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CFT Predicts: the Pac-12

David Yankey, David Shaw, Shayne Skov AP

As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Pac-12.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Big Ten

Pac-12 North

1. Stanford (Last year: 12-2; beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl)
What happened last season?
Though Stanford lost arguably the best quarterback to ever pass through the program in Andrew Luck, the Cardinal did something it couldn’t when Luck and Jim Harbaugh were on The Farm: win the Pac-12. David Shaw is quickly ascending the list of best college coaches in the country. I mean, the guy did a Ted Talk. Clearly Stanford is big-time now.

So why are they ranked here?
The Cardinal are experienced and there really aren’t many glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is undefeated as a starter and has a solid offensive line and running game that brings back Tyler Gaffney. The defensive front seven returns plenty of starters too, including linebacker Shayne Skov. This is a solid team all around.

Anything else?
Things get a little more interesting schedule-wise in the second half of the season. The Cardinal play UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive weeks before ending the year against Cal and Notre Dame. Weather that schedule and Stanford will absolutely be in the national title discussion. And I’d like their chances of winning it all (meaning, by rule of the jinx, they’ll go 8-5 and OMG I’m so sorry, you guys [sad face]).

2. Oregon (Last year: 12-1; beat Kansas State in Fiesta Bowl)
What happened last season?
Another BCS win for the Ducks would end up being the final game for coach Chip Kelly, who left for the NFL shortly thereafter. But the important story line here is that the one-point safety happened and we are all now better off as humans for seeing it.

So why are they ranked here?
The Pac-12 North looks like it could play out in a similar fashion to the SEC East, where Georgia and South Carolina could be slotted in either order as 1A or 1B. Oregon is actually the preseason favorite to win the North (and the league’s championship game) — albeit by the slimmest of margins — but if it comes down to it, I’m going to go with Shaw over first-year coach Mark Helfrich.

Anything else?
There’s a lot of national focus on Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel as far as as quarterbacks go, but keep an eye on Marcus Mariota. This redshirt sophomore was efficient in his first year as a starter, throwing for 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. He has great size (6-foot-4 and 211 pounds) and athleticism.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 9-4; lost to Texas in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Just when you think Mike Riley is on the way out of Corvallis, he orchestrates one of the more dramatic turnarounds in college football. (Not that I thought Riley was on his way out or anything… Okay, I did.) The Beavers started 6-0 before exchanging wins and losses through the rest of the year, which ended in a bowl loss to Texas.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s good offensive firepower returning for Oregon State. This team has two capable quarterbacks in Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, and running back has both talent and depth. The question will continue to be on the offensive line can pave the way for OSU to have a better rushing attack than the one that ranked 101st in the country a year ago. On defense, the Beavers’ secondary should be a strength even with the departure of Jordan Poyer.

Anything else?
It wouldn’t be surprising to see this team 7-0 headed into a huge home game against Stanford — and playing in Reser Stadium can be a thorn for opposing teams. But there are no gimmes on the schedule once late October rolls around.

4. Washington (Last year: 7-6; lost to Boise State in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas)
What happened last season?
This can be summed up in highlights and lowlights. Highlight: beating Stanford, however ugly it was, 17-13. Lowlight: a regular-season ending loss to Wazzu in the Apple Cup. In overtime. Woof.

So why are they ranked here?
Steve Sarkisian isn’t on the hot seat, but it’s time to win more than seven games. Keith Price returns as one of the more talented quarterbacks in the Pac-12, but he’s also never experienced the luxury known as pass protection. If he has time, this is an offense that can put up a lot of points. The defense made major strides in 2012 under Justin Wilcox and will need to keep pace against a schedule that features plenty of good offensive opponents.

Anything else?
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is currently dealing with a broken pinkie. There’s optimism he can return by Week 1, though, as Sarkisian said it was a clean break. Jenkins will be counted on a lot this season in the passing game, so his health is crucial.

5. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
Yeah, Mike Leach‘s first season in Pullman didn’t exactly go as planned. The Cougars passed the ball a lot (go figure) but struggled to score and couldn’t stop anyone. But, hey, y’all beat Washington so huzzah!

So why are they ranked here?
There are still plenty of concerns on both sides of the ball, but Wazzu is not a team completely deprived of talent. Connor Halliday returns at quarterback, but the offensive line needs to come together to give him some more protection. Sacks and interceptions doomed the Cougars offense last season. If the offense can jell, a turnaround might start taking some form in 2013.

Anything else?
Wazzu doesn’t have to run the ball more, but they have to run it more effectively. This is a team that averaged 29 yards per game on the ground in 2012. Twenty. Nine. That’s, like, De’Anthony Thomas‘ yards-per-carry or something.

6. Cal (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Golden Bears lost their shine and Jeff Tedford was shown the door. Things got really bad at the end when Cal lost their final two games by an average of 45 points.

So why are they ranked here?
Sonny Dykes will win in Berkeley, it just won’t be this year. True freshman Jared Goff will be thrown into the fire immediately as the team’s starting quarterback, and the schedule is unforgiving.

Anything else?
Cal will likely lose three of their first four games, but we could still get a decent understanding of what this team can potentially accomplish in Dykes’ first year if they hang tough with Northwestern, Ohio State or Oregon.

Pac-12 South

1. UCLA (Last year: 9-5; lost to Baylor in Holiday Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Bruins took a huge step forward under first-year coach Jim Mora by winning nine games and making it to the Pac-12 championship. UCLA got torched by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl, but the Bears were playing their best football at the end of the year.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s a new edge in Pasadena that previously wasn’t there. That’s a reflection on Mora, and things are only looking up for UCLA. Brett Hundley returns as one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league. This is an offense that will need to find a replacement for Johnathan Franklin in the running game to take the pressure off of Hundley. The defense has to replace its entire secondary too. But this is a talented, young team.

Anything else?
Part of that talented youth is Notre Dame transfer Eddie Vanderdoes. The defensive lineman will be able to play immediately and he’s expected to do so.

2. Arizona State (Last year: 8-5; beat Navy in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) 
What happened last season?
First-year coach Todd Graham did a good job getting the Sun Devils to eight wins. And, of course, beating Arizona always helps.

So why are they ranked here?
ASU could be a sneaky good team this year. There’s a lot of hype in Tempe around Taylor Kelly, who already has a 3,000-yard passing season under his belt.  This team features 17 returning starters, including All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton. There’s room to grow at the receiver spot, but the Sun Devils have a good backfield with Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Based on their 2012 play, this is a team that can right in the middle of the Pac-12 South hunt.

Anything else?
ASU has an interesting and difficult early part of the season with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Winning both of those early Pac-12 games would be huge.

3. USC (Last year: 7-6; lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
USC went from the preseason No. 1 team to being unranked at the end of the season after losing a to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl in embarrassing fashion. Matt Barkley hurt his shoulder and couldn’t finish out his career with the Trojans. There were almost too many disappointments to list.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of question marks on offense with the departure of Barkley and receiver Robert Woods. Marqise Lee is back though and figures to be a huge part of the game plan — if he can stay healthy. There was a lot of staff turnover during the offseason, so it could take some time for everything to come together. And let’s not forget the depth issues affecting this team while it rides out the scholarship reductions from the NCAA. Still, it’s not like USC is lacking talent. That should be enough to keep this team from going under .500 this year.

Anything else?
Well, that’s the thing. Lane Kiffin can’t afford to go under .500 — or .500 at all —  and realistically expect to keep his job. The scholarship reductions hurt, but they don’t have any impact on failed two-point conversions, or switching numbers between plays midway through a game. Pull shenanigans like that and win seven again, and Kiffin could be headed for the unemployment line.

4. Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Nevada in New Mexico Bowl)
What happened last season?
Rich Rodriguez rebounded from his short Michigan gig by winning right away with Arizona. The highlight of the year included a 39-36 win over what was then a top-10 ranked USC team.

