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Ohio State athletes getting hooked up with iPads

iPad II

The term “student-athlete’ is scoffed at regularly in today’s college football environment, but credit Ohio State for providing its student-athletes with a valuable and functional piece of technology.

The school announced today that they’ll be providing 500 athletes with iPads (pictured and, oh hey, is that the free NBC Sports Talk app? What a coincidence!) beginning this school year as part of its Digital First program to better adapt to the digital age of education.

But before anyone makes a “yeah, but all they’re going to do is sell it for discounted tattoos” joke, rest assured that the only way anyone will part with an iPad… ever… is if someone else pries it from their lifeless fingers. It truly is — and I say this as a new owner of one — a practical tool, that if used correctly, will absolutely enhance one’s educational experience.

Or, they’ll just play Angry Birds and Words With Friends. Either one.

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One game in, Florida State already learning title defense is different than a title chase

Jameis Winston

Florida State has not been tested like that since, well, the last time they took the field. Aside from the BCS National Championship barn burner, Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles were not seriously tested at any point during the 2013 regular season, unless you want to count a four-point third-quarter lead versus Boston College being seriously tested.

One game into their title defense, though, and these 2014 Seminoles have been seriously tested. Florida State built a 17-0 second-quarter lead, but was never able to shake the pesky Pokes. Oklahoma State pulled within 17-10 at the half, 20-17 in the third quarter, 27-24 in the fourth quarter, and had the ball with a chance for the lead with under five minutes to play in the game.

Unranked Oklahoma State proved every bit No. 1 Florida State’s athletic equal at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night, outrushing the Seminoles 161-106 and sacking Jameis Winston twice. More seriously, Pokes quarterback J.W. Walsh kept a zone read and raced around the left side with 50 yards of green artificial turf ahead of him, and opportunity that would have given Oklahoma State the lead with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, until Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams forced and then recovered a fumble. Walsh completed 15-of-27 passes for 203 yards with a touchdown and a back-breaking pick six, and added 11 rushes for 51 yards and a career-best two touchdowns.

Winston hit Rashad Greene with a 50-yard catch-and-run two plays later to put Florida State up 37-24 with 3:58 to play. Greene had a career night, collecting 11 receptions and 203 of Winston’s 370 passing yards.

Though Walsh would notch a three-yard scoring burst two minutes later, Oklahoma State never again had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Final score: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31.

Saturday night’s extravaganza showcased the absolute best of these made-for-TV neutral site match-ups. Each team will be better for the opportunity, and the nation got to see the defending national champion pushed by a rebuilding program that appears to be better than anyone – perhaps including its own coaching staff – ever anticipated.

Florida State hosts The Citadel and then takes a week off before opening its ACC schedule against No. 16 Clemson in Tallahassee. Oklahoma State returns to Stillwater to face Missouri State next week and, though there are plenty of land mines throughout, does not face another team currently ranked in the AP Top 25 until Nov. 1.

 

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Wisconsin having its way with LSU through two quarters

D.J. Welter, Reggie Love

There’s still 30 minutes of football left to be played, but the Big Ten is well on its way to making a resounding Week 1 statement.

Through two quarters of play, and entering the game as roughly a seven-point underdog, the No. 14 Badgers have essentially controlled every aspect of the game in jumping out to a 17-7 lead on No. 13 LSU.  The Tigers lone score of the half came on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Jennings to Travin Dural; aside from that, they totaled just 57 yards of total offense on 29 other plays.

LSU’s offense managed just six first downs and converted only one of their eight third downs.  Additionally, their vaunted rushing attack managed a meager 1.1 yards on its 15 attempts

The Badgers, meanwhile, have “rolled up” 208 yards of offense.  Obviously, most of that damage came on the ground as UW pounded out 173 first-half yards on the ground.  The badgers averaged 6.9 yards per carry.

Also just as obviously, Melvin Gordon keyed that attack, rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.  LSU’s lone turnover of the game, the only turnover for either team, preceded Gordon’s 14-yard scoring jaunt in the middle of the second quarter.

The Badgers also scored on a perfectly-executed 45-yard end-around by wide receiver Reggie Love for the first points of the game.

One more plus in UW’s favorite: they will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Weather forces cancellation of Idaho-Florida game

lightning

Mother Nature has forced the unveiling of Florida’s new-look offense to be delayed by a week.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m. ET, UF announced that its season opener at The Swamp against Idaho has been “terminated due to unsafe field conditions.”  The game had been scheduled to kick-off at seven o’clock local time, but severe thunderstorms prompted what turned into a nearly three-hour delay.

