Articles By All

Path: /college-football/3-takeaway-florida-gators-victory-over-new-mexico-state

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.

3 Takeaways from the Florida Gators' Victory over New Mexico State
Post date: Monday, September 7, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /baseball/5-mlb-managers-september-hot-seat

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.

5 MLB Managers on the September Hot Seat
Post date: Monday, September 7, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-preview-and-prediction-2015

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.


Final Analysis


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
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Monday, September 7, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: High School
Path: /high-school/texas-school-district-investigating-players-targeting-referee-tackle-dirty-john-jay-marble-falls

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.

Post date: Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 13:33
Path: /college-football/open-letter-big-ten-referees

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.


Update (9/7/15):


David Sutton will be out of action for 8-plus weeks as a result of the play.


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

An Open Letter to Big Ten Referees
Post date: Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Video, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/kansas-state-band-apologizes-offensive-halftime-show-jayhawk

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.




Once everyone went crazy about the image, the band had no choice but to issue an apology.


Post date: Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 12:57
Path: /college-football/five-things-we-learned-utahs-victory-over-michigan

Utah delivered in the national spotlight, beating Michigan for the second consecutive season. The Utes took down the Wolverines 24-17 on Thursday night in Jim Harbaugh's first game as head coach. Utah never trailed from the opening snap and improved to 12-1 overall in regular season non-conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.


How will the victory over Michigan translate to the rest of Utah's season? Here are five things we learned about the Utes after week one:


1. Utah's defense delivers yet again

It might be easy to look at how Utah failed to record a sack and conclude the defense has taken a step back from 2014. That's simply not the case. The Utes found other ways to put their defensive stamp on the game. Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock wilted under the pressure and threw three interceptions – with Justin Thomas returning the final one 55 yards in the fourth quarter for the game-clinching TD. Utah also held Michigan to 76 yards rushing on 2.6 yards per carry. Utah's defense is poised to once again give many other teams fits.


2. Britain Covey is a rising star at receiver

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham repeatedly singled out Covey as one of the most impressive performers in fall camp. The true freshman showed why he earned that praise in the season opener. Covey finished his first game as the team's top receiver. He hauled in five passes for 58 yards and tacked on a 14-yard punt return for good measure.


3. Travis Wilson is a more confident quarterback

Wilson showed that his impressive performance in the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl was no fluke. The senior played with poise and confidence against Michigan. Wilson threw for 208 yards on 24-of-33 passing and also rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown. His passes were on target and Wilson made plays with his feet when Devontae Booker was stifled by the Wolverine defense. It represented a nice step forward for Wilson, who lost his starting job at one point a year ago.


4. Special teams showed some rust but will improve

Utah dealt with some uncharacteristic struggles from its special teams. Tom Hackett was bright spot as usual, unloading a career-long 74-yard punt. On the other hand, Andy Phillips had a rough opening game. Phillips went 1-of-3 on field goal attempts. The junior kicker made one from 30 yards, but missed from 48 and 46 yards. There isn't much reason to feel alarmed. Such a performance feels like an aberration for Phillips. He made 40-of-48 field goal attempts during his first two seasons and is likely to convert at a similar rate this season.


5. Gionni Paul needs to keep cool

One of the things that makes Paul such an effective linebacker is his aggressive play. He is all over the place and finds a way to disrupt all sorts of plays. It helped Paul lead Utah with 14 tackles. His aggressive streak also led to a couple of ill-timed late hits. Both plays resulted in 15-yard penalties and the second one kept Michigan's first touchdown drive alive. Paul is a valuable part of the Ute defense and needs to stay on the field. He just needs to dial back the aggressiveness enough so he doesn't slow down defensive momentum.


Written by John Coon,who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Five Things We Learned From Utah's Victory Over Michigan
Post date: Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/10-amazing-college-football-stats-week-1-2015

Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated, but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.


Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:


10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 1


10.5: Baylor’s Average Yards Per Play Against SMU

As expected, Baylor’s offense didn’t miss a beat with Seth Russell under center. The Bears scored 56 points, accumulated 723 overall yards and set a school record by averaging 10.5 yards per play against the Mustangs. Russell’s final stat line was also impressive, averaging 25.1 yards per completion on 30 attempts and hitting on five passing plays of 40 yards or more.


Related: 620 Twitter Accounts Every College Football Fan Should Follow


9: Sacks Generated by Texas A&M Against Arizona State

Texas A&M’s offseason hire of John Chavis as its new defensive coordinator was arguably the best in the nation. And the Aggies wasted no time showcasing how much the addition of Chavis will mean to this group. Texas A&M wreaked havoc against the line of scrimmage all night against Arizona State, recording a whopping nine sacks and 14 tackles for a loss in the 38-17 victory over the Sun Devils. The Aggies struggled in recent years at giving up big plays, but Chavis’ group allowed only two of 20 yards or more to the Sun Devils. Texas A&M’s defensive effort was arguably one of the best performances of Week 1. 


8-8: Record by College Football’s New Coaches for 2015 in Week 1

College football’s new coaches had a mixed bag of success in Week 1. Interim coach Bill Cubit guided Illinois to an easy 52-3 win over Kent State, while Gary Andersen (Oregon State), Pat Narduzzi (Pittsburgh), Tom Herman (Houston), Lance Leipold (Buffalo), Mike Bobo (Colorado State) propelled their teams to wins over FCS opponents. Jim McElwain (Florida) and Philip Montgomery (Tulsa) were victorious against FBS foes, while Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Chad Morris (SMU), Mike Riley (Nebraska), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Neal Brown (Troy), David Beaty (Kansas), Tony Sanchez (UNLV) and John Bonamego (Central Michigan) lost their debuts with their new teams. 


Related: EWU Linebacker Takes a Cheap Shot at Oregon QB Vernon Adams


351: Passing Yards by UCLA Freshman QB Josh Rosen

As a true freshman making his first start for a Pac-12 title contender, all eyes were on Josh Rosen in Week 1. The freshman isn’t short on confidence or ability, and Rosen was sharp in UCLA’s 34-16 victory over Virginia. He completed 28 of 35 passes for 351 yards and three scores. In addition to becoming the first true freshman to start at quarterback for UCLA in a season opener, Rosen also set single-game records for a freshman in completions, attempts and passing yardage. 


10: Sacks Allowed by Penn State Against Temple

Penn State’s offensive line was considered the weak link for this team last season. With better depth and the addition of junior college recruit Paris Palmer at left tackle, improvement was expected in 2015. However, Saturday’s matchup against Temple showed the Nittany Lions still have a lot of work to do in the trenches. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg was sacked 10 times, and the Owls generated 11 tackles for a loss. Additionally, Penn State never managed more than 19 yards on each of its last 12 drives.


Related: Bowling Green Defender Loses Shoe, Fakes Injury to Get Timeout


29: Nebraska’s Streak of Wins in Openers Ends at 29

Nebraska’s 29-game winning streak in season openers was the best mark in the nation, but that run ended in stunning fashion on Saturday afternoon. BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum connected with Mitch Mathews on a 42-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the game’s final play to knock off the Cornhuskers 33-28. Florida now owns the nation’s longest winning streak in openers with a streak of 26 consecutive victories after defeating New Mexico State on Saturday night. 


7.8: Stanford QB Kevin Hogan’s Average Yards Per Completion

After a solid three-game finish to 2014, hopes were high for Stanford’s offense to pickup where it left off. However, the Cardinal managed only 240 total yards against Northwestern, averaging a paltry 3.9 yards per play. While blame has to be shared at each level on the offense, more big plays are needed out of the passing attack. Hogan connected on 20 of 35 throws for 155 yards and one interception, averaging just 7.8 yards per completion. Additionally, the longest passing play from Stanford was just 16 yards in Saturday’s loss. 