So why are they ranked here?
Matt Scott waited his turn and had himself a banner senior season. He left for the NFL as one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects. But while the Wildcats have to replace him, they do bring back Ka’Deem Carey, who was the country’s leading running back last year. Carey figures to be the focal point of the offense this year, which may need to win some shootouts again.

Anything else?
The defense was the worst in the Pac-12 last season at giving up points. Jeff Casteel is a fine defensive coordinator, so that’ll be a unit to watch to see if any significant improvement can be made.

5. Utah (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was another disappointing year for Kyle Whittingham. The offense, especially the passing game, couldn’t get going and Jordan Wynn had to end his oft-injured career earlier than he’d hoped.

So why are they ranked here?
Dennis Erickson been brought in as co-offensive coordinator to light a fire under one of the worst passing games in the Pac-12 last season. The defensive line loses three key players as well in Star Lotulelei, Joe Kruger and Dave Kruger. There’s a lot to replace and plenty of tough games on the schedule.

Anything else?
Erickson is more than just another offensive mind to add to the staff. He’s familiar with the recent Pac-12 landscape from his time with Arizona State. That should pay dividends for the Utes, but just how soon remains unclear.

6. Colorado (Last year: 1-11) 
What happened last season?
The Buffaloes were terrible and Jon Embree got fired. During Embree’s final press conference, it become abundantly clear from a national perspective just how much work this program has to do to get back to its former winning ways.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike MacIntyre did wonders at San Jose State. He’ll need to work those miracles again in Boulder, but 2013 looks like it could be another brutal year for this program. The Buffs have a dire QB situation right now, though it appears Texas transfer Connor Wood will get the nod. There is a lot of experience returning for Colorado (17 starters), but how long it takes them to adjust to MacIntyre remains to be seen.

Anything else?
It won’t count toward Pac-12 standings, but Colorado can make a big splash at the start of the season by beating Colorado State. When little is expected to go your way, grabbing a win over an in-state rival goes a long way.

——————————————-

John Taylor‘s prediction:
North
1. Stanford
2. Oregon
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Washington State
6. Cal

South
1. UCLA
2. Arizona State
3. USC
4. Utah
5. Arizona
6. Colorado

Ben’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford
John’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford

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The Orange Bowl has a new sponsor

MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic Getty Images

The Orange Bowl will be known as the Capital One Orange Bowl for the next six years.

On Monday morning — 100 days before kickoff of the Dec. 31, 2014 game — the Orange Bowl announced its new title sponsor, replacing a four-year deal with Discover. The Orange Bowl was first sponsored by FedEx, a deal which ran from 1989-2010.

The New Year’s Six bowl’s new logo:

The newly-minted Capital One Orange Bowl will host a College Football Playoff game in 2015 and 2018.

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Injuries to starting DT, reserve linebacker add to Virginia Tech’s tailspin

North Carolina v Virginia Tech Getty Images

Virginia Tech had some injury lopped on to insult: defensive tackle Luther Maddy and linebacker Dahman McKinnon will each undergo surgery for meniscus injuries and miss two to four weeks, the school announced Monday morning.

Maddy is the biggest loss for now, as the senior started all four games for the Hokies and tallied nine tackles. He actually tore his meniscus in Virginia Tech’s 28-21 loss to East Carolina Sept. 13, per the Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter, but attempted to play through the injury as the Hokies fell to Georgia Tech, 27-24, on Saturday. As a general rule of thumb, it’s never a good idea to try to play through a knee injury against a cut-blocking triple option team.

McKinnon, a redshirt sophomore, appeared in three games this year and made one tackle.

Virginia Tech should have a good chance to right the ship this weekend against Western Michigan before beginning a critical three-game stretch against ACC coastal opponents North Carolina, Pitt and Miami. The two-to-four week timetable for Maddy and McKinnon could mean Frank Beamer could have them back for the Pitt game, which comes after a bye week and will be played Thursday, Oct. 16 at Heinz Field.

