College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • Saturday, August 30, 2014
    Michigan State rolls despite injury scare
    By The Sports Xchange

    EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Connor Cook shook off an ugly hit and delivered a nearly flawless half in Michigan State's season opener.

    • Cook, the Spartans' junior quarterback, threw three first-half touchdown passes, including two to Tony Lippett, to lead No. 8 Michigan State to a 45-7 thumping of FCS opponent Jacksonville State on Friday night at Spartan Stadium.

      Cook's night appeared to be over after the opening drive. He was struck on the left knee on a low hit by Jacksonville State free safety Folo Johnson while releasing a 64-yard touchdown pass to Lippett. Johnson was assessed a roughing the passer penalty.

      Cook needed assistance to get off the field but tested out the knee on the sidelines and came back for the next series, in which he promptly connected with Lippett on a 71-yard scoring strike.

      "It was frightening," said Cook, who completed 12 of 13 passes for 285 yards and sat out the second half. "I haven't gotten hit like that in a while. It's been almost a year, but I'm doing all right, so we're good."

      Coach Mark Dantonio said the first two words that came to mind when he saw Cook go down were "Oh no!"

      "That looked pretty ugly out there but he rebounded after that," Dantonio said. "He went right back in the game and didn't really miss a snap. That was a positive and I think he's fine. The thing about Connor, he's very resilient. He came back and played very, very effectively."

      Lippett, a senior, caught four passes for a career-high 167 yards, and senior running back Nick Hill scored two rushing touchdowns as the Spartans looked sharp heading into their road showdown against No. 3 Oregon next Saturday.

      The defense collected five sacks and three interceptions.

      "You want to have high confidence coming out of Week One and going into a big game out in Eugene," Cook said. "For us to come out and play the way we did, making the plays we made, and the defense playing the way they played, too, it's obviously a big confidence booster for all of us heading into a big-time game, in a big-time environment, against a big-time opponent."

      Reserve quarterback Tyler O'Connor added a 3-yard rushing touchdown and Jeremy Langford rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries for Michigan State. Senior quarterback Max Shortell threw a touchdown pass for the Gamecocks, who were dominated in the head coaching debut of John Grass. Sophomore receiver Josh Barge caught seven passes for 98 yards.

      "We felt confident. We just hoped to make a stand and be in the game in the fourth quarter and see what happens," Shortell said. "When they jumped on us early, that's tough. Giving up big plays early is tough. It kind of knocked our spirits out."

      Lippett did not previously have a 100-yard receiving game in his career but reached that mark in the opening minutes as the Gamecocks' defense broke down.

      "He knows where I like the ball at and I know where he likes to throw the ball at," Lippett said. "We're just trying to get our chemistry as the season goes along and just keep improving."

      The Gamecocks, who were 11-4 last season, gave up 565 total yards.

      "It's the whole defense's fault. You can't blame it on one person," said Jacksonville State linebacker Ben Endress, who made 10 tackles. "Big plays really hurt a defense mentally. We've just got to bounce back next week."

      The Spartans made it 21-0 with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter when Cook threw a 19-yard corner fade to junior receiver AJ Troup, who plucked the ball away from cornerback Jermaine Hough for his first career reception.

      Hill scored on runs of 17 and 8 yards in the second quarter. Michael Geiger's 35-yard field goal on the last play of the half made it 38-0.

      NOTES: Spartans starting LG Travis Jackson suffered a left knee injury in the third quarter. Coach Mark Dantonio would not reveal the extent of the injury. ... Michigan State won its last 15 home openers and had a 13-2 record in its last 15 season openers. ... Spartans PK Michael Geiger, who made 15 of 16 field-goal attempts last season, missed a 41-yard try in the first quarter. ... The Spartans played four other FCS opponents in their history and won those games by a combined score of 172-33. ... The Gamecocks won three of their last four season openers. ... Jacksonville State assistant coach Nick Williams is the son of former MSU head coach Bobby Williams.

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014
    Maryland suspends two for season
    By The Sports Xchange

    On the eve of its first game as a member of the Big Ten Conference, Maryland suspended receiver Levern Jacobs and safety A.J. Hendy for the season.

    • The school cited violations of the University of Maryland's Student Code of Conduct for the reason for the suspension.

      Head coach Randy Edsall released the following statement:

      "I have spoken with Levern and A.J. and expressed my disappointment with their actions. They showed poor judgment and failed to uphold the standards of a student-athlete at the University of Maryland.

      "Both Levern and A.J. were regretful and apologetic about their role in this incident and understand that their actions will not allow them to participate in the upcoming football season."

      Jacobs finished the 2013 season with 47 receptions for 640 yards. Despite being the Terrapins' leading receiver last season, Jacobs was not expected to be a starter this season at one of Maryland's deepest positions.

      The Terrapins open the season against James Madison on Saturday.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Texas Tech extends Kingsbury's contract
    By The Sports Xchange

    Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury received a three-year contract extension through 2020, the university announced Friday.

    • Kingsbury's original deal was for five years when he was hired in December 2012. According to Fox Sports, the new contract is worth $24.2 million, an average of $3.5 million per season, and was signed Friday.

      The new contract would make him the fourth highest-paid coach in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Baylor's Art Briles and Texas' Charlie Strong.

      Texas Tech also announced plans to upgrade the football stadium and training facilities.

      Kingsbury led the Red Raiders to a 8-5 record in his first season as head coach.

      "This is where I want to be and I couldn't be happier," Kingsbury said in a statement. "I can't wait to take this thing to the next level."

      Texas Tech opens the season Saturday against Central Arkansas.

      "There has never been a more exciting time within our football program than now," Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said. "I am very proud of the program Coach Kingsbury is building and I know our fans are as well. We can't wait to kick off the season tomorrow night at Jones AT&T Stadium and are looking forward to a bright future."

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    CFB roundup: QB Sims reportedly to start for Alabama
    By The Sports Xchange

    Blake Sims will start at quarterback for Alabama on Saturday, according to CBSSports.com.

    • Alabama, ranked No. 2 in the nation by the Associated Press, opens the season against West Virginia.

      According to the report, Jake Coker will back up Sims and will see some playing time.

      However, coach Nick Saban has not officially named a starter, but said Monday, "We're going to continue to rep both guys."

      Saban also said the starter may not necessarily finish the game.

      It is not clear which one has the competitive edge. Alabama does not open its scrimmages to the media and does not provide passing statistics during preseason camp.

      However, Sims is believed to be more comfortable with the offense than Coker and the fifth-year senior was a longtime backup to former starter AJ McCarron.

      Coker transferred from Florida State after backing up Heisman Trophy award winner Jameis Winston.

      ---Texas A&M's 52-28 win over South Carolina on Thursday night delivered more than $1 million worth of free furniture for Aggies fans.

      The Ashley Furniture branch in College Station offered all furniture purchased from Aug. 16-27 for free if Texas A&M beat South Carolina by at least 10 points.

      Store owner Mark Wilks told ESPN.com on Thursday night that more than 600 people bought items during that span, which totaled more than $1 million in sales. One customer bought $20,000 worth of furniture.

      ---The SEC issued a statement Friday that Vanderbilt can no longer wear its "Anchor Down" jerseys used in place of the players' last names.

      Vanderbilt's jerseys were the subject of controversy during the Commodores' season-opening 37-7 loss to visiting Temple on Thursday night.

      The SEC called the NCAA's approval of jerseys that "are not permissible under the NCAA football uniform regulations" a "miscommunication."

      The NCAA has ruled previously that all schools except the military service academies may not put slogans on the back of their players' jerseys.

      ---Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, speaking at a breakfast the day before his team's season opener, veered off topic to talk about the dangers of marijuana in society.

      At first, Pelini was discussing the challenges that coaches face today and what they see with players, families and backgrounds.

      "Let's face it, it's not OK," Pelini said at the Big Red Breakfast. "I think everybody that's our age, my age, hopefully understands that it's not OK. It's not good. It's not good for you. And these kids do it on a daily basis and a yearly basis ... and it's a real problem out there.

      "Fortunately for us it is not (an issue) in our program. But I can tell you around college football and college athletics ... serious in college. I guarantee you walk into dorms nowadays and it is a horrible problem."

      Pelini then added: "It is out of control."

      The Huskers open their season Saturday as 22-point favorites at home against Florida Atlantic.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Vandy's 'Anchor Down' jerseys banned
    By The Sports Xchange

    The SEC issued a statement Friday that Vanderbilt can no longer wear its "Anchor Down" jerseys used in place of the players' last names.

