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Ohio State began the 2015 season in sterling fashion in Blacksburg, Va., defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies 42-24. The game was hyped by Ohio State fans as a revenge game, as Virginia Tech was the lone team to defeat the Buckeyes in 2014. The game also was noteworthy as four key Ohio State players (Joey Bosa, Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith) were suspended for the season opener, leading the college football world to wonder what type of effect the suspensions would have upon the Buckeyes.
Below are five thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched Ohio State defeat Virginia Tech...
1. Braxton Miller Is Just Getting Started
The dazzling highlights Miller produced against the Hokies are reminiscent of some of the plays he was able to create during the 2012 and '13 seasons. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will do whatever possible to get Miller the ball in space, as his agility and speed can be used in a variety of ways in this offensive attack.
2. Ohio State's Defensive Line Will Be Better
The suspension of Joey Bosa impacted Ohio State's defensive line, as both Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes had opportunities to play in Bosa's absence. With Bosa returning, this should open up opportunities for other players to emerge, as Bosa will be demanding double teams from the opposition.
3. Cardale Jones May Offer More Risk At Quarterback
It was somewhat surprising that Jones was named the starter at quarterback. Jones' superior arm strength may open up the offense more in the vertical passing game, but it will bear watching as the season progresses how he develops, as J.T. Barrett will continue to get playing time this season.
4. Ohio State Needs To Take Care Of Turnover Issues
Against Virginia Tech, Ohio State suffered three turnovers (a Jones interception, a fumbled punt by Ezekiel Elliott, and a Bri'onte Jones fumble). This pattern of turnovers also was on display last season versus Alabama and Oregon. So far, the turnovers have not resulted in Ohio State losing a game, but it must be concerning to Meyer that his team has not been able to take better care of the football.
5. Ohio State Showed It Can Take A Punch
Falling behind at the half, Ohio State did not panic or go into a tailspin. Being able to focus, and rally on the road against a quality Virginia Tech team, was a positive sign for the fans as the 2015 season began.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.
Week 2 of the 2015 college football season kicks off on Thursday night with WKU hosting Louisiana Tech in a potential preview of the Conference USA Championship in December. The slate continues on Friday with Utah hosting Utah State and Miami traveling to FAU. On Saturday, Michigan State-Oregon, Oklahoma-Tennessee and LSU-Mississippi State round out the key games for Week 2.
Conference Predictions for Week 2
College Football Week 2 Predictions
La. Tech at
Utah State at
Oregon State at
Indiana State at
Jacksonville State at
Western Illinois at
Kansas State at
Miami, Ohio at
Appalachian State at
Wake Forest at
Sacramento State at
Wash. State at
Notre Dame at
Fresno State at
Step. F. Austin at
Austin Peay at
Murray State at
E. Illinois at
NC Central at
North Carolina A&T at
Delaware State at
East Carolina at
Ball State at
Norfolk State at
Nicholls State at
Prairie View A&M at
C. Southern at
North Texas at
NW State at
Central Arkansas at
S. Alabama at
Georgia State at
Boise State at
Cal Poly at
It’s a season of change in Tallahassee and the new-look Seminoles were unveiled on Saturday night. There was some sputtering at times early on, but Florida State was never challenged by Texas State and cruised to a 59-16 win.
Despite the fact that they were playing Texas State, there were some things that really stood out with respect to the Seminoles. Here are five things we learned on Saturday night.
1. Everett Golson is the Quarterback
Head coach Jimbo Fisher said as much last week and he was true to his word. Sean Maguire did not enter the game until deep into the fourth quarter when the score was 49-16. It will be the same story going forward as Golson was very sharp, going 19-of-25 for 302 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. That is the Golson that Florida State fans were hoping to see.
2. There Was No Rust On Dalvin Cook
It didn’t matter that the sophomore from Miami was not eligible to practice until the middle of camp. Cook was in midseason form right away. He showed his patented burst, getting through holes and by defenders in a hurry, finishing with 156 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries (8.2 ypc). That’s a nice day.
3. Run Blocking of the Offensive Line
Golson did get sacked a couple of times, but the young offensive line had a good night. Cook had some big openings as did Mario Pender, who had 92 yards rushing of his own. In total the Seminoles ran for 286 yards and three scores.
4. The Defensive Front Was Active, But...
They still didn’t get to the quarterback. It wasn’t like Texas State QBs Tyler Jones and later Connor White were ever really comfortable in the pocket and Florida State did create several negative plays. The Seminoles also were able to really stuff the Bobcats' running backs, especially star Robert Lowe, who only had 13 yards on eight carries. But a defense that finished No. 108 in the nation in sacks last year had just one even though Texas State threw the ball 42 times.
5. Punt Returns
In the first half, Texas State successfully ran a fake punt that set up a field goal. On the next Texas State punt, Marquez White fumbled and the Bobcats recovered. Three plays later, the score was 14-10. Later in the quarter, Travis Rudolph fumbled a punt that was recovered by Pender. Fisher was visibly upset when interviewed at halftime and the crowd let out a mock cheer when Jesus Wilson fair caught a punt in the third quarter. This is an area that will be cleaned up and if it was going to happen in any game, this is the right one.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury that is cutting his season short for the third time in four years.
True freshman Tanner Mangum stepped in for Hill in a hostile environment engulfed in the loud Sea of Red, but Mangum displayed poise and confidence beyond his years, granted, those years are a tad bit higher than a typical true freshman as Mangum turns 22 on Tuesday.
Mangum stepped in for Hill after he went out early in the first half, and in his first few plays as a Cougar, made a nice throw and as the kids these days say, was low key shifty on the run. Hill then came back in and we all thought Mangum wouldn’t be seen from again, unless it was mop-up duty in a blowout game later in the schedule. Then of course, Hill went down again early in the fourth with the Cougars down by four.
To think of what Mangum pulled off is remarkable, and to do it in one of college football’s most storied venues makes it a fairy tale opening, and has Cougar fans chomping at the bit to see what’s next.
Most programs would have no hope for success after losing a star like Hill. But after what we saw in one game from Mangum, the Cougars still have an opportunity to put together a season that ends with more than eight wins, the total they’ve had the past three years.
Mangum is now in charge of leading this BYU team, and will look to build on the positive momentum coming out of the improbable victory in Lincoln. But one question many folks around the country are probably now asking is, who is this Tanner Mangum kid? Well, time to get familiar.
Mangum hails from the same state as Hill, the Gem State, Idaho. Mangum was a heralded recruit, considered the third-ranked quarterback in the country in the class of 2012 per Rivals. To understand how lofty Mangum’s recruiting status was, he was the co-MVP of the Elite 11 in the 2012 class with a guy you might remember, former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Not bad company to be associated with I’d say.
With those impressive accolades, folks that follow BYU football closely have always been excited about the future prospects of the program with Mangum lining up as the Cougars’ signal-caller, they just didn’t want or expect this era to take center stage so soon. But now that it is here, folks are buzzing about the potential this guy has.
Hill was known as a dual-threat quarterback. He made significant strides as a passer, but where he made a name for himself was his elite running ability. Mangum doesn’t have many similarities when you compare him side-by-side to Hill. To describe Mangum’s style of play, think of BYU quarterbacks from yesteryear during the Air Edwards era. Or if you want a more recent comparison, look at Max Hall. These were all classic drop-back quarterbacks that can throw the football with precision and accuracy, and if needed, can pick up a first down on the ground with their legs in a pinch. That’s Mangum.
Mangum is nowhere near Hill’s level in terms of athleticism, and he would even tell you that. During a “SportsCenter” appearance on Sunday, Mangum said, “I don’t run a 4.4 40, but I’ll work hard, and I feel like I’m a student of the game.” That type of attitude from Mangum is one of the reasons head coach Bronco Mendenhall had such high praise for Tanner during fall camp last month. In fact, it wasn’t just praise, it was love. “Love, love, love, love, continued loves, Tanner Mangum.” That was the exact quote from Mendenhall after seeing Mangum through two practices in camp.
