College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • Former Air Force QB Dowis dies in car accident
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Former Air Force quarterback Dee Dowis, who finished sixth in the 1989 Heisman Trophy voting, was killed in an automobile accident in suburban Atlanta on Monday morning. He was 48.

    • Gwinnett County (Ga.) Police confirmed that Dowis was killed in a two-car accident.

      The Air Force Academy issued a statement via Twitter on its website:

      "Saddened to hear the passing of Legend Dee Dowis. We want to offer our condolences to his family. RIP #BoltBrother."

      A three-year starter in Air Force's triple-option attack, Dowis weighed just 153 pounds but set an NCAA career rushing record for quarterbacks.

      As a sophomore, Dowis rushed for 1,315 yards, an NCAA single-season record for quarterbacks that stood for 12 seasons. Dowis ran for 972 yards as a junior, and he rushed for 1,286 yards and passed for 1,285 yards as a senior.

      "Pound for pound, he was one of the greatest, most gifted and talented players to have played the college game," former Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "Everybody in America had so much respect for him.

      "And as great a player as he was, he was even a greater friend. His life never was about himself. All he wanted in life was to give back. This is just so tragic."

  • Ohio State-Bowling Green preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Urban Meyer will look across the field Saturday in Ohio Stadium to the other sideline and probably flash back 15 years to the place that launched his head coaching career.

    • Bowling Green gave Meyer his first opportunity to be in charge of a program and he took the ball and ran with it. Now, as the 2016 season kicks off in the Horseshoe, Meyer will lead sixth-ranked Ohio State against BG in the opener for both teams (Noon ET, Big Ten Network).

      "I love that school," said Meyer, who begins his fifth season as Ohio State's head coach. "When I think about Bowling Green, it's one of the most tradition-rich programs in the MAC."

      The new season will be one of change for the Buckeyes, who return only six starters from a team that finished 12-1 and beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Gone is a dazzling array of talent that made its mark in the NFL Draft this spring.

      But while the turnover in personnel is significant, one thing that never changes about Ohio State football is expectations. There's plenty of talent, thanks to Meyer and his staff's tenacious recruiting, to plug newcomers into the holes that were left by the outgoing class.

      Meyer sees similarities to the 2014 season when a relatively untested team stumbled early in the season and then finished with a College Football Playoff national championship. That's not to say he's predicting another national title, but he really likes the young personnel on the roster.

      "I'm very excited to watch them play," Meyer said. "This is a talented team. We have good guys. This has been a good camp. Good people to work with."

      Each side of the ball has one anchor to provide leadership. On offense, quarterback J.T. Barrett is everyone's pick as the preseason All-Big Ten quarterback and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. On defense, linebacker Raekwon McMillan begins his third season as a starter and will be counted upon heavily as a rock in the middle of a young defense that at hit hard by departures.

      As for Ohio State's opponent, Bowling Green is certainly no slouch. The Falcons finished 10-3 a year ago and played in the GoDaddy Bowl.

      Mike Jinks is in his first year as Bowling Green's head coach after serving as Texas Tech associate head coach in 2015. He took over for Dino Babers, who left after last season for Syracuse.

      The Falcons are the defending Mid-American Conference champions and have won three straight MAC East Division titles. They're favored again to win the division in 2016.

      Facing a first-year head coach, particularly one who has never been a head coach at a previous college stop, presents some challenges in preparation for the Buckeyes. Meyer again recalled the 2014 season when Virginia Tech threw a foreign defensive scheme at Ohio State and pulled off an upset in Ohio Stadium.

      "You have to expect the unexpected. … On offense, they're going to do what he knows and that's Texas Tech," Meyer said.

      Ohio State will be a heavy favorite to win, but Bowling Green won't be intimidated by the surroundings. Last year, the Falcons almost knocked off Tennessee on the road and beat Big Ten teams Maryland and Purdue.

      "We'll be ready," Jinks said.

      Ohio State leads the all-time series 4-0. The two Ohio teams last met in 2006, a 35-7 victory for the top-ranked Buckeyes. Ohio State is 32-1 against Mid-American Conference opponents and has won 40 consecutive games over in-state opponents.

  • Clemson-Auburn preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and No. 2-ranked Tigers will face former Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele Saturday when Clemson plays Auburn in a key early season matchup in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    • Swinney fired Steele after Clemson's Orange Bowl debacle of 2011, when the Tigers surrendered a bowl-record 70 points in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia.

      "It was very difficult because I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Steele," Swinney said. "He is a great football coach, a great man with a great family.

      "Coach Steele was a huge part of us laying a foundation here in '09, '10 and '11. He helped us win our first ACC Championship in 20 years."

      Steele has had stints with Alabama, LSU and Auburn since, but his first time facing Swinney and Clemson's prolific offense comes in the primetime opener (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

      Coming off a 14-1 season, Clemson has the offensive firepower to make a return trip to the College Football Playoff if things fall into place. The Tigers are blessed with the return of eight offensive starters, starting with quarterback Deshaun Watson -- who finished third in Heisman Trophy voting last year -- 1,500-yard rusher Wayne Gallman and a stable full of talented wide receivers led by potential first-round draft pick Mike Williams.

      Clemson's offense set myriad school records last season, and 2016 could prove even more productive, but Swinney isn't counting on anything yet.

      "There are a lot of unknowns," Swinney said. "They have players we don't know a lot about, and we have players they don't know a lot about. You don't ever really know until you see a team for two or three games."

      Speaking of unknowns, there are several surrounding Auburn's situation.

      The Tigers, who were 7-6 last year, settled their quarterback situation when coach Gus Malzahn named sophomore Sean White the starter over senior Jeremy Johnson and junior college transfer John Franklin III.

      "He's earned it," Malzahn said of the selection of White, who started five games last year before sidelined by injury.

      But there are depth issues at wide receiver, and running back took a hit with the dismissal of projected starter Jovon Robinson. Sophomore Kerryon Johnson and newcomers Malik Miller and Kam Martin, a transfer from Baylor who was granted immediate eligibility, and sophomore Kamryn Pettway may solve the issue at running back, but receiver is another matter.

      Seniors Marcus Davis (30 catches, 181 yards) and Tony Stevens (14-177) have the most experience. But the falloff from them is huge with junior Jason Smith recording only 13 catches and sophomore Stanton Truitt only one. Behind them are four true freshmen -- Kyle Davis, Nate Craig-Myers, Eli Stove and Marquis McClain.

      "We are going to need those older guys," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said.

      Auburn leads the series with Clemson 34-13-2 and won the last meeting, 26-19 in 2012.

  • Florida State-Ole Miss preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    The two coaches have slightly opposing views of the venue for Monday night's clash between No. 4 Florida State and No. 11 Ole Miss that winds up college football's opening weekend (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

    • Orlando's Camping World Stadium, previously known as the Citrus Bowl, is a mere 4 1/2-hour drive from the Seminoles' campus in Tallahassee. The Ole Miss campus in Oxford is 627 miles away as the crow flies and over 150 miles longer when it comes to driving distance.

      "It has its advantages," Seminoles' coach Jimbo Fisher said, noting an immediate introduction for his team to a bowl-game, playoff-like atmosphere and national exposure, not to mention a history that shows the 'Noles have gone 8-0-2 when they have played in Orlando dating back to 1952.

      The disadvantage?

      "You have to play a great opponent," he said, laughing.

      Rebels' coach Hugh Freeze had slightly different opinion when the subject was brought up during the summer at the SEC Media Days.

      "I did get a kick out of our AD telling me it's a 'neutral-site' game," Freeze said. "And I'd use that in quotes, 'neutral site,' and I explain to him, 'Any time you go on the road to a neutral-site game and you have to use silent cadence, it shouldn't be considered a neutral site.'

      "So we'll have a great opposition there in a lot of ways, and it will be an atmosphere that we have to handle."

      Florida State will be starting a new quarterback in Deondre Francois, who will be the second redshirt freshman starter in the last four seasons for the Seminoles. The other? Heisman winner Jameis Winston.

      Francois was named the starter after fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Maguire all but ended the preseason competition when he fractured a bone in his foot during one of the Seminoles' first practices.

      But Francois already had established himself as the front-runner.

      "If you didn't think it was official a long time ago," Fisher said of the decision, "I'm worried about you."

      Ole Miss has a veteran and one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC in senior Chad Kelly, a top-ranked prospect according to NFLDraftScout.com, but the 'Noles have a weapon the Rebels don't have in running back Dalvin Cook. Cook has rushed for 2,699 yards in just two seasons and is only 1,261 yards away from Warrick Dunn's school record.

      Freeze was asked who in the SEC Cook might remind him of.

      "We didn't play Georgia last year, but he is probably similar to their guy," he said, referring to Nick Chubb. "He has a lower center of gravity. Makes you miss in space a bit more than the ones you have mentioned it seems to me."

