2013 record: 10-4 overall, 8-1 in Pac-12 (1st in South division)
2013 postseason: Holiday Bowl vs. Texas Tech, (37-23 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 21/No. 20
Head coach: Todd Graham (67-38 overall; 18-9 in two years at Arizona State)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Norvell (3rd year at Arizona State)
2013 offensive rankings: 40th rushing offense (191.4 ypg); 32nd passing offense (265.9 ypg); 32nd total offense (457.3 ypg); 10th scoring offense (39.7 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Co-defensive coordinators: Keith Patterson (1st year) and Chris Ball (3rd year)
2013 defensive rankings: 26th rushing defense (137.6 ypg); 71st passing defense (234.7 ypg); 42nd total defense (372.4 ypg); tied for 63rd in scoring defense (26.6 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: two
Location: Tempe, Arizona
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium (71,706; grass)
Last conference title: 2007
When the game is on the line, it’s always beneficial to have one of the best players in the country at his position on the field and ready to make a play. Arizona State has one of those players in wide receiver Jaelen Strong. Strong, who is an early candidate to be a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, led the team last season with 1,122 receiving yards, which also makes him the leading-returning receiver in the Pac-12. At 6-3 and 212 pounds with some of the strongest hands in the nation, Strong is nearly impossible to cover. Opposing defenses will have to build their gameplans around stopping Strong. Once they do, senior quarterback Taylor Kelly can start to exploit mismatches elsewhere on the field. And Strong’s presence will open up the field for junior running back D.J. Foster, who finished third on the team in rushing yards and second with 63 receptions. Defenses will have to pick their poison when they scheme against the Sun Devils’ up-tempo offense.
The team’s front seven was obliterated by graduation. Gone are two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton, disruptive defensive end Carl Bradford, fellow pass rusher Gannon Conway, productive defensive lineman Devon Coleman and linebacker Chris Young, the team’s leading tackler. Those four players combined to make 317 tackles, 24 sacks and 72 tackles for loss. The onus will now fall on junior defensive tackle Jaxon Hood. Hood is one of two returning starters on defense and the only one in the front seven. Defensive lineman Marcus Hardison will also be expected to step up and produce after playing in 13 games last year. The linebackers, meanwhile, will be led by Salamon Fiso, who played in 14 games last season and finished third on the team with 71 tackles.
If Arizona State plans on remaining one of the most aggressive defenses in the country, Graham will need help rebuilding the unit and devising game plans. Help is coming from Patterson, who was named the team’s new co-defensive coordinator in the offseason. Patterson will become Graham’s sounding board this season. Patterson wants to be the x-factor that helps an inexperienced defense gel this season.
“(I just want) to be the bond that pulls it all together,” Patterson told the Arizona Republic. “I look at that defensive staff, and that’s what has me excited, working with the caliber of coaches that we have here. I just want to slide into my role and try to add another perspective on things and hopefully be able to be a positive asset.”
MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Stanford
If the Sun Devils are going to get over the hump in the Pac-12, they need to get past the Stanford Cardinal. Last season, the Sun Devils lost to the Cardinal twice by a combined score of 80-42. One of those losses came in the Pac-12 Championship Game and cost Arizona State an appearance in the Rose Bowl. This year’s meeting takes place Oct. 18 at Sun Devil Stadium, and it comes at the end of a brutal three-game stretch for Arizona State. Prior to Stanford, the Sun Devils face UCLA and USC. How Arizona State performs against Stanford at the end of the team’s toughest part of the schedule will determine expectations for the second half of Pac-12 play.
HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Taylor Kelly
The Pac-12 is littered with talented quarterbacks. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is considered a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this season. UCLA’s Brett Hundley is projected to be a top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is the nation’s leading returning passer. Yet, Kelly has been as productive and efficient as any quarterback in the Pac-12 the past two years. Since becoming the team’s starter in 2012, Kelly has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 6.674 yards, 57 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Kelly is also a viable dual-threat quarterback. He’s rushed for over 500 yards each of the past two seasons. Another improbable run to the Pac-12 Championship Game could easily place Kelly in Heisman contention.
(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)
It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-0 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.
Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.
It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.
No. 1 Alabama hit Texas A&M in the mouth and the sixth-ranked Aggies responded to take a second half lead on Saturday. Then Alabama hit them again.
