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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

Clemson v Florida State Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Guess who’s back… Back again…
Earlier this week on this lil’ ol’ website, the question was posed asking whether Florida State was back after years of keeping the national stage at arm’s length.  Consider that question answered in the affirmative.  And with (late-game) authority.  Early on, though, the Seminoles were staggering, with No. 10 Clemson holding a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter and seemingly having the No. 4 team in the country on the ropes.  Then, all offensive hell broke loose for the ‘Noles.  In a span of just under 17 minutes, FSU exploded for 35 points to send the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium into a frenzy and, ultimately, home ecstatic with a resounding 49-37 thumping.  The win puts the Seminoles in the ACC driver’s seat — FSU will be significant favorites every single conference game the remainder of the season — and, depending on how things shake out above them, could find themselves in the same seat when it comes to the chase for the BcS title chase.  Of course, there are still several obstacles to navigate, none more obvious than themselves and shooting their own foot.  For now, though, every sign points to the Seminoles very much being back.

A RB graveyard in Corvallis
Apparently, Oregon State is the place where top-flight running backs go to die.  In two games this season, OSU has limited Wisconsin’s Montee Ball — third in the country last season in rushing yards — to 61 yards on 15 carries and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin — the nation’s leading rusher entering this weekend’s game — to 45 yards on 12 carries.  Neither player scored a touchdown.  The Beavers turnaround in that phase of the game is nothing short of astounding.  Last season, OSU ranked 101st in the country, allowing 193.8 rushing yards per game in winning just three games; this season, OSU, 2-0 after their win over the No. 19 Bruins, is giving up just 53.5 yards per game.

Here he comes to Stave the day
The most notable change at the quarterback position this weekend came courtesy of Wisconsin, with the Badgers taking the reins of their offense out of the hands of Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien and handing them to Joel Stave.  And, at least for one game, the redshirt freshman made the UW coaching staff look like a bunch of Norman Einsteins.  In his first collegiate start, Stave threw for 147 yards — in the first half; the Badgers came into the game with UTEP averaging 156.3, a total “good” for 117th out of 124 FBS programs.  For the game, Stave threw for 210 yards — the return of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis certainly helped the first-time starter — as the Badgers held off the Miners 37-26.

Red-hot, dead sexy MACtion
MAC football: it’s not just for Wednesdays any more.  On Saturday, The Little Midwest Conference That Could finished the day with a 6-3 record in non-conference games.  It was the victories, however, that were the story of the day as four of those wins came against members of BcS conferences — Kansas, 30-23 losers to Northern Illinois; USF, 30-27 losers to Ball State; Iowa, 32-31 losers to Central Michigan; and UConn, 30-24 losers to Western Michigan.  Not only that, but Eastern Michigan hung with a ranked Michigan State team through three and a half quarters, as did Akron vs. Tennessee; in fact, the only blowout in MAC vs. BcS matchups Saturday was Virginia Tech’s 37-0 drubbing of Bowling Green.  Add in a 4-0 Ohio University team that should be ranked somewhere inside the Top 25, and it’s shaping up like the MAC could be the best football conference in that area of the country and yes I’m looking directly at you B1G.

AIRBHG on sabbatical?
You have no doubt heard of the curse of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, with the Hawkeyes losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 players at the position to on-field injuries and/or off-field “issues” the past several years.  The fullback position is another animal entirely, as Mark Weisman proved Saturday afternoon.  The former walk-on rushed for a career-high 217 yards — the Hawkeyes as a team rushed for 215 — and scored three of Iowa’s four touchdowns.  In the end, however, the AIRBHG had the last laugh as Central Michigan, after recovering an onside kick with less than a minute left, kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Chips a stunning 32-31 win over the Hawkeyes.