      Fisher described Kelly as "a competitor" and said the Seminoles would be wary of opening running lanes with an aggressive pass rush, citing Kelly's ability to make big plays with his feet.

      "To me of all the things, you see the physical things, but you see his competitiveness all the time," Fisher said of Kelly.

      This will be just the second meeting between the two schools. The first was in 1961 with Ole Miss winning 33-0 in Oxford.

  • Michigan-Hawaii preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    No. 7 Michigan wants to win with defense and to date the Wolverines are not even sharing the identity of the most important offensive player, their quarterback.

    • Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh is guarding the identity of the starter like it's a national secret, and it's likely the world will find out together at noon ET Saturday when the season begins.

      Harbaugh revealed on Monday that he has chosen the starter -- either sophomore Wilton Speight or junior transfer John O'Korn -- but he just isn't interested in sharing the information publicly yet.

      "Yeah, we know who our starting quarterback is. Yes," Harbaugh said at a press conference. "I'll say who our starting quarterback is before Saturday."

      Harbaugh said the battle for the job has been fierce but he carefully measured his words so he wouldn't tip off the identity of the starter.

      "The competition at the quarterback position has been very good," Harbaugh said. "It's been improving, as well, daily and weekly. All the quarterbacks are playing at a very high level."

      O'Korn, a former starter at Houston, has the edge in game experience. Speight holds the edge when it comes to production in a Michigan uniform.

      Speight hasn't started a game but did guide the Wolverines to a winning touchdown against Minnesota last season when he replaced injured starter Jake Rudock.

      He thinks he has an inkling which way the decision will shake out but wasn't willing to share his opinion.

      "I think I've got a feel now and everyone has a feel," Speight said recently. "But it's Coach's decision and not many people know what goes on in Coach Harbaugh's mind. He's one of a kind, so just kind of wait and see what he does."

      O'Korn isn't stressing over the timing of a public declaration. He said whether he is the starter or the backup will have no bearing on his preparation.

      "I don't think it should change, honestly, if you're the first guy or the second guy," O'Korn said recently. "If you're the second guy you're only a snap away, so you should be preparing just as hard as the starter."

      Hawaii traveled from Australia, where the Rainbow Warriors lost the opener of the college football season to Cal in Sydney.

      The Rainbow Warriors expect to see a power football clinic from Harbaugh, no matter who is under center for Michigan. But unlike many Wolverines' teams, there is no clear-cut leader in the backfield.

      Senior De'Veon Smith had a team-best 753 rushing yards last season but is prone to bouts of inconsistency. He maintained his starting job, partly because of other players failing to meet expectations -- like Ty Isaac -- and injury issues at the position. Isaac, now a junior, has responded differently this summer and is pushing for more time. Senior Drake Johnson is thriving despite two major knee surgeries and having his torso run over by a forklift this offseason.

      Michigan and Hawaii are meeting for the third time. The Wolverines won both previous meetings -- 27-10 in 1986 when Harbaugh was the quarterback and 48-17 in 1998 when Tom Brady was at the helm.

  • Oregon-UC Davis preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Quarterback Dakota Prukop is new to Oregon and new to the Football Bowl Subdivision, but he's familiar with the Ducks' opening opponent -- UC Davis.

    • Prukop, when he was at Montana State, directed a 77-37 victory over the Aggies in 2014.

      He'll get another shot with No. 24 Oregon and its potent offense Saturday at Autzen Stadium (5 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network).

      Prukop, who joined the team as a graduate transfer in the spring, won the starting job in fall camp.

      "We are ready to go out and hit someone else," Prukop said. "I'm ready to take some hits and play some football again."

      Prukop, a dual-threat quarterback who had 7,347 yards of total offense in three seasons with the Bobcats, is the second consecutive one-and-done quarterback for the Ducks. He follows Vernon Adams Jr., a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington, who played well at quarterback last season when healthy.

      Prukop, a 2015 FCS All-American, will have many of Adams' favorite targets back this season, including six of the team's top receivers, led by junior Darren Carrington, who averaged 87 receiving yards per game after returning from a six-game suspension.

      Dwayne Stanford caught 30 passes for 463 yards and five touchdowns. Charles Nelson, who split time at safety and receiver last year, is back on offense full time after catching 17 passes for 270 yards last season. Oregon also hopes for a return to form from tight end Pharaoh Brown, a first-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2014 who missed all of last season with a leg injury.

      Oregon's always-strong ground game returns its top four rushers, led by Royce Freeman, an all-conference pick who ran for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He was the only FBS player to have at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game last year.

      But the Ducks have questions, which is why they are not ranked as highly in the preseason as usual following their 9-4 season.

      Oregon has three true freshman starters on the offensive line, its backup quarterback is a true freshman (Justin Herbert), it has just one returning starter in the defensive front seven, and it lost potential starting cornerback Chris Seisay to transfer during camp.

      "We're a long way from being any kind of defense," new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke said after Oregon's final scrimmage of the fall.

      Coach Mark Helfrich brought in Hoke, the former Michigan head man, after Oregon's defense allowed 37.5 points per game, ranking 115th out of 127 teams nationally. The Ducks will get to kick the tires on their new 4-3 scheme in the opener before the schedule gets harder -- vs. Virginia and then at Nebraska before conference play begins.

      UC Davis has gone 2-9 in each of the past two seasons and was picked to finish last in the 13-team Big Sky in a preseason coaches' poll.

      Carrington might not play in the opener because of a minor shoulder injury suffered in camp. Wide receiver Devon Allen returned to the team following his fifth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles at the Rio Olympics, but it was unclear if he would play in the opener.

  • LSU-Wisconsin preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    The first indication of what kind of impact new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is having will come against his former team.

    • Aranda joined the Tigers in the offseason after an impressive three-year stint as the Badgers defensive coordinator. Aranda's old team and his new team open the season Saturday (3:30 ET) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

      LSU coach Les Miles brought in Aranda to replace Kevin Steele one year after he brought in Steele to replace John Chavis as the Tigers try to regain the elite defense that they had at the start of this decade.

      Last season under Aranda, Wisconsin had the No 1 scoring defense in the country (13.7 points per game) and the No. 2 total defense (268.5 yards per game). LSU ranked 41st in scoring defense (24.3) and 25th in total defense (347.2).

      "Dave Aranda has done a very nice job with the defense," Miles said, "playing a real physical style, fast, speed to the ball performing extremely well during scrimmages, so it was extremely difficult for us to move the football.

      "I know he cares very much for the place he used to work and to line up against them and players he's coached. I'm not speaking for him, but I know that he respects Wisconsin extremely well."

      Aranda might not need the Tigers to duplicate the Badgers lofty rankings in order to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. With junior Leonard Fournette coming off the most productive rushing season in SEC history, the LSU offense should put up big numbers that won't require the defense to be overly stingy.

      The Tigers have had to do some juggling on their offensive line due to injury. They should have their five starters available but exactly how they line up could be a work in progress in the first few games as LSU didn't have as much time to test various combinations during the preseason as they would have preferred.

      LSU is hopeful that junior quarterback Brandon Harris has matured sufficiently to provide better offensive balance and make things a little easier for Fournette.

      "Our offense has got a veteran signal caller now, more poised and ready for situations," Miles said. "We will have maybe the finest tailback group that I've been around with Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams and just a number of guys that can really run the football."

      "I like the offense and the way they've come. I think balance is a way to remove people from the box and allow us bigger plays. So if we can do the job that we have planned to do throwing the football, then I think you will find that there will be less people in the box and then maybe more productivity out of less carries."

      Fournette launches his Heisman Trophy campaign on national television against a team that had the fourth-best run defense in the country last season. LSU already was hoping to lessen Fournette's workload a bit before he was slowed by a sprained ankle toward the end of preseason camp. He had 300 carries in 12 games last season.

      The Badgers have their own quarterback questions entering Saturday with Bart Houston winning the starting job just 10 days before the opener. Houston, named after former Packers great and Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, is living a dream by taking snaps at the hallowed home of his favorite NFL team. But LSU's defense brings nightmare potential.

      NFLDraftScout.com ranked LSU as the No. 2 program in terms of draft potential of the current roster, and speed is everywhere on this Tigers' defense.

      The new 3-4 defense LSU employs is strongest up the middle, where inside linebacker Kendall Beckwith has All-America potential.

      Wisconsin wants to win on the ground. Running back Corey Clement is the bell-cow back after a hernia injury knocked him out last season, when the Badgers were far below their own lofty standard in the running game.

      Wisconsin averaged 150.3 yards rushing per game last season – the worst single-season total since the 1995 team averaged 128.9. Since 2007, the Badgers averaged at least 200.8 yards per game for eight straight seasons. In 2014, Wisconsin averaged 320.1 yards rushing per game

      The Badgers trail the all-time series 3-0 but are no stranger to deadly competition in kickoff games. There's also a rough road ahead, with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State – all ranked in the preseason top 12 – all on the Wisconsin schedule for the first time since 2010.