Related: (Video) BYU Defeats Nebraska on Last-Second Hail Mary Touchdown Pass


20: Points Scored by Texas in Last Three Games Under Charlie Strong

Texas finished 2014 ranked ninth in the Big 12 in scoring offense by averaging a paltry 21.4 points a game. While major improvement wasn’t expected this year, the Longhorns were expected to take a step forward on offense. However, if Saturday night’s game against Notre Dame is any indication, Texas’ offense is an even bigger concern than it was at the end of 2014. The Longhorns managed only three points against the Fighting Irish and have just 20 over their last three games. Additionally, Texas averaged 3.1 yards per play against Notre Dame and generated only two plays of 20 yards or more. Needless to say, coach Charlie Strong and coordinator Shawn Watson have a lot of work to do to get this unit on track.


233: Maryland CB William Likely’s Punt Return Yards Against Richmond

Likely set a Big Ten single-game record with 233 punt return yards in Maryland’s 50-21 victory over Richmond. The junior scored on a 67-yard return in the fourth quarter and finished Saturday’s action with a 29.1 average on punt returns. Likely is one of the Big Ten’s top defensive backs, but he’s also solidifying his place among the nation’s best on returns.


12-1: The SEC’s Record in Week 1

After a sluggish bowl season, the SEC had its share of doubters and took plenty of criticism in the preseason. While it’s only Week 1 and there’s plenty to be decided in the next few months, the SEC turned in a strong opening performance. Vanderbilt was the only SEC team to lose its opener, while LSU’s matchup against McNeese State was canceled due to weather. Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, and Texas A&M headlined the weekend action from this league, scoring key non-conference victories at neutral sites. 

10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 1 2015
Post date: Sunday, September 6, 2015 - 11:37
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/eastern-washington-linebacker-takes-cheap-shot-oregon-qb-vernon-adams

Vernon Adams made offseason headlines after deciding to transfer from Eastern Washington to Oregon. While a move from the FCS to FBS ranks is rare, Adams certainly has the talent to be an All-Pac-12 quarterback this season.


But there was a little awkwardness to the season opener, as Adams took on his former team. And there was a scary moment for the senior quarterback, as Adams was leveled on a late hit in the second half.


While it’s tough to judge intent, this certainly looks like a cheap shot against Adams by a former teammate.

Eastern Washington Linebacker Takes a Cheap Shot at Oregon QB Vernon Adams
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 23:28
Path: /college-football/five-things-we-learned-georgia-bulldogs-first-game

Even though Georgia’s game against ULM was cut short because of bad weather, the Bulldogs managed to show some good signs in their first game of the year.


Here are five things to take away from the Bulldogs' season-opening, 51-14 victory.


Nick Chubb Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

It didn’t take Chubb long to make his presence known, as the running back eclipsed 100 yards for the ninth straight game in his young career. Chubb has also scored a touchdown in each of the last 10 games, a steak no other Power 5 conference running back has in consecutive games. Chubb finished his day off with 16 carries, 120 yards and two touchdowns.


The Bulldogs Show Needed Depth at Running Back.

Chubb wasn’t the only running back to have a great day for the Bulldogs as they welcomed back Sony Michel and Keith Marshall from injuries that cut both players’ seasons short last year. Marshall’s final stat line read 10 carries, 72 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Michel finished the day with six carries and 41 yards but shined in the passing game, catching two passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.


Greyson Lambert Gets Needed Reps as the Starter

It was the first start for new QB Lambert. He saw significant time and even had a pair of touchdown passes.  Lambert’s final stat line had him throw 8-for-12 for 141 yards and two touchdowns. There were times that Lambert looked indecisive and showed that he doesn’t have a lot of mobility in the pocket. ULM never pressured the Georgia offense to the point that Lambert was forced to make plays and the running back committee took a lot of the pressure off the new QB as well. Lambert has plenty of weapons that should help him going forward.


The Bulldog Defense Looks To In Mid-Season Form
Georgia's defense held the Warhawks to 251 total yards while only allowing 45 yards rushing on 26 attempts. The Warhawks were able to score a pair of touchdowns but really couldn’t get anything else going as the Bulldogs' defense proved to be too much.