What makes this Hail Mary and story even more remarkable, is that less than 100 days ago, Mangum was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the country of Chile. On LDS missions, players don’t train or use the time to mature physically. These missionaries only have 30 minutes to exercise in the mornings, that’s pretty much it when it comes to physical conditioning. Everything else done out on the mission field revolves around your commitments as an LDS missionary. Mangum himself said, he only threw a football a few times during his mission with some of the locals in Chile, but no conditioning or training like most high-level FBS athletes are engaged in during the offseason.
It’s difficult for returning missionaries that are also student-athletes to come back to perform at a high level right away, but Mangum has worked his tail off since he came home on June 3. Knowing that he had a great opportunity to take over as the second-string quarterback behind a starter who had suffered two season-ending injuries in the past, Mangum was preparing like he was atop the depth chart by studying relentlessly in the film room and preparing himself physically for when his number would be called.
Now that his number his been called, Mangum has already been elevated to star status in Provo. So how will he follow this up?
The Cougars will face Mangum’s hometown team, Boise State this Saturday in Provo, then a pair of road games with UCLA and Michigan. That was expected to be a tough stretch for a seasoned senior in Hill, so for a true freshman like Mangum, the odds of BYU coming out on the winning end of those games is probably not in its favor at this point. But hey, the odds weren’t in BYU’s favor when there was just one second left in regulation in Lincoln either.
It’ll be interesting to see where offensive coordinator Robert Anae steers this offense under Mangum. Do the Cougars go back to an Air Raid-style of offense, similar to Texas Tech from the Mike Leach days? Anae was an offensive line coach at Tech under Leach, and incorporated the pass-heavy attack at BYU in 2005 for the first month of the season. It’s an offense that might need to be considered because BYU’s running backs without Jamaal Williams after week one are nothing to write home about at the moment.
BYU will need to win games with Mangum’s arm. Luckily for the new starting quarterback, he has a talented receiving group to throw to that goes eight deep, and boasts a trio of wideouts that stand 6-foot-5 or taller in Mathews, Nick Kurtz, and Terenn Houk.
We will have a great idea of how this offense will look after Saturday night’s showdown with Boise State, but regardless of how the offense is executed the Cougars still have a bright future with this polished and poised man that has been training his whole life to become BYU’s next great quarterback.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.
LOS ANGELES – In the same tunnel leading from the locker rooms to the Coliseum playing turf, Cam Smith strolls out in a fresh pair of Air Jordan XI. His black-and-red shoes walk on the same path where, four hours earlier, he carried onto the field the legacy of Trojans before him.
Smith's old-school Jordans, first released in 1995, weren't the only piece of throwback fashion he donned Saturday, the night of his USC debut. The freshman took the field in the No. 35, a jersey passed among especially tenacious linebackers from the late 1970s into the '90s.
Saturday marked a major milestone in the history of No. 35, with Smith starting at inside linebacker. He's the first Trojan freshman to do so since Riki Ellison (then Riki Gray), the man who started the 35 tradition in 1978.
“Cam is a natural playmaker at that position,” said head coach Steve Sarkisian, who hand-picked Smith to bring back the No. 35 tradition and gave him the historic starting nod Saturday. “He's a heady guy, got a good feel for the game, a solid tackler and he's probably a better athlete than people think.”
Smith demonstrated just such qualities with seven tackles, which tied for the team lead, and a pass breakup. It was a good, old-fashioned, all-around outing like previous 35s Ellison, Scott Ross or Jeff Kopp may have had.
Smith also was a more-than-capable replacement for Hayes Pullard, the Trojans' starter at inside linebacker the previous four seasons. Pullard was a stalwart of the USC defense, but even he had to grow into manning the middle of the corps. He started as a Will linebacker in 2011, his redshirt freshman campaign.
For Smith to start in the middle as a true freshman was truly a special accomplishment — and a milestone he learned of in a way none of his forerunners could.
“I saw a tweet about that,” he said.
OK, so not everything about Smith is a throwback. His exploits get immediate love his predecessors didn't thanks to Twitter, and Smith's handle @CamSC35 is sure to blow up with mentions as he continues to make plays.
The only one he might like to have back is his batted-down pass. After snagging several interceptions in offseason scrimmages, he had an opportunity to record his first official pick as a Trojan, and possibly walk into the end zone.
“He's not going to hear the end of it from my mouth,” teammate Su'a Cravens said with a sly grin. The preseason All-American Cravens made his own interception Saturday.
“He told me he was going to get a pick. He had his chance, and he dropped it,” Cravens added. “Can't drop those.”
Smith agreed. “I wish I would have had it back for my own sake," he said. "It's tough, but at least I got my hands on it and it was incomplete.
“But yeah, I'm definitely going to hear about it.”
Requisite teasing aside, Cravens has been one of Smith's most vocal supporters since the offseason. Cravens singled him out as the most impressive defensive freshman during the spring.
Smith's decision to graduate a semester early from Granite Bay (Calif.) High School, helped smooth the linebacker's transition from 4-star prospect to Week 1 starter.
“Coming in early was the right move,” he said, mentioning academics as well as football. “Having a semester under my belt feels good. I feel like I'm a step ahead.”
Smith's one step ahead was his first down the Coliseum tunnel. He'll take several more noteworthy steps in his USC career, and do so with old-school panache.
It was only one game.
For only the sixth time since 1962, the Nebraska Cornhusker football program debuted a new coach on its sidelines Saturday. It was a game very much anticipated by the fans and supporters of one of college football's most historically prestigious programs. They wanted to see the changes. They wanted to see the new-look, Mike Riley-coached version of the Huskers. And like in every home opener in the last 29 tries, they wanted to see a win.
When the game ended, both sides of Husker Nation were disappointed. Yes — both sides.
The Husker fan base is at war with itself — something I've rarely seen in college sports. On one side, you have the Kool-Aid-drinking eternal optimists, confident that every hurdle the program encounters is just part of the journey back to the top of the college football mountain. They believe in the program because they want to believe. It's the textbook definition of faith.
On the other side, you have a strange mix of something else. Some call them realists, while others call them "Bo-lievers" — a nickname given to the Bo Pelini supporters who did not want him fired and maintain to this day that he should not have been fired. They felt that the seven consecutive 9-win seasons he posted were good enough in today's college football world — a world much different than the one where Nebraska was competing for and winning national championships a decade and a half ago.
Neither side is willing to budge, with loud, outspoken ideologues on both sides leading the charge, shouting down the opposition the best they can, usually — and thankfully — with keyboards.
As the Hail Mary pass fell into the hands of BYU wide receiver Mitch Mathews to end the game, I calmly pulled up Twitter and Facebook on my phone and laptop and waited for the war of words to begin. And it did.
The Bo-lievers fired first, questioning the timeouts called by Riley and his staff right before the play. They followed it up with questions about the pass-rush (or lack thereof). They pointed out missed field goals. They pointed out the broken NCAA record home-opener winning streak and the fact that Pelini kept it alive.
The optimists fired back, citing injuries and uncalled or incorrectly called penalties. They pointed out Tommy Armstrong’s progress from last season. They pointed out that Pelini’s teams would have folded at halftime. They tried to stay positive.
Over in the fan groups and message boards, admins launched threats and acted on them. In one group, an admin threatened to ban anyone who bad-mouthed the coaching staff or administration — including those who posted any positive pictures or memes of Bo Pelini and negative ones of Riley.
In the football-crazed state of Nebraska, the Huskers are everything. The morale of the state runs parallel to what’s going on with the football team in the fall and early winter. Normally, the team is something for everyone in the state to rally around and be proud of. Nowadays, football Saturdays in Nebraska are filled with angst and some anger at your fellow man — simply because he has a different opinion about the program.