  • North Carolina-Georgia preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    If North Carolina was hoping to get some indication of how much its run defense may have improved since the late-season collapse a year ago, the Tar Heels couldn't have asked for any better measure than what they figure to get when they take on Georgia Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in the Georgia Dome.

    • Coach Kirby Smart has pronounced the 18th-ranked Bulldogs' star running back, Nick Chubb, recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him at midseason last year and ready for the opener against the No. 22 Tar Heels (ESPN, 5:30 p.m. ET).

      "We feel good about Nick," Smart said. "He feels great is ready to go. He won't be on a pitch count by any means."

      Chubb has rushed for nearly 2,300 yards in just 14 career starts over the last two seasons and will be an immediate challenge for North Carolina. The Tar Heels defense gave up 319 yards on the ground in their loss to Clemson in the ACC title game and a whopping 645 to Baylor in their bowl loss.

      "I definitely think that's something that teams are going to test us on, because of how we played in the Baylor game, and some of the games we had last year where running backs were able to get leaky yardage," junior linebacker Cayson Collins said, "leaky yardage" being defensive coordinator Gene Chizik's term for yards after contact. "We had that a lot last year, so that's something we want to cut back on."

      North Carolina will be starting a new quarterback when junior Mitch Trubisky takes over for Marquise Williams after serving as Williams' backup the last two years, but Georgia's Kirby Smart is playing it coy when it comes to who will start for the Bulldogs at the position.

      Senior Greyson Lambert, who started off-and-on last season, and highly-touted freshman quarterback Jacob Eason are the two leading candidates. Media reports indicate Eason is the favorite, but Smart said no decision has been made.

      "No starter has been named," Smart told reporters. "We'll continue to practice guys and get those guys ready and when it does, we'll let you guys know."

      Lambert threw 12 interceptions with two interceptions last season, but struggled against quality competition. The Georgia faithful are eager to see Eason, who was one of the top pro-style quarterback recruits in the 2016 recruiting class. But at least early in the week, Smart is playing it close to the vest.

      "We're going to see how it goes," Smart said. "First thing we have to do is figure out who's taking the first snap before we worry about the next guy coming in.

      "I think it'll reveal itself the next couple of days. Continue getting those guys reps and get both of them ready to play -- that's the plan."

  • Notre Dame-Texas preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly apparently couldn't make up his mind about his quarterback situation and will play two.

    • Texas coach Charlie Strong may or may not have made a decision on his starter at quarterback, but he isn't saying who.

      Such is the situation as the Fighting Irish and Longhorns prepare for Sunday's season opener at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin (ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET).

      Kelly said veterans DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will split duties for the 10th-ranked Irish, who are coming off a 10-3 season that ended with a loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

      "They have both have been outstanding, they both make plays," Kelly said. "They both are playmakers. We would just continue to practice and continue to see both of these guys make plays. So we're going to play both of them at Texas."

      Kelly said last season he felt a two-quarterback system was not a path to failure, whereas much coaches follow the football mantra that if you "have two quarterbacks, you have none." Perhaps Kelly is challenging both players, but he said this week he truly wants to find out if one or both are ready for primetime. Kizer replaced Zaire in the 2015 opener and helped the Irish to a 10-3 record last season. Kelly is playing his cards so close to the vest that he even said he would consider putting the quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

      Though Strong didn't reveal any choice, he really has just one legitimate option.

      Texas senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes hasn't shown the ability to command the position the last two seasons. That means it will likely be true freshman Shane Buechele's turn.

      If Buechele does start against Notre Dame, he will be the first true freshman to start for the Longhorns since Bobby Layne in 1944. But that's what Texas fans are hoping to see. Anything less will not sit easy, but that won't be Strong's determining factor.

      "The fans, they'll be fine," Strong said. "Both of those guys are competing. It's been a great matchup. Our team's going to know who the starting quarterback is."

      Those aren't the only issues with the two teams, of course

      The Irish have among the fewest number of returning starters in the country after losing their top rusher, three leading receivers, four top tacklers, a sack leader and several offensive line standouts.

      So Kelly is taking a back-to-basics approach.

      "Chuck Noll made it famous with his football team with the Steelers, but that's true with this team," Kelly said. "If they just do the basics -- the ordinary things -- and they do them very well, this is going to be a good football team."

      Strong, meanwhile, is looking for a turnaround for his Longhorns, who struggled through a 5-7 campaign in 2015 that began with a 38-3 whipping at Notre Dame.

      But Strong said that the team's attitude has changed since last season as has the intensity and the bond among the players and coaches.

      "We're not that team anymore," Strong said, referring to the 2015 squad. "That's not us. We're a totally different team than we were last season."

      This will be the 12th meeting between the two storied programs. The Irish hold a 9-2 advantage in the series and have won all four prior games played in Austin. The Irish also have won the last five meetings.

  • Washington-Rutgers preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    An offseason of high expectations for Washington ends Saturday when the No. 14 Huskies host Rutgers, which will be playing its first game under coach Chris Ash.

    • Ash spent the past two seasons as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, helping the Buckeyes win the national championship in 2014. He also coordinated defenses at Arkansas and Wisconsin.

      Meanwhile, much of the optimism around Washington centers on third-year coach Chris Petersen, who is only 15-12 in two seasons with the Huskies but had a long run of success at Boise State before that.

      He seems to have Washington on the cusp of big things, returning eight starters from a defense that ranked as the best in the Pac-12 last year, allowing only 351.8 yards a game.

      The offense should launch behind sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, who passed for 2,955 yards while starting 12 games as a true freshman, and sophomore running back Myles Gaskin, who rushed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman.

      Browning threw 16 touchdown passes and was intercepted 10 times in an offense that usually moved at a deliberate pace.

      "From this year at this time, to last year, there is a big difference," Petersen said about Browning.

      "He knows everything we're talking about with quite certainty. ... One thing we're really trying to stress with him is let's still try and keep it simple. It's still one-two throw, or run for your life. Sometimes you can make this game too complicated."

      Rutgers, which went 4-8 last season and had off-field issues that led to the dismissal of coach Kyle Flood, will enter Husky Stadium as a big underdog.

      "We're ready to go and just really excited to find out where we're at as a program," Ash said.

      One of the first things Ash had to do was settle on a quarterback. Chris Laviano got the nod over three others. He completed 60.9 percent of his passes last season -- the highest Rutgers percentage since 2008 -- but he no longer has receiver Leonte Carroo as a target. Carroo was a third-round pick of the Miami Dolphins.

      Rutgers will be facing a defense that returns two first-team All-Pac-12 defensive backs.

      Junior safety Budda Baker has started 24 of 25 games in his career and is a potential All-American. Junior cornerback Sidney Jones led the conference last season with 14 pass break-ups. He intercepted four passes and forced three fumbles.

      Washington allowed only 11 touchdown passes, which was the lowest figure in the Pac-12.

      Throw in other talented players such as linebacker Azeem Victor, and 300-pound-plus defensive linemen Elijah Qualls and Greg Gaines, and you can see why Washington is a preseason top 15 team after going 7-6 last season.

      Washington begins the season with three homes games -- Idaho and FCS Portland State follow -- before conference play begins at Arizona on Sept. 24.

      "A lot of uncertainty," Petersen said about an opener against a team with a new coaching staff.

      "You're watching tapes of where they came from, but then they are going to have their own ideas that are tailored to their personnel. So that’s probably the biggest challenge. ... And I think the second thing is they'll have new energy."

      This is the first meeting between Rutgers and Washington.

  • Michigan State-Furman preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    It's not a typical start to the season for Michigan State as it opens with Furman on a Friday night.

    • The No. 12 Spartans won't see normal for a while, but the Friday Night Lights atmosphere at Spartan Stadium (7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network) is a welcome sight. Next week coach Mark Dantonio's team has a bye before hitting the road to take on Notre Dame.

      Dantonio prepares to enter his 10th season leading the Spartans having resurrected a program that saw almost no consistency in the preceding decades.

      He's never had a losing season and has been to a bowl game every year, and in the last three seasons, Dantonio has led the Spartans to wins in the Rose Bowl and Cotton Bowl, a spot in the College Football Playoffs and three straight finishes at No. 6 or higher in the national rankings.

      Add in three Big Ten championships and 11 or more victories in five of the last six seasons, and it's clear Dantonio has established the Spartans as a national program.

      "We can sell results, we really can," Dantonio said. "We can sit there and say, 'This is what we've done, these are the things you can look forward to if you come to school at Michigan State. There's opportunities for you.'

      "That's really the difference there. Early on in the process, that was not the case. But now it seems like that's what we sell."

      Furman was 4-7 last season and its only game against a Power 5 school resulted in a 42-3 loss at Virginia Tech.

