Navy

The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

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

WACK-12
The Pac-12 came into the 2015 season looking to challenge the SEC for conference football supremacy.  While that may end up still being the case, it was a rough Week 1 in myriad regards for the Left Coast league, particularly its northern division.

First and foremost, No. 21 Stanford went into Evanston as heavy favorites only to be upended and upset by Northwestern.  And it wasn’t just that one of the preseason favorites in the North was beaten, it was that they were roughed up by the Wildcats and seemed to play timid on both sides of the ball.  More embarrassingly, a couple of hours later Washington State lost to FCS Portland State, which came into the game a 30-point underdog.

The South contributed to the first-week malaise as No. 15 Arizona State, viewed by some as a darkhorse playoff candidate (sheepishly raises hand), capped off the night with a 20-point loss to unranked Texas A&M.  At least that, though, was a loss to a Power Five school, and one from the stacked SEC West no less, in what was essentially a home game for the Aggies.

Add in Washington’s loss to Boise State — no shame in that — and Colorado’s loss to Hawaii Thursday night — a whole hell of a lot of shame in that — and it turned into a horrific lost weekend for the conference.  That said, remember how many were writing the Big Ten off a year ago at this time?  Yeah, it wouldn’t be wise to repeat that history.

WEAK 1?
If you thought that the Week 1 schedule, especially Saturday, was especially lacking when it came to compelling on-paper matchups, you’re not alone.  In fact, the raw data is sitting right along side you.

Opening weekend, and including the two still remaining, there were/are 87 games involving FBS teams.  Of that, 11 pitted Power Five vs. Power Five (for this exercise, I’m considering BYU a P5); another 47 — more than half — featured FBS teams playing an FCS team.  There were 22 Power Five teams that opened their season against an FCS team, with the ACC far and away leading the cupcake way with seven.  The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 had four apiece, while the pastry alley that is the late-season SEC lagged behind with three.

There were also 23 games played between Power Five and Group of Five teams.  The SEC accounted for eight of those games, while the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 saw four each.  The FCS-heavy ACC had three such games.

It wasn’t just the Power Fives feeding on the FCS, though, as 25 Group of Five teams opened against the former Div. 1-AA.  The remaining six games saw Group of Five squads squaring off against each other.

While most of the FBS feasted on their FCS cupcakes, a handful choked on them.  Two that lost to FCS teams were Power Five members in the aforementioned Wazzu and Kansas (South Dakota State, more on that below) and two were Group of Five teams in Army (Fordham) and Wyoming (North Dakota).

BAD BLOOD CHEAP SHOT?
Vernon Adams transferred from Eastern Washington to Oregon earlier this offseason and ultimately earned the Ducks’ starting quarterback job.  As luck would have it, Adams’ current and former teams squared off in the season opener in Autzen Saturday night, and there was one interesting development in UO’s 61-42 win.

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WVU’s season-opening opponent sees starting QB suspended

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In what could be a make or break year for head coach Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia may have caught a bit of a break to open the 2015 season.

Georgia Southern announced Wednesday that starting quarterback Kevin Ellison has been declared academically ineligible and will miss the first two games of the 2015 season.  The Sun Belt Conference school opens the year in Morgantown against WVU Sept. 5, following that up with a home game against Western Michigan Sept. 12.

Provided there are no further academic missteps, Ellison will be eligible to return for the Sept. 19 game against Citadel.

While Ellison passed for just 1,001 yards for the run-heavy Eagles, his 1,096 yards rushing were second on the team behind Matt Breida‘s 1,485 yards.  He ran for more than twice as many touchdowns (12) as he passed for (five), while his 172 carries were 44 more than his passing attempts.

Ellison, a second-team All-SBC selection, was one of just five FBS quarterbacks — Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (1,191), Boston College’s Tyler Murphy (1,184), Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas (1,086) and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo (1,046) being the others — to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2014.  Ellison, Reynolds and Thomas all return for at least another season in 2015.

As for WVU’s rush defense, a similar one that will be going up against a GSU team that was second nationally at 381.1 yards per game?  The Mountaineers were 63rd in the country last year, giving up 168.2 ypg on the ground.

FCS-to-Ducks transfer one of 30 QBs on Unitas Award watch list

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Even as one high-profile FCS transfer has yet to be officially added to his new Power Five program’s roster, he’s still highly thought of by at least one major award.

Tuesday, the fine folks at the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award released its preseason watch list, with the annual award given to the best college senior or fourth-year junior quarterback recognizing 30 players who meet the qualifications.  And, again, those qualifications are that they are, one, a quarterback and, two, are a college senior or fourth-year junior.

Included in that group of 30 is Vernon Adams, one of the most decorated players in the Football Championship Series who announced in February of this year that he would be transferring from Eastern Washington to Oregon for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  In early July it was reported that Adams had been admitted to UO and ruled eligible to enroll in classes at the university.  However, Adams will likely miss at least the first three days of the Ducks’ summer camp that begins Aug. 10 as he cleans up one final class that will allow him formal admission and his inclusion on his new squad’s roster.

There’s also one current FCS quarterback in the group: North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.