Malcolm Mitchell Looks to Be Very Healthy

It was a very positive sign for Bulldog faithful as Mitchell made multiple plays on the offensive side of the ball and showed everyone just how healthy he was. Mitchell had three receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown but the biggest play may have been a downfield block to help Sony Michel score. Mitchell raced downfield to make sure Michel had room to score and that play was more telling than any other as Mitchell showed both his speed and willingness to lay his body on the line just to make a block. Both were great signs for the wide receiver who has struggled with injuries throughout his career.


The Bulldogs will take on Vanderbilt next week in Nashville, Tenn.


— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails

Five Things We Learned From the Georgia Bulldogs' First Game
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 22:15
Path: /college-football/knee-jerk-reactions-byu-cougars-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers

Never let it be said that BYU-Nebraska 2015 wasn’t worth the price of admission. While the opening game of the Mike Riley era ended with a Hail Mary touchdown pass, it wasn’t celebrated like the one Jordan Westerkamp had versus Northwestern in 2013.

Here’s what Husker fans can take away from the 33-28 loss:

- If you’d have told me Tommy Armstrong was going to duplicate scrimmage numbers and throw for 319 yards, three touchdowns and one interception during live competition, I’d have laughed in your face.

Armstrong has shown he can lead this offense. Keep in mind he started hot and got into a funk, one which he would not have recovered from last season.

- The running game wants to be there (this will be partially addressed in a moment) and Nebraska’s 2015 edition of the WeBacks have talent across the board. However, the coaches need to figure out what each back is best capable of across the board. They now have game film of that.

- The offensive line looks like… well, an offensive line learning how to accommodate a new rushing attack and pass block for a new scheme. Anyone who expected perfection going into this game was looking to be disappointed.

 I will say that it was encouraging to see this unit come out in the second half and use momentum to simply impose their will downfield. Time for offensive line coach Cavanaugh (not me) to work his magic.

- I have absolutely no qualms with the wide receivers. Once they get even more familiar with their routes, this looks to be a very dangerous passing attack. That’s saying something as Armstrong got the football into eight different players’ hands via the pass in game one.


- Apparently defensive adjustments are allowed at the half. Who knew?

- Aside from Greg McMullen, the defensive front four came correct as expected. It was a pleasant surprise to see Freedom Akinmoladun get involved right off the bat. 

- Luke Gifford is no Michael Rose-Ivey. The good news is MRI comes back for South Alabama and ideally he won’t need to leave his starting role again. Josh Banderas played like a leader and Dedrick Young certainly didn’t look like a true freshman.

- This is a secondary that was clearly having opening game lapses against towering receivers. When you face two wideouts that are 6-foot-5 and another who adds an inch to that, it’s going to be a tough ball game. 

Give credit where it’s due, though. Josh Kalu showed why he earned a Blackshirt. Daniel Davie didn’t exactly play up to the standard, though. 

- Hopefully Sam Foltz isn’t too banged up. Slammin’ Sammy needs to be on the field.

- There’s no such thing as a good loss, but there’s a lot to learn from this one. While I don’t expect Nebraska to win the College Football Playoff, like Ohio State last season, the Big Red may end up better for the experience.


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

Knee-Jerk Reactions: BYU Cougars vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 22:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-safety-michael-caputo-alabama-backfield-head-injury

Wisconsin's defense pretty much runs through Michael Caputo.


The senior safety is a captain, so his importance to the Badgers goes without saying. Caputo went for a tackle in the game against Alabama, and was clearly shaken up from it.


It was a scary moment after the collision as Caputo was seen getting ready in Alabama's backfield. A couple Alabama players knew something wasn't right and he got some assistance quickly.

Caputo is out for the rest of the game, but he rejoined his teammates on the sideline to cheer them on.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 21:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/idaho-state-receiver-touchdown-one-handed-madison-mangum-odell-beckham-jr-catch

Is there anything better on a college football Saturday than a one-handed grab? Hint: The answer is no.