Additionally, freshman offensive lineman Colt Pettit will undergo season-ending surgery. The Deshler, Ohio native came to Virginia Tech as a three-star recruit.

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Maryland loses DE Quinton Jefferson for the season

Wake Forest v Maryland

As good as Saturday was for the Maryland Fighting Edsalls, defeating ever-so-brief ACC rival Syracuse, 34-20, it’s been an equally bad Sunday for the program.

The Terps already suffered the loss of tight end Andrew Isaacs for the year, and now they’ve lost Quinton Jefferson. The junior will undergo season-ending surgery after injuring his knee in last week’s loss to West Virginia, head coach Randy Edsall confirmed on Sunday.

Jefferson recorded eight tackles and a sack this season, and posted 47 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and three sacks as a sophomore in 2013.

Senior Keith Bowers started in Jefferson’s place during Maryland’s defeat of Syracuse and registered three tackles.

Maryland (3-1) begins life in the Big Ten Saturday at Indiana.

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UCLA QB Brett Hundley is practicing, but Jim Mora won’t commit for Thursday

Brett Hundley

We already know No. 15 Arizona State will be without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly for Thursday night’s massive Pac-12 South showdown, but what of UCLA’s own starting quarterback.

Brett Hundley has returned to practice after leaving the Bruins’ 20-17 win over Texas with a left elbow injury, wearing a brace on his left arm. Though observers believe Hundley is on track to play, head coach Jim Mora wasn’t offering the media -and the Arizona State coaching staff – any information.

“All of our players who are out, what we try to do is make the best decisions for them based upon the knowledge we have,” Mora told the Los Angeles Times. “We depend on our doctors to get us good information, and we got the best doctors in the nation in my opinion. If they clear him, and they say he can play, just like everyone else, then we’ll play him.”

In the event Hundley is not ready to go, UCLA appears to be in good hands with backup Jerry Neuheisel. In the sophomore’s first significant action as a collegian, Neuheisel completed 23-of-30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns, including the 33-yard game-winner with three minutes remaining in UCLA’s come-from-behind win over Texas on Sept. 13.

Hundley has completed 57-of-81 passes for 686 yards with three touchdowns and one interception this season.

 

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Deshaun Watson will start at QB for Clemson Saturday vs. UNC

Deshaun Watson

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney finally admitted Sunday what the rest of us have known for the past four weeks: the Tigers are a better team when Deshaun Watson plays at quarterback over Cole StoudtSwinney announced Sunday that Watson would garner his first career start Saturday versus North Carolina.

Stoudt started the game and produced 64 combined run/pass yards on nine attempts, but did not produce points on any of his first drives and, thus, did not see the field again. Watson played the remainder of Clemson’s 23-17 overtime loss to No. 1 Florida State, completing 19-of-28 passes for 266 yards and rushing 12 times for 30 yards and a touchdown.

For the year, Watson notched a 201.1 passer rating with 29 completions in 41 attempts for 479 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 47 rushing yards and the aforementioned touchdown. For his part, Stoudt has not been bad, throwing for 486 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushing for 20 more yards, but the offense just clicks better with Watson standing in the shotgun.

Watson was clearly the future of Clemson’s offense and, with the Tigers at 1-2 and all but eliminated from the ACC championship race, Swinney felt now was the time for the future to melt with the present.

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Old Dominion, North Texas made Conference USA history on Saturday

It was a record-breaking day for a pair of Conference USA teams on Saturday. In Houston, Old Dominion defeated Rice 45-42, thereby giving the Monarchs their first win in Conference USA play.

Taylor Heinicke led the way for Old Dominion, connecting on 27-of-43 throws for 430 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Monarchs built a 28-14 lead at the half and extended it to 35-14, but saw Rice fight back to tie the game at 42-42 on a seven-yard Darik Dillard touchdown run with 1:05 to play. Heinicke responded by marching Old Dominion 67 yards in six plays, setting Ricky Segers up for a 25-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.

