Neuheisel is a capable replacement, but the Sun Devils would have the upper hand. Even though Bercovici doesn’t have Kelly’s mobility, he’s had nearly two weeks to prepare as the starter and should be comfortable in his first start. If Bercovici plays well, it will open up even more opportunities for big plays from Foster. Considering all of the question marks and mysteries surrounding this matchup, it’s tough to make a prediction. But here’s a guess: Hundley plays and is just enough for UCLA to move to 4-0.
Prediction: UCLA 30, Arizona State 24
The ACC was in the spotlight last Saturday night, as Florida State defeated Clemson in overtime to extend its winning streak to 19 games.
The Seminoles hit the road for the first time in conference play this year, traveling to Raleigh to take on an improving NC State team. Florida State will have quarterback Jameis Winston back under center after a one-game suspension.
Florida State-NC State is a key game in the ACC this Saturday, but the focus of the conference is in Miami, where the Hurricanes host Duke. Considering how tight the Coastal Division is, a win by Duke would put Miami at 0-2 and in an early hole for the conference title picture.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
ACC Game Power Rankings for Week 5
1. Duke at Miami (-7)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
The frontrunner in the Coastal Division is really anyone’s guess after four weeks. But Saturday night’s game in Miami should provide some – but not much – clarity into the race. The Hurricanes are already 0-1 in conference play, so an 0-2 hole won’t be easy to climb out of. Duke won last year’s matchup 48-30, largely due to its production on the ground (358 yards, five scores). The Blue Devils have changed some of the faces in their backfield, but the production hasn’t faltered. Duke ranks No. 5 among the ACC in rush offense, led by true freshman Shaun Wilson (14.4 ypc) and Josh Snead (147 yards). Miami allowed just 248 yards through the first three games but was gashed by Nebraska for 343 yards. The Hurricanes present a similar challenge for Duke’s defense, as the Blue Devils have played a light schedule, yet rank No. 12 in the ACC against the run. Both teams should be able to use their ground attack to control the pace of the game, but quarterback play and mistakes are critical in a tight contest. Which passer – Miami freshman Brad Kaaya or Duke senior Anthony Boone – plays the best and makes the fewest mistakes will determine which team wins this game.
Listen to the Week 5 preview podcast:
2. North Carolina at Clemson (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The Tar Heels and Tigers meet on Saturday with both teams looking to rebound after losses in Week 4. While both teams lost last Saturday, there’s a different feeling surrounding both programs. For Clemson, true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to take the reins under center, providing an early glimpse at the future of the program. At North Carolina, there’s a sense of urgency after losing 70-41 to East Carolina. The Tar Heels have a tough upcoming schedule, including games against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Saturday’s trip to Clemson. North Carolina’s offense is averaging 42.7 points per game, but the defense is allowing 6.7 yards per play and 42 points per game. The Tar Heels will be tested once again on defense this week, as Watson has played well in limited action, and the Tigers are averaging 37 points per game. Another concern for North Carolina is the offensive line, which may not have guard Landon Turner or tackle Jon Heck in the lineup due to injuries. That’s bad news against Clemson’s defensive front, which has registered 10 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss in 2014.
3. Florida State (-19) at NC State
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Florida State survived one of its toughest games (Clemson) of 2014 without its best player (Jameis Winston) last week. That’s a good sign for the Seminoles moving forward, but coach Jimbo Fisher has a few areas of concern heading into Week 5. Florida State needs better production from its offensive line, while its rushing attack is looking for more open lanes after averaging just 109.7 yards per game in 2014. Winston has no trouble targeting receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary, but the Seminoles could use another playmaker (or two) to emerge in the passing game. NC State is one of the ACC’s most-improved teams this year, largely due to quarterback Jacoby Brissett. After sitting out 2013 due to transfer rules, Brissett has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,005 yards in four games. The Wolfpack average 40.3 points per game and have already surpassed their win total from last year. NC State hasn’t played the toughest schedule so far, and this game should be a good barometer for coach Dave Doeren. Three of Florida State’s last four trips to Raleigh resulted in losses. While the Wolfpack are improving, it’s still a tall assignment to beat the Seminoles in Week 5.