Many around the country envy the passion of the Nebraska fan base, but there is little doubt that it — along with high expectations — may also be having a detrimental impact on the program’s quest to get back to relevancy. Bo Pelini found that out the hard way, as he coached against both the teams on his schedule as well as the ghosts of coaches who came before him — both good and bad.
As I watched Mike Riley’s postgame press conference, I saw all of the weight that comes with coaching the Nebraska football program hit him. I watched him keep his poker face, doing his best to answer with class the same questions that caused his predecessor to openly and consistently fume. He’s never coached anywhere like Nebraska before, and the strain of holding back what he really wanted to say was showing through that almost military-like bearing.
The Nebraska-BYU game did little to unite a broken fan base. All it did was strengthen both sides of a divided house. One side’s argument against firing a winning coach got stronger from their point of view, while the other side’s support for Riley likely grew based on how the game ended — turning Riley into a somewhat sympathetic figure.
From the outside looking in, it may be difficult to understand the what’s and why’s of what is happening within the state of Nebraska and its football team’s fan base. But here in the heart of it, with a vantage point that can see and understand both sides of the argument, I find it all both incredibly fascinating yet sad. It will likely only get worse before it gets better.
And it was only one game.
I know this may not seem to be the most necessary post since the NFL season nor fantasy football has yet to officially begin. However there have actually been enough moves with trades and injuries to make the waiver wire something to be utilized already.
Perhaps you lost Jordy Nelson or Kelvin Benjamin for the season. Or maybe you assumed Robert Turbin was the backup for Marshawn Lynch prior to being put on the PUP list along with the Fred Jackson trade. Either way, a dominant draft is the first step in winning your fantasy football league, but dominating the waiver wire is equally as important each and every week.
I will be here to guide you each and every week with some players who are owned in less than 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues and could have an impact on your squad for the particular week, or rest of season.
Remember, many leagues were won last season with waiver wire additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Justin Forsett. It may not happen that way this year, but each season there is always someone who comes out of nowhere to bring owners to fantasy glory!
I also should mention that I tend to utilize my bench spots for upside players, and a handcuff or two rather than filling it with solid but not start-worthy players. I would rather own Matt Jones than a Shane Vereen for example. You don’t have to employ the same strategy, but that is just how I do it. That being said we will jump right in to it, and I wish you all the best of luck this week and entire season.
1. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (38.4 percent owned per ESPN.com)
Johnson really should be owned everywhere. He had a fantastic training camp, and he is the backup to a well-known injury risk in Andre Ellington. If for some reason you own Ellington, or the owner who does did not add him I would put in a claim right away. Johnson is the definition of upside and just needing an opportunity to be an impact fantasy player.
2. Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Carolina (14.6 percent owned)
Payne like Johnson above had a nice training camp and is playing behind the equally injury-prone Jonathan Stewart. Payne should already be owned by all Stewart owners, but if they slipped up? Pounce on Payne like a cat with a catnip toy.
3. Danny Amendola, WR, New England (8.2 percent owned)
Amendola was a big part of the Patriots’ postseason run and with Brandon LaFell being placed on the PUP list (will miss at least the first six games), he should be a key cog in the offense. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski will remain Tom Brady’s top targets, but Amendola can be another weapon.
4. Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans (13.6 percent owned)
Coleman is projected to be the No. 3 target in the Saints’ offense. Drew Brees spreads the ball around as well as anyone and with tight end Jimmy Graham gone the wide receivers should be plenty busy. Coleman looked great in the offseason and should provide some big weeks alongside Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston. Once again, this is an upside bench stash.
5. Ty Montgomery, WR, Green Bay (16.1 percent owned)
Montgomery isn’t getting the attention or Twitter love Jeff Janis (13.3 percent owned) is this offseason. Janis has had a solid camp, but he is still fourth on the Packers’ depth chart. Montgomery is No. 3 meaning he WILL be a regular piece of Green Bay’s potent offense that will be without Jordy Nelson. Let folks fawn and jump on Janis while you take Montgomery and hope for the best.
DST Streamer of the Week
I am a part of the streaming DST movement. I don’t typically waste a draft pick, unless I need to, in my drafts and instead cut someone and add a DST. Clearly the top defenses will be owned and not available, but streaming is always an option when it comes to DSTs. So each week I will be providing a DST that is owned in less than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.
Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay (1.1 percent owned per ESPN)
The Buccaneers have plenty of weapons on offense, but they also have a rookie quarterback who is likely to be making a few mistakes. When it comes a DST that is what you are hoping for. Sacks, fumbles and interceptions are the key, and although nothing is guaranteed the Titans make an appealing play this week.
(David Johnson photo courtesy of www.azcardinals.com)
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.
Guess the Jake Coker hand-wringing by Alabama fans can stop now.
After he wasn't able to beat out Blake Sims last August and then wasn't able to convincingly win the starting quarterback job this August, many Alabama followers were starting to wonder if the much-hyped Florida State transfer was just destined to be a career college clipboard holder.
Maybe this would be a season for Cooper Bateman or Alec Morris to just keep the quarterback seat warm for super freshman Blake Barnett, likely in line to redshirt this year, to slide into next fall. Then came Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
With the spotlight shining intently on Alabama's QB position, Coker didn't just start under center for the Crimson Tide, he coolly handled the immense pressure and put together a near-flawless performance, helping lead No. 3 Alabama to a 35-17 win over No. 20 Wisconsin.
Coker played so well, in fact, that head coach Nick Saban and his staff didn't trot Bateman, a sophomore signal-caller, out onto the field until very late in the third quarter.
"Jake was playing pretty well, so we stayed with (him)," Saban said after the game.
Most expected Bateman to enter Saturday night's season opener much sooner than he did. Thing is, Alabama simply didn't need a spark at the QB spot. Not with the way Coker was playing. In three quarters of play, the 6-foot-5, 232-pound senior finished 15-of-21 (71 percent completion rate) for 213 yards, one touchdown and, perhaps most importantly, zero interceptions.
How did Coker's performance stack up against other recent Alabama quarterbacks making their first start in a marquee season-opener against a high-profile opponent at a neutral site? Very well. In 2009, Greg McElroy completed 50 percent of his passes in Alabama's win over Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and last season Sims completed 73 percent of his passes in Alabama's win over West Virginia on the same field. And Coker avoided what McElroy and Sims were not able to in their first starts – throwing a pick.
Not surprisingly, after the game, Saban said he was pleased with Coker's performance and ticked off a laundry list of all the positive things the Mobile, Ala., native did in the contest.
"He moved the team, he executed the offense, he threw the ball where he was supposed to throw it, he threw accurately, he didn't make a lot of mental errors, he didn't have a lot of communication problems," Saban said of his highly scrutinized quarterback.
Seven different guys caught passes from Coker, but spreading the ball around like that wasn't necessarily by design. It was just Coker, in each instance, picking out the right guy to throw the ball to.
"He made the right reads based on the call that was made and based on what Wisconsin was playing," Saban explained.
Coker's teammates were impressed with the way he played too.
"Jacob Coker did a great job and had great poise in leading the offense," said running back Derrick Henry, who ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
Added center Ryan Kelly: "(Coker) did great. He's just a real poised leader."
McElroy and Sims both went on to lead the Crimson Tide to a championship in their first season as Alabama’s starting quarterback. McElroy guided the Tide to both an SEC and national championship in '09, while Sims steered Bama to an SEC title last year. Will Coker follow suit?
Only time will tell. But after the way Coker played in his first start Saturday night, it might be hard now to bet against him.
— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.
Fall camp 2015 was a time to start over for Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, a brand-new era. He was injured during last year’s August prep work and was shelved for the season.
Unfortunately, he put himself a step behind where he should probably be presently.
Rose-Ivey was one of five Cornhuskers suspended for the season opener against BYU. As a result, all he could do was watch as a Hail Mary pass sent the Cougars home victors.