Considering this was also their first Conference USA game, Old Dominion now has a C-USA record 1.000 winning percentage. The program restarted football in 2009 after shuttling football in 1941, and has gone 49-15 under head coach Bobby Wilder in its six-year rise from the FCS independent ranks to Conference USA.

Old Dominion has a chance to keep its 1.000 winning percentage alive Friday night at home versus Middle Tennessee (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

As for real, official records, North Texas tied a C-USA record by notching 77 points in its 77-3 annihilation of FCS Nicholls State on Saturday. The 74-point margin of victory was North Texas’ biggest since 1948, and its 10 sacks of Colonels passers tied a school record.

Freshman Dajon Williams made his first start at quarterback and could not have had an easier debut, completing 11-of-14 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns and rushing four times for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The Mean Green averaged 11.9 yards per pass attempt and 8.5 yards per rush, and also notched two pick sixes and one punt return for a touchdown.

Ironically, the Conference USA single-game points record North Texas tied was set against… North Texas. Rice set the record back in 2008 by demolishing then-Sun Belt member North Texas 77-20.

North Texas is off this week before visiting SEC killer Indiana on Oct. 4.

 

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Rutgers loses star RB Paul James for the year

Paul James

Rutgers is off to a strong 3-1 start to its first Big Ten season, and that’s in part because running back Paul James was off to such a strong start to his junior season. The Scarlet Knights, however, will have to play the final two-thirds of their season without him as head coach Kyle Flood confirmed Sunday James has been lost for the season to a torn ACL.

James had carried seven times for 96 yards and a touchdown until the helmet of a Navy defender collided with James’ right knee at the end of a 13-yard run during the second quarter on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights won, 31-24, but James was not seen again throughout the day. As it turns out, that will unfortunately be the last anyone sees of James in a Rutgers uniform this season.

James entered the day as the Big Ten’s fifth-leading rusher, and finishes his season with 63 carries for 363 yards (5.76 yards per pop) with five touchdowns. He started the year with a 173-yard, three-touchdown performance, leading the Scarlet Knights to a 41-38 win at Washington State. James rushed for 881 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago while playing on a broken fibula.

Rutgers will now turn to Desmon Peoples (46 rushes, 205 yards) and Justin Goodwin (26 carries, 104 yards, one touchdown) to carry its ground game for the duration of the season.

Rutgers hosts Tulane on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPNews).

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Upset loss, press conference ripping makes Mizzou-South Carolina an awkward GameDay host

Indiana v Missouri Getty Images

For the first time since 2006, ESPN’s College GameDay has waited until Week 5 to cover its first game involving an SEC team. It’s about time, really, considering more than half the conference is ranked, and nearly the entire SEC West is placed among the top 17. So it’s only fitting that the SEC’s 2014 GameDay debut is…. unranked Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina?

What?

The announcement was made Sunday morning, sending college football’s premier hype machine to Columbia, S.C., for the seventh time. The Gamecocks are 3-3 in GameDay‘s six previous visits, knocking off No. 1 Alabama 35-21 and No. 6 Georgia 35-7 in its last two turns as host.

Missouri fell from No. 18 to outside the rankings this week after losing 31-27 to Indiana at home on Saturday. South Carolina moved up a spot from No. 14 to No. 13 after beating Vanderbilt 48-34, but head coach Steve Spurrier called it one of the worst wins he’s been a part of as a coach. “We’re not a very good team but we’re 3-1 somehow, and we’ve got all the voters fooled thinking we’re pretty good, I guess because we beat Georgia,” Spurrier said after the game.

Comin’ to your cit-ay, anyone?

In all fairness, there aren’t many other options. Tigers-Gamecocks represents the only ranked-on-ranked matchup on Saturday. No. 12 UCLA at No. 15 Arizona State is the best game of the week, but it’s on Thursday. Unless you want to talk yourself into No. 16 Stanford at undefeated-yet-underwhelming Washington, this was ESPN’s only choice.