And again. And again. And probably another time for good measure.
The Crimson Tide stormed back from a one point second half deficit to throttle yet another top 25 opponent on Saturday, reaffirming their status as the team to beat for the national title with an impressive 33-14 home win.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts started off a little slow and had a handful of freshman mistakes (two picks, one on a Hail Mary) but turned things up after halftime to finish with 166 yards passing and two touchdowns while rushing for another 91 yards and a score. Tight end O.J. Howard became a big part of the Tide’s aerial attack and wound up with a team-leading 70 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Damien Harris chipped in with 128 yards on the ground with an impressive 7.5 yards a carry.
Texas A&M signal-caller Trevor Knight couldn’t quite get his second straight win over Alabama, but did throw for two touchdowns to temporarily stun Bryant Denny Stadium with a brief 14-13 Aggies lead coming out of the locker room at halftime.
Defensive end Jonathan Allen completely turned the game around just before the end of the third quarter however when he scooped and scored on a 30 yard fumble return to put Alabama up by two scores. It was the future first rounder’s second time crossing the goal line this season, the ninth defensive touchdown of the year for the Tide and the 10th straight game in which the team has scored a non-offensive touchdown.
If there was one negative for Alabama to emerge from the contest in the second half it was that safety Eddie Jackson had to be carted off early in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury. He was hurt on a punt return that later setup another touchdown and comes at the one spot where the Tide, all things being relative, is a little thin at.
It probably won’t mean much in the long run given how good Alabama looked down the stretch in winning their 20th straight game. They’ll head into their bye week undefeated and looking to get a little rest before traveling to Baton Rouge to play rival LSU. Texas A&M probably won’t drop too much in the polls with their first loss of the season and, while they are a long shot to win the SEC West, remain in line to make it to a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Syracuse-Boston College game may have come to an end, but the head coach from one side doesn’t want the scrutiny to do the same.
In the first quarter, Orange quarterback Eric Dungey threw an interception to the Eagles’ William Harris and ultimately tackled Harris on the visiting team’s sidelines. Or, more specifically, Dungey slammed Harris to the ground and, eventually, pushed another BC player into some equipment. That led to a bit of a brief brouhaha that was ultimately defused.
Reportedly, an unidentified Syracuse staffer threw Harris to the ground during the melee. Additionally, BC head coach Steve Addazio alleged that a punch was thrown for good measure.
As a result, Addazio is asking that the ACC review video of the incident to determine what if anything untoward took place.
“I think there’s some stuff on the video that will need to be addressed on that play,” Addazio said according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Some stuff went down over there that I could see myself.
“Let’s let the proper people take a look at it and make the proper decision.”
As for the play itself, Dungey received a personal foul while both teams were issued unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Oh, and the Orange won the game 28-20.
Skyler Howard threw four touchdowns to help lead No. 12 West Virginia (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) to a 34-10 victory over TCU (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) in Morgantown on Saturday. The win keeps the Mountaineers perfect on the season and continues to keep them atop the Big 12 standings with some key games still to be played.
West Virginia had a balanced attack on offense against the Horned Frogs. In addition to Howard tossing four touchdowns and passing for 231 yards in the win, running back Rushel Shell rushed for 117 yards. The defense (and special teams) came to play as well, forcing three TCU turnovers, including on the opening kickoff of the game to setup a quick touchdown. It was a rough start for visiting TCU, but they battled back before the game got out of reach in the second half. West Virginia pitched a shutout in the second half, while tacking on 13 points to pull away. TCU was able to convert just one of nine third downs and Kenny Hill averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt.
Is there any slowing West Virginia down? Maybe, but when? West Virginia takes their undefeated record on the road next week with a visit to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State. Then comes a home game against Kansas and a road game at Texas. All three are winnable, with only Oklahoma State expected to be the toughest challenge out of that bunch. The key still looks to be the final three games of the season, with home games against Oklahoma and Baylor with a road trip to Iowa State in between.
The Big 12 should be within reach, but could a playoff spot be in sight for West Virginia? The Mountaineers continue to climb their way up the rankings and fly under the radar. If the wins keep coming, that will not be the case for much longer.
TCU will return home next week to try and bounce back when they host Texas Tech.