    • Vanderbilt's jerseys were the subject of controversy during the Commodores' season-opening 37-7 loss to visiting Temple on Thursday night.

      The SEC called the NCAA's approval of jerseys that "are not permissible under the NCAA football uniform regulations" a "miscommunication."

      The NCAA has ruled previously that all schools except the military service academies may not put slogans on the back of their players' jerseys.

      The controversy on Thursday night began at the start of the second quarter when the officiating crew announced that the Commodores were being penalized one timeout for wearing the "Anchor Down" jerseys and would continue to be charged an additional timeout per quarter for the duration of the game.

      Vanderbilt officials then showed referee Ken Williamson an email printout, which apparently indicated that the Commodores had sought and received permission to wear the jerseys. Williamson then restored the lost timeout and announced that there were no further problems with the jerseys.

      "I don't know if it's wrong or not," Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams told The Tennesseean, "but they had approved it."

      Chuck Dunlap, communications director for the SEC, issued a statement from the conference:

      "A miscommunication resulted in Vanderbilt wearing jerseys during its football game Thursday night that are not permissible under the NCAA football uniform regulations. Before production of the jerseys, Vanderbilt sought approval of the jersey design from the NCAA, which included the words 'Anchor Down' on the back panel. The NCAA responded with written approval of the design as presented and Vanderbilt proceeded with the jersey production, assuming the approval was applicable to the slogan as well as the colors and overall design in the submitted layout.

      "NCAA football regulations do not permit the use of slogans on jerseys. Vanderbilt was originally penalized for the jerseys during the game and after being shown the written correspondence, the head referee also interpreted the correspondence to mean the slogan had been approved. Vanderbilt has been notified it cannot wear the slogan on its jersey for future games and has agreed to comply."

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Pelini says pot use is 'out of control' in society
    By The Sports Xchange

    Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, speaking at a breakfast the day before his team's season opener, veered off topic to talk about the dangers of marijuana in society.

    • At first, Pelini was discussing the challenges that coaches face today and what they see with players, families and backgrounds.

      "Let's face it, it's not OK," Pelini said at the Big Red Breakfast on Friday. "I think everybody that's our age, my age, hopefully understands that it's not OK. It's not good. It's not good for you. And these kids do it on a daily basis and a yearly basis ... and it's a real problem out there.

      "Fortunately for us it is not (an issue) in our program. But I can tell you around college football and college athletics ... serious in college. I guarantee you walk into dorms nowadays and it is a horrible problem."

      Pelini then added: "It is out of control."

      The Huskers open their season Saturday as 22-point favorites at home against Florida Atlantic.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Report: QB Sims to start for Alabama
    By The Sports Xchange

    Blake Sims will start at quarterback for Alabama on Saturday, according to CBSSports.com.

    • Alabama, ranked No. 2 in the nation by the Associated Press, opens the season against West Virginia.

      According to the report, Jake Coker will back up Sims and will see some playing time.

      However, coach Nick Saban has not officially named a starter. On Monday, he said, "We're going to continue to rep both guys."

      He also said the starter may not necessarily finish the game.

      "Whatever pitcher starts the game isn't necessarily going to pitch nine innings," he said.

      It is not clear which one has the competitive edge. Alabama does not open its scrimmages to the media and does not provide passing statistics during preseason camp.

      However, Sims is believed to be more comfortable with the offense than Coker and the fifth-year senior was a longtime backup to former starter AJ McCarron.

      Coker transferred from Florida State after backing up Heisman Trophy award winner Jameis Winston.

      "He doesn't have the same knowledge and experience," Saban said of Coker. "We're trying to get him more and more familiar so he can play with the rhythm we want offensively."

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Aggies' win pays off for furniture store
    By The Sports Xchange

    Texas A&M's 52-28 win over South Carolina on Thursday night delivered more than $1 million worth of free furniture for Aggies fans.

    • The Ashley Furniture branch in College Station offered all furniture purchased from Aug. 16-27 for free if Texas A&M beat South Carolina by at least 10 points.

      Store owner Mark Wilks told ESPN.com on Thursday night that more than 600 people bought items during that span, which totaled more than $1 million in sales. One customer bought $20,000 worth of furniture.

      "We've wanted to do this for three or four years now," said Wilks, whose store is an official sponsor of Aggies athletics. "This was really good for us."

      Wilks said that because of the promotion, his store had its best month of sales since opening eight years ago.

      Wilks said he was able to get insurance relatively cheap because Texas A&M was a 10 1/2-point underdog. He added that he will pay the insurance company about 15 percent of the total the store is reimbursing to customers.

      "We're going to have a big check-writing party at the store," he said.

      Jordan's Furniture of Massachusetts and Houston-based Gallery Furniture had similar promotions in the past. Jordan's gave away more than $30 million worth of furniture when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2007. Gallery gave away $7 million in furniture when the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in February. Jordan's had insurance on its promotion but Gallery Furniture said it did not.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Game roundup: Manziel's successor shines in debut
    By The Sports Xchange

    COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No Johnny Football, no problem.

    • Sophomore Kenny Hill showed solid command of the Texas A&M juggernaut offensive attack and then some. Hill threw for a school-record 511 yards and directed the offense efficiently in the No. 21 Aggies 52-28 dismantling of No. 9 South Carolina on Thursday night at Williams-Brice Stadium in the 2014 college football opener.

      Hill was making his first career start and didn't seem to be fazed by the Gamecocks 18-game home winning streak or the 82,847 fans in attendance. His final passing numbers were greater than what former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel could accomplish in his two years as a starter. The Aggies amassed 680 yards of total offense, which ranks 11th most all-time in school history. The 511 yards were the most ever against the Gamecocks.

      The Aggies scored on five of their first six possessions and never flinched. The four scoring drives covered 67, 75, 85 and 75, 80 yards and none lasted more than 4:40 to give Texas A&M a 31-14 halftime lead.

      Hill finished 44-for-60 with three touchdowns. Tra Carson added three touchdown runs.

      South Carolina senior quarterback Dylan Thompson threw four touchdown passes but never seemed to find his rhythm offensively.

      Mississippi 35, Boise State 13

      ATLANTA -- Quarterback Bo Wallace threw four touchdown passes for No. 18 Ole Miss, three coming in the fourth quarter, and the Rebels' defense forced four turnovers in a sloppy victory over the Broncos at the Georgia Dome.

      Wallace connected with Laquon Treadwell on a 14-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and then put the game away with a 31-yard touchdown to Quincy Adeboyejo to put the Rebels up 15 with 10 minutes to play.

      That was plenty for the Ole Miss defense, which picked off Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick four times and kept the Broncos out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter.

      Arizona State 45, Weber State 14

      The 19th-ranked Sun Devils charged to a 31-0 halftime lead, and they cruised to a win over the Football Championship Subdivision's Wildcats at Tempe, Ariz.

      Arizona State running back D.J. Foster carried the ball 15 times for 147 yards and three touchdowns, including a 57-yarder in the third quarter that made the score 38-0.

      Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 18 of 27 passes for 238 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Gary Chambers. Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong made 10 receptions for 146 yards.

      Weber State running back Zach Smith produced 128 yards on 16 carries. He scored on a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    No. 18 Ole Miss surges past Boise State
    By The Sports Xchange

    ATLANTA -- Even Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said his team's 35-13 win over Boise State was hard to watch. And it was. But Freeze and the No. 18 Rebels will take the victory.

    • Quarterback Bo Wallace threw four touchdown passes, three of them in the fourth quarter, and the Rebels' defense forced four turnovers in a sloppy victory over Boise State on Thursday in the season opener for both teams at the Georgia Dome.

      Wallace connected with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell on a 14-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and then put the game away with a 31-yard touchdown to slot receiver Quincy Adeboyejo that put the Rebels up 21-6 with 10 minutes to play.

      That was plenty for the talented Ole Miss defense, which delivered several jarring hits, picked off Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick four times and kept the Broncos out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. Cody Prewitt, Senquez Golson, C.J. Johnson and Tony Conner had interceptions for the Rebels (1-0).

      Wallace tacked on a 76-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Core with 7:45 to play, and running back Mark Dodson scored on a late 19-yard touchdown run to cap the Rebels' scoring.

      Wallace finished 25 of 36 for 386 yards with three interceptions, all coming in the first half.

      "He's our guy, but he obviously didn't play his best," said Freeze of Wallace.

      Like Wallace, Hedrick threw three interceptions in the first half. The senior, making his first career start, led the Broncos (0-1) on two drives inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line in the first half but came away with only three points.