4. Notre Dame (-12) vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
If you need any evidence of how light of a slate Week 5 is, take a look at the time for the Notre Dame-Syracuse game. That’s right, this is the primetime game on ABC. Notre Dame ranks as the No. 8 team in the nation after a 3-0 start, and quarterback Everett Golson has been sharp in his return to the field (7 TDs, 0 INTs). Syracuse’s defense allowed 17.5 yards per completion to Maryland last Saturday, and Golson has connected on 30 passing plays of at least 10 yards this year. The Orange will be aggressive to protect their secondary, likely allowing linebackers Cameron Lynch and Marqez Hodge to test a Notre Dame line that has allowed six sacks through three games. Just like Golson is the key to the Fighting Irish offense, quarterback play also holds the cards to Syracuse’s offensive hopes. Quarterback Terrel Hunt has thrown for 488 yards and leads the team with 273 yards on the ground. Despite a lot of offeseason turnover, Notre Dame is allowing just 10.3 points per game. However, the Orange should challenge a revamped defensive front with their ground attack, while Hunt can make plays with his legs. Syracuse lost despite outgaining Maryland 589 to 369 last week. Mistakes significantly hurt the Orange last Saturday, and a similar effort will be tough to overcome in Week 5.
5. Colorado State at Boston College (-7)
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3
Boston College steps out of conference for the final time in 2014 with a visit from Colorado State. The Eagles and Rams have only one previous meeting, with Boston College winning 35-21 in the 2003 San Francisco Bowl. This matchup features an interesting contrast in styles, as the Eagles average 336.3 yards per game on the ground, while the Rams average 340 passing yards per contest. Although Colorado State ranks No. 11 nationally in pass offense, this isn’t a one-dimensional attack. Treyous Jarrells (6.2 ypc) and Alabama transfer Dee Hart (4.8) are solid options for coach Jim McElwain on the ground. The Rams should have success moving the ball, but stopping Boston College’s offense is going to be a challenge for their defense. The Eagles have rushed for at least 400 yards in back-to-back games and average 6.3 yards per rush. Colorado State gave up 324 yards in a 37-24 loss to Boise State earlier this year.
6. Wake Forest at Louisville (-21)
1:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
As expected, Louisville’s trip to FIU resulted in an easy 34-3 win. But the win came at a price, as quarterback Will Gardner suffered a knee injury, and his status for Week 5 is uncertain. If Gardner can’t play, the Cardinals have another talented option to start in true freshman Reggie Bonnafon (14 of 20, 151 yards, 1 TD). Bonnafon brings more mobility to the offense, which is a valuable asset with Louisville’s struggling offensive line. The Cardinals are still without top receiver DeVante Parker, but running back Michael Dyer returned to action last week. The Demon Deacons are a team in transition under first-year coach Dave Clawson. True freshman quarterback John Wolford has played better recently and threw for 238 yards and two scores in last week’s win over Army. Wolford needs more help from his supporting cast, especially as Louisville’s active front seven (11 sacks) will present problems for the Demon Deacons’ offensive line (15 sacks).
7. Akron at Pittsburgh (-20)
1 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Panthers look to get back on track after last week’s 24-20 loss to Iowa. While the loss to the Hawkeyes was a disappointment, Pittsburgh is still unbeaten (1-0) in ACC games. Akron won its opener against Howard but lost its last two games (Penn State and Marshall) by a combined score of 69-20. The Panthers have an advantage on the ground, as the Zips are allowing 179.3 rushing yards per game. Running back James Conner leads the ACC with an average of 174.5 yards per contest and should have a huge day against Akron’s undersized defensive front. Pittsburgh’s secondary has allowed 17 plays of 10 or more passing yards through four games, and the defensive backfield will be tested against the Zips’ offense, which is averaging 286.3 yards per game through the air.
8. Western Michigan at Virginia Tech (-21)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
After back-to-back losses, Virginia Tech hopes to work some of the kinks against Western Michigan before ACC play starts again next Saturday. The Broncos have already surpassed their win total from 2013 (1-11) and features an emerging star at running back in true freshman Jarvion Franklin (541 yards, 6.6 ypc). Virginia Tech’s defense has an edge in the trenches, but standout defensive tackle Luther Maddy won’t play due to knee surgery. Western Michigan’s defense allowed 43 points to a struggling Purdue offense in the opener, so this should be a good opportunity for the Hokies to get quarterback Michael Brewer and the rushing game back on track.