      Some believe the Spartans will see a drop-off, something critics have been predicting every year since Michigan State won a share of the Big Ten title in 2010.

      That doesn't mean there won't be challenges moving forward. Ohio State continues to be among the best programs in the nation and Harbaugh mania has taken over at Michigan with the presence of coach Jim Harbaugh convincing most the Wolverines have returned from their funk.

      And that's just the hurdles Michigan State has in the Big Ten East. Winning another division title will be tougher as the Spartans must replace quarterback Connor Cook – the winningest quarterback in school history – along with defensive end Shilique Calhoun Big Ten Receiver of the Year Aaron Burbridge.

      The conference schedule is favorable as both Michigan and Ohio State travel to Spartan Stadium late in the season. If Michigan State can continue its mastery of Michigan (winners in seven of the last eight) and keep challenging the Buckeyes (MSU is the only team to beat Urban Meyer in Big Ten play), the results will be there once again.

      And the rest of the conference will continue to wonder when the drop-off will come.

      To remain on a level plain, the Spartans need stability at quarterback.

      Tyler O'Connor doesn't need to be Connor Cook, but it needs him to manage the Spartans' pro-style offense and limit the mistakes. He was Cook's backup the last two seasons and helped orchestrate the Spartans' win at Ohio State last season when Cook was out with an injured shoulder.

      He's also got as much knowledge of the offense and has the respect of the players in the locker room. O'Connor had plenty of chances to transfer but had his sights set on the season.

      To date, O'Connor has one big hit on his resume – leading the Spartans to a victory over Ohio State at Ohio Stadium last season while Cook rested a sore shoulder. But as he told teammates in his fall camp speech, he didn't stick around East Lansing to be a one-hit wonder.

      "I can't imagine not being here after hearing things about different schools," he said. "We have it great here, not only football-wise but the culture and the people and education. There's just too much to pass up on and go somewhere else if you don't know how good it really is here."

  • Alabama-Southern Cal preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Inexperienced quarterbacks will be at the forefront of the matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 20 USC.

    • The two college football bluebloods will meet for the first time since the 1985 Aloha Bowl on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

      Alabama coach Nick Saban announced this week that he had narrowed his quarterback competition to two -- redshirt junior Cooper Bateman and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett -- without closing the door on dual-threat true freshman Jalen Hurts at some point this season.

      Bateman attempted 52 passes last season, getting one start against Ole Miss before ceding the job back to Jake Coker.

      "We want to play the guy that's the most ready to give us the best chance," Saban said. "We also want to continue to develop guys that can compete at this position in the future. That's kind of where it is right now. There's really nothing else to talk about. Nothing else to say."

      USC coach Clay Helton made his quarterback decision earlier in camp, going with junior Max Browne over redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, who has intriguing upside but couldn't yet close the gap in terms of knowing the system. Browne, though, threw only 19 passes as a backup to Cody Kessler in the past two seasons.

      "We feel that it is in the best interest of our football team to lean on the veteran experience that Max Browne has," Helton said.

      That's especially true when playing the defending national champions.

      Alabama's defense, which allowed 15.1 points per game last season, will be top-notch again. The Crimson Tide has four defenders ranked among the top 21 draft prospects for 2017, according to NFLDraftScout.com -- cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebacker Tim Williams, inside linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive end Jonathan Allen.

      Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson and tight end O.J. Howard are also considered first-round talent.

      USC has elite talent, too, notably wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and cornerback/returner Adoree' Jackson.

      Sophomore talents, such as Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley and USC running back Ronald Jones II, aren't even eligible for the draft yet.

      There isn't a huge talent gap between the programs; the big difference has been coaching stability.

      Saban has led Alabama to four of the past seven national titles. USC hasn't even won the Pac-12 since 2008, when Pete Carroll was still roaming the Trojans sidelines.

      USC is on its third full-time coach since Carroll, with Helton being given the job after taking over on an interim basis following the fourth game of last season. Helton isn't as flashy as predecessors Steve Sarkisian or Lane Kiffin (now in his third season as Alabama's offensive coordinator), and he will rely on a physical offensive approach, led by a veteran line and two running backs -- Jones (987 yards) and Justin Davis -- who have 1,000-yard potential.

      The line, however, will be missing injured left tackle Chad Wheeler in the opener. Sophomore Chuma Edoga takes his place, with the unenviable task of trying to block Williams, who had 10.5 sacks last season in a situational role. He'll be an every-down player this season.

      Alabama, needing to replace Heisman-winning running back Derrick Henry, will be young, but talented, in the backfield with sophomores Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris, followed by two true freshmen.

      The Tide is pretty much loaded everywhere else, though, as Saban goes for his sixth overall national title, which would tie Alabama legend Paul "Bear" Bryant for the most ever.

      The Tide has been very good in neutral-site openers. Alabama has defeated Michigan, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin by an average of 36-16 in such games in the past four years.

  • Iowa-Miami (Ohio) preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    The last time Iowa faced Miami University was 13 years ago when the RedHawks had a big and talented quarterback behind center. The Hawkeyes won that 2003 season opener 21-3, intercepting RedHawks quarterback Ben Roethlisberger four times and recording four sacks.

    • Since Roethlisberger moved on to enjoy an elite career in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Miami program has mostly struggled. The RedHawks enter Saturday's opener at Kinnick Stadium against No. 17 Iowa (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET) coming off a 3-9 season.

      Of Iowa's three nonconference opponents this year, Miami appears to be the least challenging. The opener should provide an opportunity for the Hawkeyes to get their feet on the ground out of the gate.

      The following week the Hawkeyes remain home to face in-state rival Iowa State and then welcome in FCS national champion North Dakota State in Week 3.

      A year ago, Iowa was an underdog going into the season without the burden of living up to any lofty expectations and ended up going 12-0 in the regular season before finishing with losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

      As one of the favorites in the Big Ten West Division this time around, the outlook has changed considerably. After a top-10 finish last seaosn, the Hawkeyes realize that much is expected by their fans and opponents no longer will underestimate them.

      Seven starters return on each side of the ball led by All-American cornerback Desmond King on defense and senior quarterback C.J. Beathard on offense. King passed up the NFL Draft to return for his senior season.

      "There is so much more to do," King said. "We didn't win the Big Ten tittle last year. We didn't win a bowl game last year. We can all play better than we did last year."

      The two position groups that Iowa will be watching closely against Miami are the receivers and defensive line.

      Sophomore wideout Jay Scheel, whose talent has been negated by injuries, is hoping to stay healthy and be an impact contributor on the outside. Sophomore Jerminic Smith picked up experience last year as a part-time player and is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart behind Scheel.

      At defensive end, Anthony Nelson and Matt Nelson are battling for one spot and Parker Hesse is perched on the other side as the Hawkeyes try to replace departed seniors Drew Ott and Nate Meier, who were their best pass rushers.

      Hesse likes how the defensive front seven has come together in the preseason, but the opener will be more of a true gauge.

      "We'll have an opponent coming up and we'll kind of get a clear picture then," Hesse said.

      The Hawkeyes will be looking to extend their winning streak at home to eight games and record a fourth win against no losses in the series with the RedHawks.

  • Oklahoma-Houston preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    A year ago, under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma's schedule allowed them to ease into things especially on that side of the ball.

    • The Sooners started the season with Akron before moving on to a much more difficult task: going to Tennessee in the second week.

      This season, there won't be a chance to steadily ramp things up as No. 3 Oklahoma starts off with No. 15 Houston on Saturday at NRG Stadium before playing No. 6 Ohio State at home two weeks later.

      "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best," Sooners cornerback Dakota Austin said. "If you can pop it off and just get it out of the way, you know what you'll bring to it.

      "It's a great opportunity to show what you're worth early in the season. Once we get in conference play, we can capitalize on that."

      Houston, one of the top candidates outside the Power 5 to crash the playoff party after a 13-1 season capped with a New Year's Eve destruction of Florida State, no longer looks at itself as the underdog. The Cougars view the opener as a must-win to give the January dream any prayer of coming true.

      "We've raised the bar so high and our internal expectations of the culture around here … What's the saying? We've created a monster," Herman said. "And you've got to feed the monster."

      Oklahoma has aspirations of returning to the College Football Playoff, where they were beaten in the semifinals by Clemson to end last season. That 37-17 loss in the Orange Bowl -- the Sooners' second consecutive bowl loss to the Tigers -- has been a focus for Oklahoma throughout the offseason.

      "Losing to the same team twice, two years in a row, there's definitely a chip on our shoulder," Austin said. "We know how far we can go. We know how close we have gotten by not even playing our best. We're really focused on that this offseason and I feel like we'll have a way better team this year."

      In order for that to be a possibility, Oklahoma needs a strong start.