Idaho State's Madison Mangum make a highlight type of grab. The receiver channels his inner Odell Beckham Jr. and just hauls it in at the back of the endzone.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 20:26
Path: /college-football/byu-defeats-nebraska-33-28-last-second-hail-mary-touchdown-pass

Nebraska’s 29-game winning streak in season openers ended in surprising fashion on Saturday. With just a second left (and the final play of the game), BYU backup quarterback Tanner Mangum connected with receiver Mitch Mathews on a Hail Mary touchdown pass to score a 33-28 upset in Lincoln.


Check out BYU’s touchdown pass on the final play to upset the Cornhuskers:

BYU Defeats Nebraska 33-28 on Last-Second Hail Mary Touchdown Pass
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 19:28
Path: /college-football/bowling-green-defensive-lineman-mike-minns-loses-shoe-fakes-injury-get-timeout

Bowling Green defensive lineman Mike Minns had a little problem during Saturday’s game against Tennessee. With the Volunteers up 14-3 in the first quarter and driving for another score, Minns lost his shoe on first down and had to fake an injury to get a timeout.


Needless to say, this has to be one of the more humorous moments of Week 1, as Minns had to use a little acting to get the timeout. And as the video shows, Tennessee coach Butch Jones didn’t appear to be too happy.

Bowling Green Player Loses Shoe, Fakes Injury to Get Timeout
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 16:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/southeast-missouri-st-ejected-hit-maty-mauk-kendall-donnerson

This is a hit Maty Mauk will remember for a while.


During the game against Missouri, Southeast Missouri St. linebacker Kendall Donnerson left early after a pretty brutal hit aimed at Mauk's head. The referees decided it was targeting and late, so they cut Donnerson's afternoon short.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 16:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12
Path: /college-football/kansas-south-dakota-state-jayhawks-spike-snap-fumble

We aren't in Kansas anymore.


It looked like hope was gone for the Jayhawks in the game against South Dakota State. This was a game that even those not fond of Kansas had them winning. After falling behind early, the Jayhawks clawed their way back into the game and were down by three.


All Kansas needed to do was kick a field goal, but they had to spike the ball to get the special teams on the field. What did they do? Fumbled the snap and time ran out before they could spike it. Of course this wasn't the only reason they lost, but it still sucks nonetheless. 



Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 15:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-unveils-new-yellow-helmets-week-1-matchup-against-eastern-washington

New helmets and uniforms are nothing new for Oregon, but the Ducks continue to come up with awesome color and design combinations.


For Saturday night’s matchup against Eastern Washington, Oregon has unveiled a new yellow helmet, which features gray wings on the side. The helmet also features a gray facemask.  


Here is the full image of Oregon’s helmets and uniforms for Saturday night: 




Oregon Unveils New Yellow Helmets for Week 1 Matchup Against Eastern Washington
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 15:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Virginia Cavaliers, News
Path: /college-football/virginia-unveils-new-white-helmets-week-1-matchup-against-ucla

Virginia opens the 2015 season on the West Coast, taking on UCLA on Saturday afternoon. And judging by the photos from pregame warmups, the Cavaliers have a new helmet for their Week 1 matchup.


This photo from @DamonDillman from the Rose Bowl shows the new helmets:


Virginia Unveils New White Helmets for Week 1 Matchup Against UCLA
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 14:52
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-dt-robert-nkemdiche-torches-defenders-touchdown-tennessee-martin

Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche is about 300lbs, and yet he has amazing speed.


The defensive tackle gets gets his J.J. Watt on and gets some time on offense, and boy was he a force. Nkemdiche scored a 32-yard touchdown by outrunning defenders on UT-Martin.


He's a beast.

Nkemdiche also blocked an extra point. He was literally everywhere.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/arkansas-tech-honor-fallen-teammate-10-players-field-southern-nazarene

The Arkansas Tech football team is playing with heavy hearts as one of their own drowned in an accident back in July.