The cameras even got a sideline shot of disbelief complete with No. 15’s mouth agape as an assistant dropped to his knees in front of him.
He’s the type of athlete that could impact a game. I’m not going to play “would’ve, could’ve, should've,” but defensive coordinator Mark Banker can take more chances in the future with Rose-Ivey on the field with Josh Banderas and Dedrick Young.
Now that he’s healthy and out of the penalty box, he’s ready to strip someone of their black.
What Husker fans should be most enthused by is that while not an elected captain, Rose-Ivey does recognize that he is a leader on the field. What’s more, he conducts himself as one publicly.
Got to sleep in the bed you make... Live and learn and know you'll be better off at the end of the day— Michael Rose-Ivey (@Rose_IveyNB15) September 4, 2015
It’s been made no secret that Nebraska's new coaches have sat down and talked one-on-one with these young men about every major topic. After having watched and listened to head coach Mike Riley since December, I can hear his conversation with Rose-Ivey in my head. Firm, but honest and to the point.
Now that he's paid his debt, he gets his opportunity back.
A hungry Rose-Ivey is exactly what Nebraska’s defense needs. Not only is he a natural talent, but also seeing a zero in the win column following the first week of Husker football for the first time since 1985 can only motivate a guy with that passion even more.
I’m not in his head, but every team from here on out may wear just a little blue and white. Their helmets might have just a bit of a “Y” on the side.
As a junior, Michael Rose-Ivey never had a shot to help Nebraska beat the BYU Cougars.
I don’t fear for those standing between him and a Blackshirt. They’re kin. A challenge, but family.
Those not wearing his colors on game day, those are the ones I don’t envy.
Broken bone in the neck. It sounds very scary. It is very scary. And that is what Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams is now dealing with after colliding with the goal post on a touchdown catch Saturday against Wofford.
Williams will be okay and fortunately his football career will resume. However, when he will return to action is up in the air. Head coach Dabo Swinney said that Williams will be re-evaluated in six weeks and a decision will be made at that time as to whether the junior will suit up again this season.
If Williams is done in 2015, the Tigers will be losing a 6-foot-4, 210-pound big-play threat. They’re losing a receiver that caught 57 balls for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns in 2014. How does Clemson replace the Vance, S.C., native?
In one sense, the offense won’t, at least not with one guy. However, Clemson does have some talented options to help keep its passing game clicking.
It is hard to imagine Artavis Scott being able to do more than he did last year. The sophomore had a big first year in the upstate and picked up right where he left off in the season opener with 136 total yards. Scott also is a player that works the underneath routes and gets yards after the catch while Williams is more of the downfield threat.
Charone Peake and Germone Hopper are two veterans that will be given a greater role in the offense with Williams out. Peake is a senior that has battled injuries and Hopper is a junior that was fourth on the team in receptions last year. They both can be solid replacements but there are players with higher ceilings at this point.
Those players are Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain. The freshmen were extremely impressive in camp and both were going to play regardless of the Williams injury. McCloud burst on the scene in a big way Saturday, as the Tampa product caught eight passes for 80 yards. He seemed to be running patterns similar to Scott, but he also showed an ability to stretch the field a bit. Cain also got into the game early on and will be someone that can grow in this offense.
By the way, Clemson has this guy Deshaun Watson that can really throw the ball and this guy Wayne Gallman who can really run the ball. Those two, along with Scott, give Clemson three premier playmakers on offense.
But Williams is a special player and, assuming that he is out for the season, he will be missed. And Clemson has already suffered several unforeseen personnel losses since the end of last season. Fortunately, Swinney and his staff have recruited very well, especially at the receiver position. It is also one of the spots on the field where a player can contribute early and the Tigers seem to have two exciting freshmen to fill the void.
The situation is not ideal for Clemson, that’s for sure. But don’t fret Tiger fans, your team will still score a lot of points this year.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
Saturday was nearly perfect for the Notre Dame football team. From beginning to end, the Irish throttled the Texas offense and their offense scored at will in a 38-3 victory. It was a night for Notre Dame fans to celebrate.
Except that running back Tarean Folston went down with a knee injury six minutes in to the contest and will be lost for the season.
Notre Dame now becomes exceptionally thin in the backfield. C.J. Prosise, who switched over to running back from receiver in the spring, moves into the starting role. The senior from Petersburg, Va., had 126 yards rushing in 2014 but most of those were on jet sweeps from the slot position.
Saturday night was his first real action as a tailback and he played very well with 98 yards on 20 carries. The most surprising aspect of Prosise’s performance was his ability to run between the tackles, something that he was never asked to do as a receiver. Prosise saw the hole, made the proper cut, and ran through it without a whole lot of wasted movement.
It was just one game and how Prosise handles the wear and tear of an entire season is still a mystery. But it was a good start. It also was a good start for his two primary reserves.
Freshmen Josh Adams and Dexter Williams looked capable of being able to carry the football. Adams ran 14 yards for a score the first time he touched the ball. He also scored on a 25-yard run later in the game and finished with 49 yards on five carries. Williams came in late and was able to grind out some tough yards when Notre Dame needed to burn the clock.
The good piece of news for Irish fans is that running back is a position where a freshman can come in and make an immediate impact. What Adams and Williams will have to get up to speed on quickly are the things that running backs are asked to do besides carrying the football. Most importantly, blitz pick up. Also, as a converted receiver, Prosise will be an asset catching the ball out of the backfield. But he's also the lead ball carrier so it would be nice if one of the two freshmen could develop into a receiving threat that could spell Prosise at times in passing situations.
Needless to say, Notre Dame cannot afford an injury to any of those three running backs. New scholarship recipient Adams played in mop-up time, but he is not someone the coaching staff wants playing pressure-packed minutes. Justin Brent, like Prosise a converted receiver, did not play at all.
Notre Dame does have a quarterback that can run. But head coach Brian Kelly stated prior to the game that he will limit how many times Malik Zaire carries the ball and that is unlikely to change despite the Folston injury.
It is true that Notre Dame was very effective running the ball against Texas. They got fine efforts out of Prosise, Adams and Williams. The offensive line looks like it could be one of the best units in the country, which will help in both the rushing attack and in pass protection. And if Zaire continues to throw the ball like he did against the Horns, it will take a considerable amount of pressure off the ground game.
But Folston has been a very good player that looked ready to take the step to the next level. Notre Dame can survive the blow but it will take more than just one man to fill his shoes. Everyone on the offense will have to raise his game. That is the only way the Irish can go forward without missing a beat.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
Auburn opened its season with a 31-24 win against Louisville in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Tigers looked like the national contender many expected in preseason.
New coordinator Will Muschamp's defense set the tone early. Tray Matthews returned an interception 35 yards on Louisville's opening possession, which led to Auburn's first touchdown of 2015. The Tigers' second score came on an 82-yard fumble return by Justin Garrett several drives later.
Yes, the Tigers lived up to the lofty preseason hype during their Week 1 victory. Well, almost everyone.
Jeremy Johnson struggled in his debut as Auburn's starting quarterback. The junior threw for just 137 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on 11-of-21 passing, while also rushing for a score.
It was a far cry from the preseason expectations many had for Johnson. Following Nick Marshall's departure, the junior spent the offseason downplaying Heisman talk and Cam Newton comparisons, putting his focus on helping Auburn win football games.
Related: Analyzing Auburn Quarterback Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Trophy Candidacy
He did that on Saturday against a Louisville defense that ranked No. 1 in FBS in interceptions in 2014. And while Johnson accounted for multiple touchdowns, the three picks were the biggest takeaway of his performance.
Sure he struggled, but that's expected for a new quarterback facing a talented defense in his debut. Though he did his Heisman stock no favors, Johnson's two touchdowns were the deciding factor in the Tigers' win against a quality opponent. While many SEC rivals enjoyed blowout wins against Group of 5 or FCS programs, Auburn defeated a team that finished with a 9-4 (5-3) record and a No. 24 overall ranking.