      Riley's task figures to be easier, having figured out how to utilize running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon into his wide-open offense and with quarterback Baker Mayfield and his two tackles on the offensive line returning. Perine, a junior, needs just 1,057 yards to become Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher, passing Billy Sims.

      But Riley is guarding against complacency.

      "You can't feel comfortable here," Riley said. "If I feel comfortable, I'd be selling my house here in a year. You don't feel comfortable at this place. That's how you want it though. That's what I want. I want a place where you expect to win. Last year's over. None of that matters. We have to go win games this year. We have one of the toughest schedules in the country that we have to get ready to go attack."

      Sooners coach Bob Stoops said that while his players might use last year as motivation, it's not something he considers.

      "I don't tie years together; I never have," Stoops said. "If they were living off the past they sure got woke up in the Orange Bowl. That was all over on that night. Point being: years, in my mind, don't tie together. You have new people, new guys in new positions, different schedule. It's a whole new thing."

      Oklahoma leads the series with Houston 2-0, winning the last meeting 63-13 in Norman in 2004. The other meeting came in the 1981 Sun Bowl which the Sooners won 40-14.

  • Baylor-Northwestern State preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Baylor opens the season Friday night and no team is more anxious than the Bears to embark on a new normal.

    • The season begins at McLane Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, FSN) with a matchup against Northwestern State, a series the Bears have dominated to the tune of a 4-0 record.

      The opponent is almost a peripheral matter for the Bears, who might be glad to see anything but the usual around the program.

      Someone noted during Baylor interim head coach Jim Grobe's first game-week press conference on Monday that Grobe was wearing the biggest smile anyone had seen from him since he was named head coach in a whirlwind summer for the program.

      Grobe again smiled at the question and replied, essentially, that football is the fun part of his job and he's happy to finally get to it.

      "It's just good to get to football," Grobe said. "We've spent a lot of time talking about things that have to be talked about. We've had to deal with a lot of serious issues. But now it's kind of more lighthearted because we're getting ready to play a game. For me it's just exciting to get back into a football season and watch these guys perform."

      Grobe walked into an unusual situation in June when took the Baylor job.

      Baylor dismissed Art Briles, the coach that helped the Bears rise from the ashes to win two straight Big 12 titles, amidst the university’s major Title IX failings.

      Briles took the blame for a rash of rape cases involving Baylor players after an independent law firm, hired by Baylor, investigated the school's problems and determined Briles was culpable. Additionally, 16 players were deleted from the roster since the scandal began.

      Oddly, however, most of the rest of Briles' staff remained at the school. Those are the coaches that Grobe is allowing to continue running the program.

      "In the past I had more input as far as what we were going to do X and O wise," Grobe said. "I had more input as far as what players were going to be first, second team. I've had to rely on our coaching staff quite a bit. I've relied on them to stack the guys up first, second, third team. I really couldn't do that until we start playing games. From that standpoint, I've been really, really impressed. I think we've got a great group of coaches on both sides of the ball."

      It seems like Grobe was hired to speak at press conferences and let the same people who were running practice keep at it.

      Grobe's results speaking to the media have been mixed.

      He drew the ire of regional media at Big 12 Media Days in July when he said that Baylor no longer had a culture problem on its team. That statement appeared all the more naive later in the summer as another couple of legal issues cropped up for Baylor players.

      But on Monday, Grobe met with mostly local media and was able to maintain his bright complexion throughout the presser. He handled a question about wide receiver Ishmael Zamora, who is in limbo after video of him beating and kicking a dog, got into the mainstream media. Grobe's response was measured and appropriate to the school's current circumstances.

      "We're just following the process," Grobe said. "I think we were criticized in the past for not having a process. It's critical that we're fair and reasonable in our decisions. I have no problem that it's taking longer."

      That's probably the right answer for Grobe in the long run as he will continue to field questions about issues other than football this season.

      Offense should be Baylor's strength yet again, but the Bears are not in great shape defensively if you count only proven players.

      Points won't be an issue if health isn't. Baylor's backfield is well-stocked with running back Shock Linwood, who gained 1,329 yards last season, back behind quarterback Seth Russell. In seven games before he was injured in 2015, Russell passed for 2,104 yards and an astounding 29 touchdowns.

      The one big name to replace on the offensive side of the ball is wide receiver Corey Coleman, a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft (Cleveland Browns).

  • Stanford-Kansas State preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Winning the Pacific-12 Conference is nothing new for the Stanford football team. After all, the Cardinal has won three of the past four Pac-12 titles under David Shaw, entering his sixth season.

    • But getting the preseason nod as the favorite? That's a first for this regime.

      Amid those expectations, No. 8 Stanford opens its season against Kansas State on Friday night at Stanford Stadium.

      This is hardly a slam-dunk opening victory, but it does figure to be the easiest game of a brutal first half of the season for the Cardinal, which returns Heisman runner-up running back Christian McCaffrey but is breaking in only its third starting quarterback since 2009.

      Redshirt junior Ryan Burns won the job in camp, following in the footsteps of Andrew Luck and Kevin Hogan. But Burns, who has thrown one collegiate pass, isn't a lock to keep the job. Sophomore Keller Chryst competed well enough in camp to get a look, too.

      "Keller Chryst will play as well," Shaw said. "We're going to play both guys and try to win a game. There hasn't been a huge separation between the two. Both guys have played extremely well. Ryan has been enough ahead to get the nod."

      Kansas State, which was 6-7 last year in an injury-riddled campaign, welcomes back quarterback Jesse Ertz, who suffered a torn ACL on the team's first snap last season. Ertz, who should be active in the run game, beat out Joe Hubener and Alex Delton in fall camp to reclaim his starting job.

      "One day you'd say this guy lit it up and the next day it was somebody else," said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who has 193 wins with the Wildcats, the most of any FBS coach at his current school.

      "It was very competitive, and Jesse pulled himself away probably in the last four days of being able to have greater consistency on the practice field."

      The Friday night will be a good spotlight for McCaffrey in advance of a full holiday weekend of great college football matchups.

      With 3,864 all-purpose yards last season, McCaffrey shattered the 27-year-old NCAA single-season record of 3,250, set by Oklahoma State legend Barry Sanders. McCaffrey had 2,019 rushing yards, 645 receiving yards, and he picked up the rest of his yardage on kick and punt returns.

      "He's the best player in the country and we'll continue to challenge him," Shaw said. "We know he can handle it."

      Stanford's bread-and-butter is its power running game, but the offense has ample speed in McCaffrey, backup running back Bryce Love, and receivers Michael Rector, Trent Irwin and Francis Owusu. Love, however, is likely out this week because of an undisclosed injury, Shaw said Monday.

      Kansas State's defense allowed 452.2 yards and 31.5 points per game last season, when young players gained experience as injury fill-ins. A veteran coming back is senior safety Dante Barnett, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the 2015 opener.

      This is the first meeting between Stanford and Kansas State.

      After this, the Cardinal plays No. 20 USC, at No. 16 UCLA, at No. 14 Washington, Washington State and at No. 10 Notre Dame. It won't be easy for Stanford to replicate its 12-2 record of a season ago.

      " We have a chance to be good," Shaw said. "How good, you never know."

  • Oklahoma State-SE Louisiana preview
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    No. 21 Oklahoma State will be looking to extend several streaks when the Cowboys host Southeastern Louisiana Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

    • For a start, the Cowboys have won 20 consecutive home openers and have never lost to an FCS opponent in 10 opportunities under coach Mike Gundy.

      They have won seven of their last eight season openers and 46 of its last 51 over unranked opponents.

      And though this is their first meeting with the Lions (Fox Sports Network, 3:30 p.m. ET), they are 4-0 against teams from the Southland Conference.

      With 18 starters returning from a 10-3 team, the Cowboys are looking to make a run for the Big 12 title that eluded them when they lost their last two games of the regular season, including the finale to rival Oklahoma, to finish 7-2. The Sooners wound up 8-1 in the conference and advanced to the college football playoffs.

      With quarterback Mason Rudolph, a deep stable of running backs, and two of their top three receivers returning to operate behind an offensive line that welcomes back five starters, the Cowboys should once again have an explosive offense.

      Rudolph passed for 3,770 yards in completing 62.3 percent of his attempts last year. Wide receivers James Washington and Marcel Ateman combined for 98 receptions for 1,853 yard and 15 touchdowns. Ateman, however, likely won't be available under October after having foot surgery in late July.

      The Cowboys used a running-back-by-committee approach last year and have added some new weapons in freshman Justice Hill, rated the top running back prospect in Oklahoma, and Barry Sanders Jr. Yes, he is the son of the school's Heisman Trophy winner and transferred from Stanford for his senior season.

      Sanders rushed for 315 yards for the Cardinal last season, which would have put him third on the Cowboys last season behind returnee Chris Carson (517) and J.W. Walsh (359), who has exhausted his eligibility.

      "We should be improved," Gundy said of the running backs. "They're a year stronger, a year more experienced, a year more matured.