LOSERS

Mizzou’s rude welcome to SEC continues
Well, that’s no way to treat the new guy, is it?  After Georgia spoiled Missouri’s SEC coming-out party two weeks ago in a physical 21-point beatdown, South Carolina dominated the Tigers in every phase of the game, pushing and bullying its way to an easy 31-10 win.  That leaves Mizzou 0-2 in conference play, with games against old-man football teams such as Alabama and Florida among others remaining.  Granted, Mizzou has faced the two preseason favorites in the SEC East, but the Tigers had been hoping to send an early-season message to rest of the league.  They’ve actually done that, but it’s not the message they would’ve preferred: simply put, the Tigers aren’t nearly ready to compete with the best the East has to offer, let alone the best that the conference serves up annually.

The forward pass in South Bend
This all you need to know about the aerial circus, replete with clowns and a bearded lady, that reared its ugly head in South Bend Saturday: the last five passes Michigan attempted in the first half were all intercepted by Notre Dame — four by Denard Robinson, one by Vincent Smith.  All told, seven were intercepted between the two teams; the two by the Irish were courtesy of starter Everett Golson, who was promptly yanked in favor of Tommy Rees.  Fortunately for the Wolverines, that was the last of the picks, although Robinson was kind enough to lose a fumble on the first possession of the third quarter.  Unfortunately, the combination of the turnovers and the Irish defense was too much to overcome as the Wolverines fell to 2-2 with the 13-6 loss.

Ramblin’ Wrecked
For the second time in four weeks, Georgia Tech has lost an ACC heartbreaker, with this one likely costing the Yellow Jackets any slim hopes they’d entertained of making a trip to the conference championship game.  In today’s loss to Miami, Tech fell behind 19-0… only to score the next 36 points… only to see The U score the final 23 points, including a touchdown in overtime that gave Miami a 42-36 win.  That game-winning touchdown came after Tech, with the initial possession of the extra session and eschewing a chippie field goal attempt, failed to convert a fourth-and-one from the two-yard line.  Combine that with a three-point overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener, and the Miami game was the back-end of a fatal one-two conference sucker punch to Tech’s gut.

No Moore equals much less for Boise
With the losses of Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and a whole host of other veteran starters, it was widely assumed that Boise State would struggle, especially on offense and early on in the season.  The struggles on that side of the ball, however, have been of a magnitude that no one could’ve reasonably predicted.  During the last three years with Moore under center, the Broncos never finished fifth in scoring and didn’t average less than 42 points a season.  Prior to the ugly win over BYU, BSU was 83rd in the country averaging 26 points per game, totals that will no doubt drop following their seven-point output against the Cougars.  Chris Petersen‘s track record says he will right the Broncos’ listing offensive ship; how soon that happens will determine whether the Broncos can once again crash the BcS postseason party.

Straight up the Wazzu
The highly-anticipated Mike Leach era at Washington State has been one long and  resounding thud.  A 24-point loss to BYU to open the season, then wins over FCS-level Eastern Washington and winless UNLV by a combined total of 12 points.  And then the biggest thud of all: a home loss to Colorado, a “football team” with an under-fire head coach and had just the week before given up 55 points and over 500 yards of total offense in the first half to Fresno State.  And had lost to Colorado State and FCS-level Sacramento State.  For Wazzu to lose a game against a team like that after leading by 17 in the fourth quarter is inexcusable and unacceptable, as explained by CFT correspondent Max Cady:

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 2 LSU 12, Auburn 10: Facing a road game against an opponent whose lone 2012 win came against Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, the Tigers escaped with win over Auburn.  It wasn’t pretty, but in the big conference picture, a win is a win is a win.  I wouldn’t think the Tigers would drop more than a spot in the polls, but you can never really tell which way the shifting voter winds will blow.

– No. 8 West Virginia 31, Maryland 21: I was on the fence about including this one, but the woeful state of Terrapin football proved to be the tipping point.  The Terps were actually tied with the Mountaineers in Morgantown midway through the second quarter and had outgained the explosive WVU offense by 70 yards.  WVU, as expected, pulled away for a double-digit win, but the fact that the Terps hung around for so long was eyebrow raising to say the least.