9. Kent State at Virginia (-27)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
With a victory over Kent State on Saturday, Virginia would surpass its win total from 2013. The Golden Flashes are 0-3 and were outscored 63-0 by Ohio State on Oct. 13. Kent State running back Trayion Durham – the team’s top offensive player – has yet to play this season due to a foot injury. Without Durham, the Golden Flashes will have a hard time moving the ball against an aggressive Cavaliers’ defense (13 TFL, 13 sacks). Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert may not play on Saturday due to an ankle injury suffered against BYU. If Lambert is out, sophomore Matt Johns is a capable replacement under center.
Week 5 ACC Predictions
|Duke at Miami||Duke 28-21||Duke 34-31||Miami 31-30||Duke 24-20|
|UNC at Clemson||Clemson 35-28||Clemson 38-24||Clemson 45-24||Clemson 38-21|
|FSU at NC State||FSU 38-21||FSU 38-21||FSU 38-17||FSU 31-17|
|ND vs. Syracuse||ND 34-21||ND 45-14||ND 38-17||ND 30-14|
|CSU at BC||BC 31-17||BC 34-21||BC 31-20||BC 24-14|
|WF at Louisville||UL 31-10||UL 31-13||UL 38-10||UL 37-10|
|Akron at Pitt||Pitt 35-10||Pitt 41-17||Pitt 45-17||Pitt 30-13|
|WMU at Va. Tech||VT 28-9||VT 30-10||VT 38-13||VT 31-15|
|Kent State at UVA||UVA 35-10||UVA 34-10||UVA 41-7||UVA 40-3|
College football’s coaching carousel is usually quiet in September, but two teams have already made changes this year. June Jones resigned at SMU, and Texas Tech parted ways with defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt after the loss to Arkansas.
While two changes in September are surprising, the carousel certainly isn’t over.
Florida’s Will Muschamp and Michigan’s Brady Hoke – two coaches at top 25 jobs – are under immense pressure after slow starts to 2014.
At Kansas, Charlie Weis has a winning record in 2014 (2-1), but the Jayhawks are still expected to be an underdog in every Big 12 contest this year. Can Weis show progress within the conference?
Here is a look at the top 10 coaches on the hot seat after Week 4 this year:
College Football’s Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 4
1. Will Muschamp, Florida
2014 Record: 2-1
Record at Florida: 24-18 (4 years)
Muschamp entered the season as the No. 1 coach on the hot seat. Four weeks into the year, it’s hard to say anything has changed in Gainesville. Muschamp was tasked with improving an offense that averaged a paltry 18.8 points per game last season and just 4.8 yards per play. Florida scored 65 points in the opener against Eastern Michigan but is averaging just 4.9 yards per play in two SEC contests. Unless new coordinator Kurt Roper is able to find a quick fix for the offense over the next few weeks, a brutal remaining SEC schedule – at Tennessee, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, at Vanderbilt and South Carolina – could be too much for Muschamp to overcome.
2. Brady Hoke, Michigan
2014 Record: 2-2
Record at Michigan: 28-15 (4 years)
Similar to Florida’s Will Muschamp, the biggest problem for Hoke entering Week 5 is the offense. Doug Nussmeier was hired from Alabama to fix an offense that averaged 5.2 yards per play (No. 8 in conference) in Big Ten games last season. So far, it’s hard to suggest the Wolverines are any better on offense. Michigan has yet to reach the redzone in two games against Power 5 opponents and scored just 10 points in Saturday’s loss to Utah. Hoke has recruited well – No. 2 roster in the Big Ten – so a 9-7 mark in conference play since 2012 is underachieving at a program like Michigan.
3. Charlie Weis, Kansas
2014 Record: 2-1
Record at Kansas: 6-21 (3 years)
Coaching in Lawrence is not an easy assignment, but it’s hard to find progress for Weis since taking the job in 2012. Kansas is 6-21 overall under Weis and has just one conference victory. The Jayhawks lost six Big 12 games by 20 points or more last year and only won by six against SEMO in the 2014 opener. Weis was not a popular hire when he was picked to replace Turner Gill, and he’s running out of time to prove he’s the right coach to get Kansas football back on track.