      "We've got a couple of new running backs too. We certainly need to find a way to improve in that area. We'd like to average four yards per carry. We've got a ways to go, but we're certainly further ahead than we were last season."

      Sanders also could be a factor in the return game.

      "So far he's done really well," Gundy said. "We'll have a group that will return punts and kicks. We feel like we have more depth there than we did last year."

      Despite the team's overall experience, Gundy expects newcomers to contribute early.

      "We're not 100 percent but we feel pretty good that we'll have six freshman that will play for us in the first game," he said, "or should play for us early in the season."

  • Prukop win starting QB job for Ducks
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    EUGENE, Ore. -- As expected, Oregon will go with a one-and-done quarterback for the second year in a row.

    • Senior Dakota Prukop was named the starting quarterback for the Ducks when they open the season Saturday against UC Davis. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Prukop joined the team in the spring as a graduate transfer from Montana State.

      "We are ready to go out and hit someone else," Prukop said. "I'm ready to take some hits and play some football again."

      Prukop, who had 7,347 yard of total offense in three seasons with the Bobcats, follows Vernon Adams Jr., a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington who started at quarterback for the Ducks last season.

      Prukop will have many of Adams' favorite targets back this season including six of Oregon's top receivers from last season led by junior Darren Carrington, who averaged 87 yards receiving per game last year. Dwayne Stanford is back after catching 30 passes for 463 yards and five touchdowns.

      Charles Nelson, who split time at safety and receiver last year, is back on offense full time after catching 17 passes for 270 yards last season. Oregon also hopes for a return to form from tight end Pharaoh Brown, a first-team, all-Pac-12 performer in 2014 who missed all of last season with a leg injury.

      Oregon also returns its top four rushers from last season led by Royce Freeman, an all-conference pick who ran for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.

      The biggest question on offense for the Ducks is on the line where three true freshmen will start. Center Jake Hanson starts at center, Shane Lemieux is at guard and Calvin Throckmorton starts at tackle.

      Oregon has just one returning starter in the front seven on defense as it moves to a 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Brady Hoke.

      "We're a long way from being any kind of defense," a disappointed Hoke said after Oregon's final scrimmage of the fall.

      Junior defensive end Henry Mondeaux is the lone veteran up front.

      The experience is in the secondary and Oregon hopes that means a better performance against the pass this season. Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi are returning starters at cornerback while Tyree Robinson and Juwaan Williams return at safety.

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --QB Dakota Prukop took advantage of the graduate-transfer rule that allows players to transfer without sitting out a season and made the jump to the FBS level. Prukop was a FCA All-American last year when he threw for 3,025 yards for Montana State and finished the season with 3,822 yards and 37 total touchdowns to set a school record in the latter category. He threw for 46 touchdowns and ran for 24 during his MSU career.

      --RB Royce Freeman is a three-year starter who ranked second in the Pac-12 with 141.2 rushing yards per game last season when he broke the single-season school record with 1,836 rushing yards. He ranked fourth in the country in rushing and was the only FBS player to have at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game. His 3,201 rushing yards in the last two seasons are more than any active player. Freeman ran for at least 100 yards in nine straight games and 11 of 13 overall last season.

      --WR Darren Carrington missed the first six games of last season due to a suspension from a failed drug test in 2014, but returned to be Oregon's second-leading receiver. In seven games, Carrington had 32 catches for 609 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Ducks with 87 receiving yards per game and 19 yards per catch. In 21 career games, he has 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 10 touchdowns.

      --DL Henry Mondeaux is the only returning starter in the front seven for the Ducks. He will remain at defensive end as Oregon adjusts to a 4-3 defense this season. Mondeaux had 22 tackles, including 16 for loss last season. He had 6.5 tackles for loss and ranked third on the team with four sacks. He also broke up three passes and recovered a fumble.

      --DB Tyree Robinson switched between cornerback and safety last season, but is penciled in as a starter at safety this season. The junior is Oregon's top returning tackler after ranking fourth on the team last year with 64 stops. Robinson led Oregon with three interceptions last season with an average of 20.3 yards per return. Robinson was also credited with eight passes defended.

      SERIES HISTORY: Oregon and UC Davis are meeting for the first time.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "Knock on wood, we're healthier than we were last year and we're stronger than we were last year. I think by the time we get to a game plan, a dialed-in situation, we'll have a lot of guys playing with confidence." -- Oregon coach Mark Helfrich.

  • Pass protection key for Bruins at A&M
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    LOS ANGELES -- UCLA's hopes to win the Pac-12 South and chase bigger prizes rest with sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen.

    • So, it's pretty important to protect that guy.

      Which brings us to Saturday's season-opener at Texas A&M.

      The Aggies have arguably the best defender in college football and a potential No. 1 overall draft pick in junior end Myles Garrett (and the opposite end, Daeshon Hall, is dangerous, too). "We've got two of the best defensive ends in the country," said Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin.

      The battle between Garrett and UCLA left tackle Conor McDermott -- a pro prospect -- could be particularly interesting as the Bruins try to give Rosen enough time to fire down field to a new-look receiving corps.

      "We'll put a tight end on that side at times, and we'll use our backs to chip him (Garrett) at times," coach Jim Mora said during fall camp, as quoted in the L.A. Daily News.

      "And there will also be times when Conor just has to take him on and get the job done. That's what football's all about. I do know Conor has come a long way from a 225-pound tight end that showed up here. He's become a real consistent, solid guy."

      The 16th-ranked Bruins will enter as slight underdogs in a game that has loads of other intriguing subplots.

      It's a rare Pac-12 vs. SEC matchup. Since 2001, the Bruins have played only two games against SEC schools -- a home-and-home against Tennessee in 2008 and 2009.

      UCLA has eight Texans who will be playing in their home state, including defensive end/outside linebacker Deon Hollins and emerging star sophomore running back Soso Jamabo.

      And the Bruins will be facing offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who spent four years at UCLA before leaving in the offseason for the Aggies. That should be an interesting chess match

      "He's a smart guy, so he's not going to call the same stuff that we've been seeing for four years in practice," UCLA defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes told the Daily News. "He knows better than that."

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      QB Josh Rosen -- He completed 292 of 487 passes for 3,668 yards as a true freshman last season. Rosen's arm is as talented as any in the country, and his football IQ is said to be off the charts, too. Controlling the turnovers is the final piece to the puzzle; he accounted for five turnovers as UCLA ended last season with losses to USC and Nebraska.

      DT Eddie Vanderdoes -- The redshirt junior has All-America talent, and he might be in the NFL right now if he hadn't suffered a torn ACL in last season's opener against Virginia. The former five-star recruit was honorable mention all-league in 2014, when he made 50 tackles.

      WR Ishmael Adams -- The former All-Pac-12 cornerback has moved to wide receiver full time, and he'll also show his game-breaking ability in the return game. "Ishmael is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands," said coach Jim Mora. "If we can dictate when the ball is in his hands -- rather than him having to intercept it or a kick that may go to an area that he can't field -- I think that will benefit us." Adams, a senior, has three interception returns for touchdowns, as well as a kick return score.

      SERIES HISTORY: UCLA and Texas A&M have split four games. The last came in the 1998 Cotton Bowl, a 29-23 victory for the Bruins. This is UCLA's first trip to College Station.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "The two positions where you need repetitions are quarterback and offensive line. And so for Conor to be able to come back and play 12, 13, 14, 15 games, whatever it ends up being, and get those reps will only enhance his position in the draft next year." -- UCLA coach Jim Mora on senior LT Conor McDermott.

  • Stanford tackles daunting opening stretch
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    STANFORD< Calif. -- Winning the Pacific-12 Conference is nothing new for the Stanford football team. After all, the Cardinal has won three of the past four Pac-12 titles under now sixth-year coach David Shaw.

    • But getting the preseason nod as the favorite? That's a first for this regime.

      Stanford, ranked No. 7 in The Associated Press' preseason Top 25, and No. 8 in the coaches' poll, opens its season against Kansas State at 6 p.m. Friday at Stanford Stadium.

      It's an, on-paper, winnable game against an unranked team before entering a September schedule of abject brutality. After facing the Wildcats, the Cardinal then have a bye, open Pac-12 play by hosting No. 20 USC on Sept. 17, travel to No. 24 UCLA on Sept. 24 and trek north to No. 14 Washington on Sept. 30.

      Stanford is used to big games under Shaw, though, just like last year's Rose Bowl -- when the Cardinal hammered the Iowa Hawkeyes 45-16.

      The man who broke a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards, junior Christian McCaffrey, is back after finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting behind Alabama's Derrick Henry.

      That aspect of the offense -- the dynamic rusher and receiver who's the son of former Stanford and NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey -- has been locked in. The quarterback who'd replace Kevin Hogan hadn't been until recently.