The good news, though, is that the schedule ramps up from here.

Assuming No. 10 Ole Miss can beat Memphis at home on Saturday – no easy task considering how Justin Fuente’s Tigers are playing – then GameDay is all but guaranteed to make its maiden voyage to The Grove in Week 6 as the Rebels host No. 3 Alabama. Should Ole Miss lose, No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 14 Mississippi State, No. 17 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, No. 16 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 21 Nebraska at No. 9 Michigan State, or No. 15 Arizona State at No. 18 USC all represent attractive back-up options.

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Alabama, Oklahoma gain ground on No. 1 FSU and No. 2 Oregon in latest AP Top 25

Dak Prescott

Just as they did in Sunday’s Coaches Poll, No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma inched closer to No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon in the latest edition of the AP Top 25.

Florida State saw its totals dip from 1,466 to 1,439 after its 23-17 win over then-No. 22 Clemson, and Oregon slid from 1,424 to 1,400 after squeaking past Washington State 38-31. No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma gained ground, moving to 1,377 and 1,343, respectively. The Tide and Sooners also saw their first-place votes increase to six and four, respectively. Florida State led the way with 34 – down from 37 – and Oregon followed with 12 – down from 17. No. 6 Texas A&M also garnered four first-place votes after ripping SMU 58-6.

LSU dropped from eighth to 17th in the AP poll, which means the Tigers also dropped from fourth to sixth in their own division. Mississippi State moved from outside the polls to No. 14 after defeating LSU 34-29 in Death Valley. Missouri (No. 18) and Clemson (No. 22) moved out of the polls, and were replaced by the 14th-ranked Bulldogs and ACC killer East Carolina at No. 23.

The full poll:

1. Florida State – 1,439 points (34 first-place votes)
2. Oregon – 1,400 (12)
3. Alabama – 1,377 (6)
4. Oklahoma – 1,343 (4)
5. Auburn – 1,268
6. Texas A&M – 1,232 (4)
7. Baylor – 1,143
8. Notre Dame – 967
9. Michigan State – 905
10. Ole Miss – 889
11. UCLA – 806
12. Georgia – 789
13. South Carolina – 764
14. Mississippi State – 706
15. Arizona State – 702
16. Stanford – 564
17. LSU – 541
18. USC – 459
19. Wisconsin – 451
20. BYU – 376
21. Nebraska – 296
22. Ohio State – 196
23. East Carolina – 180
24. Oklahoma State – 132
25. Kansas State – 131

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Melvin Gordon’s epic day places him atop NCAA record books

Melvin Gordon

And to think it all started with a fumble.

Melvin Gordon led an all out obliteration of Bowling Green’s rushing defense in the 19th-ranked Badgers’ 68-17 rout that registered on all sorts of record books from school, to conference, to country. Let’s start with Gordon, because that’s where it all starts for Wisconsin. The junior toted the rock 13 times for a career-high 253 yards and five touchdowns. He did not touch Ron Dayne’s single-game rushing record of 339 yards, but he did set the school record for yards per carry for all Badgers with at least 10 carries in a single game, and also became the sixth Wisconsin runner to notch five touchdowns in a single game. He also pulled into a tie for the NCAA all-time record for career yards per carry with some pretty notable company.

Gordon didn’t even touch the ball until Wisconsin’s fourth offensive play – its first drive found pay dirt in just two plays – and went for no gain after he lost a fumble. His remaining 12 carries went for a scant 21.1 yards per rush.

Impressive as that is, Gordon’s 253 yards accounted for only 39 percent of Wisconsin’s rushing totals. The Badgers rumbled for a total of 644 yards, a school record and the most in the modern era (since 1946) of Big Ten football. Tanner McEvoy completed 9-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and set a school record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback in rushing 11 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. Corey Clement also topped the 100-yard barrier with 111 yards on 16 carries, and Dare Ogunbowale added 14 rushes for 94 yards. You know you’re having a great day when 94 yards only gets you to fourth place on your own team.