4. Norm Chow, Hawaii
2014 Record: 1-3
Record at Hawaii: 5-23 (3 years)
Chow was a long-time assistant for a handful of programs and finally landed an opportunity to be a head coach in 2012 at Hawaii. Transitioning from the wide-open offense under Greg McMackin to more pro-style schemes takes time, but the Warriors have just five wins in three years. Hawaii had several close losses in 2013, which increased optimism for 2014. However, the Warriors are off to a 1-3 start, with the only victory coming against FCS opponent Northern Iowa (27-24). Hawaii is not an easy job, and Chow inherited some challenges. If the Warriors finish with two or three wins, a change could be coming in Honolulu.
5. Ron Turner, FIU
2014 Record: 1-3
Record at FIU: 2-14 (2 years)
After Mario Cristobal brought promise to FIU with back-to-back bowl games, the administration made the questionable decision to change head coaches. Turner was an odd hire, coming to Miami after nearly 10 years away from the college game. From 1997-04, Turner guided Illinois to a 35-57 mark and took the Fighting Illini to two bowl games in that span. As FIU’s coach, Turner is 2-14 and has two losses to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman. This hire simply isn't going to work.
6. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
2014 Record: 1-2
Record at Tulsa: 23-19 (4 years)
Blankenship inherited a good team from the previous coaching staff (Todd Graham) and led Tulsa to a 19-8 record from 2011-12. But the Golden Hurricane drastically slipped in record last year, finishing 3-9 and sixth in C-USA West. Tulsa is off to a 1-2 start this year and lost 50-21 at FAU in Week 3. Was Blankenship’s initial success due to a full cupboard from Graham’s coaching staff? With the move to the American Athletic Conference, Tulsa can’t afford to fall too far behind its new league mates.
7. Tim Beckman, Illinois
2014 Record: 3-1
Record at Illinois: 9-19 (3 years)
Beckman seemed like a good fit at Illinois after a 21-16 record in three years at Toledo. But three years later, Beckman is still searching for his first winning season and needs to win at least three Big Ten games in 2014 to make a bowl game. The Fighting Illini is 1-15 in conference play under Beckman, and the defense has ranked 10th or worse in points allowed in each of the last three seasons. With Purdue, Iowa and Penn State visiting Champaign, Beckman has an opportunity to push Illinois into bowl contention. But if the Fighting Illini fall short, Beckman may not return in 2015.
8. Larry Blakeney, Troy
2014 Record: 0-4
Record at Troy: 175-108-1 (24 years)
Considering Blakeney’s name is on the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium, it’s hard to see the veteran coach getting fired at the end of 2014. But is it time for change at Troy? Blakeney is 175-108-1 with the Trojans since 1991 but has not posted a winning record since 2010. The Trojans are 9-14 in Sun Belt play since 2011 and appear headed for their fourth losing season since 2004. Troy was the dominant program in the Sun Belt from 2006-10, and considering all of the recent changes in the league, it’s a surprise the Trojans have not played in a bowl since 2010.
9. Troy Calhoun, Air Force
2014 Record: 2-1
Record at Air Force: 51-42 (7 years)
Calhoun’s tenure at Air Force started with four seasons of at least eight victories and six consecutive bowl appearances. But since a 9-4 mark in 2010, the Falcons seem to be trending in the wrong direction. Air Force went 7-6 in 2011, followed by a 6-7 record in 2012. In 2013, the program went 2-10, which is the worst season by the Falcons since a 2-9-1 record in 1980. The 2-10 mark was also the first double-digit loss record in program history.
10. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
2014 Record: 2-1
Career Record: 12-27 (4 years)
Wilson is ranked No. 10 on this list, but the fourth-year coach is coming off a huge road win against Missouri, leaving Indiana at 2-1 after four weeks in 2014. The Hoosiers have made steady gains under Wilson after finishing 1-11 in 2011. Indiana improved to 4-8 in 2012 and jumped to 5-7 in 2013. Coaching in Bloomington is no easy assignment, and Wilson needs time to develop some of the program’s young talent. Barring a disaster of a record this year, Wilson doesn’t appear to be in any danger of being fired in 2014. But in the new 14-team Big Ten alignment, the Hoosiers can’t afford to fall too far behind, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Indiana finishes 4-8 this year.
Moving Off the Hot Seat?