NCAA rules dictate that any lightning strike within eight miles of a stadium triggers a delay of no less than one hour.

Play resumed around 10 ET, but yet another lightning strike immediately following the opening kickoff return prompted yet another delay.  Once that second delay happened, the NCAA rulebook kicked in again.

There has been no makeup date scheduled, although it was initially reported that the game wouldn’t be rescheduled and the two teams would instead settle for 11-game seasons.  However, it was subsequently reported that the game could be made up.

Both teams have off-weekends Oct. 25, so that’s certainly a possibility.

As for photographic evidence of why the game was cancelled, it’s very easy to see:

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OK State survives early punches, hits back vs. No. 1 FSU

J.W. Walsh

We knew what we were getting from top-ranked and defending national champion Florida State. The question was what kind of effort would Oklahoma State show, and what would happen when they got down early? A year ago, a 17-0 deficit against these Seminoles was an automatic death sentence, and usually a quite painful one.

Oklahoma State fell behind 17-0 in the second quarter and, so far, they’ve lived to tell about it. The Cowboys survived an awful J.W. Walsh pick six and a Mario Pender 11-yard touchdown rush to forge a 17-10 halftime deficit. Desmond Roland punched in a 1-yard scoring plunge with 3:58 to go in the first half and, after intercepting Jameis Winston for the second time of the night, set up a 37-yard Ben Grogan field goal as the clock hit quadruple zeroes on the first half.

A winning effort for these Cowboys undoubtedly requires two more Florida State turnovers and none of their own, because Walsh (8-of-14, 62 yards) isn’t getting it done through the air, and defensive coordinator Charles Kelly figures to sit on the run over the final 30 minutes.

Florida State (205 passing yards, 27 rushing) gets the ball to open the second half.

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Meet your first 2014 Heisman front-runner: Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley, Kyrin Priester

We theorized at halftime that Todd Gurley’s four first-half carries were a result of No. 12 Georgia coaches saving him for the all-important second half. Gurley rushed only 11 times in the second half. Those 11 carries, though, went for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Add it all up and you get 15 carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns, a 100-yard kickoff return for a fourth touchdown, and our first bona fide Heisman Trophy front-runner performance of 2014.

Aside from his own numbers, Gurley’s battering ram effect open the floodgates for the entire Bulldog backfield. The same Georgia runners that accounted for only 14 yards on seven carries – aside from Gurley’s 44 – in the first half ended the night with cold-clocking No. 16 Clemson’s touted defensive line for a total of 328 rushing yards. Nick Chubb carried four times for 70 yards and a 47-yard score, and would have had another if not for a penalty. Sony Michel added 33 yards on six carries. Hutson Mason added 131 yards on 18-of-26 passing.

Elsewhere, Clemson’s two-quarterback system collapsed in on itself after a productive (276 yards of total offense) first half. Their longest second half possession? Four plays for 19 yards. Jeremy Pruitt’s defense got more and more suffocating as the game went on; Clemson’s final three possessions went minus-three, minus-six and minus-19 yards. In seven  second-half possessions, the Tigers produced seven punts and 15 total yards.

In a related story, after a 21-21 first half, Georgia won the second half 24-0.

In the end, the night belonged to Gurley. The talent is there – clearly. If he can stay healthy, and this is where those 15 precious carries are so crucial, and he’ll have his name booked for a flight to New York in December.

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Auburn picks up where it left off, cruises past Arkansas

Nick Marshall, Josh Liddell

The last time Auburn took the pristine field at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Chris Davis carried the ball 109 yards, past the Alabama field goal unit and into the pages of history. Nine months later, Gus Malzahn and the No. 6 Auburn Tigers picked up right where they left off, cruising past Arkansas 45-21.

Jeremy Johnson earned the start for a double-secret suspended Nick Marshall and could not have started hotter, guiding Auburn on touchdown drives of 75, 75 and 98 to open the game. The sophomore hit his first eight throws for 204 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which came on the same extended play-action that tied the Alabama game, carrying Melvin Ray 49 yards into the same end zone where Ricardo Louis stunned Georgia and where the Tigers scored the tying and winning touchdowns against Alabama. Johnson played the entire first half and did all of his damage through the air, hitting 13-of-17 passes for 243 yards and those two scores.