In addition to Adams and Wentz, 2014 Unitas finalists Cody Kessler of USC and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State are included in the initial watch list.   Last year’s winner was the man Adams will attempt to replace, Marcus Mariota.

Below is the complete list of preseason Unitas Award watch listers.  And, again, those eligible are college senior or fourth-year junior quarterbacks.

Vernon Adams, Oregon
Brandon Allen, Arkansas
Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska
Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Blake Frohnapfel, UMass
Everett Golson, Florida State
Taysom Hill, BYU
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Driphus Jackson, Rice
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Cody Kessler, USC
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
Fredi Knighten, Arkansas State
Joe Licata, Buffalo
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Maty Mauk, Missouri
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
Chad Voytik, Pittsburgh
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah

Five Buckeyes among 50 named to Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list

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Award watch list season is drawing to a close, but not before the Walter Camp Foundation released its list of 50 players worthy of consideration for its player of the year honors.

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin was a second-team Walter Camp All-American last season, and he is among the popular candidates for the Walter Camp Award this season. Other previous Walter Camp All-Americans joining Boykin on this watch list are Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III and Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins. Of course, there is a handful of players from Ohio State, as has been the case on multiple watch lists thus far. Ohio State quarterbacks Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones each made the watch list. So did running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The list of candidates will be trimmed down to 10 semi-finalists in mid-November and the award will be presented on December 10 at the annual college football awards show. Last year’s winner was Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. A quarterback has won the award all but five times since 2000. USC has been the home to a nation-leading six Walter camp Award winners, including running backs Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson (twice). USC quarterback Cody Kessler and linebacker Su’a Cravens each appears on this year’s watch list.

2015 Walter Camp Award Watch List

S Dante Barrett, Kansas State
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
RB Devontae Booker, Utah
DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU
DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
DB Jeremy Cash, Duke
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
RB James Conner, Pittsburgh
QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
LB Su’a Cravens, USC
QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
DB/KR DeVon Edwards, Duke
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
RB Kenneth Farrow, Houston
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
RB Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
QB Jared Goff, California
QB Everett Golson, Florida State
QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
LB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
QB Taysom Hill, BYU
QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
RB/LB Myles Jack, UCLA
RB Devon Johnson, Marshall
QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State
QB Cody Kessler, USC
QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
LB Blake Martinez, Stanford
RB Elijah McGuire, Louisiana
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
DE Shaun Oakman, Baylor
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy
QB Anu Solomon, Arizona
QB Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
DB Darian Thompson, Boise State
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
WR Duke Williams, Auburn
LB Scooby Wright III, Arizona
QB Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

A mere two dozen QBs placed on O’Brien watch list

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“You call that a watch list?  The Lombardi Award scoffs in your general direction.” — the Lombardi Award, speaking in the third person.

Be that as it may, the Davey O’Brien Award released the shortest preseason watch list of the year thus far, with a mere 24 quarterbacks posted to the initial grouping.  Interestingly, and unlike the Maxwell Award, there’s only one Ohio State quarterback on this list — Cardale Jones.  Neither Braxton Miller nor J.T. Barrett were included, although the O’Brien explained that Jones “[f]inished last year as Ohio State’s starting quarterback” and OSU “has not yet named a starter for the 2015 season.”

Those who actually are on the list includes 2014 finalists Trevone Boykin of TCU and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, who finished behind winner Marcus Mariota in the voting last year. Additionally, 2014 semifinalist Connor Cook of Michigan State is on the initial watch list this year.

The O’Brien also notes that there are nine players appearing on the watch list for the second straight year: Cook and Prescott, along with Jared Goff (California), Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), Taysom Hill (BYU), Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Chuckie Keeton (Utah State), Cody Kessler (USC) and Keenan Reynolds (Navy).

All 10 FBS conferences placed at least one player on the watch list, with the ACC and Pac-12 leading the way with four each. The AAC, Big Ten and SEC had three apiece, while the MAC, with two, was the only other conference with more than one.

By class, there are 11 seniors, eight juniors and five sophomores.

Trevone Boykin (TCU, Senior)
Connor Cook (Michigan State, Senior)
Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee, Junior)
Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky, Senior)
Blake Frohnapfel (UMass, Senior)
Jared Goff (California, Junior)
Christian Hackenberg (Penn State, Junior)
Taysom Hill (BYU, Senior)
Kevin Hogan (Stanford, Senior)
Jeremy Johnson (Auburn, Sophomore)
Cardale Jones (Ohio State, Junior)
Brad Kaaya (Miami, Sophomore)
Chuckie Keeton (Utah State, Senior)
Cody Kessler (USC, Senior)
Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati, Junior)
Fredi Knighten (Arkansas State, Junior)
Paxton Lynch (Memphis, Sophomore)
Dak Prescott (Mississippi State, Senior)
Keenan Reynolds (Navy, Senior)
Anu Solomon (Arizona, Sophomore)
Zach Terrell (Western Michigan, Junior)
Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech, Junior)
Deshaun Watson (Clemson, Sophomore)
Marquise Williams (North Carolina, Senior)