In Week 1, the purpose is to "shake off the rust" of the offseason and make adjustments before Week 2. Johnson told Al.com that he's "ready to atone" for his interceptions and will make the necessary adjustments before Saturday's game.
"I was trying to take the big plays too early in the game," Johnson said. "Trying to take the big shot, trying to make the big play too early in the game instead of hitting my check downs."
It's still early for Johnson who should see better numbers as Auburn hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday. The junior will regain his confidence by facing a far less talented secondary and should add to his stats before entering conference play.
His Heisman candidacy is far from ruined as his performances against SEC teams will be the most heavily weighed. If Johnson leads Auburn to a national championship he will remain a contender for the award.
The junior's stats will be among the nation's best quarterbacks in Gus Malzahn's offense. He's a 6-foot-5, 250-pound dual-threat quarterback playing within a scheme that best suits his skill set and is surrounded by a plethora of talent.
Johnson will bounce back from a lackluster debut and make Auburn fans forget about Week 1. The Tigers' team success is most important and the junior quarterback will be the decisive factor in the team winning in 2015.
— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.
It is always difficult to get a true sense of a team after just one game. It’s even more difficult to gauge when the one game is against a vastly inferior opponent. Such is the case with Clemson after the 49-10 victory over Wofford.
However, Tigers fans had their eyes on certain areas and an injury to a star player is a cause for concern. Here are five things to be gleaned after Clemson’s opening win.
1. Deshaun Watson Looked Good
Without a doubt, the health of the star quarterback was the most important factor in determining Clemson’s success in 2015. After week one, all signs are pointing upward. Watson did not have to run very often and he was given a lot of time to throw by the offensive line. However, Watson definitely passed the eye test, not only on his two scrambles but also by the way he shifted in the pocket. He finished the game 18-of-22 passing for 194 yards with two scores and no interceptions. Greater challenges obviously lie ahead. But week one was a success.
2. The Mike Williams Injury
It was a scary scene early in the game when star wide receiver Williams was carted off the field after colliding head first with the goal post on Clemson’s first touchdown of the season. Williams broke a small bone in his neck. The good news is that it will not end his career. The bad news is that he will be out for an extended period of time. Freshman Ray-Ray McCloud had a big game in Williams’s absence, catching 10 passes for 80 yards.
3. The Offensive Line
With a plethora of talented receivers and backs to go along with Watson, the offensive line was the greatest offensive concern coming into the 2015 season. They weren’t exactly playing Alabama this week, but the big guys up front did a great job in both run and pass blocking. They paved the way for 222 yards rushing and head coach Dabo Swinney pinned the only sack on backup quarterback Nick Schuessler. Center Ryan Norton left the game with an injury, but he is expected to be ready to go next week against Appalachian State.
4. Red Zone Offense
Clemson finished 2014 No. 113 in the nation in both red zone efficiency (73 percent) and in red zone touchdown efficiency (48 percent). Saturday the Tigers converted five of their six red zone opportunities into touchdowns. The only slip-up was a Schuessler fumble in the first quarter.
5. Athleticism on the Defensive Front
They may be young and may not have started many games, but Clemson’s front seven is very athletic. Wofford did not have a first down until there were nearly two minutes remaining in the first half and the main reason is that the Terriers’ offensive line could not contain the first wave of the Clemson defense. Scott Pagano did not fill up the stat sheet but his play at nose tackle was stellar and Shaq Lawson, B.J. Goodson and the rest of the crew made life miserable for Wofford’s offense.
Nobody expected UT-Martin to pose a threat to Ole Miss in Saturday’s season opener in Oxford, and the Rebels won convincingly 76-3. Few also expected an early season blowout victory over an FCS opponent to make a defensive player a factor in the Heisman Trophy race. But, Robert Nkemdiche may have done exactly that.
No primarily defensive player has won the Heisman Trophy since Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997. Of course, Woodson upped his chances by contributing on offense and starring on special teams. Who knew Nkemdiche would check both of those boxes against the Skyhawks?
A part-time running back in high school, the 6-foot-4, 296-pound Nkemdiche has been used on offense a few times in Oxford, most notably when he gained 21 yards on four carries (including an 18-yarder) against rival Mississippi State as a true freshman in 2013. Saturday, head coach Hugh Freeze slipped his All-American defensive tackle into the backfield and called for a play-action pass. Wide open in the flat, Nkemdiche caught the short toss from quarterback Ryan Buchanan and raced untouched to the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.
While many were probably tempted to celebrate a #FatGuyTouchdown on Twitter, Nkemdiche looks more like a tight end than most nearly 300-pound lineman. He’s fast. And not fat.
Then, later in the second quarter, with the Landshark defense trying to keep UT-Martin off the scoreboard before halftime, Nkemdiche slipped through and blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt. That’s a second big, non-defensive play in the first 30 minutes of the season that could capture the attention of Heisman voters.
Because he plays defensive tackle, much of Nkemdiche’s impact flies under the radar. It’s hard for anyone to rack up tackles and quarterback sacks when they are constantly the focus of double and triple teams from opposing offenses. Last season, Nkemdiche had 35 tackles and two sacks and he tallied three stops Saturday. However, all that extra attention from offensive coordinators and blockers frees up the other Rebels to make big plays.
Looking ahead, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is sure to move his best player all over the defensive line — especially in more important games, like the Sept. 19 trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama — to create matchup advantages, which should help Nkemdiche pick up a few of the sexier statistics he would need to make a Heisman push. Still, Nkemdiche will need to put up big numbers — like double-digit sacks — to even earn a trip to the award ceremony in New York.
Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh may be the best comparison to Nkemdiche. A defensive tackle for the Cornhuskers, Suh had an incredible 85 tackles and 12 sacks and added an interception in 2009, which earned him the fourth most voted in Heisman voting.
In 2012, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o finished second in the Heisman voting behind Johnny Manziel in a season in which he recorded more than 100 tackles, 1.5 sacks and intercepted seven passes. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney finished sixth that same season after recording 13 sacks.
Nkemdiche’s biggest competition for the Heisman among defenders is Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, who finished ninth in the voting last season after amassing 153 total tackles, 14 sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. However, Wright suffered a knee injury in the season opener Thursday against UTSA. Wright is expected to miss at least two weeks of playing time. Nkemdiche spent some time in the Ole Miss locker room himself in the second half Saturday with a minor knee injury, but isn’t expected to miss any more action.
It was just one game, and it occurred far from the bright lights of a nationally televised primetime matchup between SEC heavyweights. But, if Nkemdiche continues to prove himself as one of the best defensive players in America — and scores a few touchdowns and makes a few big special teams plays along the way — he just might make some noise in the Heisman race this season.
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on SaturdayBlitz.com and FanSided.com. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.
Virginia Tech running back J.C. Coleman made quite a fashion statement during Monday night’s game against Ohio State.
Normally, jerseys or helmets are the choice for making a fashion statement, but Coleman wore a gold watch – yes a gold watch – while playing the Buckeyes.
The image was captured on Twitter by a couple of users:
All of Cardale Jones' advances may have just paid off.
Ronda Rousey just gave her advice to Urban Meyer on who Ohio State's starting quarterback should be. Between Jones and J.T. Barrett, Rousey gives her pick.
It was probably a tough choice for her too.
The expectations for the Irish coming in were extremely high. Now they are even loftier. Notre Dame dominated both offensively and defensively and head into week two with tons of positive momentum.
Picking just five things to takeaway after the Irish blow out is a bit difficult. But here we go.
1. Malik Zaire’s Accuracy
Since the quarterback from Kettering, Ohio, arrived at Notre Dame, the big question about his game was the accuracy of his throws. Zaire was a wishbone quarterback in high school and needed to develop as a thrower in college. Saturday night, Zaire looked like a polished product in the pocket. Completing 19 of 22 passes with one of the misses a flat-out drop by freshman tight end Alize Jones is a clear indication that the lefty was on target. If Zaire plays like this going forward, the Irish offense will be especially explosive.