      Stanford has named redshirt junior Ryan Burns the starting quarterback, at least for the opener. Burns has thrown one collegiate pass, and nipped last year's backup and redshirt sophomore Keller Chryst for the starting gig.

      But it wasn't by much.

      "I think Ryan has been just barely enough ahead to get the nod," Shaw told the Palo Alto Daily News.

      Burns, meanwhile, is trying to maintain the focus that helped earn him the job in the first place.

      "It was somewhat of a relief, but at the same time it doesn't change my mind-set at all," Burns said. "I'm still going to come out here and I've got to compete for the job ... Keller is a heck of a quarterback and we can both do great things for this team."

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --RB Christian McCaffrey is a Heisman Trophy contender once again, if not the favorite, and will be a player to watch every week, health permitting. McCaffrey, a 6-foot, 202-pound, dual-threat virtuoso, was named the 2015 AP College Football Player of the Year after breaking Oklahoma State legend Barry Sanders' single-season all-purpose yards record. McCaffrey tallied 2,664 yards total, and broke Stanford's single-season rushing record at 2,019 yards -- topping Toby Gerhart's 1,871-yard mark from 2009. McCaffrey is eighth on the Cardinal's career rushing list at 2,319 yards, 1,981 behind No. 1 Stepfan Taylor (4,300).

      --QB Ryan Burns has his work cut out for him, and certainly, has some massive shoes to fill. Hogan, who was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft, was the starter for parts of all four seasons in his career. He followed two-time Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck ? a household name and the currently Indianapolis Colts quarterback. Burns is 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, and from Leesburg, Va. ... less than 30 miles from Hogan's hometown, according to the Palo Alto Daily News.

      --WR Michael Rector doesn't draw nearly the same national attention as McCaffrey, but does return as a fifth-year senior who had 34 catches for 559 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. Rector, at 6-1, 189 pounds, is the kind of experienced receiver who Burns needs in his transition to being a power conference starting quarterback.

      --DL Solomon Thomas is a man to watch on the Cardinal's defensive front throughout the year, to be sure, and especially against Kansas State. The Wildcats had a balanced offense in 2015, with 176 passing and 157 rushing yards per game. So Thomas is vital in both rushing the passer, and helping to stop the run game.

      --LB Peter Kalambayi is a senior and brings a wealth of experience, after recording 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last autumn. Kalambayi, at 6-3, 243, is on the Butkus Award watch list.

      SERIES HISTORY: The Cardinal and Wildcats are playing for the first time.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's big-time college football, we're not spoon-feeding anybody. We've got a physical football team coming in that is extremely well-coached, so he's got to have the whole playbook." -- Stanford coach David Shaw on the fact that the Cardinal will not treat Burns with kid gloves.

  • USC's Helton sets bar high heading into opener against No. 1 Tide
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    LOS ANGELES -- The bar of expectations is set high for coach Clay Helton's first full season, and that season begins with the toughest of tests.

    • No. 20 USC takes on top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.

      "If you don't like the bar set that high, then don't take the job," Helton said on Pac-12 Media Day.

      Helton was the steady-as-he-goes choice after a series of other flashier coaches flamed out or were ill fits in the post-Pete Carroll era -- Lane Kiffin, interim Ed Orgeron and Steve Sarkisian, who was fired after four games last season.

      Helton took over from there, instilling a more physical approach, especially on offense, where the Trojans featured a rejuvenated ground game that helped them win the Pac-12 South. The season ended in disappointment, however, with a loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game and a bowl loss to Wisconsin.

      So, that brings us to Saturday's opener, with Helton trying to avoid a three-game losing streak while using a new starting quarterback in junior Max Browne, who won a camp battle against redshirt freshman Sam Darnold.

      His reward is getting to face Alabama coach Nick Saban, pass-rushing terrors and perhaps the best defense in college football.

      USC will counter with an experienced and talented offensive line that should be one of the best in the country. The line includes multiple pro prospects, including tackles Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler, although Wheeler was bothered by foot problems for most of camp.

      "It's just a different feel from what it was two years ago," Helton said of the offensive line.

      "I'm looking at those kids today and it's three junior guards in there, with the backups being juniors, too. And then your two tackles can play ball, too. There's just so much more experience on the offensive line."

      USC hasn't won the Pac-12 title since 2008, and Helton won't have long before he has to meet such expectations. This will be an interesting season in that the Trojans have elite talent (such as WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and CB Adoree' Jackson) but play what some consider the toughest schedule in the country.

      The nonconference schedule includes Alabama and Notre Dame, while road league games include Stanford, Utah, Washington and UCLA.

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --WR JuJu Smith-Schuster -- He could be the best receiver in the country, coming off a season in which he caught 89 passes for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns, even though he was slowed late by a hand injury. He blends size, speed, moves and hands, so he's a tough matchup for everyone, even the talented secondary of Alabama.

      --CB Adoree' Jackson -- He's been a three-way threat in the past couple of seasons, although he isn't expected to dabble much at receiver this season so that he can concentrate on defense. He'll still contribute in the return game. He has All-American potential as a cornerback, and his Week 1 matchups against Alabama WR Calvin Ridley could be epic.

      --QB Max Browne -- The junior takes over at quarterback for departed Cody Kessler. Browne's experience in the system helped him win the job over redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, who is more athletic and has a bigger arm. Browne's composure will be tested right away by Alabama.

      SERIES HISTORY: Alabama leads USC 5-2, although the teams haven't played since 1985. USC has seven victories over No. 1 teams, but the last time the Trojans knocked off No. 1 was in 1984.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's Superman. .... So thankful that he's on our team. He's one of the more special athletes in the country." -- USC coach Clay Helton, on CB Adoree' Jackson

  • Bowling Green brings back fond memories for Meyer
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer will look across the field Saturday in Ohio Stadium to the other sideline and probably flash back 15 years to the place that launched his head coaching career.

    • Bowling Green gave Meyer his first opportunity to be in charge of a program and he took the ball and ran with it. Now, as the 2016 season kicks off in the Horseshoe, Meyer will lead sixth-ranked Ohio State against BG in the opener for both teams (Noon ET, BTN).

      "I love that school," said Meyer, who begins his fifth season as Ohio State's head coach. "When I think about Bowling Green, it's one of the most tradition-rich programs in the MAC."

      The new season will be one of change for the Buckeyes, who return only six starters from a team that finished 12-1 and beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Gone is a dazzling array of talent that made its mark in the NFL Draft this spring.

      But while the turnover in personnel is significant, one thing that never changes about Ohio State football is expectations. There's plenty of talent, thanks to Meyer and his staff's tenacious recruiting, to plug newcomers into the holes that were left by the outgoing class.

      Meyer sees similarities to the 2014 season when a relatively untested team stumbled early in the season and then finished with a College Football Playoff national championship. That's not to say he's predicting another national title, but he really likes the young personnel on the roster.

      "I'm very excited to watch them play," Meyer said. "This is a talented team. We have good guys. This has been a good camp. Good people to work with."

      Each side of the ball has one anchor to provide leadership. On offense, quarterback J.T. Barrett is everyone's pick as the preseason All-Big Ten quarterback and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. On defense, linebacker Raekwon McMillan begins his third season as a starter and will be counted upon heavily as a rock in the middle of a young defense that at hit hard by departures.

      As for Ohio State's opponent, Bowling Green is certainly no slouch. The Falcons finished 10-3 a year ago and played in the GoDaddy Bowl.

      Mike Jinks is in his first year as Bowling Green's head coach after serving as Texas Tech associate head coach in 2015. He took over for Dino Babers, who left after last season for Syracuse.

      The Falcons are the defending Mid-American Conference champions and have won three straight MAC East Division titles. They're favored again to win the division in 2016.

      Facing a first-year head coach, particularly one who has never been a head coach at a previous college stop, presents some challenges in preparation for the Buckeyes. Meyer again recalled the 2014 season when Virginia Tech threw a foreign defensive scheme at Ohio State and pulled off an upset in Ohio Stadium.

      "You have to expect the unexpected. ? On offense, they're going to do what he knows and that's Texas Tech," Meyer said.

      Ohio State will be a heavy favorite to win, but Bowling Green won't be intimidated by the surroundings. Last year, the Falcons almost knocked off Tennessee on the road and beat Big Ten teams Maryland and Purdue.

      "We'll be ready," Jinks said.

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --QB J.T. Barrett was phenomenal as a freshman two years ago. Last year, he started the season as the backup to Cardale Jones but regained the starting job by the middle of the season and was good again. This year, he begins his third season as the unquestioned starter and much will be expected from him, particularly after the offense lost a lot of talent that surrounded him, starting with Ezekiel Elliott. Barrett possesses the running, passing and leadership skills that could make him one of the top players in the country this year.