      A Hedrick touchdown pass to running back Jay Ajayi with four minutes to play in the second quarter and two Dan Goodale field goals accounted for the Broncos' points. Hedrick finished 36 of 46 for 264 yards.

      "We just got to have a short memory," Hedrick said. "You're not going to win a lot of games throwing four picks. We turned the ball over four times but still kept the game close most of the time."

      The Rebels led just 7-6 after three quarters but eventually wore down the Broncos.

      The first half was marred by mistakes typical of a first game. Ole Miss was called for 10 penalties, including seven false starts. The Rebels committed two false starts before they ran a play on their first offensive possession.

      At one point, Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner said he didn't think his unit could play any worse, yet "we were still ahead."

      It certainly wasn't the way Ole Miss hoped to begin a season with high expectations. The Rebels return 14 starters and have visions of taking a step up in the rugged SEC West. They'll need to reduce the mistakes that hampered them against the Broncos.

      "Awful hard to watch," said Freeze of his offense's struggles. "We never could get into any rhythm and were constantly behind the chains, because of the penalties."

      For the game, Ole Miss was called for 14 penalties for 78 yards.

      While expectations are high in Oxford, Miss., they're tempered in Idaho for coach Bryan Harsin's first season. Boise State entered the season unranked for the first time since 2008.

      The Broncos earned a reputation as giant-killers during the BCS era with marquee wins over big-name programs. But Boise State took a step back last season, finishing 8-5, and coach Chris Petersen bolted for Washington.

      Harsin, a former assistant for the Broncos, was hired after only one season as a head coach at Arkansas State. He acknowledged leading up to Thursday's game that the Broncos' roster wasn't as talented as it was during their run to prominence, but said he was proud of the way his team competed against SEC competition.

      "You didn't see our guys lying on the ground, grabbing their hamstring or cramping up," Harsin said.

      Early in the game, Boise State took its lumps but hung in there. After Jeremy Ioane's interception of Wallace, the Broncos marched inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line and threatened to take the lead. But on third-and-goal, Hedrick threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off in the end zone by Golson.

      The Rebels finally settled down enough on the ensuing drive for the strong-armed Wallace to zing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Core to give Ole Miss a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. They took a 7-3 lead into halftime.

      NOTES: Ole Miss starting LB Serderius Bryant was ejected from the game in the first quarter for a hit to the head of Grant Hedrick after the Boise State quarterback released a pass. ... Boise State first-year coach Bryan Harsin replaced current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze also coached at Arkansas State before taking over at Ole Miss. ... Ole Miss was picked to finish fourth in the Southeastern Conference West in the preseason media poll. The Rebels open SEC play at Vanderbilt next week. ... Boise State was picked to win the Mountain West Conference in the preseason media poll. The Broncos open MWC play next week against Colorado State. ... Thursday's game was the first meeting between the two teams. ... Alabama will play West Virginia on Saturday in the second of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Aggies unleash Hill on Gamecocks
    By The Sports Xchange

    COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No Johnny Football, no problem.

    • Sophomore Kenny Hill showed solid command of the Texas A&M juggernaut offensive attack and then some in the season opener Thursday night. Hill threw for a school-record 511 yards and directed the offense efficiently in the No. 21 Aggies' 52-28 dismantling of No. 9 South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

      Hill, who made his first career start, didn't seem fazed by the Gamecocks' 18-game home winning streak or the 82,847 fans in attendance. His final passing numbers (44-for-60, three touchdowns, no interceptions) were greater than those former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel accomplished in his two years as a starter.

      "I was more excited than nervous," Hill said. "The O-line came out and blocked tremendously, giving me plenty of time to sit back there and throw and the receivers made great plays. We came out quick and threw just a couple of little screen passes out and made plays. It got my confidence up."

      The Aggies amassed 680 yards of total offense, which ranks 11th most all-time in school all-time in school history and fourth most since Kevin Sumlin took over in 2012. The 511 yards passing were the most ever against the Gamecocks. Hill won a heated battle with true freshman Kyle Allen in the preseason for the starting quarterback spot.

      "Well, I think we are making the right decision, I'll put it that way," Sumlin said. "I think what we did tonight was showed that really we're not a one trick pony. We aren't anywhere near where we want to be -- we're not going anywhere, anytime soon."

      Texas A&M's point total was the highest allowed by South Carolina since a 56-17 loss to Auburn in the 2010 SEC championship game.

      "It was obvious the odds makers don't know what they're talking about," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "That team was so much better than us it wasn't even funny. They out-coached us, out-played us and they were better prepared and knew what they were doing.

      "It was a mismatch tonight."

      The Aggies scored on five of their first six possessions. The drives covered 67, 75, 85, 75 and 80 yards, and none lasted more than 4:40 as Texas A&M opened a 31-14 halftime lead. The second half scoring drives were 66, 42 and 83 yards.

      Hill finished the first half 27-for-35 for 299 yards and two touchdowns -- 3 yards to wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones and 14 yards to wide receiver Edward Pope.

      Running back Tra Carson added touchdown runs of 1-yard and 2-yards for the Aggies, and kicker Josh Lambo connected on a 33-yard field goal.

      Texas A&M finished the half with 393 yards of total offense.

      Carson finished with seven carries for 30 yards and three touchdowns. Aggies receiver Malcome Kennedy caught 14 passes for 137 yards.

      South Carolina countered with the big play. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson had first-half touchdown passes of 69 yards to wide receiver Nick Jones and 46 yards to Damiere Byrd.

      Thompson wound up throwing four touchdown passes, but he never seemed to find his rhythm. He completed 20 of 40 passes for 366 yards with one interception. South Carolina finished with 433 overall but it wasn't the start they were expecting after three straight 11-win seasons.

      "Honestly, it doesn't matter how well I think I played. The scoreboard can tell you that story," Thompson said. "We have to be better next week and come back ready to go to work."

      Jones made five receptions for 113 yards.

      Texas A&M plays three straight non-conference games before returning to SEC action on September 27 against Arkansas. South Carolina, who has won 11 games three straight seasons, have East Carolina next week before hosting Georgia on Sept. 13. That is a must-win if they have a chance to win the SEC East.

      "We'll regroup, come back and to fight again against East Carolina," Spurrier said. "I think our players are better than what they showed but I don't know."

      NOTES: All-Southeastern Conference RB Mike Davis did not start for South Carolina and saw limited time (six carries, 15 yards). The junior battled nagging injuries in the preseason and only played in a couple of series before leaving with bruised ribs. Junior Brandon Wilds started in place of Davis, and he gained 45 yards on nine carries. ... South Carolina's Steve Spurrier lost for just the second time in 25 season openers as a college coach. He is 23-2 overall, with his previous defeat coming at the hands of the Gamecocks in 1989 when he was the coach at Duke.... Texas A&M played eight true or redshirt freshmen. ... Texas A&M sophomore LB A.J. Hilliard was carted off the field in the third quarter with a right leg injury.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Bouagnon scores 4 TDs as NIU routs Presbyterian
    By The Sports Xchange

    DEKALB, Ill. -- Presbyterian College knew it was a decided underdog against Northern Illinois in Thursday's college football season opener.

    • However, the Blue Hose might not have foreseen this kind of result.

      Northern Illinois sophomore tailback Joel Bouagnon ran for four touchdowns while the Huskies' defense held Presbyterian to 127 net yards in a 55-3 non-conference victory.

      The yardage total was the fewest allowed by Northern Illinois in nearly three seasons.

      "They're as good a football team we've played since I've been here," said Presbyterian coach Harold Nichols, who is in his sixth year at the Football Championship Subdivision school. "We were physically outmatched. I wish we'd have played better."

      For Northern Illinois, it was the largest season-opening victory since beating Wisconsin-Whitewater 55-7 on Sept. 14, 1963. The Huskies set a school record by running 109 offensive plays Thursday.

      Northern Illinois also extended the nation's longest active winning streak to 27 games and allowed the program's fewest points since a 63-0 victory over Massachusetts on Nov. 3, 2012.

      Huskies coach Rod Carey said he empathizes with Presbyterian, which also faces North Carolina State and Ole Miss later this season.

      "I give Presbyterian a lot of credit," Carey said. "I've been in that situation like that in my coaching career where you're making a transition and it's hard. But they're a well-coached team and they came out playing really hard."

      The Huskies piled up 635 total yards and 36 first downs. Tailback Akeem Daniels rushed 15 times for a game-high 118 yards.

      "I wanted to see us play fast on both sides of the ball, and we did," Carey said. "I thought we came out and executed for the most part."

      Northern Illinois built a 34-0 halftime lead, then extended the margin with three third-quarter touchdowns, including Bouagnon's fourth of the night, a 1-yard run with 11:31 left in the period.