Marshall played the second half and got the familiar Malzahn-patented running game going. In addition to his own 19-yard scoring dash to open the second half, Marshall’s presence gave Auburn’s running backs space to do their best Tre Mason impressions. Cameron Artis-Payne rushed 26 for 178 yards and one touchdown, and Corey Grant added 10 carries for 87 yards and another score.

Arkansas matched Auburn score for score early. With an offensive line that the SEC Network broadcast noted as the fourth-largest in all of football, the Razorbacks pummeled the Auburn front for 151 yards on seven yards a pop in forging a 21-21 halftime deadlock, but defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s unit dominated the second half. Every second half Arkansas possession traveled 20 yards or less and ended in a punt, except for the one Jermaine Whitehead ended with a 33-yard pick six that effectively shut down any chance of an upset.

After rushing for those 151 first-half yards, Arkansas was nearly doubled up on the ground, 302-153. That means Arkansas rushed for two yards in the second half.

The second half was fractured by a one hour, 28 minute weather delay. And, in the ultimate act of vengeance by the football gods, after years debate over the hurry-up no-huddle and debates about “what we want football to be” that saw Bret Bielema and Malzahn taking polar opposite sides, the Jordan-Hare Stadium clocks were inoperable for the entire first half.

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Saban: WR DeAndrew White has ‘little separated shoulder’

West Virginia v Alabama

Alabama’s closer-than-expected win over West Virginia came with a little bit of personnel cost.

Following the game, Nick Saban said that starting wide receiver DeAndrew White suffered what the head coach described as a “little separated shoulder.”  At least for the moment, the prognosis is that White will be out for a week or so.

The Tide takes on FAU and Southern Miss the next two weeks before opening SEC play against Florida Sept. 20.  Based on that schedule, it’s likely the UA medical staff will err on the side of caution when it comes to a return.

Prior to the injury, White had six catches for 73 yards.  The receptions were a career-high, while the yardage was second to 82- and 80-yard efforts last season.

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Through one half, Todd Gurley is the best player on the field…. when he’s on the field

Todd Gurley

Georgia is a special football team when Todd Gurley has the ball in his hands, and something less than that when he doesn’t. We have plenty of evidence supporting that thesis.

Through one half against Clemson, it’s clear Georgia coaches are limiting Gurley’s reps in an effort to keep him in the game, and effective, throughout the entire game. As it stands at the break, the all-everything junior has just four rushes for 44 yards and a 23-yard touchdown (to go with one reception for a loss of five yards), and a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown that tied Clemson at 21 apiece at the 7:15 mark of the second quarter. Georgia runners other than Gurley have combined for 14 yards on seven carries, while new starter Hutson Mason has connected on 11-of-16 passes for only 68 yards.

On the opposite sideline, Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris has juggled snaps for quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson with mostly positive results. Stoudt has gotten the majority of the reps, completing only 9-of-20 passes for 115 yards and an interception, but adding some important rushes for an additional 27 yards. Watson led one of Clemson’s three scoring drives by rushing once for seven yards and completing two of his three passes for 59 yards and a fabulous 30-yard touchdown pass on a rope to Charone Peake.

Overall, Clemson outgained Georgia by a two-to-one margin (276-113) and allowed the ‘Dogs just nine first downs, but special teams breakdowns (the aforementioned Gurley kick return, plus a missed field goal by Ammon Lakip in the final minute of the half) prevented the Tigers from owning the scoreboard in the same way it dominated the box score.

With the game tied at 21-21 and the Bulldogs slated to touch the ball another half-dozen times or so, expect Georgia to give the rock to their all-terrain vehicle of a running back early and often in the second half.

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Alabama survives West Virginia scare

Blake Sims, Kyle Rose

No. 2 Alabama (1-0) was a heavy favorite against West Virginia (0-1), but Nick Saban‘s Crimson Tide had to fight for a victory to prevent a rare three-game losing streak. Alabama held off West Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, winning 33-23.

Alabama used Blake Sims under center and never had a need to mix things up by inserting Jacob Coker, the Florida State transfer. Sims was efficient enough to run the Alabama offense, completing 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards. He was picked off once and did not throw a touchdown pass, but Alabama thrived enough on the ground to make that meaningless. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns and Derrick Henry added 113 yards and a touchdown. Alabama rolled up over 500 yards of offense and West Virginia struggled to keep up in the second half.