In order to honor Zemaric Holt, a defensive lineman, Arkansas Tech took the field with just 10 players on defense against Southern Nazarene. For some reason, Southern Nazarene decided to go with a trick play on the first play of the game and it backfired and resulted in a fumble. Arkansas Tech was able to scoop the ball and get the easy score.

The team honored their fellow teammate and got the score. That's a memorable play.

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 12:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-gameday-chris-fowler-emotional-tribute-rece-davis

It's the dawn of a new era for ESPN's College GameDay. 


Since 1990, we've watched Chris Fowler lead the GameDay crew every Saturday. Now it's Rece Davis, a star in his own right, at the head of the table, but ESPN made sure Fowler was sent off in style with a tribute.

Luckily we'll be able to hear Fowler's voice in the booth doing play-by-play this season, so it's a win-win for all parties involved.

(h/t Saturday Down South)

Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 11:50
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/alabama-secondary-poised-rebound-after-disappointing-2014

The slide down the mountain has been undeniable. Especially last year. That's when the slide turned into a full-fledged, foot-slip-off-the-rock tumble.


Alabama ranked No. 1 in the country in pass defense in 2011. That ranking fell to No. 7 in 2012 and then fell again to No. 11 in '13. Last year, it plummeted to No. 59. Yes, Alabama, a program Nick Saban has now built into a perennial national power, was 59th in college football last year when it came to defending the pass.


Even Kentucky, which went 5-7 overall, 2-6 in SEC play and finished sixth in the SEC East last season, performed better against the pass last season than Alabama. The Wildcats ranked 44th.


So is a trend reversal in store for Alabama in 2015? Or will the slide continue? All signs right now point to the former.


Related: College Football's Top 30 Defensive Backfields for 2015


In January, Saban hired former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to coach Alabama's defensive backs. So far, it's looking like just the shot in the arm the secondary needed. Tucker isn't really teaching anything new to Bama's defensive backs as far as technique or philosophy. The difference he's making has more to do with his own personality, and how it's spilling over to the guys he's coaching.


"I do see more energy and enthusiasm from the (defensive backs) coach, which I think is important," Saban said Thursday night. "And we really haven't had that here since Jeremy Pruitt left (following the 2012 season), in all honesty. (Pruitt) did a great job with the players that way, spent a lot of time with them. 


"People think I coach the secondary. I help coach the secondary, but as the head coach I don't have time to spend with those guys in terms of developing relationships with them and all that kind of stuff as much as the position coach can, and I think that's really, really important. And I think that's important to this group, and I think they've responded really well to Mel, and I think Mel has done a really, really good job with the players we have."


Speaking of the players Tucker has to work with, two new guys, in particular, have stood out this preseason — two superb athletes who were so impressive during fall camp that they earned top spots on the team's season-opening depth chart released this week despite their inexperience. Marlon Humphrey, a redshirt freshman, is penciled in as the starter at one of the two cornerback spots. Minkah Fitzpatrick, a true freshman, is slated to start at the Star position.


"Marlon has done a really, really good job this fall camp," Saban said. "He is more confident in terms of what to do and how to do it. He's really worked hard in practice every day to try to improve himself, and he's been very, very competitive, and we've been very, very pleased with where he is.


"Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a guy that — not to anyone's surprise because we thought he was a really good player when we recruited him — has been able to learn, pick up on and do things very, very well."


Having two safeties with cornerback backgrounds can't help but bolster Bama's pass defense too this season. Geno Smith and Eddie Jackson might not be the most physically imposing safeties around, but they've got coverage skills most safeties do not — coverage skills Alabama needs.


"In the day and age of football that we see right now ... safeties in the box don't really happen very often," Saban said. "It only happened in two games last year. Being spread out where guys have to make plays, have range, have cover ability, that's much more predominant in the style of play that most people play offensively now. So having more athletic safeties has a benefit."