Mike London, Virginia
2014 Record: 2-2
Career Record: 20-33 (5 years)
The Cavaliers are showing improvement in London's fifth season and have already matched their win total from 2013. London is out of the top 10 - for now - but another losing record could be tough to survive.
Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
2014 Record: 4-0
Career Record: 51-32 (7 years)
The Yellow Jackets have never finished below .500 in conference play under Johnson. However, back-to-back seven-win campaigns placed Johnson on the hot seat in 2014, but the rumblings in Atlanta have quieted after the Yellow Jackets' 4-0 start.
Following Saturday’s overtime loss to Florida State, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced true freshman Deshaun Watson supplanted Cole Stoudt as the team’s starting quarterback.
While Stoudt could be a solid quarterback for the Tigers and certainly hasn’t been awful through the first three games, starting Watson is clearly the right call for Clemson.
In three games of his career, Watson has showed the moment is not too big for him.
Against Florida State – the defending national champion – and in Tallahassee, Watson completed 19 of 28 throws for 266 yards and rushed for 30 yards on 12 attempts.
In the opener against Georgia, Watson led the Tigers on an impressive touchdown drive and finished with 59 yards and a score on two completions.
As with any true freshman quarterback, Watson is going to have his share of ups and downs. But Watson is ready for the spotlight and the opportunity to handle the full controls for Clemson’s offense.
The 2014 season is still young, but with two losses – and one in ACC play – the Tigers are unlikely to make a splash on the national scene.
No, Clemson isn’t rebuilding or already looking ahead to 2015, but at this point, why not play Watson and have him fully entrenched in the job by November? When two quarterbacks are performing at a similar level, why not play the one with more upside. In that case, the answer for Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris is clear: Deshaun Watson.
Deshaun Watson vs. Cole Stoudt Through Three Games in 2014
|Deshaun Watson||Cole Stoudt|
|Yards Per Completion||16.5||11.8|
|Yards Per Attempt||11.7||7.5|
|Passing Plays of 20+ Yards||9||9|
|Passing Plays of 30+ Yards||6||6|
As the stats show, Watson offers more big-play ability for the Clemson offense and nearly has more passing yards than Stoudt on 24 less attempts.
A favorable schedule awaits the Tigers, including four of their next five in Death Valley. The only road trip until November is an Oct. 18 date at Boston College.
There’s simply no downside for Clemson in this scenario. With two losses and Florida State a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Division, a look to the future (without a drop in production) is the right move. Watson has outplayed Stoudt, the schedule is favorable for a change under center, and the Tigers can start building momentum with a young core on offense.
Clemson loses three starters on the line at the end of 2014, but the receiving and running back corps are filled with talented youngsters. Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Charone Peake headline a deep group at receiver, while C.J. Davidson, Wayne Gallman and Adam Choice are slated to return at running back in 2015.
With the young core of skill players, and Watson having a full season to develop, Clemson’s offense will once again be one of the best in the ACC in 2015. While it's early to be breaking down depth charts for next season, an explosive offense is needed for the Tigers next year with a plethora of losses on defense.
Stoudt waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and earned the right to start in the opener. But after three games, it’s clear Watson is Clemson’s best quarterback and option to win in 2014 - with a slight look ahead to 2015.
Louisville’s Thursday night showdown against Florida State on Oct. 30 is one of the top remaining games in the ACC this year.
And the Cardinals will attempt to upset the Seminoles with an alternate uniform, which the school is calling “Showtime.”
The uniforms have an overall gray scheme and feature camo accents and chrome red logos.
Louisville will wear these uniforms vs. FSU on Oct. 30 pic.twitter.com/X7ZthGBfZa— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 22, 2014
Side view of helmet & shoulder pad of Louisville uniform for 10/30 game vs FSU pic.twitter.com/ms6GCnlYUz— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) September 22, 2014
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 4
6: Consecutive Games Where Virginia Tech Loses At Least 2 Turnovers
After Virginia Tech’s 35-21 win at Ohio State in Week 2, most expected the Hokies would emerge as the clear frontrunner in the Coastal Division. Two weeks later, it’s probably time to re-evaluate the Hokies. Virginia Tech has lost back-to-back games, largely due to the turnover battle. The Hokies have lost at least two turnovers in six consecutive games, including two contests in 2014 by giving away three turnovers. In Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech lost three and only forced one. Dating back to 2008, the Hokies have only streak longer than three games of losing at least two turnovers in a single contest.