Wisconsin’s 756 yards of total offense are also a single-game school record.

The explosive day gives Wisconsin two players among the nation’s top dozen in yards per carry. McEvoy ranks eighth at 9.73 per carry (26 carries for 253 yards), and Gordon checks in at No. 12 with 9.37 yards per carry (46 for 431 yards). As a team, the Badgers now rank second nationally in rushing (359.67 yards per game) and first in yards per carry (7.82). Bowling Green dropped from 71st to 123rd nationally in rush defense.

Next up for Wisconsin: South Florida and the nation’s No. 62-ranked rush defense. Buckle up, Bulls.

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Bama’s Blake Sims, ECU’s Zeek Bigger claim Week 4 Camp honors

East Carolina v North Carolina

One player from a Power Five school and another from a Non-Power Five program have laid claim to a top weekly national honor.

As it does every Sunday, the fine folks at the Walter Camp Foundation announce its national Players of the Week.  This week, those honors go to Alabama’s Blake Sims and East Carolina’s Zeek Bigger.

Sims completed 23-of-33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns as the Crimson Tide defeated Florida, 42-21. Sims’ 445 passing yards were the second-highest single-game total in school history. Two of his touchdown passes went for 87 and 79 yards as the Tide improved to 4-0 to start a season for the seventh consecutive year.

Sims also became the first UA quarterback to win Camp weekly honors.

On the defensive side, Bigger posted a career-high 17 tackles — seven of which were solos — and returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown as pasted in-state rival North Carolina by the score 70-41. Bigger had 11 of his tackles in the first half.

Bigger is the first-ever ECU player, either offensively or defensively, honored by the Camp Foundation as its Player of the Week.

ECU, incidentally, has now beaten ACC teams in back-to-back weekends for the first time in school history, and have won four straight against that conference dating back to last season.  UNC has been a victim twice in that span, while North Carolina State and Virginia Tech were victims once.

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FSU’s stranglehold on coaches’ poll slips as Tide, Sooners close gap

Clemson v Florida State Getty Images

Much to the delight of Alabama and Oklahoma, close calls for both Florida State and Oregon cost those two squads in the latest release of the coaches’ poll.

FSU, as it has all season, remains No. 1 even as its support slipped in the wake of the overtime win over Clemson in Tallahassee.  The Seminoles received just 36 first-place votes after receiving 50 in the Week 3 poll.

Oregon, meanwhile, saw its first-place support slip from six to three and its standing in the Top 25 slide from No. 3 to No. 4.  The No. 2 Tide collected 11 first-place votes while the No. 3 Sooners, up from No. 4 last week, grabbed 12; last week, those first-place votes were one and four, respectively.

Those were the only teams receiving first-place votes.

Auburn (No. 5), Baylor (No. 6) and Texas A&M (No. 7) remain unchanged from a week ago.  LSU’s upset loss to Mississippi State caused the Tigers to drop from No. 8 to No. 18.  MSU, meanwhile, rocketed up from unranked and second in the “others receiving votes” category to No. 16.  Notre Dame moved up to No. 8 (from No. 9) to replace LSU while Michigan State climbed back into the Top 10 at No. 9 (from No. 11)

The Top 10 is rounded out by UCLA, which at No. 10 is in the same spot it was last week.

A whopping eight SEC teams are a part of this week’s poll, including six of the seven teams from the West.  The only team from that division not in the coaches’ poll is Arkansas, which is 3-1.

Week 4 Coaches' Poll

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Maryland loses starting TE for rest of season with dislocated knee

Maryland v Syracuse

One of the more gruesome sounding and looking injuries in any sport is a dislocated knee cap.  Unfortunately for a starting member of Maryland’s offense, that very injury has befallen him.