There were some bright spots for Dana Holgorsen to build off from moving forward. Quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 365 yards an a touchdown, but there were too many missed opportunities and dropped passes by West Virginia’s offense to keep the pressure on Alabama.

West Virginia had chances, but dropped passes on key downs and situations prevented the Mountaineers from giving Alabama even more of a challenge. But let’s say this much about the effort shown by West Virginia. We may have seen signs that this year’s team should be better and more respected in the Big 12 than they were a season ago. This may not have been the strongest effort or team we have seen from Alabama in previous seasons, but the Crimson Tide are still a behemoth. West Virgina was not quite playing David to Alabama’s Goliath, but they were a significant underdog that took it to the Tide and kept this game interesting from start to finish. Few seemed to expect that. Can West Virginia compete in the Big 12? There is still some work to prove worthy of being in the same conversation with Oklahoma or Baylor, but we now are taking notice of some potential from West Virginia.

Alabama will hope to get a little more of a breather next week when the Crimson Tide open up the home schedule against Florida Atlantic. West Virginia will open its home schedule next weekend in Morgantown against Towson.

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FSU to be without starting LB for opener

Syracuse v Florida State

Florida State is just hours away Saturday night’s Cowboys Classic opener against Oklahoma State, and a revamped defense will be without one of its key cogs as its title defense begins.

According to Warchant.com, starting linebacker Chris Casher will not dress for tonight’s game for what has been described as “academic-related” issues, which could be resolved as early as next week. Casher missed practice on Thursday, as head coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters the sophomore was in class.

Casher played in 13 games as a redshirt freshman during the Seminoles’ title march. He collected 25 tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and returned another fumble for a touchdown as a reserve defensive end.

It is not known for sure how defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will account for Casher’s absence, but it known for certain that the ‘Noles are still regarded as heavy favorites. The Seminoles and Cowboys will kick off at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Points aplenty at Jordan-Hare, Auburn and Arkansas tied at 21 at the half

Jeremy Johnson

We knew Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Marshall would not start at quarterback for Auburn, but not much beyond that. As long as Jeremy Johnson stays white-scorching-hot, Marshall’s 2014 debut will remain to be determined.

The true sophomore quarterback connected on his first eight passes good for 204 yards and two touchdowns – equating to a passer rating of nearly 400 – in helping Auburn build a 21-7 second quarter lead over Arkansas. The only thing to halt Auburn’s first three drives was the end line, as Gus Malzahn’s bunch marched 75, 75 and 98 yards to open the game.

To Arkansas’ credit, at least the offense looks vastly improved from last season. The Razorbacks rallied to tie the game with 4:28 remaining in the first half by mounting consecutive drives of 75 and 93 yards after falling to that 21-7 deficit.

All told, these teams have combined for 578 yards of total offense. Alex Collins leads the Arkansas attack with six rushes for 70 yards, complimented by Brandon Allen’s 116 passing yards and two scores. The Hogs have pounded the Auburn front for 151 rushing yards on 21 carries, and then victimized Auburn over the top with play-action passes to tight ends A.J. Derby and Hunter Henry. Johnson has connected on 12 of 16 passes for 243 yards and those two scores, while Tigers receiver Duke Williams has collected seven grabs for 138 yards and a touchdowns.

Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson missed a field goal off the right upright to close the first half. Auburn gets the ball to start the second half.

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WVU’s Mario Alford one-ups Alabama’s TD, but Tide lead

Mario Alford, Cy Jones

Just when it looked as though Alabama had gained control and all was right in the world of college football, West Virginia’s special teams struck back. Alabama had scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the first half, but West Virginia’s Mario Alford returned the ensuing kick down the right sideline, found enough room to burst through and hit fifth gear on his way to a 100-yard touchdown return. Alabama, though, holds the halftime lead thanks to a late field goal, 20-17.

Alabama’s late half touchdown was keyed by a great move by receiver DeAndrew White, who broke loose for a 38-yard gain after making cut after cut once getting his hands on the football. T.J. Yeldon did the rest with a pair of carries to move closer to the end zone and then to punch it in himself. Yeldon, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, has 46 rushing yards at the half.

West Virginia has been sticking to what seems to be the best form of kryptonite to Alabama’s defensive style. Dana Holgorsen‘s offense has been keeping things moving when it can, pushing Alabama’s defense down field without allowing for a chance to substitute when possible. Clint Trickett has thrown for 168 yards and a touchdown, which was hailed in beautifully by a stretching Kevin White. White leads West Virginia with 69 receiving yards. Alabama’s Amari Cooper leads all players with 88 receiving yards at the half.