2. The Running Backs Must Stay Healthy
With Greg Bryant leaving the program following his academic suspension and now the season-ending MCL injury to Tarean Folston, Notre Dame has become perilously thin at running back. C.J. Prosise will carry the load as the starter going forward and two freshmen, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, will be the primary reserves. The Irish will need all three this fall and all of them must remain on the field.
3. The Offensive Line
No matter who is carrying the ball, running behind this offensive line should be fun. Yes, there were a few hiccups with illegal motion penalties. But Ronnie Stanley, Quentin Nelson, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey kept Zaire very clean and opened up huge holes in the running game. Many around the team thought that this could be one of the best Notre Dame offensive lines in quite some time. This unit certainly looked the part on Saturday night.
4. Defensive Speed
Throughout the years, Notre Dame detractors have noted the team’s lack of speed on defense as an Achilles heel. Not this season. Max Redfield is fast. KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke are fast. Sheldon Day is tough to contain because of how quick he gets off the ball. And Jaylon Smith is really, really fast for a linebacker. Texas is not a very good offensive team. However, they always recruit dynamic athletes and Notre Dame’s defense appeared to be flying everywhere, making the Longhorns seem slow. Texas being unsure on offense was part of the reason; Notre Dame’s team speed also was a huge factor.
5. Notre Dame’s Multiple Defensive Looks
Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder is known for sending one blitz package after another. The Texas game consisted of a little different approach. The Irish did send a lot of pressure at times, but the defense also dropped back in coverage on others. Defensive end Isaac Rochell lined up on the nose in a 3-4 set several times and was inside as a defensive tackle in the standard 4-3 as well. The variety of looks gives future opponents’ offensive coordinators a lot to think about.
Whenever a Power 5 conference team plays an FCS opponent, they are usually expected to dominate the game. The Miami Hurricanes did just that when they destroyed the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 45-0 on Saturday night.
While defeating Bethune-Cookman doesn't guarantee future success in 2015, it was a great start to the season for the Hurricanes. Here are the three takeaways from Miami’s first victory of the season.
1. Hurricanes' running game will be just fine without Duke Johnson
Miami rushed for a total of 195 yards against Bethune-Cookman. While Miami went with a committee of running backs on Saturday night, Mark Walton was the player that stood out the most.
The freshman finished the game with 10 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. Walton ran violently and with a purpose, including a 17-yard gain. Walton gave credit to the Hurricanes’ offensive line for his success on Saturday.
“The O-line did a great job,” said Walton. “Coach [James] Coley and [the other coaches] did a great job of preparing me during camp. And I just trust my ability and trust my O-line’s ability and run behind them. They did a great job tonight for me.”
Trayone Gray also rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. Starting running back Joe Yearby chipped in 40 yards off six carries.
With school record-breaking running back Duke Johnson now playing in the NFL, some expected the Hurricanes' ground game to take a step back. At least for one night, Miami showed its running game will be just fine without Johnson.
2. Miami’s defense looks improved
While Bethune-Cookman’s offense isn’t the most high-powered unit in the nation, they give the Hurricanes problems the last time they played in 2012. The Wildcats ran for 233 yards against Miami in their 38-10 loss.
On Saturday, Bethune-Cookman recorded only 79 yards of total offense, including 53 yards rushing. Miami’s defense was flying to the ball and was very opportunistic. Miami picked off Bethune-Cookman twice and sacked the Wildcats five times. Head coach Al Golden was very complimentary of the Hurricanes' defense.
“I think we played hard. It’s hard to get a shutout, no matter what, said Golden. “I think our defense played hard...we put them in a tough spot there and they responded. I thought we were physical, we tackled well.”
Next week’s opponent, the Florida Atlantic Owls should provide Miami with a bigger test on defense. FAU scored 44 points in its loss to Tulsa on Saturday.
3. Receiver depth
Wide receivers Braxton Berrios and Stacy Coley both went down with injuries on Saturday night. Despite their absence, the Hurricanes showed they had depth at receiver.
After being injured most of his career at Miami, Rashawn Scott could not have started his 2015 season any better. The redshirt senior caught six balls for 100 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Standish Dobard also chipped in with two catches for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Berrios and Coley’s injuries aren’t supposed to be lingering and Golden listed them both as “day-to-day.” Once both Berrios and Coley return, that should make the Hurricanes' offense much more potent.
Player of the Night: Corn Elder, CB/KR
Not only was the cornerback was a factor defensively, but Elder also was huge on special teams for Miami. Despite having a 70-yard touchdown called back because Herb Waters called for a fair catch before Elder corralled it, the junior still finished with three returns for 78 yards, including a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:37 left in the second quarter.
“He’s so laterally quick, said Golden. “He and Braxton [Berrios] were No. 1 and No. 2 coming in, and he did a great job with the football. There’s not much that he can’t do, in terms of what you ask him to do.”
It's early, but the potential is there for Elder to be a contributor in two of the three phases of the game for the Hurricanes all season long.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
Believe it or not, college basketball season is sneaking up on us.
Although the traditional Oct. 15 start date and Midnight Madness is becoming a thing of the past for some programs, the start of practice remains a landmark worthy of a party in Lexington or dressing up like Iron Man or Gene Simmons in East Lansing.
For us at Athlon Sports, the mid-October start of college basketball practice means the release of our preseason preview magazine, available on newsstands or online Sept. 8.
The 2015-16 season promises to be another wild one. Two teams from last year’s Final Four, Kentucky and Duke, promise to reload with another cast of talented freshmen. At the same time, programs like Maryland and Cal are poised for breakout seasons.
As a tease to get you ready for this upcoming season, here’s the Athlon Sports preseason top 25 at a glance.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
Available Now: Athlon Sports' 2015-16 College Basketball Annual
|Athlon Sports 2015-16 College Basketball Preseason Top 25|
Kentucky: The Wildcats might not challenge 40–0 again, but Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray should contend for the Final Four.
Duke: Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones are gone, but landing Brandon Ingram and Derryck Thornton means Coach K can contend for a sixth national title.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have a group of veterans that might be Roy Williams’ last great team for a while.
Maryland: Maryland added freshman Diamond Stone and transfer Robert Carter Jr. to its returning core for what will be the Terps' best squad since the 2002 championship.
Virginia: The Cavs’ early exits from the NCAA Tournament have dulled back-to-back 30-win seasons, but Virginia is built to contend again.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are gearing up for a 12th consecutive Big 12 title, but they’re still awaiting word on five-star freshman Cheick Diallo.
Iowa State: New coach Steve Prohm inherits a great situation with Georges Niang, Monte Morris and — you guessed it — some talented transfers.
Arizona: The Wildcats face questions after losing their top four scorers from last season. Sean Miller, though, has a plan.
Oklahoma: The backcourt duo of Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard will be one of the best in the nation.
Villanova: The Wildcats have to avoid stalling in the NCAA Tournament, but adding freshman Jalen Brunson to the mix means Nova will be dangerous all year again.
Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer is a national player of the year candidate, but the Zags have a big hole at point guard without Kevin Pangos.
Michigan State: Last year’s Final Four was a tease. This team, with high-scoring West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, could be the Big Ten favorite.
Cal: Adding freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to the existing group of veterans means Cuonzo Martin has a Pac-12 contender on his hands.
Wichita State: Gregg Marshall resisted the urge to go to Alabama in the offseason. He’ll have one last go-round with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores made a push late last season. They return everyone of note from that team, including SEC Player of the Year contender Damian Jones.
Purdue: The front line of A.J. Hammons, freshman Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas will be imposing. Boilers will rely on a transfer from UT Arlington to play point.