47: Missouri’s Streak of Forcing Turnovers in Consecutive Games Ends
Missouri’s 31-27 loss to Indiana was one of the most surprising results of Week 4. The Hoosiers were coming off a loss to Bowling Green, while the Tigers looked impressive in three consecutive victories to open the season. But Missouri couldn’t stop Indiana’s ground attack (241) yards and failed to force a turnover for the first time in 47 games. Coming into Week 4, the Tigers created at least two turnovers in five consecutive contests. However, Missouri’s defense struggled without end Markus Golden and did not force a turnover for the first time since Oct. 16, 2010 when the Tigers won 30-9 at Texas A&M.
374: ECU QB Shane Carden’s Average Passing Yards Against Last 4 ACC Opponents
The Pirates have emerged as the top team from the Group of Five this year. East Carolina has defeated Virginia Tech and North Carolina to key a solid 3-1 start to 2014. Quarterback Shane Carden headlines an offense averaging 43.3 points per game and 7.5 yards per play. In Carden’s last four games against ACC opponents (all victories), he’s thrown for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Carden also threw for 300 yards in a 33-23 loss to South Carolina in Week 2.
3: Wisconsin Rushers With At Least 100 Yards Against Bowling Green
Question marks remain about Wisconsin’s passing attack, but the rushing game is in midseason form. The Badgers gashed Bowling Green for 644 yards in Saturday’s 68-17 victory, averaging a monstrous 10.7 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s 644 yards were a school record, and three players – Melvin Gordon (RB), Tanner McEvoy (QB) and Corey Clement (RB) all finished with more than 100 yards. After Saturday’s game, the Badgers lead the nation by averaging 7.8 yards per rush attempt in 2014.
570: Most Total Yards Allowed by LSU Since 2001
The final score was misleading (34-29), as Mississippi State dominated LSU in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs recorded 570 total yards against the Tigers (most in Les Miles era), the most allowed by the Tigers defense since giving up 632 to Florida in 2001. The 570 yards were also only the fourth time LSU has allowed at least 500 yards in a game over the last four years. Total yardage totals are often misleading, but a deeper look shows just how dominant the Bulldogs were. Mississippi State averaged 7.8 yards per play and 6.2 yards per rush and had two scoring plays of at least 50 yards. LSU’s defense is young and will improve over the course of the season. However, the Bulldogs dominated in the trenches – a place where the Tigers are usually strong.
0: Florida Points Not Scored Off Alabama Turnovers
Similar to the Mississippi State-LSU game, the Alabama-Florida final score was deceiving. Sure, 42-21 is a one-sided affair, but the Gators struggled mightily on offense outside of three Alabama turnovers that were converted into scores. None of Florida’s drives lasted longer than seven plays or 31 yards. The Gators also had five three-and-outs, completed just nine passes and went 2 of 13 on third-down attempts. Offense was a hot topic in Gainesville this offseason, and new coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in to utilize the talents of quarterback Jeff Driskel. Alabama’s defense is one of the best in the nation, but the Gators still have major question marks to address on offense as the heart of SEC play approaches.
432.5: Rushing Yards Averaged by Boston College in Last 2 Games
Total yardage can be deceiving. But don’t be fooled when looking at the box scores for Boston College over the last two weeks. The Eagles returned only three new starters on offense but have already established their identity as a power running team once again. Boston College recorded 452 yards against USC in Week 3 and 413 yards on the ground against Maine last Saturday, giving the Eagles a 432.5 average over the last two weeks. Steve Addazio’s team has rushed for at least 338 yards in three games this year and has 13 of the 16 offensive touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the team with 500 yards, but there’s a host of talented young rushers contributing, including Jon Hilliman (241 yards) and Myles Willis (208 yards).
0: Michigan Drives Against Power 5 Teams to Reach Redzone in 2014
Brady Hoke’s future in Ann Arbor hinges on how far new coordinator Doug Nussmeier can develop the offense this year. So far, the results aren’t encouraging. Michigan is averaging just 24 points per game and recorded just 4.3 yards per play against Notre Dame and 4.1 against Utah. The Wolverines are a -10 in turnover margin, with six interceptions coming from quarterback Devin Gardner. The rushing attack has struggled against Power 5 opponents (218 yards on 71 attempts), but an even bigger concern is Michigan’s inability to get into the redzone. Against the Utes and Fighting Irish, the Wolverines did not advance into the redzone and scored a combined 10 points in those two contests.