      Presbyterian, which dropped a season opener for the seventh time in eight seasons, avoided a shutout thanks to Brandon Morrow's 31-yard field goal with six seconds left in the third quarter.

      It was Northern Illinois' first game without 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Jordan Lynch.

      Three quarterbacks -- redshirt junior Matt McIntosh, redshirt sophomore Drew Hare and Western Michigan transfer Anthony Maddie -- shared equal billing on the pregame depth chart, and each played several series.

      "We came out, no matter what quarterback was in there, and we executed pretty well," Carey said. "I was (also) pleased with (the running game). ... I see these guys rushed for 424 (yards), and anytime you do that, that's a good thing."

      Northern Illinois won for the 25th time in its past 27 games, and it owns a 47-10 record since 2010. Presbyterian fell in its opener for the second consecutive year and seventh time in eight seasons.

      Northern Illinois scored on its first three possessions. McIntosh threw a 39-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Da'Ron Brown, kicker Tyler Wedel added a 32-yard field goal and Bouagnon scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run with 1:12 left as Northern Illinois led 17-0 after one quarter.

      Bouagnon found the end zone again early in the second quarter on a 23-yard untouched run up the middle as the Huskies made it 24-0.

      Bouagnon's third touchdown run capped a 13-play drive and opened a 31-0 lead late in the first half as rain began to fall onto the Huskie Stadium turf.

      Wedel added a 26-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the half to make it 34-0.

      Blue Hose slotback Jeremiah McKie's 61 yards on four first-half returns helped him top 2,000 all-purpose yards for his career but there were few positive landmarks achieved by Presbyterian.

      "We gotta play better, we can't turn the ball over like that," Nichols said. "We've got other teams on our schedule that are just as physical and just as tough. I think this week, we're gonna analyze this game and take it for what it's worth. One game doesn't make a season."

      NOTES: Presbyterian has the fewest students of any NCAA Division I program (1,300). ... The Blue Hose were shut out only once in their last 83 games, a 58-0 loss at Vanderbilt in 2012. ... Presbyterian opens its home season Sept. 6 against Bluefield in its first home night game in 24 years. ... Northern Illinois travels to Northwestern on Sept. 6 for its first meeting with the Wildcats since 2005. ... The Huskies have games scheduled every day of the week except Sunday and Monday this season.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    Notre Dame sits fifth player during investigation
    By The Sports Xchange

    A fifth Notre Dame player will be held out of practice and games while the university continues to investigate possible academic misconduct.

    • The player was not named by the school, but he was identified as senior defensive back Eilar Hardy by WNDU in South Bend, Ind.

      Wide receiver DeVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore were already being withheld from participating until the investigation is completed.

      "As Notre Dame's internal investigation relating to potential NCAA violations reaches its conclusion, a decision has been made to hold a fifth football player out from practice and competition," the university said in a statement. "As with all cases of suspected academic dishonestly, the matter will not be subject to the university's honor code process."

      Hardy played in 10 games and made two starts last season. He had 26 tackles.

      Notre Dame opens the season on Saturday against Rice.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    CFB roundup: Sarkisian says Shaw could return
    By The Sports Xchange

    USC coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday that suspended senior cornerback Josh Shaw could potentially return to the team this season.

    • Sarkisian said he shares blame with the athletic department for publicizing Shaw's bogus story about injuring his ankles while saving his 7-year-old nephew from drowning last weekend.

      Shaw, a team captain, was suspended indefinitely Wednesday and was already expected to miss at least the first month of the season with high ankle sprains.

      "Potentially," Sarkisian said Thursday after practice when asked if Shaw could return to the team. "Sure."

      Shaw initially said he suffered his injuries Saturday night after jumping from the second story of an apartment complex to save his nephew, who was struggling in the pool. Shaw said his nephew did not know how to swim.

      Shaw admitted to team officials Wednesday that the story was a complete fabrication.

      ''Obviously there's some other things that need to take place,'' Sarkisian said. ''But in the meantime, he's got to take care of his health and take care of himself, and when the time is right to bring him back, we will.''

      ---Southern Cal running back Tre Madden could miss the Trojans' first three games with a turf toe injury, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

      Madden finished second on the team with 703 rushing yards last season and is rated as the No. 19 junior running back in the nation by NFLDraftScout.com. He sports excellent size at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, but is not a speed burner with a 40-yard dash time reported at 4.68 seconds.

      Meanwhile, Sarkisian confirmed that running back Anthony Brown has decided to quit the team.

      Brown, who had recently been moved from cornerback in a switch he requested, wrote in an Instagram post that the senior has since removed from his account:

      "Sark treated me like a slave in his Office...Can't play for a racist MAN!!!!!"

      The message was posted alongside an image that simply said, "Couldn't play for a racist man!!!!"

      Sarkisian said he was "shocked" at these allegations, called them "ridiculous."

      ---Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy confirmed quarterback J.W. Walsh will start the Cowboys' season opener against No. 1 Florida State on Saturday.

      Walsh has taken the majority of the first-team reps during for practice for the unranked Cowboys, but Gundy had yet to name a starter with Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph in the mix. However, Walsh has the clear edge in experience as the Big 12's Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2012. He started five of the eight games he appeared in last season.

      Garman, a redshirt junior, has not thrown a pass for the Cowboys and Rudolph is a highly-touted true freshman.

      ---North Carolina starting defensive tackle Ethan Farmer was cleared to play this season after an eligibility issue with the NCAA was resolved.

      Farmer practiced with the team during preseason camp while his eligibility was in question, but the Tar Heels weren't expecting a ruling on his status before the Tar Heels' opener against Liberty on Saturday.

      Farmer, who is ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 28 defensive tackle prospect in 2015, started 13 games for North Carolina last season. He had 30 tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss, and a forced fumble.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    DT Farmer ruled eligible for North Carolina
    By The Sports Xchange

    North Carolina starting defensive tackle Ethan Farmer was cleared to play this season after an eligibility issue with the NCAA was resolved Thursday.

    • Farmer practiced with the team during preseason camp while his eligibility was in question, but the Tar Heels weren't expecting a ruling on his status before the Tar Heels' opener against Liberty on Saturday.

      "We are thankful to have Ethan cleared to play and I know he's excited to have this behind him," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said in a statement. "Ethan is our only experienced player on the defensive line and we'll be counting on him for senior leadership in that group.

      "He has practiced hard during the preseason and has not let this situation affect his preparation for the season."

      Farmer, who is ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 28 defensive tackle prospect in 2015, started 13 games for North Carolina last season. He had 30 tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss, and a forced fumble.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    USC's Sarkisian says Shaw could return
    By The Sports Xchange

    USC coach Steve Sarkisian said Thursday that suspended senior cornerback Josh Shaw could potentially return to the team this season.

    • Sarkisian said he shares blame with the athletic department for publicizing Shaw's bogus story about injuring his ankles while saving his 7-year-old nephew from drowning last weekend.

      Shaw, a team captain, was suspended indefinitely Wednesday and was already expected to miss at least the first month of the season with high ankle sprains.

      "Potentially," Sarkisian said Thursday after practice when asked if Shaw could return to the team. "Sure."

      Shaw initially said he suffered his injuries Saturday night after jumping from the second story of an apartment complex to save his nephew, who was struggling in the pool. Shaw said his nephew did not know how to swim.

      Shaw admitted to team officials Wednesday that the story was a complete fabrication.

      ''Obviously there's some other things that need to take place,'' Sarkisian said. ''But in the meantime, he's got to take care of his health and take care of himself, and when the time is right to bring him back, we will.''

      Sarkisian said Shaw did not tell them how he suffered the injury outside of "falling from a balcony." Shaw was with his recently hired attorney, Donald Etra, when he spoke to him and school officials.

      "He was unable to tell us," Sarkisian said. "When he actually admitted to us that he was lying, he was in the presence of his attorney. That's a better question for his attorney. He didn't tell us and we weren't privy to ask quite honestly."

      Etra said Wednesday that Shaw's injury was suffered while falling off the balcony at the Orsini Apartments in downtown Los Angeles near USC's campus.

      "My understanding is that there is nothing criminal about this whatsoever," Etra told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "There is no criminal activity whatsoever."

      The Los Angeles Police Department said Wednesday night that Shaw was not as a suspect but was mentioned in a report involving a Saturday night break-in at a downtown apartment building.

      A source told ESPNLA.com that witnesses told police an individual matching Shaw's description was seen jumping off of a third-story balcony at the Orsini Apartments where Shaw's girlfriend lives.