– No. 16 Ohio State 29, UAB 15: Trailing 9-0 late in the first half, and leading just 21-16 late in the fourth, Braxton Miller‘s second touchdown of the game — he now has 16 scores (seven passing, nine rushing) in four games — put the game away for the Buckeyes.  A perfect 4-0 in the first season under Urban Meyer, OSU will face its first real test of the season as they travel to East Lansing to face No. 21 Michigan State.

– No. 20 Louisville 28, FIU 20: The Cardinals trailed for the first time this season — 14-7 in the middle of the second quarter — before pulling away with 21 unanswered points in its fourth win to start the season.

– No. 21 Michigan State 16, Eastern Michigan 7: Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans were trailing a lesser opponent in the first half, with MSU actually trailing the Eagles late into the third quarter.  Based on this game and the overall start to the season, if MSU is the best the Big Ten has to offer then the conference is in for a very long, extremely embarrassing 2012 bowl season.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The Tide has outscored its opponents 168-21 in four games and likely won’t be tested for the first time this season — hello, Michigan!!! — until Oct. 27 against No. 23 Mississippi State.  Or the following weekend at No. 2 LSU. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Ole Miss

2. Florida State — An emphatic statement win indeed, one that’s been a long-time coming for the storied football program. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at USF

3. Oregon — Take a Top-25 team to the woodshed?  Stay right where you are, courtesy of FSU’s own woodshedding of a ranked foe. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at Washington State

4. LSU — Win by two points over an unranked team, regardless of whether it’s on the road against a conference foe?  Take two steps back, please. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Towson

5. Kansas State —  Go on the road and beat the No. 6 team in the country?  Go ahead and leapfrog numerous teams and right into this lil’ Top Five. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Kansas

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

– Arkansas’ John L. Smith: The past three weeks, Smith’s Razorbacks have lost to the Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Monroe; were woodshedded by Alabama in a shutout loss; and, Saturday, lost to Rutgers.  All of those losses came at home.  For all intents and purposes, Smith was a one-year rental to bridge the gap between the dismissed Bobby Petrino and a permanent replacement.  Based on the past three games, Smith has all but assured that will indeed be the case.  And will likely burn the bridge down in the process.

– Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: An ugly loss to Florida — which included Phillips sticking with in-over-his-head quarterback Morgan Newton, he of the three first-half interceptions — dropped the Wildcats to 1-3 on the season.  Phillips will be lucky to survive the entire season, let alone making it to 2013 on the Wildcats sideline.

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: For the first time since 1998, the Tigers have started a season 1-3.  For the first time since 1980, AU’s started SEC play 0-2.  We’ll reiterate a stat that says it all about Chizik’s tenure at AU.  With Cam Newton as his quarterback, Chizik is 14-0; without Newton, Chizik is 17-13 overall and 7-11 in SEC play.  In his career, Chizik is 22-30 as a head coach when he’s Cam-less.  If there is such a thing, a two-point setback to the No. 2 team in the country would qualify as a good loss.  For a program like AU and in a conference like the SEC, claiming moral victories is a sure sign you’re headed in the wrong direction.

HE SAID IT
“I don’t need any questions today.” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, channeling his inner Lane Kiffin, after giving his opening statement and promptly walking out of his postgame press conference.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
Tennessee has always had beautiful athletes.” — Akron head coach Terry Bowden, following the Zips loss to the Vols.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– After missing on his first throw of the day, Connor Shaw completed the final 20 passes he attempted in South Carolina’s taming of Missouri.  The FBS single-game record, incidentally, is 26 in a row set by East Carolina’s Dominique Davis in 2011.  Shaw can break Davis’ record of 36 straight completions over two games next week against Kentucky.