In the win over Syracuse Saturday, Andrew Isaacs had his left leg rolled up on by his starting quarterback, C.J. Brown.  The collision triggered an injury that will cost the tight end the remainder of the 2014 season.

“It’s really difficult,” Brown said. “I made a cut inside. I heard him yell. I got up and I saw his knee and I just started waving for the training staff to come over. Dislocated knee, that’s bad.”

The Terps are hopeful that Isaacs didn’t suffer any type of nerve damage.

“My hats off to him,” head coach Randy Edsall said, “because that’s a tough injury. Just to see how he was responding out there. He was just more worried about how he was going to get back and how he was going to come back stronger, and more worried about his teammates than worried really about himself.”

Isaacs is the Terps’ starting tight end, but has just one catch on the season. The sophomore will likely be eligible for a medical redshirt season as the injury occurred in the fourth game of the year, meaning he’ll fall within the 20-percent threshold — the NCAA rounds up — of games played that triggers waiver eligibility.

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‘A little bruised’ and ‘sore,’ Blake Sims says shoulder’s ‘very fine’

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It appears Alabama’s first bye week is coming at a most opportune time.

At the end of a third-quarter scramble in the Tide’s win over Florida, Blake Sims landed awkwardly and injured his right (throwing) shoulder.  The starting quarterback was taken to the locker room for further examination but subsequently returned to both the sidelines and the game.

Following the win, Sims attempted to downplay the severity of the injury.

“It’s very fine,” Sims said. “Just a little bruised. I’m going to get with the training staff and try to get better and let the team know I’m good. I’m going to come out against Ole Miss (Oct. 4) and try to win the game. …

“I’ll be all right. I’m going to get with the training staff and ice it, ice it, ice it.”

Sims’ head coach, though, said the off weekend will prove to be beneficial for Sims as it appears the player will be somewhat limited this week in practice.

“It will probably be something that’s sore for him for a while,” said Nick Saban. “Hopefully that second week he’ll be able to get back to normal in practice.”

Sims, incidentally, suffered the injury in the midst of one of the greatest passing performances in school history.

His 445 yards were the second-most in school history, behind only Scott Hunter’s 484 in a 1969 loss over Auburn.  It was also just the second 400-yard game ever for a Tide quarterback.

A whopping 272 yards of that total came in the first quarter alone, while 202 for the game — and three of his four passing touchdowns to boot — went to stud wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Speaking of Cooper, and while we’re here, Cooper had 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns last season in 12 games played.  This season, and through four games, Cooper has 43 catches for 655 yards and five touchdowns.

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Jimbo ‘hopes and believes Jameis will learn from this’

Jameis Winston

For the first time, Jameis Winston‘s off-field actions very nearly cost his football team on it as Florida State escaped with an overtime win over Clemson.

With the one-game suspension for the reigning Heisman winner in the books, and with the Seminoles’ nation’s best 19-game winning streak still intact, Winston’s head coach is hoping the young quarterback has — finally — learned his lesson.  And that this is the last issue for the duration of however much longer Winston stays in Tallahassee.

“At the end of the day we felt like the one game made the most sense, and I chose to keep that process internal,” Jimbo Fisher said according to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken. “Now he’s served that punishment and he’s ready to move forward.

“You never know the pace kids learn or why they make mistakes, but I hope and believe Jameis will learn from this and use better judgment and his language and decision-making and respect for everything will continue to grow.”

Based on the most recent evidence available, though, Fisher’s getting ahead of himself as his player’s still behind the learning curve.

During pregame warm-ups ahead of the game with the Tigers, the suspended Winston showed up in full football gear. Fisher was not impressed, or pleased, with that development as the perturbed head coach promptly punted the player’s arse back into the locker room and out of uniform.

Plain and simple, Winston just doesn’t get it. At least not yet and even with a suspension that could very well have extinguished the hopes FSU entertained in becoming back-to-back champs.

Hopefully at one point the light switch will come, but right now Winston’s completely in the dark from the neck up.

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