      The Los Angeles Times said police responded to a call at 10 p.m. Saturday night, when a caller reported hearing a woman screaming from a third-floor unit. A neighbor reported seeing a black man with dreadlocks run across or scale a balcony. One female resident of the complex questioned, according to the Times, told police, "Sounds like my boyfriend, Josh Shaw."

      Sarkisian said he issued an indefinite suspension because there are still pending investigations by authorities.

      "We're still in holding; it's still ongoing," Sarkisian said. "I don't think it would be fair to put an exact time frame on it until we know everything as it comes through. There are different authorities on campus and off campus looking at some stuff. I don't know yet."

      Shaw, who has played safety and cornerback for the Trojans, had been expected to help anchor the secondary.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    Report: Trojans RB Madden could miss a month
    By The Sports Xchange

    Southern Cal running back Tre Madden could miss the Trojans' first three games with a turf toe injury, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

    • Madden finished second on the team with 703 rushing yards last season and is rated as the No. 19 junior running back in the nation by NFLDraftScout.com. He sports excellent size at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, but is not a speed burner with a 40-yard dash time reported at 4.68 seconds.

      Javorius Allen led USC with 785 yards last season and is expected to be the primary ballcarrier, with Justin Davis the only other scholarship tailback on the roster.

      Madden is expected to miss the season-opener against Fresno State on Saturday, the Pac-12 opener against Stanford and a Sept. 13 game against Boston College. He could return in time for the Sept. 27 game against Oregon State following a bye week.

      Meanwhile, head coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed that running back Anthony Brown has decided to quit the team.

      Brown, who had recently been moved from cornerback in a switch he requested, wrote in an Instagram post that the senior has since removed from his account:

      "Sark treated me like a slave in his Office...Can't play for a racist MAN!!!!!"

      The message was posted alongside an image that simply said, "Couldn't play for a racist man!!!!"

      Sarkisian said he was "shocked" at these allegations, called them "ridiculous."

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    FSU QB Winston embraces Heisman chase
    By The Sports Xchange

    TALLAHASSEE -- Jameis Winston's freshman season at Florida State was the stuff of legend: Unbeaten, 14-0 record. Conference and national championships. NCAA record-number of points scored in a season.

    • And the coveted Heisman Trophy.

      He also found himself ensnared in a variety of alleged legal offenses that dogged him all season, ranging from property damage to sexual assault. He wasn't as fortunate, meanwhile, when he was cited for misdemeanor shoplifting over $30 crab legs from a North Florida grocery store during the offseason this summer.

      With maturity questions swirling, Winston discussing becoming a multisport star and expectations rising with FSU's ranking, the redshirt sophomore vows not to buckle.

      "I'm going to continue to be myself," Winston said in his only media availability granted by FSU in August. "I did have to learn I had to be more guarded. But I'm always going to continue to be myself, man. That's never going to change. As long as my teammates see that, people can have their opinions about me.

      "But it's a new year, man. A new beginning. Got to stay hungry."

      With 4,057 yards passing, 40 TDs and an offense that made college football history with 723 total points scored, Winston ate well last year.

      Just 19, the former No. 1 high school recruit in the nation from Hueytown, Ala., drew comparisons to Manning and Rodgers, and most expect him to only grow as he gains a firm grasp of the offense.

      Now, all eyes are on him to see if he can do it again. And Winston is confident he won't disappoint.

      "I'm going to be great. Better than I was last year," he said. "But I haven't set any individual goals. Just team goals. And the first goal is winning the national championship."

      Winston should once again have the tools around him to do that, too. FSU returns 15 starters, most notably nearly all of its offensive line -- and that means plenty of time once again for Jameis to be Jameis.

      "People say, after the season he had, how could he get better?" Senior wideout Christian Green said. "Well, the answer is, 'A lot of ways' -- and he has."

      Oddsmakers like Winston's chances to repeat as well, installing him as the early 4-to-1 favorite to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy over second-favorite Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (8-to-1), followed by UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (13-to-2).

      Mariota is already being trumpeted as the No. 1 overall NFL prospect by NFLDraftScout.com – Winston is No. 6 – and was the All-American quarterback pick of multiple national outlets.

      But that doesn't seem to bother the ever-confident Winston. He realizes that last year is just that -- and the race to this season's Heisman is once again officially wide open.

      "You've got to get better every day," Winston said. "Can't live in the past."

      Here is a closer look at the 2014 Heisman Trophy race:

      The Favorites

      1. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

      An NCAA-leading passer-efficiency rating of 184.85 and national record-setting number of points put up by Winston and the Seminole offense will be hard to duplicate or top. Or will it? The sophomore returns nearly his entire offensive line, a highly talented WR corps led by senior leader Rashad Greene and a stable of beastly running backs. Plus, FSU's schedule -- seven home games, one at a neutral site -- is as favorable as it has been in years. Winston also has a knack for making pin-point accurate throws and highlight-reel plays that Heisman voters drool over. If FSU goes wire-to-wire and wins the ACC again -- and Winston stays away from negative off-the-field headlines -- it's easy to envision him becoming the first player since former Ohio State RB Archie Griffin (1974-75) to win the Heisman Trophy in consecutive seasons.

      2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

      He passed up the NFL and returned for his junior season and a shot at the national title -- and Heisman -- which many predicted he'd win last year. He passed for 3,365 yards and 31 TDs last season -- compared to only four picks -- and he added nine rushing scores. But when Oregon lost two games in November, Mariota went from frontrunner to afterthought. This year, we'll know where Mariota's chances stand early: The No. 3 Ducks host No. 8 Michigan State and play at No. 7 UCLA before the middle of October. If Mariota wins and puts up big numbers in those two games, he may make an early move to the front of the pack.

      3. RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

      Don't be surprised if the junior from Athens is holding the trophy in New York by the end of the season. Gurley is arguably the best running back in college football, and with the Bulldogs breaking in a new quarterback, look for UGA to feature Gurley heavily. His injury-plagued 2013 season still resulted in 989 yards rushing and 441 receiving and 16 total TDs. Georgia's only Heisman winner in history, RB Herschel Walker (1982), gushed about Gurley recently, saying: "He's a very, very good ball player. The guy has got so much talent."

      4. QB Nick Marshall, Auburn

      Tigers backup QB Jeremy Johnson has already publicly predicted that Marshall will win the Heisman this year. A show of support by a fellow teammate doesn't make you a preseason Heisman favorite, but leading your team to within 13 seconds of the national championship -- and returning scores of the players who helped get you there -- does. Marshall's dual-threat numbers in 2013 were just off the charts: 1,068 rushing yards, 1,976 passing yards and 26 total TDs -- and that's after he arrived at Auburn as a JUCO transfer with just a few months to learn the Tigers' complicated offense. He's had more than a year to master it now -- and that's a scary thought.

      5. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

      Let's face it: Numbers win trophies. The Bears' offense is such that Petty might have already thrown for 2,000 yards by the fifth game. His numbers by the end of this season will be bonkers and hard to ignore. He led the nation with 4,200 yards passing in 2013, tossed 32 touchdowns and rushed for 14 more. Petty's weapons, meanwhile, are endless, and he'll be allowed to air it out 55-to-65 of the 80-to-90 plays the Bears will run every game. If he raises his completion percentage this year from 62 percent a year ago, he has to be in the conversation.

      Second Tier

      1. QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

      Some have Hundley in their top three, but his inconsistency and propensity to throw bad interceptions should give voters pause. However, if you're going to put Auburn's Marshall on the list, Hundley and his 3,071 passing yards, 24 passing TDs, 748 rushing yards and 11 rushing TDs from a year ago have to come along, too. Hundley will have time to build a nice Heisman resume before getting a chance to prove his worth and close the season against three straight preseason ranked opponents.

      2. QB Taylor Kelly, Arizona State

      Kelly threw for 3,635 yards and 28 TDs. He is a tremendous rusher, galloping for 609 yards and nine more TDs as a junior in 2013. But he played erratically in the high-visibility contests -- or, really, against any team with a moderately good defense (see: two losses to Stanford and one to Notre Dame last year). Arizona State plays ranked teams in six of seven games between Sept. 25 and Nov. 8, so we'll find out quickly if Kelly has improved to Heisman-finalist status.

      3. RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

      Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 scores a year ago, despite sharing carries with now-NFL running back James White. He'll be the feature back this season running behind arguably the biggest offensive line in college football year after year. The Badgers face No. 13 LSU in their opener, and if Gordon proves he can run on the Bayou Bengals, then he'll be able to run on anyone this year.