EJ Manuel and Chris Thompson combined to account for 585 of Florida State’s 667 yards of total offense — 380 yards passing for Manuel; 103 yards rushing for Thompson; and 102 yards rushing for Manuel.

– Oregon State’s Sean Mannion set a career-high in passing with 379 yards in the Beavers upset of UCLA.

– Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 253 yards in the win over Eastern Michigan.

– West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, second in the country in receptions per game entering today’s tilt with Maryland, caught 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 31-21 win over the Terps.

– A first-quarter fumble in the game against UTEP was the first fumble Montee Ball had lost during his career at Wisconsin.  The fumble came on his 655th carry as a Badger.  Ball ultimately left the game with a head injury in the first half and did not return.

Dustin Harris set a Texas A&M and SEC record with 246 yards worth of punt returns in the Aggies’ 70-14 win over South Carolina State.  He averaged nearly 31 yards on his eight returns, which included a 96-yarder for a touchdown.

– A first-half reception gave Syracuse’s Alec Lemon 140 for his career, breaking the school record of 139 previously held by Scott Schwedes (1983-86) and Shelby Hill (1990-93).

– Arizona took six trips into the red zone in its loss to Oregon, and failed to come away with any points on any of those visits.

– It took a little over 182 minutes of play this season for Iowa to record its first touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss from James Vandenberg to Kevonte Martin-Manley.  Army and UConn also threw their first touchdown passes of the season, leaving Air Force as the lone FBS team with no scoring plays through the air.

– Wake Forest’s run defense has given up a staggering 814 yards rushing the past two weeks — 385 in a loss to Florida State last weekend, 429 in a win over Army this weekend.  Last season, Alabama gave up just 938 yards in 13 games.  Speaking of which…

– An FAU touchdown with 2:46 left in the game was the first points No. 1 Alabama’s defense had given up since the third quarter of the season-opening win over Michigan, a span of 192:28.  This season, the Tide has outscored its four opponents 168-21.

– Nebraska scored 45 points and rolled up 362 yards of total offense in the first half alone of its blowout win over FCS-level Idaho State.  That number represented the most the Cornhuskers have scored in two quarters since scoring 52 points against Baylor in the first half in October of 2000.

– In Georgia’s 48-3 win over Vanderbilt, the 2012 Bulldogs became the first team in the program’s history to score 40-plus points in consecutive games.

– Ohio State’s win over UAB was the 400th for the Buckeyes in the history of Ohio Stadium.

– Florida’s win over Kentucky was the school’s 26th straight over the Mildcats.  In other streak news, Penn State has now won 30 consecutive games it’s played against Temple.

– On the strength of its 17-10 win over Syracuse, Minnesota has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2008.  And, if you want to talk about the state of the Big Ten, digest this little nugget: the Gophers and Northwestern are the conference’s only unbeaten teams that are eligible for the 2012 postseason.  Ouch.  The good news for the Big Ten?  Conference play begins next weekend, so the league is guaranteed to win half its games nearly every weekend.

– With a 31-19 win over Colorado State, Utah State has started a season 3-1 for the first time since 1978.  Senior running back Kerwynn Williams rushed for a career-high 205 yards and scored two touchdowns in the victory.

– North Carolina’s seven sacks in a win over East Carolina was the most for a Tar Heels team since 2000.

– Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke (no relation) threw for 730 yards and accounted for 791 yards of total offense in a 64-61 win over New Hampshire.  Those totals are the most ever in a single game at the Div. 1 level — FBS and FCS — and the third-most at any level.

– Derrick Henry, the No. 1 “athlete” in the Class of 2012, set a state of Florida record with 502 yards rushing in his high school football game Friday night.  Henry, who decommitted from Georgia earlier this year and is now believed to be leaning toward Alabama, broke the record of 501 yards set by Shawn Smith of Tampa Bay Tech back in 1985.