Indiana: The Hoosiers’ lack of a big man hurt them last year. They went out and got a big man, freshman center Thomas Bryant.
UConn: The addition of Sterling Gibbs from Seton Hall among other newcomers should get the Huskies back into the NCAA Tournament.
Wisconsin: After back-to-back Final Fours, Wisconsin will take a dip. But this is a Bo Ryan team, so the dip won’t be very far.
Butler: The Bulldogs started last season with a handful of questions. Butler has its coach in place and a handful of veterans ready to contend for the Big East championship.
Oregon: The Ducks lose prolific scorer Joseph Young, but Dana Altman always finds a way.
Michigan: After last year’s debacle, Michigan ready for healthy seasons from Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton ... and a return to form.
Louisville: Landing transfers Trey Lewis (Cleveland State) and Damion Lee (Drexel) turn a rebuilding team into a contender.
SMU: The Mustangs still have a ton talent, provided they can avoid any NCAA entanglements. (Update: SMU did not avoid NCAA entanglements and will face a postseason ban in 2015–16.)
Texas A&M: The Aggies return Danuel House, Alex Caruso and Jalen Jones from last year’s bubble team. Billy Kennedy should have the depth to get back into the Tourney.
|Also considered: Baylor, Dayton, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, San Diego State, UCLA|
First-year Florida head coach Jim McElwain couldn’t have scripted a better debut in The Swamp. The Gators routed New Mexico State 61-13 Saturday night, scoring the most points by a new Gators coach in his first game.
The win extended Florida’s winning streak in season openers to 26 games, becoming the nation's longest in the process after Nebraska lost to BYU earlier in the day. There were a lot of positives to take from the Gators' first game of the 2015 season, but here are the top three things from Saturday night.
1. Two quarterbacks can be a good thing
The common quote you hear in football is when you have two starting quarterbacks, you don’t have one. Well on Saturday night, the Gators dispelled that theory, even if it was just for one night. Both Treon Harris and Will Grier had superb games in the team’s blowout win.
Harris completed 14 of 19 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Grier was 15-for-17 for 164 yards and two scores. The redshirt freshman also rushed for 43 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground as well.
After the game, McElwain praised both Harris and Grier.
"I thought they both did a great job,” McElwain said. “We moved the ball with both of them, and it will be interesting to see kind of when we get to the film. I thought the whole team responded well to both of them. It was kind of the plan to start Treon (Harris) and get him about 12 to 15 (plays), which is usually about three series, and then bring Will (Grier) back after half kind of as the starter and kind of see how that goes as well, but I thought for the most part, both of them did a pretty darn good job and I'm glad we have both of them.”
No word on which quarterback will get the starting nod against East Carolina next week, but McElwain said it is likely the Gators will do something similar.
2. It just won’t be the Demarcus Robinson show in 2015
During the Will Muschamp era, the Gators’ offense was very flat and one-dimensional. If Saturday was any preview on what Gator fans hope to see in McElwain’s first season, then the ball will be spread around a lot.
Fourteen Florida players recorded receptions and the team finished with 382 yards passing and 606 total yards. While Robinson did lead the team in receptions with five, Brandon Powell, C.J. Powell and others also were significant contributors in the Gators' offense.
“I thought they (Gators) executed their offense well,” said New Mexico State coach Doug Martin.
3. Defense had some mental lapses
Year after year under Muschamp, the Gators were always one of the nation’s best defensively. While Florida should still field a great defense in 2015, there were some miscues, in particular in the second quarter.
All of New Mexico State’s 13 points on Saturday came during the second quarter when Florida's secondary and front four were having problems stopping the Aggies' offense.
Florida was missing a few players on defense, including its top pass rusher, so the defense should only improve. Against East Carolina and the Pirates' high-powered offense, the Gators will be tested.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
Each year MLB is filled with underperforming teams — that’s just part of the game. But this season, there seems to be a larger portion of clubs that have fallen below expectations. The Reds, Indians, Padres, Mariners, White Sox, Angels, Nationals, Tigers, and Red Sox were all on different levels of promise, but all have fallen well below reasonable expectations.
While few, if anyone, expected teams like the Reds, Padres or White Sox to raise any October hardware, their shortcomings have still been palpable, and palpable enough that it could cost a manager their job — just ask former Padres skipper Bud Black.
Here is a glimpse of teams that could (and probably should) be looking for new managers in less than a month.
Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds
The Reds’ Bryan Price is 132-165 in nearly two full seasons as the skipper in Cincinnati. Given the Reds' performance in 2015 and some of the changes that have already been made, it's pretty apparent more turnover is on the horizon.
At the end of the 2014 season, the Cincinnati brass released a statement that Price and GM Walt Jocketty would return in 2015 — not exactly a vote of confidence for a manager finishing his first year. I wouldn't expect either to be in their respective role in 2016 after what appears to be a last-place finish in the NL Central — but both Price and Jocketty are well liked by Reds’ ownership.
Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox
Ventura is somewhat the victim of others' expectations. Offseason moves that were supposed to make the South Siders contenders have not come to fruition. The additions of Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and Jeff Samardzija have completely backfired. Bad offseason additions mixed with the assumed regression of last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Jose Abreu, compounded with the worst defense in baseball and marginal pitching made this season a disaster for the White Sox.
The biggest problem now for GM Rick Hahn and president Kenny Williams is how do they move on from a White Sox legend in Ventura?
Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Speaking of moving on… now might finally be the time for Scioscia to move on from the Angels. And while the time may be the right time for Scioscia to pack up and try somewhere else (the other Los Angeles team, perhaps), he’s a long shot to be let go — or even leave on his own, even with a new GM coming in soon.
Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners might be the most disappointing team in all of baseball this year. General manager Jack Zduriencik’s recent firing should all but signal the end of McClendon’s stint as manager.
The Mariners were built to be AL contenders this season, but have been just flat out bad since Opening Day and currently sit 21 wins behind their 87-75 mark last season. The Ms have been a .500 team just three times in 2015 — the second day of the season and in late May (23-23, 24-24).
With the changing of the guard in the front office looming and the disaster of a season on the field, it seems McClendon and his epic on-field shenanigans will be elsewhere in 2016.
Matt Williams, Washington Nationals
If the Mariners aren’t the most disappointing team in baseball, then the Nationals definitely are — again. For the past two seasons the Nats' “World Series or bust” mentality has come back to bite them. Last season’s early postseason flame out compounded with this season’s struggles could ultimately spell the end of Williams' tenure in D.C.
Williams' ineptitude to manage a bullpen has been front and center yet again (as it was in last year’s postseason) when he refused to use his two best relievers, Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen (…again), in recent must-win situations against the Cardinals. The Nats dropped both games in the late innings and remain four games back of the Mets in the NL East.
Williams' complete lack of urgency is only enabled by GM Mike Rizzo, the architect of the most underachieving roster in baseball this season. After those consecutive collapses against St. Louis Rizzo defended Williams’ archaic bullpen utilization, calling Williams’ managing as “masterful” and claiming that his manager is “pushing all the right buttons.”
Maybe Rizzo is publicly supporting his flailing skipper to save face. But unless the Nationals can chase down the Mets or earn one of the Wild Card spots to give them another shot at getting to the World Series, Rizzo may have to cut ties with Williams if only to save his own job.
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.
The first week of the 2015 college football season concludes with a marquee matchup on Monday night, as Ohio State begins its run at back-to-back national championships with a trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. In addition to beginning the quest for another national title, the Buckeyes have revenge on their mind. The Hokies upset Ohio State 35-21 in Week 2 last season.
The Buckeyes won’t be at full strength for this matchup, as four players were suspended earlier this offseason for the opener. Standout end Joey Bosa and receivers Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall and Corey Smith were suspended for violation of team rules. Bosa is the biggest loss out of this group, but the three receivers will be missed. With Ohio State missing a few experienced options in the receiving corps, converted quarterback Braxton Miller will be a key piece of the passing attack on Monday night.