      4. WR Rashad Greene, Florida State

      Quiet, unassuming and shy: Here's your darkhorse of all darkhorses. But consider this: Greene, a senior, is No. 1 FSU's biggest offensive weapon and the team's leading wideout for the last three seasons. He finished with 1,128 yards and nine TDs during last year's national championship season, and it was his 49-yard catch-and-run that propelled FSU down the field with under a minute to play and helped deliver them the BCS crown. Bottom line, Greene is a flat-out playmaker, and now that FSU is also asking him to return punts in his final season, look for him to make even more big plays this year that could thrust him into the Heisman conversation. One last thing about Greene: He's poised to break FSU's three major receiving records this year: Catches, yards and receiving TDs.

      5. WR Ty Montgomery, Stanford

      You won't find Montgomery's name on too many of these lists, but considering he's as dangerous a wideout as he is a return man, he might explode into the conversation this season. The senior caught 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 TDs last year, and he also rushed for two more and returned two kicks for scores.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    GameScout: SMU at Baylor
    By The Sports Xchange

    SMU at No. 10 Baylor

    • KICKOFF: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET

      GAMEDATE: 8/31/14

      SITE: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas

      TV: Fox Sports 1

      SERIES: The Baylor-SMU series is tied at 36-36-7 and 18-18-3 in Waco. The Bears won last year's meeting 59-24 also in Waco. Baylor and SMU were members of the Southwest Conference together from 1918-1996.

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      The most popular photos and videos in Waco these days -- outside of those from the Ice Bucket Challenge -- are the ones taken inside Baylor's new McLane Family Stadium.

      And much like a person dousing themselves with ice-cold water, the Baylor football team isn't exactly certainly how it will react to the rush. But the Bears have a pretty good guess.

      Coach Art Briles has compiled the kind of talent entering his seventh season at Baylor that will pair nicely with the fancy new on-campus stadium.

      "We've got guys that when you put them on the field, and there's some energy, they can be a different step, different level," Briles said. "I've been around it a long time and I know how fast looks when it's excited."

      At around 45,000 seats, Baylor's new stadium is quaint compared to some of the mammoth venues across the college football landscape. But the Bears are hoping it's not the size of the crowd in the fight but the size of the fight in the crowd.

      "It's our job to make that the most exciting stadium in the United States of America on game day," Briles said. "Our guys got to feed off of it."

      The first opponent to test that theory will be SMU, which finished 5-7 last season. The Mustangs don't figure to be much of a match as the Bears have been tabbed a four-touchdown-plus favorite.

      The biggest story of SMU's offseason is its quarterback position -- who will become the leader, sophomore Neal Burcham or former Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis -- and just how effective will they be with the run-and-shoot offense.

      SMU coach June Jones, in his seventh season with the Mustangs, has decided on the arm of Burcham to lead the team in the opener.

      Burcham, who started two games last year in place of the injured Garrett Gilbert, has the experience to be a factor for SMU, at least early in the season. Burcham went through spring practice as the No.1 quarterback and continued that role in fall camp.

      "He has been waiting his turn to get in there," Jones said. "I have been impressed watching him the last couple of years. He's prepared himself, he's worked hard. It's just getting familiar with the offense and knowing where to go with the ball quickly and knowing your reads."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Mustangs

      -- TE Jeremiah Gaines continues to develop his impressive raw talent. The 6--3, 235-pounder was used sparingly as a true freshman last season but is slated to take over for Keenan Holman on the outside.

      -- WE Darius Joseph record 103 receptions last year and ranks fourth nationally among returnees this season.

      --LB Cameron Nwosu transfers from Rice after starting 25 games with the Owlse before redshirting last year while rehabilitating a knee injury. He has a clean bill of health now and could make a difference if he still has the explosiveness he demonstrated when he blocked three PAT attempts by UCLA in 2012.

      -- LB Stephon Sanders started all 12 games for the Mustangs and recorded 13.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks. He had 86 total tackles.

      Bears

      --QB Bryce Petty passed for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. If he improves on those numbers and keeps the Bears winning at their 2013 pace, he'll be in the Heisman discussion.

      --WR Antwan Goodley caught 71 passes for 1,331 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He was most effective before fellow deep threat Tevin Reese was sidelined with a wrist injury in the eighth game.

      --DE Shawn Oakman posted 12.5 tackles for loss in 2013 despite not starting a single game. Oakman moves into the starting lineup and will try to prove he can make the same impact from the first snap that he put in as a backup last season.

      --LB Bryce Hager posted 124 tackles as a sophomore in 2012 and 71 last year before a groin tear cut short his season. With playmaking LB Eddie Lackey departed, the Bears need Hager to reach his sophomore pitch again.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    GameScout: Fresno State at Southern Cal
    By The Sports Xchange

    Fresno State at No. 15 Southern Cal

    • KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

      GAMEDATE: 8/30/14

      SITE: LA Coliseum, Los Angeles, Calif.

      TV: FOX

      SERIES: USC is 2-1 against Fresno State, although the 2005 victory was later vacated because of NCAA sanctions. This is a rematch of last year's Las Vegas Bowl, won 45-20 by the Trojans.

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Too soon for damage control at USC?

      Perhaps, but that's the position first-year Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian found himself in this week, doing his best to deflect the negative attention brought by the national hero-turned-villain angle involving starting cornerback Josh Shaw.

      The team captain confessed Wednesday that the story he told of rescuing his distressed 7-year-old nephew from drowning was a tall tale, admitting his multiple ankle sprains resulted instead from jumping from a third-floor apartment balcony.

      The hot news turned hoax sent Shaw to indefinite suspension, though it's likely his injured ankles will keep him out for months, not weeks.

      Sarkisian, who said in a statement Wednesday he was extremely disappointed in a player that had become a leader, had only a few days to get the Trojans back focused on the task at hand.

      But even USC's rivals noticed the original version of the story.

      UCLA coach Jim Mora tweeted: "Best wishes to Josh Shaw for a speedy recovery, what a stud, what a role model. #Hero #RealLifeStuff"

      While the offense -- and in particular offensive line -- finds its legs, the Trojans expect to live on defense, even without Shaw.

      USC's defensive front, led by All-American Leonard Williams, could be the best in the Pac-12. There are five returning starters among the front seven, which will play in a multiple 3-4 look under first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox. Depth in the front seven is a concern, but with guys like Williams, LB Hayes Pullard, LB Lamar Dawson, DE J.R. Tavai and NT Antaun Woods, USC should be stout again against the run. The Trojans were 15th in this category last season, allowing 120.6 yards per game.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Bulldogs

      --FS Derron Smith finds his name on six preseason watch lists for national awards, four preseason All-America teams and for the second year in a row was voted as the Mountain West Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. With 14 career interceptions -- 13 the past two seasons -- he's the one player USC will want to identify before the snap.

      --WR Josh Harper was one of three 1,000-yard receivers for Derek Carr last season. Without Carr, it's Harper and the Whos? Harper has 138 career receptions for 1,841 yards and the 22 TDs in 27 games played in. All other Bulldog receivers have combined for 57 catches for 672 yards and two touchdowns.

      Trojans

      --QB Cody Kessler had a solid debut season -- 236 of 361 for 2,968 yards, with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions -- but his numbers should take a big leap forward while running new coach Steve Sarkisian's hurry-up offense. The speed to which Kessler runs the offense is something to watch in the opener against Fresno State, because Sarkisian said during camp the offense was too slow.

      --SS Su'a Cravens, one of the superstar recruits from the 2013 class, is looking to go from Freshman All-American to actual All-American in 2014. He was limited in camp because of strep throat and a groin injury, but he should be back to his hard-hitting ways in the opener against Fresno State. Cravens had 52 tackles and four interceptions as a true freshman.

      --LB Hayes Pullard, a senior, was selected as one of the team captains by his teammates and was the leading vote-getter among defensive players. He'll lead on and off the field following a season in which he led USC with 94 tackles.

      --CB/WR Adoree Jackson, a touted true freshman, was listed as second-string at cornerback and receiver on the Game 1 depth chart, and he could also return kicks and punts. Coach Steve Sarkisian raved about Jackson in camp, although how much he contributes in the opener is in question because of time missed in camp due to ankle and foot injuries. If he gets up to speed in a hurry, though, watch out.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    GameScout: Stephen F. Austin at Kansas State
    By The Sports Xchange

    Stephen F Austin at No. 20 Kansas State

    • KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET

      GAMEDATE: 8/30/14

      SITE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

      TV: Fox Sports 1

      SERIES: First meeting

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      A go-to guy is easily identifiable in the Kansas State offense.