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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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Ohio State shows holes but powers past Navy

J.T. Barrett, Jacoby Boren, Bernard Sarra

It took some time for things to come together, but Urban Meyer finally saw his No. 5 Ohio State (1-0) team let their size and strength advantage paved the way to a season opening win in Baltimore against Navy (0-1). Playing without Braxton Miller at quarterback, the Buckeyes offense lacked much to give Navy trouble for most of the afternoon, but eventually the Buckeyes found a way to wear down the Navy defense and take advantage of some holes down the stretch of a 34-17 victory.

The second half started in wild fashion. Ohio State’s Darren Lee picked up and returned a fumble for a 61-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, but Navy stormed right down field with a quick four-play touchdown drive over 84 yards to regain the lead. Barrett unloaded a deep pass to Devin Street later in the third quarter for an 80-yard touchdown following a touchback on a punt. Ohio State went on to pull away in the second half by outscoring Navy 28-10 in the second half.

J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 15 pass attempts for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns with one interception. Barrett also led the Ohio State running game with 50 rushing yards. In the end, the formula was a familiar one for Ohio State without Miller, although at times the absence of Miller was unmistakable.

Going into the season the biggest questions for Ohio State were probably focused on the state of the running game and the stability of the offensive line. One game in, those concerns will still need to be addressed in Columbus. In this game, Navy managed to show why those concerns were legitimate, and the Midshipmen even showed an ability to wear down Ohio State’s defense at times. The Buckeyes had the talent to avoid letting it hurt them in the win column this weekend, but Meyer and his staff know what needs to improve moving forward.

Navy’s quarterback, Keenan Reynolds, ran the football 23 times for 42 yards and a touchdown before being removed from the game late in the fourth quarter. Ryan Williams-Jenkins was Navy’s leading rusher on the afternoon with 118 yards. Navy left points on the scoreboard though, but missed opportunities may not have led to a different outcome. The Buckeyes remain undefeated in the regular season since Meyer was named the head coach. Ohio State’s two losses last season both came in postseason play.

Ohio State will return home to Columbus next weekend, and it should make for another good defensive battle. Virginia Tech will be the opponent, and the Hokies could bring one of the better defenses in the ACC to town with them. Virginia Tech’s defense should be bigger and stronger than Navy’s, so Ohio State will have to really work on getting more out of the offense.

Navy will head to Philadelphia next week for a game against Temple. The Owls are coming off a season-opening victory at Vanderbilt. Navy will not play a true home game in Annapolis until September 20 when they host another Big Ten opponent, Rutgers.

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Irish will be down a starting DB for opener

BYU v Notre Dame Getty Images

An injury will cost Notre Dame an experienced member of its secondary for the season opener this afternoon.

According to IrishIllustrated.com, starting safety Austin Collinsworth has a strained MCL and will not play in the game against Rice.  The school would only confirm that Collinsworth would not play due to an unspecified injury.

Not only is the defensive back out for the opener, the website is reporting he could miss a couple of weeks.  That would put the senior’s availability for the primetime matchup next Saturday with Michigan up in the air as well.

Last season, Collinsworth started 11 of the 13 games in which he played.  Elijah Shumate and his five career starts will take over for Collinsworth.

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Blake Sims, not Jacob Coker, to get start for Tide vs. WVU

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In the end, the presumptive frontrunner will find himself on the sidelines when Alabama’s offense takes to the field for the first time in 2014.

A couple of hours prior to the opener against West Virginia, and as was hinted at earlier in the week, Nick Saban confirmed to ESPN that Blake Sims will be the Tide’s starting quarterback for this afternoon’s game.  Sims, AJ McCarron‘s backup in 2013, had been engaged in a competition throughout summer camp with Jacob Coker, the Florida State transfer who many (most?) had expected to stake his claim as McCarron’s successor.

The Tide head coach said the reason for his decision was that Sims knew the system better.  While both Sims and Coker are in their first year with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, the former had the benefit of an entire spring learning the new scheme.  Coker, meanwhile, didn’t come to the Tide until the summer.