36: Points Scored by Arizona in Fourth Quarter Against Cal
Plenty of points were expected in Saturday’s California-Arizona game, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the Golden Bears only led the Wildcats 31-13 at the end of the third quarter. So much for offense, right? One quarter later, the shootout everyone expected finally started. The Wildcats and Golden Bears combined for 50 points in the fourth quarter, with Arizona recording 36 in a crazy 49-45 victory. Quarterback Anu Solomon connected with receiver Austin Hill on a 47-yard pass on the final play to win.
2: Alabama QBs to Throw for 400 Yards in a Game
In Saturday’s 42-21 victory over Florida, Blake Sims became just the second quarterback in Alabama history to record 400 passing yards in a game. Sims completed 23 of 33 passes for 445 yards and four scores and averaged 19.3 yards per completion. The strong performance by the senior should end any question marks about who should be the starting quarterback in Tuscaloosa. Scott Hunter (1969) is the only other quarterback in Crimson Tide history to throw for 400 yards in a game.
Other Stats to Know
* Auburn recorded 359 total yards in Thursday night’s win over Kansas State. That’s the lowest mark in Gus Malzahn’s two seasons as the Tigers’ head coach.
* Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine rushed for 242 yards in Saturday’s 45-33 win over West Virginia. He’s the first Sooner to rush for 200 yards in a game since DeMarco Murray in 2010.
* Florida’s struggles weren’t limited just to its offense against Alabama. The Gators allowed 645 yards to the Crimson Tide – the most in school history.
* Tulane attempted six fourth-down conversions in Saturday’s loss to Duke. That’s more than Florida State had all of last season (four).
* Georgia averaged nine yards per play in Saturday’s 66-0 win over Troy.
* 226 of LSU’s 430 yards came in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State. The Tigers also averaged 2.5 yards per carry. That’s the second time this year that LSU has averaged less than 2.8 yards per carry in a game.
* Penn State rushed for 228 yards in Saturday’s win over UMass. The one-game total against the Minutemen topped Penn State’s season total prior to Week 4 – 227 yards.
* North Carolina’s defense allowed a school-record 789 yards in Saturday’s 70-41 loss to East Carolina.
* After a slow start, Washington’s defense stepped up in the second half of Saturday’s win against Georgia State. The Huskies allowed 219 yards through the first two quarters but held the Panthers to just 44 in the second half.
* Receiver Tyler Boyd has accounted for 21 of Pittsburgh’s 51 receptions in 2014.
* Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has passed for 300 yards in back-to-back games.
* Syracuse outgained Maryland 569 to 369 but lost 34-20. Why? The Orange lost two turnovers, missed field goal, had a punt blocked, and the Terrapins returned an interception for a score.
* Cincinnati recorded eight sacks in Saturday’s 31-24 win over Miami (Ohio).
* Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is averaging 16.3 yards per touch (15) this year.
* Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce set a school record with 13 catches in Saturday’s win over Hawaii.
* Virginia Tech has lost back-to-back home games for the first time since 1995.
* Eastern Michigan had more turnovers (6) than first downs (5) in Satudray’s 73-14 loss to Michigan State.
* Virginia recorded 35 first downs in Saturday’s loss to BYU. That’s the most the Cavaliers have posted in a single game under coach Mike London.
* Cal averaged 8.0 yards per play against Arizona – yet still lost 49-45 to the Wildcats.
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon fumbled for the first time in 322 attempts in Saturday’s win over Bowling Green.
* Marshall scored on five of its first six possessions against Akron.
* Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 275 yards in Saturday’s 28-7 win over San Diego State. Mannion now has 11,339 career passing yards, ranking No. 1 in school history.
* Indiana converted only one third-down attempt in Saturday’s win over Missouri (1 of 14).
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas accounted for 290 of the 375 yards by the Yellow Jackets in the 27-24 win over Virginia Tech.
* Temple set a school record with a 59-point margin of victory in Saturday’s win against Delaware State.