Related: 10 Stats to Know from Week 1
This is only the second meeting between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. The only previous matchup between these two teams? The oft-discussed 35-21 matchup in Columbus last season.
Ohio State at Virginia Tech
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Monday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ohio State -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett versus Virginia Tech’s Secondary
Who will take the first snap of the year for Ohio State? That’s been the big question since the end of the national championship win over Oregon, as the Buckeyes had three candidates in the mix before Braxton Miller decided to move to receiver. With Miller changing positions, the two-man battle between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett continued into the fall. There’s been little out of fall practice to suggest which quarterback is in the lead. However, there’s a good chance both quarterbacks play on Monday night. And regardless of who starts or plays, this won’t be an easy matchup. Virginia Tech’s defense is arguably one of the best in the nation and held the Buckeyes to just 4.8 yards per play last season. With Marshall, Wilson and Smith sidelined, who will step up to win one-on-one battles in the passing attack? Keep an eye on the matchup between Virginia Tech cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson against Ohio State receivers Michael Thomas and Miller.
2. Ezekiel Elliott versus Virginia Tech’s Front Seven
In last year’s matchup, Virginia Tech’s defense held Elliott to just 32 yards and one score on eight attempts. Additionally, Ohio State’s offensive line had trouble containing the Hokies’ defensive line in pass protection and allowed seven sacks. The Buckeyes’ offensive line significantly improved after the loss to Virginia Tech last season and is one of the best in the nation in 2015. Will this unit and Elliott have better success against the Hokies on Monday night? This should be the matchup to watch, as the Virginia Tech defensive front has two ends capable of wreaking havoc off the edge (Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem) and talented tackles in Corey Marshall and Luther Maddy. Elliott finished 2014 by running for at least 200 yards in each of his last three games. Will he pickup where he left off? Or will Virginia Tech win the battle at the point of attack?
3. Virginia Tech’s Offense
There’s no question Virginia Tech has one of the best defenses in the nation. But contending for the ACC Championship resides on how much the offense will improve after a sluggish 2014 campaign. The Hokies averaged only 24.1 points per game and just 4.7 yards per play in ACC games. While last year wasn’t overly successful, eight starters are back, including quarterback Michael Brewer and three starters up front. Will this group take a significant step forward? Ohio State’s defense won’t have Bosa coming off the edge, but there’s no shortage of talent in the front seven. Linebackers Darron Lee and Joshua Perry are among the nation’s best, and the Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard are slated to pickup the slack at defensive end for Bosa. If Virginia Tech is able to contain the Ohio State pass rush, will its young receivers – Cam Phillips, Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges – win one-on-one matchups against a good secondary? And don’t forget about running back J.C. Coleman. The senior emerged as the clear No. 1 option in the ground attack at the end of last season, recording at least 95 yards in each of his final four games.
This is one of the toughest games on Ohio State’s 2015 schedule. Blacksburg isn’t an easy to place to play, and the Hokies should have confidence after last season’s win in Columbus. Regardless of who starts at quarterback, the biggest concern for Ohio State has to be its ability to block Virginia Tech’s defensive line and the receiving corps against a good secondary. Expect the Hokies to win their share of battles up front and limit some of the big plays for the Buckeyes. Converted quarterback Braxton Miller is the x-factor here. However, keeping Ohio State’s offense under wraps for four quarters is too much to ask. Elliott eventually finds running room in the second half, and the Buckeyes leave Blacksburg with a hard-earned victory.
Prediction: Ohio State 30, Virginia Tech 20
A Texas school district is investigating the situation involving a referee and two football players.
Two players from John Jay High School were ejected after targeting a referee for what they felt was a "bad call." One player ran into the referee from behind and the other player dove on him while he was on the ground.
(Warning: The video is disturbing.)
Northside Independent School District AD Stan Laing called the incident "very disturbing." They are looking in to what led to the actions.
John Jay ended up losing to Marble Falls High School, 15-9.
"I've coached 14 years and I've never seen anything like it," Marble Falls head coach Matt Green said.
There's talk surrounding the referee, and that he is looking to press charges over the incident.
UPDATE: The two players involved have been suspended from the team and school. Wayne Elliott, the Austin Football Officials Association secretary, told The Associated Press he hopes "those two kids never play football again."
The investigation is still ongoing.
To Whom It May Concern,
In the second quarter of Nebraska’s 33-28 loss to BYU, a Tommy Armstrong pass sailed over Husker tight end David Sutton’s head.
There was no way he was going to catch it. In fact, no one in the Cougars’ wide receiver corps could have either, and this group seemingly shares genetics with Big Bird.
This is the point where the necessity of these words should cease. Instead, BYU defensive back Jordan Preator nailed a hit so low, he had time to roll Sutton’s legs over his entire back padding before exiting the field of play.
Sutton instinctively tried to get up because that’s what humans do after they’re knocked down, but couldn’t. He wasn’t tired. He needed a cart to be helped off the field.
As much as I’d love to be writing in regard to the cookie bouquet I intend to petition the good people of the college football world to send the Grand Poobah of Big Ten officials, I ask: why wasn’t this act penalized?
Even if not intentionally malicious, no football player should get away with that sort of stupidity/carelessness.
Just in case this comes off as some random Husker hack with sour grapes, I’m totally chill with the hands to the face penalty on Kevin Maurice that resulted in Taysom Hill scampering through open field.
I was confused, perhaps we all were confused, but we’re human. Mistakes happen.
However, I refuse to overlook the hypocrisy of shoving rules down our collective throats in the name of “player safety” only to have a player’s well-being be so negligently overlooked.
Something worth keeping in mind is that the Cougars aren’t exactly sweethearts. This is a team that brawled during their bowl game last season resulting in a handful of suspensions during the actual game being called last Saturday.
They were ranked No. 125 (out of 128) in penalties last season and 114 (out of 125) the season before that.
Bronco Mendenhall himself has said, “When I’ve seen BYU play at its best, the teams I’ve watched in the past, they are physically dominant, they are very tough. They are on the edge of playing within the rules because they are so aggressive.”
I dig aggressive football. I do not dig when a flag isn’t thrown when that line is crossed and Preator didn’t step over it, he rolled over it.
I’m not suggesting he should’ve been ejected nor should he be suspended. A simple penalty flag that would’ve advanced the ball 15 yards in Nebraska’s favor, that’s it. That’s all anyone in Memorial Stadium sporting red wanted.
Well, that and a win, but that’s beside the point.
Why you chose to not throw that flag, I don’t know. Maybe it truly was a no-call to you. Maybe you were afraid of Mendenhall and the BYU sideline’s reaction. Maybe you saw something shiny.
At this point, you have two options: Publicly admit you messed up or don’t preach about how important “player safety” is to me, fans, coaches, analysts, etc.
Hopefully Sutton will be alright, but he deserves an apology if nothing else.
I can’t say I’ll be surprised if no phone rings in Lincoln regarding the call much like no flag was thrown.
David Sutton will be out of action for 8-plus weeks as a result of the play.
During halftime of the Kansas State-South Dakota game, the band depicted an image that was a little NSFW.
What was supposed to be a Kansas Jayhawk on the left and the starship enterprise on the right, ended up looking like something a little different. It didn't help matters that "starship enterprise" is seen going into the mouth of the Jayhawk.
It didn't take long for social media to run with it.
Uh... interesting formation for the Kansas State band. pic.twitter.com/SB36JBFEEc— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 6, 2015
How does Kansas State's band director keep his job after that? X-rated, homophobic halftime routines are OK? Sad excuse for leadership.— Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch) September 6, 2015
Once everyone went crazy about the image, the band had no choice but to issue an apology.
We apologize for anyone offended by our halftime performance depicting the starship enterprise and the Jayhawk mascot.— KState Marching Band (@KStatePride) September 6, 2015