      Senior Tyler Lockett is poised to break several career receiving records as he comes off an MVP performance in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, a win against Michigan that spearheaded the Wildcats' offseason efforts.

      As the 2014 season approaches, however, with Saturday's opener against FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin, more consistency is needed among other playmakers. Chief among those is the production of the running backs, and a way to replace three-year starter John Hubert.

      "With Tyler, it's not a matter of finding new ways to get him the ball. It's a matter of making sure we have enough diversity on offense, so that if you put 20 guys on him, you have opportunities to go elsewhere with the ball both in the running game and in the passing game," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

      Solutions can be found in a broad-based playbook.

      For starters, the Wildcats will turn to their top returning rusher for ground production, even though that happens to be quarterback Jake Waters. After a prolific junior college career as a passer who engineered Iowa Western to a national title, Waters turned into a dual threat last year for Kansas State.

      Expect him to run again, and provide some ability dodging rushers, though running backs must contribute too, possibly by committee. Although Charles Jones was named the starter for the opener, others will get opportunities. Among them is Judah Jones, who is listed as a wide receiver but sparkled in the spring game as a running back; and Glenn Gronkowski, a fullback who surprised opponents as a receiver out of the backfield last season.

      "I feel reasonably comfortable with each and every (running back), meaning those guys that we thought were in the mix to begin with," Snyder said. "Each and every one of them has made improvement. (We'll) probably start the ballgame with Charles Jones. That's the way it stands right now. I think all of them will have their opportunities."

      Jones, for the record, is a sophomore with no varsity experience after two years in the program.

      There are, at least, receivers who are more seasoned, beginning with a pair of returning senior starters, wideout Curry Sexton and tight end Zach Trujillo. And, of course, Waters provides throwing capability after passing for 2,469 yards as a newcomer last year.

      Stephen F. Austin is directed by first-year coach Cliff Conque, who takes over after directing Central Arkansas to two Southland Conference titles and four postseason appearances in 14 seasons. Senior Gus Johnson is an experienced running back with 2,224 career rushing yards. SFA must improve on defense after allowing 527.8 yards and 49.3 points on average last season.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Lumberjacks

      --RB Gus Johnson, a two-time All-Southland Conference selection, has 2,224 career rushing yards and gained 1,061 rushing yards in 2013, the fifth-best single-season performance in program history, and ranks second and fourth in single-season touchdown rushes (14 in 2012, 11 in 2013

      Wildcats

      --WR/KR Tyler Lockett is one of the busiest contributors in the Big 12, and among the most productive. The senior is threatening virtually every receiving record at Kansas State, some of which are held by his father, Kevin, who played in the NFL. Lockett has logged four returns for touchdowns in his career. If Lockett is doubled, or bracketed, by opposing coverage, the Wildcats have other capable receivers.

      --QB Jake Waters constantly looked over his shoulder a year ago as Kansas State subbed in Daniel Sams and alternated quarterbacks, sometimes on the same set of downs. By the end of the season, however, Waters established himself as the primary quarterback and reduced the turnovers that plagued him during a 2-4 start. With adequate protection, he should enjoy a strong senior season passing the ball.

      --DE Ryan Mueller plays on the edge and can be neutralized to some degree, but his motor runs constantly, allowing him to tie the Kansas State record with 11.5 sacks a year ago. He is the leader of a defense that must be re-tooled at some positions and could face breakdowns in coverage with a pair of new cornerbacks. Whatever pressure can be applied up front will be advantageous.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    GameScout: South Dakota at Oregon
    By The Sports Xchange

    South Dakota at No. 3 Oregon

    • KICKOFF: Saturday, 10:30 ET

      GAMEDATE: 8/30/14

      SITE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

      TV: Pac-12 Network

      SERIES: This is the first meeting between South Dakota State and Oregon.

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said his team is not peeking ahead to a home showdown against No. 8 Michigan State, despite the Ducks being a 50-point favorite in their season opener against South Dakota, an FCS team that is coming off a 4-8 season.

      "It's 100 percent South Dakota," Helfrich said of the game plan this week.

      Regardless of opponent, Oregon says it is just happy to be through with fall camp and have an opponent to prepare to face.

      "We're pretty excited to get going," said junior quarterback Marcus Mariota, who begins the season as one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy. "I know guys are tired of hitting each other. Now that we get into a game week, we will prepare like we have every year I have been here."

      The Ducks had a string of four straight BCS bowls snapped last year when they finished 11-2 with a win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. The Ducks look to a prime contender to reach the new four-team college football playoff.

      "That is the No. 1 goal," Mariota said. "We want to be able to come out of the conference this year, because we haven't been able to do that the last couple years, and be a part of the national playoff picture.

      "We are really motivated. This was one of the best fall camps I have been part of since I got here. We are excited and anxious to get out and play."

      Oregon lost starting left tackle Tyler Johnstone to a torn ACL earlier this month, and wide receiver Bralon Addison will miss at least half of the season with a torn ACL suffered in spring practice.

      But the Ducks still return eight starters on offense and five on defense, including All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

      All that firepower does not augur well for South Dakota.

      The Coyotes return their starting quarterback (Kevin Earl), their top four rushers and five of their top seven receivers on offense, but bring back only five defensive starters. Their entire secondary must be replaced.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Coyotes

      -- RB Trevor Bouma shared rushing duties with Jordan Roberts and ended up the team's leading rusher with 781 yards last year. Roberts finished with 544 in the two-pronged attack dubbed "The Bruise Brothers."

      -- WR Riley Donovan was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer team after gaining 533 yards receiving as a true freshman last year.

      -- LB Auston Johnson is a preseason all-MVFC pick. He led the conference in sacks with seven last year among his 69 tackles.

      -- LB Keyen Lage returns after logging 67 tackles in South Dakota's 3-4 scheme as a sophomore last year.

      Ducks

      --QB Marcus Mariota returns for his third season as Oregon's starter after turning down a chance to leave early for the NFL Draft. He threw for 3,665 yards as a sophomore to rank second in school history for yardage in a single-season.

      --RB Byron Marshall leads a talented trio of running backs\. He was a part-time starter for Oregon last year when he ran for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

      --DE Arik Armstead is in his first season as a full-time starter, but is being mentioned as a possible first-round pick if he leaves after his junior year for the NFL Draft. Armstead was one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school and started five games last year while making 15 tackles.

      --LB Derek Malone is back for his second season as a starter after he led the Ducks and ranked seventh in the Pac-12 with 105 tackles last season. The senior earned honorable mention, all-conference honors last season.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    GameScout: Wisconsin vs. LSU
    By The Sports Xchange

    No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU

    • KICKOFF: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

      GAMEDATE: 8/30/14

      SITE: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

      TV: ESPN

      SERIES: LSU leads 2-0 and won the last meeting 27-7 in 1972.

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      The LSU football season starts Saturday, but that doesn't mean the quarterback competition is over. Not by a long shot.

      The Tigers' first depth chart of the season lists sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris as first team, separated by the "or" designation, meaning neither has won the starting job and both will play in the season opener against Wisconsin in Houston.

      The co-quarterback situation isn't by design, at least not in the sense that coach Les Miles feels there's a strategic advantage to playing both quarterbacks.

      It's a byproduct of neither player clearly winning -- or losing -- the job in preseason, so it's useful to see both under game conditions. Whether this first game yields a clear-cut starter moving forward remains to be seen.

      "Who goes on to the field first is significant," Miles said without revealing who that will be, "but it's really going to be about their best play, and we are looking forward to that happening."

      Both players are dual threats so neither presents a significantly different challenge than the other to opposing defenses. So there's no reason to play both, if and win one establishes himself as the better of the two.

      "Right now, if there was one quarterback that gave us all the advantages to play, then at some point in time, that guy would be our starter after he determined that it was an advantage to his team to play him in all situations from start to finish," Miles said. "That separation has not occurred. We are preparing to play both guys. If those things happen, it will certainly play out in front of us, but competition will make that work."

      So the two-quarterback system will continue as long as the two quarterbacks are essentially equal.

      "If we were certain, then I promise you, we would play the one guy that would give us all the advantage," Miles said. "But, if two guys can give us greater advantage than one guy, then let's certainly play two."

      The No. 14 Badgers finally ended their own quarterback derby when second-year coach Gary Andersen named junior Tanner McEvoy the starter for the season opener.

      McEvoy, who saw playing time last season as a wide receiver and safety, won the job over Joel Stave, who started 19 games over the last two seasons. The 6-foot-6, 222-pound McEvoy, who started three games at safety and tallied 27 tackles and one interception, originally started his career at South Carolina and took advantage of getting extra reps with Stave recovering from a right shoulder injury suffered in the Capital One Bowl loss.