Then there's senior Cyrus Jones. He's back at the other cornerback spot after showing flashes of being an All-SEC-caliber performer last season.


"I do think the secondary is better," Saban said. "Last year I thought our young players were better in some cases than our older ones — they just weren't ready to play. So those (young) guys are much more ready to play. I'm talking about the Marlon Humphreys, the Tony Browns of the world and even Maurice Smith as well as Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is a true freshman and has done a fabulous job in the secondary."


Oh yeah, go ahead and throw in a little chip on the shoulder, too.


"We're just hungry," Jones said. "We're just eager to get out there and show everybody we're not the weak link of the defense."


No. 59? That's looking like the bottom of the mountain for Bama's secondary. And the climb back up? Looks like it's about to start.


— 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.

Alabama Secondary Poised For Rebound After Disappointing 2014
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/marshall-thundering-herd-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2015

College football’s opening weekend continues on Sunday with Marshall looking to score a non-conference victory and respect for Conference USA in a matchup against Purdue. The Boilermakers rank near the bottom of most preseason power polls in the Big Ten, but coach Darrell Hazell heads into his third season in West Lafayette with optimism thanks to 16 returning starters.  


Marshall was one of the top Group of 5 programs last season but a late-season loss to WKU ended any hopes of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl. The Thundering Herd is among the favorites to win Conference USA once again this season, but prolific four-year starter Rakeem Cato must be replaced at quarterback. While Cato will be missed, Marshall is still a touchdown favorite for Sunday’s contest.


On the other sideline, it’s critical for Purdue to take a step forward in 2015. Hazell’s team increased its win total from one in 2013 to three last season. The Boilermakers still have several question marks to answer, but there’s a young core to build around and hope to push for five or six wins this season.


Purdue and Marshall have met only one previous time. The Boilermakers defeated the Thundering Herd 51-41 in 2012.


Purdue at Marshall


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Marshall -7


Three Things to Watch


1. New Marshall QB Michael Birdsong

Rakeem Cato leaves big shoes to fill in Huntington. In four years as the starter for the Thundering Herd, Cato threw for 14,079 yards and 131 scores. James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong won the job in the spring, and the junior should keep the offense on track. As a freshman with James Madison in 2013, Birdsong threw for 2,728 yards and 22 scores. With a solid offensive line, one of the top Group of 5 running backs in Devon Johnson leading the way on the ground, and a talented receiving corps at his disposal, Birdsong won’t have to carry the offense on his own. However, this won’t be easy matchup. The Boilermakers return two starters in the secondary, including All-Big Ten candidate Frankie Williams. Birdsong’s first start with the Thundering Herd should be a good barometer test and provide the coaching staff with an idea of where this offense is after losing Cato.


2. Offensive Improvement at Purdue?

Purdue’s offense has struggled to get on track under Hazell, ranking near the bottom of the league in scoring offense in back-to-back seasons. With nine starters back, how much improvement will this unit show in 2015? Austin Appleby has settled into the starting role and is supported by a veteran offensive line and promising young running backs in Markell Jones and D.J. Knox. Marshall’s defense was vulnerable against the run last season (53rd nationally) and the pass rush is a concern. Will all of the experienced pieces start to come together for Purdue?


3. Stopping Marshall RB Devon Johnson

Johnson’s path to a place among the nation’s best running backs has been an interesting one. After two years as a tight end, Johnson was converted to running back and finished 2014 with 1,767 yards and 17 scores. The most impressive part of Johnson’s 2014 campaign has to be his 8.6 yards per carry, which was the best in the nation among running backs with at least 200 carries. Purdue struggled to stop the run last season, allowing 192.1 yards per game. Additionally, starting end Gelen Robinson is suspended. With Marshall breaking in a new quarterback, Johnson should be slated for a heavy workload to take the pressure off of the new signal-caller. Can Purdue keep Johnson in check?