* Vanderbilt averaged 6.9 yards per play in Saturday’s 48-34 loss to South Carolina. That’s the highest per play average for the Commodores in SEC play since averaging 9.3 yards per play against Kentucky in 2006.
* West Virginia receiver Kevin White has at least nine catches in every game this year.
* Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida has averaged at least eight yards per carry in four straight games. Breida has 454 yards (ranks No. 1 in Sun Belt) and seven scores for the Eagles in 2014.
* Minnesota quarterback Chris Streveler completed just one pass in Saturday’s win over San Jose State. Streveler also completed one pass to the other team (1 INT).
* Thanks to a 47-13 win over Tulane, Duke is 4-0 for the first time since 1994.
* UConn’s offense struggled mightily in Friday night’s loss to South Florida. The Huskies went 0-9 on third-down conversions, finished with 145 total yards and had eight drives that lasted just three plays. 75 of UConn’s yards occurred on the final drive of the game.
* Alabama tight end O.J. Howard finally caught his first pass of the 2014 season against Florida. The sophomore finished with two catches for 22 yards in the 42-21 win.
* Northwestern defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo forced three fumbles in Saturday’s win over Western Illinois.
* 242 of Wyoming’s 334 yards came on its three scoring drives. The Cowboys used a 91-yard drive with less than two minutes remaining to defeat FAU.
* 121 of Northwestern’s 166 rushing yards came via true freshmen Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault.
* ODU won its C-USA debut by hitting a last-second field goal to defeat Rice. The Monarchs averaged 8.3 yards per play on just 64 plays.
* Texas A&M averaged 9.8 yards per play in Saturday’s easy 58-6 win over SMU.
* Western Michigan true freshman running back Jarvion Franklin has at least 163 rushing yards in all three games this year.
* Washington quarterback Cyler Miles has not thrown an interception in 71 attempts this season.
Florida State’s 23-17 victory over Clemson without quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t pretty. In fact, one could make a compelling argument that the Tigers outplayed the Seminoles on Saturday night.
Florida State was outgained 407 to 318, averaged only 4.8 yards per play, lost the turnover battle (2 to 1), allowed five sacks and finished with just 13 yards on the ground.
Even if Clemson outplayed Florida State, the Seminoles picked up the only thing that mattered: The Victory.
College football’s new playoff format has created plenty of uncertainty in how the final four teams will be selected, but it’s safe to say – just like previous years – teams just need to survive and advance in order to be in a position to have a shot at a championship.
Florida State accomplished that goal on Saturday night, but coach Jimbo Fisher has plenty of work to do in the coming weeks.
An offensive line with five senior starters was expected to be the best in the nation. But through three games, Florida State is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has allowed seven sacks. The Seminoles played two solid defensive fronts (Oklahoma State and Clemson), but the offensive line has underachieved.
Along with fixing the offensive line, Florida State needs more from its rushing attack. Karlos Williams was projected to be a breakout player in the preseason and has just 177 yards through three weeks. Williams, Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook are a capable trio, but the offensive line has to clear the way for the rushers.
Seniors Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary have dominated the stat sheet, catching 38 of the team’s 71 passes. In order for Florida State’s offense to reach last year’s levels, it needs more help from the No. 2 and No. 3 options at receiver. Will Jesus Wilson or Christian Green emerge? Or could talented freshmen like Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph work their way into more time as the season progresses?
Florida State’s defense stepped up late in Saturday’s game against Clemson, but this unit has clearly regressed since 2013.
New coordinator Charles Kelly had holes to fill at each level this preseason, and so far, the defense is a work in progress. The Seminoles are allowing 5.1 yards per play – a full yard increase from 2013.
The defense has recorded just two sacks and 15 tackles for loss, while opponents are converting 48.9 percent of their third downs.
Of course, getting Winston back immediately solves some of the offensive issues that popped up against Clemson.
But is the defense going to improve with time? What’s wrong with the offensive line?
The Seminoles aren’t the same team they were in 2013, and this squad looks more vulnerable. Over the course of the next nine games, Florida State should improve, and it’s unlikely the offensive line will continue to struggle.
Fisher and his staff already navigated a huge speed bump to a repeat by winning without the Heisman Trophy winner under center. Can Fisher find the right fixes on the line and on defense to keep the Seminoles in the hunt to repeat?