If you are wondering if Alabama might give quarterback Jacob Coker a shot in the second half, there does not appear to be a reason for a change just yet. Blake Sims has been efficient with his passing and has not done anything to cost Alabama in the process. That is pretty much what you expect from a Nick Saban quarterback.

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Starting D-lineman one of three Gators suspended for opener

Tennessee v Florida

Florida, especially along the defensive line, will be at less than full strength for its opener Saturday night thanks to a couple of moves made earlier today.

According to the school, defensive linemen Darious Cummings and Jay-nard Bostwick as well as wide receiver Demarcus Robinson have been suspended for the opener against Idaho in The Swamp. The two lineman will miss the game because of unspecified violations of team rules while Robinson is sitting for “university sanctions.”

It’s believe all three suspensions are one-game deals.

“I support the university sanctions,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “We have rules here that we have to follow – team, athletic department and university rules – and when you don’t follow them there are consequences. I expect all three players to return next week.”

After coming to the Gators as a JUCO transfer last year, Cummings started six of the 11 games in which he played in 2013. He was listed as the starting nose tackle on UF’s most recent depth chart.
Cummings’ backup on that depth chart? Bostwick, who took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

Robinson, a true sophomore, played in seven games last season, catching five passes for 23 yards. He’s listed as the No. 2 X receiver behind starter Quinton Dunbar.

Last season, Robinson was suspended twice: for the Tennessee game in September and the final two games of the season.

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UCLA defense leads Bruins past Virginia

UCLA Virginia Football

No. 7 UCLA’s (1-0) defense had to do a little bit of everything in picking up what turned out to be a much tougher game than anticipated at Virginia (0-1). The Bruins held on for a 28-20 victory on the road, but the offense had little to do with the result.

UCLA scored three touchdowns in the second quarter of the game, and it could not have come on a better day. UCLA’s offense was off-key for most of the early afternoon kickoff, converting on just seven of 18 third down attempts and failing on both fourth down conversion attempts. The Bruins managed just 116 rushing yards and gave up five sacks to the Virginia defense. Brett Hundley, entering the season as a Heisman hopeful, did not have much of a Heisman-quality game. Hundley completed 20 of 33 pass attempts for 242 yards but failed to send one pass into the end zone. He did, however, rush for one touchdown and 39 yards.

Virginia managed to move the ball on UCLA for most of the game, and the Cavaliers held the edge in time of possession by holding the football for 34 minutes 30 seconds. Quarterback Greyson Lambert got off to a rough start, but a quarterback change to Matt Johns seemed to give the home team a spark on offense. Johns completed 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns to give Virginia life in the second half. the damage done by the first half turnovers though were too much of a hole to dig out of on this day.

It was not much to speak of as far as a complete game effort by UCLA, but the offense did make some key plays in the fourth quarter to keep Virginia off the field. At some point though, and hopefully soon, the Bruins will have to get back to making things happen on offense as well. Perhaps they will be given a pass for playing a noon game on the east coast, which is no easy feat for any west coast team in football (college or NFL).

UCLA returns home next weekend to host Memphis. The following week the Bruins will head to Arlington, Texas to take on the Texas Longhorns.

Virginia will stay home and host Mike London‘s previous program, Richmond.

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Five-peat: Cyclones latest FBS victim for North Dakota State

Aaron Wimberly, Carlton Littlejohn AP

Fear the Bison indeed.

Saturday afternoon in Ames, North Dakota State beat — note the lack of the word “upset” — the homestanding Iowa State Cyclones, walking out with a 34-14 beating and/or woodshedding of ISU.  A few years ago, such a win would’ve been seismic.  Now?  Just another day at the football office for the Bison.

The season-opening win marks the fifth straight season that NDSU, the FCS champions the past three season, has knocked off an FBS team.  In fact, it’s the fourth win against a team from one of the so-called Power Five conferences in that span.

The growing list of slain FBS victims is as follows:

– a season-opening 24-21 win over Kansas State in 2013.
— a 22-7 win over Colorado State in 2012.
— a 2011 win over Minnesota by the score of 37-24.
–a 6-3 win over Kansas in the 2010 opener.

Memo to FBS football programs, especially those lower-level Power Five conference teams: Stop.  Scheduling. The Bison.  You’re welcome.

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