Final Analysis


There’s no question Cato will be missed, and the passing attack will be a work in progress until Birdsong gets a few starts under his belt. However, the Thundering Herd offense can lean on Johnson, and the defense should make just enough plays to pull out a close win. Purdue is improving, and an upset here wouldn’t be a surprise. But the Boilermakers also have question marks on both sides of the ball as well, and the homefield advantage swings this one slightly in favor of Marshall.


Prediction: Marshall 31, Purdue 27
Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Saturday, September 5, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/arkansas-state-red-wolves-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction

USC and Week 1 opponent Arkansas State have some similarities. Both begin their second year under head coaches Steve Sarkisian and Blake Anderson. Both have outstanding quarterbacks looking to build off statistically impressive 2014 campaigns in Cody Kessler and Fredi Knighten. Each harbors realistic aspirations of conference championships.


That's where the similarities end. For traditional powerhouse USC, Saturday is an expected blowout on the road to the Trojans' return to national prominence. Anything less than one-sided domination will be met with external concern.


For Arkansas State, a program that achieved its first measure of sustained success in the FBS over the last four years, Saturday is an opportunity to score a historic victory. Even hanging tough in the Coliseum would help propel the Red Wolves further onto the national stage.


The stakes are much different for both teams. Still, Sarkisian is expecting a challenge from the Red Wolves' up-tempo offense.


"They're really doing a fantastic job of bringing in good football players," Sarkisian said of Arkansas State. "They play fast, they play hard, they play physical. It will be a heck of a matchup for us."


Arkansas State at USC


Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: USC -27


Three Things to Watch


1. Cody Kessler's Heisman Campaign Launching

Coming off a record-setting junior campaign, Kessler is front-and-center in the Heisman Trophy conversation. With the Red Wolves replacing every member of last season's solid secondary but one, the Trojan quarterback should have an opportunity to start 2015 with a padded resume.


"The Heisman is a great award," Sarkisian said. "But a lot of the Heisman is about your team, and how your team performs; especially late in the season...The early on [hype] is great, but for Cody, it's not about that. It's about our team performing well."


Still, a big start to the year doesn't hurt.


2. Options But No Clear Answers at Running Back

USC had just two scholarship running backs available last season, Buck Allen and Justin Davis. Both are out, with Allen now in the NFL and Davis an injury scratch for Week 1. Nevertheless, there's considerably more depth at the position with Tre Madden returned from injury that sidelined him most of 2013 and all of '14.


Madden is the veteran presence in a very young group. Three freshmen — Aca'Cedric Ware, Ronald Jones II and training camp standout Dominic Davis — will all see opportunities against Arkansas State. Madden's performance with nearly two years of rust and the acclimation of the freshmen to the college game are unknowns, but Saturday will provide some insight into what can be expected of the run game this season.


3. Defensive Aggression

A repeated storyline throughout USC's 2014 season was defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's conservative approach to blitzing. It was a vast departure from his time at Washington, where Wilcox oversaw one of the most aggressive blitzing defenses in college football.


Youth in the secondary and lack of depth in general explain Wilcox's different approach. Neither are now the issues they were last season, so expect to see a much more aggressive approach from the Trojans against Arkansas State. But doing so with purpose is the key, a point Wilcox drove home at training camp.


"Everybody wants to play aggressive," Wilcox said. "Are you going to zero-blitz every down? I don't think that's fair to say. It's mixing and matching."


With the capable rushing of Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten, USC's blitz must be measured or risk getting burned by the dual-threat playmaker.


Final Analysis


Arkansas State is a consistent winner, even amid repeated head coaching changes. Entering his second year at the helm, Anderson has a team ready to compete for the Sun Belt Conference championship. The Red Wolves most certainly won't roll over for the Trojans, so USC must come out aggressive from the outset to squash any hope of an upset early.


While the preseason hype might spark memories of 2012's failures, this is a different team. Expect USC to come out energized and tenacious in the first quarter and establish a big lead that allows Sarkisian to play reserves — a luxury USC didn't have last year.


Prediction: USC 45, Arkansas State 21


— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:50