Even as  Sims will start the WVU game, it didn’t sound as if he’s locked down the job for the remainder of the schedule.

“We’ll start Blake … and we’ll make the decisions and judgments from there,” Saban told ESPN.

Sims, a redshirt senior, will be making his first start at the collegiate level.

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Michigan’s Gardner-Funchess combo going off on App State

Devin Funchess

It doesn’t appear a replay of the 2007 nightmare is in the offing for Michigan.

At the end of the first half in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines are up on transitioning-into-FBS Appalachian State 35-0.  The first three of those five UM touchdowns came from the right arm of quarterback Devin Gardner to the hands of wide receiver Devin Funchess.

Gardner has completed 11 of his 12 passes for 153 yards.  Funchess, wearing his new jersey number well, has seven catches for 93 yards in the first half.

Additionally, sophomore running back Derrick Green, a five-star member of UM’s 2013 recruiting class, has rushed for 85 yards on eight carries.  Green’s backup, De’Veon Smith, has been even more productive in rushing for 99 yards on just six carries.

Defensively, the Wolverines have held the Mountaineers to just 74 yards of total offense — UM has 334 — and have not allowed a third-down conversion (0-8).  ASU has just four-first-half first downs, and went three-and-out on six of their first seven drives.

Appalachian State, which stunned Michigan seven years ago in the Big House, was 4-8 last year and is in its first season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

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Miller-less Buckeyes struggling to find offense vs Navy

Keenan Reynolds ,

Ohio State is experiencing first hand just how valuable Braxton Miller may have been to the Buckeyes offense. Without the experienced playmaker under center, Ohio State finds themselves in a tough battle with Navy in Baltimore. The Midshipmen hold a 7-6 lead at the half.

J.T. Barrett was given the start for Ohio State at quarterback, and he has shown some signs of being a young player. Barrett scrambled out of a tackle but tossed a bad interception deep in the Navy end of the field. It was picked off by Navy, but the Mids were unable to do anything with the football but run time off the clock. That is fine with Navy though.

Keenan Reynolds has led the signature triple-option offense for Navy as expected, and was bailed out by a video review overturning what was originally ruled a fumble recovery by Ohio State deep in the Navy end. A lapse in time management may have hurt Navy at the end of the first half when a timeout was not called with time ticking away in the final minute. Instead of having time for at least one more play, Navy was forced to go right to a field goal attempt in the final seconds of the first half. The kick was wide to keep the score set at 7-6.

Navy will get the football to start the second half. If this is going to be a low-scoring contest, that may eventually pay off for Navy as the offense could wear down Ohio State’s defense over time.

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UCLA defense scores 3 TDs in second quarter at Virginia

Ka'Deem Carey, Myles Jack

Perhaps the UCLA Bruins are still shrugging off some jet lag from a flight across the country. UCLA’s offense is off to a sluggish start on the road against Virginia Despite the rough start, the Bruins are still on top on the scoreboard 21-10 at the half. You can thank the defense for that.

UCLA took a 7-0 lead on a 20-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Ishmael Adams early in the second quarter. Later in the second quarter UCLA added to the lead with a 75-yard fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by defensive back Randall Goforth just as Virginia was moving the football. On the ensuing drive Eric Kendricks (12 tackles) picked off a pass from Greyson Lambert and returned it 37-yards for a third touchdown in the second quarter. That led to a quarterback change for Mike London and Virginia, with Matt Johns coming in under center on the next drive. Linebacker Myles Jack has recorded 11 tackles and broken up a pass in the first half. Defense has not been the problem for the Bruins.

Heisman Trophy contender Brett Hundley has failed to take advantage of his performance early on in front of the east coast. Hundley has completed seven of 14 pass attempts for 98 yards and has been sacked three times.

At some point UCLA will need to do something on offense. They may not have to do it today though.