      Andersen, though, said McEvoy's spot at the top of the depth chart might not last long.

      "Whoever takes the first snap doesn't necessarily say he's going to be the guy for the whole season," Andersen said. "We've got two kids who want to compete and will continue to compete. That's where we're going to stay with it."

      McEvoy's first start in a UW uniform certainly won't be easy, with the Tigers, from the SEC, brimming with talent, speed and looking to move up the rankings. The national spotlight will be on the Badgers and Tigers as well, with the game being played Saturday night at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

      "I think it's a great time to play this game," Andersen said. "What we can gain from the non-football side, as far as playing the game, it helps us in an area we want to recruit in. It helps us play an SEC opponent. It's the first game of the year. It's on national television. It's going to be it's a primetime game. So all that stuff is great for the University of Wisconsin. All that stuff is great for the football program. On the field, I think we get a real good idea of how we stack up against one of the best programs in the country year in and year out. That's exactly where LSU sits, and the respect we have for them is very, very high."

      Junior tailback Melvin Gordon can thrust himself into the front of the line for the Heisman Trophy talk with a big performance against the Tigers. Always a physical, fast and tough unit, the LSU defense is gearing its sight on stopping Gordon and his running mate, Corey Clement. Gordon said the Badgers want to show the nation that they have the same level of talent as the Tigers.

      "When you go to Wisconsin, that's all you ever hear," Gordon said. "I've been hearing it all my life. If (LSU) wants to think that, that's fine, but we're going to come to play. Coach Andersen is trying to change that. We're trying to finish. We're trying to win the big games and this is the year to start. Why not?"

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Badgers

      --RB Melvin Gordon is considered one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy after a stellar sophomore season. Gordon has immense talent, but elected to stay another year to work on his overall games including becoming a better pass-catcher. Gordon shouldn't be judged on his performance solely against LSU, but a bad game will be hard to overcome in his pursuit for the Heisman.

      --QB Tanner McEvoy was named the starting quarterback over Joel Stave for the opener against LSU. The 6-foot-6, 222-pound McEvoy was a big-time recruit coming out of high school. After playing safety and wide receiver last season, McEvoy receives an opportunity to run UW's offense.

      --LB Derek Landisch sat out part of last week with a strained right hamstring. One of the top four linebackers on the team, Landisch is one of the leaders on the team. The UW defense has a tough challenge trying to contain highly-touted LSU tailback Leonard Fournette.

      --NG Warren Herring is part of a young and unheralded starting defensive line that must apply pressure to not let LSU's offense get comfortable. Herring's ability to get a push in the middle and disrupt the passing game, while not letting LSU's offensive line open up running lanes in the middle is essential.

      Tigers

      --RB Leonard Fournette's debut might draw more attention than the ongoing battle at quarterback. Fournette was the No. 1 recruit in the country last season and is the most eagerly awaited newcomer at LSU in recent memory. LSU doesn't need to ride Fournette because it has experienced, capable backs in Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, but this game will provide some insight as to whether Fournette is ready to be the primary ball carrier right out of the box.

      --WR Travin Dural is one of the most experienced players in a very inexperienced receiving corps. He's the guy most likely to be able to get open and create opportunities for both of the quarterbacks to make plays in the passing game.

      --DE Danielle Hunter is expected to be the biggest playmaker on the Tigers' line. LSU needs him to get into the backfield and demand double teams if the pass rush and the line are to improve on the disappointment of last season.

      --CB Tre'Davious White emerged as a playmaker on a mostly disappointing defense last season. LSU is looking to create more turnovers on defense this season and he's the best candidate to do that.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    GameScout: Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
    By The Sports Xchange

    No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State

    • KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

      GAMEDATE: 8/30/14

      SITE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

      TV: ABC

      SERIES: Florida State holds a 3-1 advantage in the series with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' only win was 15-6 in the first meeting in the 1958 Bluegrass Bowl in Louisville, Kentucky. The last time the two teams met was in the 1985 Gator Bowl with the Seminoles winning 34-23.

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Not long after Heisman winner Jameis Winston marched Florida State down the field at the Rose Bowl in the final seconds and rallied to beat Auburn for the national championship, a hashtag began appearing on social media.

      It read, "#Dallas2Dallas," and it became a symbolic mantra for the Seminoles' entire offseason -- a moniker that was part reality, part optimism.

      After all, Florida State's first game of the 2014 season would be in Dallas against Oklahoma State. That much the Seminoles knew.

      But whether the 'Noles are going to be good enough to get the chance to defend their championship -- on Jan. 12, 2015, also in Dallas, the site of this season's title game -- is still to be determined.

      The quest begins in prime time with the Seminoles against unranked Oklahoma State.

      The Cowboys are young and could field as many as 20 players who have not yet played at the major-college level, according to coach Mike Gundy's estimation.

      Throughout the preseason, Gundy has expressed confidence in newcomers stepping up, filling spots and helping Oklahoma State remain viable in the Big 12, a conference it claimed in 2011 before tying for second in each of the past two seasons.

      But they are taking on an opponent the returns 15 starters from a national championship team, including Winston.

      "It may be a little overwhelming for some guys," OSU sophomore guard Zac Vaetch said.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Seminoles

      --QB Jameis Winston threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns last season and became the second freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Despite his amazing rookie season, Winston was left off several preseason All-America lists, so expect him to come out with a chip on his shoulder.

      -- RB Karlos Williams, a senior, is entering his first season as the starter, but you wouldn't know it by how calm he acts about carrying the load of a backfield that lost two junior starters to the NFL. A converted defensive back who started last season on defense Williams finished second on the team in rushing with with 730 yards and 11 touchdowns.

      --FS Jalen Ramsey might just be the team's biggest defensive playmaker this year. Ramsey was the first freshman free safety to start at Florida State since the days of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

      -- DE Derrick Mitchell Jr. had the "best camp" of his career, according to coach Jimbo Fisher -- and maybe of any Seminole all preseason. Mitchell, a redshirt junior, is seeing his first real playing time after missing 2011 and 2012 and seeing only limited action in 2013.

      Cowboys

      --LB Ryan Simmons was moved from the weakside to take over in the middle and has shown exceptional leadership in fall camp. Simmons ranked fourth among the Cowboys with 67 tackles last season and will be counted on to help with the quick development of the other two starters at linebacker.

      --CB Kevin Peterson is the only returning starter in the secondary, yet was overshadowed on the other side by Justin Gilbert, who led the Big 12 with seven interceptions. Retaining some of that prowess in gaining takeaways will be huge if the Oklahoma State defense is to swing momentum.

      --WR/KR Tyreek Hill, a junior college transfer, is considered an odds-on breakout performer who can impact a game as a receiver, rusher and returner. His speed is incredible, and he combines it with freakish moves..

      --WR Jhajuan Seales will not boast the same kind of production as OSU's big-time receivers (namely Dez Bryant) did in recent seasons. Still, the sophomore plays a valuable role as the top returnee with 39 catches for 571 yards last season.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    Walsh to start for Okie St. vs. FSU
    By The Sports Xchange

    Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy confirmed quarterback J.W. Walsh will start the Cowboys' season opener against No. 1 Florida State on Saturday.

    • Walsh has taken the majority of the first-team reps during for practice for the unranked Cowboys, but Gundy had yet to name a starter with Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph in the mix. However, Walsh has the clear edge in experience as the Big 12's Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2012. He started five of the eight games he appeared in last season.

      Garman, a redshirt junior, has not thrown a pass for the Cowboys and Rudolph is a highly-touted true freshman.

      "J.W. is a coach's son. He's got a great work ethic, he's got great leadership skills," Gundy said during a radio interview with ESPN on Wednesday. "J.W. has taken the majority of the reps and will be the guy who goes out there and starts for us (against FSU)."

      However, Garman has been pushing Walsh during camp, and it sounds as though Gundy is prepared to use both quarterbacks.

      "Daxx Garman brings a little bit of a twist to our offense," Gundy said. "He's more of a pocket style, throwing quarterback. With these guys, there will be a little bit of a different style of offense depending upon who's in there. But it has never affected J.W. He has always seen it as competition, and it has helped him work hard."

      Walsh, 6-feet-2, 205 pounds, is the No. 19-rated junior quarterback in the country by NFLDraftScout.com. He completed 113 of 190 passes for 1,333 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions last season while adding another 294 yards on 58 carries.

      Rudolph, 6-4, 218, is the No. 25-rated quarterback prospect in the 2018 class.