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Penn State QB makes history in Croke Park Classic

Christian Hackenberg

Not even Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge or Michael Robinson did what Penn State’s sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg accomplished Saturday in the Croke Park Classic against the UCF Knights.

Hackenberg is the first quarterback in Penn State history to throw for 400 yards or more in a single game as he lead the Nittany Lions to a thrilling 26-24 victory over the Knights in Dublin, Ireland.

The sophomore finished 32-of-47 passing for 454 yards. The performance was highlighted by a game-winning drive. Hackenberg was 4-of-6 passing for 47 yards during the final 1:13 of the contest to set up the winning field goal by senior kicker Sam Ficken.

During the performance, pundits were drooling over the potential which Hackenberg represents. Hackenberg forced a couple of throws which resulted in interceptions, but those poor throws didn’t take away from the fact he was the best player on the field. This was simply a great performance to build upon a resume that may result in Hackenberg becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 or 2017 NFL draft.

And Penn State capitalized on the talent it has behind center.

Once the team couldn’t establish the run early in the game, the onus fell on Hackenberg to carry the team. He was clearly able to do so. The young signal caller was able to evade pressure in the pocket, make throws on the move and manipulate UCF’s secondary to complete a beautiful 79-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Geno Lewis to give the Nittany Lions a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Lewis finished with 173 receiving yards. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton was nearly as good with 11 receptions for 165 yards.

For UCF, head coach George O’Leary waited far too long to make a crucial change at quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo started the game and struggled mightly. DiNovo was a paltry 3-of-8 passing for 18 yards in the first half. O’Leary then inserted Justin Holman into the lineup during the third quarter, and the sophomore brought instant energy to the lineup. Holman led the Knights to 21 points in the second half with 204 passing yards. He added a pair of touchdowns, one passing and one running. Holman had his team in a position to win with 1:13 remaining, but the Knights’ defense simply couldn’t hold.

Despite the outcome, the two teams learned something equally important about their quarterbacks.

Penn State quickly came to the realization it must rely heavily on Hackenberg this season as the offensive line continues to gel and the running game struggles. UCF, meanwhile, will almost certainly move forward with Holman behind center, and the Knights will be a better team for it.

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Michigan WR Funchess looks to carry on new uniform tradition

Devin Funchess

Michigan football has a relatively new history of suiting up key players with historic uniform numbers for players. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, playing tight end last season, wore the number 87 jersey, which is the number previously worn by one of the all-time greats in Michigan football history, Ron Kramer. With Funchess moving to wide receiver this season, the Wolverine decided it was best to leave that uniform number to the tight end position.

“It was an incredible honor to be selected to wear the number 87 Legends jersey in honor of Ron Kramer,” Funchess said in a statement shared by Michigan. “I spoke with his son, Kurt, and many of my teammates before I decided to change my number and they were all unbelievably supportive. Ron Kramer was the best tight end in Michigan history, and I think his number should be worn by someone playing that position.”

Funchess will now wear the number one on his uniform. The inspiration to wear that uniform number came from watching former Michigan receivers make big plays wearing the number.

“I watched a lot of Michigan greats over the offseason and kept seeing receivers wearing number one making plays, from Anthony Carter to Derrick Alexander, David Terrell and Braylon Edwards, and I wanted to carry on another Michigan tradition this season.”

Funchess gives Michigan a big target at receiver and it should help boost the quality of receivers for Michigan at what might be a bit of a question mark at the start of the new season. Michigan opens the seaosn at home against Appalachian State.

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Ohio State’s Heuerman will wear Braxton’s No. 5

Braxton Miller

Ohio State opens the news season in Baltimore this afternoon against Navy. The Buckeyes were dealt a major blow to the roster, and thus their lofty expectations, with the loss of quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury before the season started. Though Miller will not be playing on the field, his presence will be recognized.

Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman, a co-captain for the Buckeyes, will wear Miller’s uniform number as a tribute to the injured quarterback.

A classy move, for sure.

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