      --DE Sam Hubbard is ready for a breakout year, by all accounts. With DE Joey Bosa gone to the NFL, Hubbard will get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer and improve upon 6 1/2 sacks from his redshirt freshman year. A former high school safety, the 6-foot-6 Hubbard has the quickness to beat offensive linemen and get to the quarterback. He could be a disruptive force for the defense this year.

      --H-back Curtis Samuel has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons with the Buckeyes but never really has emerged as a consistent contributor for one reason or another. As Samuel enters his senior season, he might be ready to make a bigger impact as long as he can stay away from the injuries that have slowed him in the past. Meyer mentioned his name with RB Mike Weber when discussing the lineup for the opener. "I think he's our No. 1 player on offense right now," coach Urban Meyer said. "He's gotta stay healthy and he's gotta go. I just love his skill set." Samuel probably fits best into the hybrid position in Meyer's offense that allows him to use his speed as a runner or a receiver. In 2014, Samuel rushed for 383 yards as Ezekiel Elliott's backup.

      SERIES HISTORY: Ohio State leads Bowling Green 4-0. The two Ohio teams last met in 2006, a 35-7 victory for the top-ranked Buckeyes. Ohio State is 32-1 against Mid-American Conference opponents and has won 40 consecutive games over in-state opponents.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "Durbin, I believe that's his name. Tyler Durbin. Tremendous talent. He'll start this week. -- That's his name, right? Tyler Durbin." -- Coach Urban Meyer on the Buckeyes' senior walk-on kicker for the opener against Bowling Green

  • Harbaugh remains mum on starting QB
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It probably won't come down to quarterback play when No. 7 Michigan opens its season on Saturday against visiting Hawaii.

    • But Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh is guarding the identity of the starter like it's a national secret.

      Harbaugh revealed on Monday that he has chosen the starter -- either sophomore Wilton Speight or junior transfer John O'Korn -- but he just isn't interested in sharing the information publicly yet.

      "Yeah, we know who our starting quarterback is. Yes," Harbaugh said at a press conference. "I'll say who our starting quarterback is before Saturday."

      Harbaugh said the battle for the job has been fierce but he carefully measured his words so he wouldn't tip off the identity of the starter.

      The competition at the quarterback position has been very good," Harbaugh said. "It's been improving, as well, daily and weekly. All the quarterbacks are playing at a very high level."

      O'Korn, a former starter at Houston, has the edge in game experience. Speight holds the edge when it comes to production in a Michigan uniform.

      Speight hasn't started a game but did guide the Wolverines to a winning touchdown against Minnesota last season when he replaced injured starter Jake Rudock.

      He thinks he has an inkling which way the decision will shake out but wasn't willing to share his opinion.

      "I think I've got a feel now and everyone has a feel," Speight said recently. "But it's Coach's decision and not many people know what goes on in Coach Harbaugh's mind. He's one of a kind, so just kind of wait and see what he does."

      O'Korn isn't stressing over the timing of a public declaration. He said whether he is the starter or the backup will have no bearing on his preparation.

      "I don't think it should change, honestly, if you're the first guy or the second guy," O'Korn said recently. "If you're the second guy you're only a snap away, so you should be preparing just as hard as the starter."

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --WR Jehu Chesson emerged as a big-play threat over the second half of the season and the Wolverines are looking to see him play at a high level over the entire season. Chesson caught 50 passes and led the team in receiving yardage (764) and receiving touchdowns (nine) during his breakout junior campaign. He suffered a knee injury during the Citrus Bowl and spent most of the offseason rehabbing but is now close to full strength.

      --TE Jake Butt was a second-team All-American last season and figures to top last season's totals of 51 receptions and 654 yards. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Butt only caught three touchdown passes last season and is capable of being more effective close to the end zone. He has seven career touchdowns out of 92 college catches.

      --CB Jourdan Lewis rates as one of the top cover corners in college football after setting a Michigan record with 22 passes defensed last season, breaking the school mark of 18 shared by Marlin Jackson (2002) and Leon Hall (2006). He only had two interceptions last season and will be aiming to double or triple that total this season. Lewis also could be a factor in the return game after averaging 25.2 yards on 15 kickoff returns last season.

      --OLB Jabrill Peppers is widely considered one of the top talents in college football and the Wolverines made a bold move by switching to him to linebacker. Peppers excelled as a strong safety last season but feel his athleticism will allow him to wreak havoc all over the field as a linebacker. He also will again play a role on offense and is a solid punt returner (11.4 average).

      SERIES HISTORY: Michigan and Hawaii are meeting for the third time. The Wolverines won both previous meetings -- 27-10 in 1986 when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback and 48-17 in 1998 when Tom Brady was at the helm.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "That kind of backfired on Ohio State last year. You saw J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. I don't think Coach (Harbaugh), having played the position, would like that situation. Whoever comes out on top at the end of camp is for a reason. It's not, 'Oh, you'd better play well this drive or you're going to be looking over your shoulder.'" -- Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, on how he doesn't think a two-quarterback system would work for the Wolverines.

  • Hawkeyes don't have to worry about Big Ben this time around
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    The last time Iowa faced Miami University was 13 years ago when the RedHawks had a big and talented quarterback behind center.

    • The Hawkeyes won that 2003 season-opening game 21-3 while intercepting the RedHawks QB four times and sacking him four times.

      When Miami comes to Iowa City to face Iowa in the 2016 season opener for both teams on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium, there will be no Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback for the RedHawks. That's good news for Iowa and not so good for Miami.

      Since Roethlisberger moved on to enjoy an elite career in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Miami program has mostly struggled. The RedHawks enter Saturday's game coming off a 3-9 season in 2015.

      Of Iowa's three nonconference opponents this year, Miami appears to be the least challenging. The opener should provide an opportunity for the Hawkeyes to get their feet on the ground out of the gate.

      The following week the Hawkeyes remain home to face in-state rival Iowa State and then welcome in FCS national champion North Dakota State in Week 3.

      A year ago, Iowa was an underdog going into the season without the burden of living up to any lofty expectations and ended up going 12-0 in the regular season before finishing with losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

      In 2016, as one of the favorites in the Big Ten West Division, the outlook has changed considerably. Entering the season ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll, Iowa realizes that much is expected from its fans and that opponents will no longer underestimate them.

      The reason for the optimism is the return of seven starters on each side of the ball and the quality of talent the Hawkeyes are starting to assemble, which is reflected in eight true freshmen cracking the preseason two-deep roster.

      The offense and defense are led by talented players -- All-American cornerback Desmond King and senior quarterback C.J. Beathard. King passed up the NFL Draft to return for his senior season and the savvy Beathard's ability to make plays with his arm and feet is a rare commodity for the Hawkeyes at the position.

      "There is so much more to do," King said. "We didn't win the Big Ten tittle last year. We didn't win a bowl game last year. We can all play better than we did last year."

      The two position groups that Iowa will be watching closely in the opener against Miami are the receivers and defensive line.

      Sophomore wideout Jay Scheel, whose talent has been negated by injuries, is hoping to stay healthy and be an impact contributor on the outside. Sophomore Jerminic Smith picked up experience last year as a part-time player and is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart behind Scheel.

      "Between (Scheel) and Jerminic, I think that position is in pretty good shape right now," Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said.

      At defensive end, Anthony Nelson and Matt Nelson are battling for one spot and Parker Hesse is perched on the other side as the Hawkeyes try to replace departed seniors Drew Ott and Nate Meier, who were their best pass rushers.

      Hesse likes how the defensive front seven has come together in the preseason, but the opener will be more of a true gauge that helps determine whether Iowa might be on its way to having an elite defense.

      "We'll have an opponent coming up and we'll kind of get a clear picture then (in the opener)," Hesse said.

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --QB C.J. Beathard is the undisputed leader of the Iowa offense. In his first year as a starter in 2015, he led the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season while playing injured after the first few games. There's no reason to suggest with a year of experience under his belt that he could be even better in 2016, but that will depend on Iowa having reliable receivers who can get open and spread the field.

      --DB Desmond King made the surprise decision to return for his senior season after winning the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 as the nation's top defensive back. He passed up the NFL Draft because he wanted to come back for one more season and try to help Iowa duplicate its 2015 success and go one step farther, which is winning the Big Ten championship. It will be difficult to top his eight interceptions from last year because opponents will stay away from the shutdown corner.

      --WR Jay Scheel has been talked about for two years since he arrived on campus as a potential standout, but injuries have kept him from making any significant contributions. If Iowa's fall camp is any indication, that could be changing. The redshirt sophomore going into the opener listed as the starter at wide receiver on the depth chart, ahead of Jerminic Smith, who played as a freshman last year and had six catches for 141 yards. Iowa fans want to see if Scheel is indeed the real deal.

      SERIES HISTORY: Iowa leads Miami 3-0. The two teams met three straight seasons from 2001 to 2003, with the Hawkeyes winning at home in 2001 and 2003 when Ben Roethlisberger was the RedHawks quarterback.

      QUOTE TO NOTE: "After the season we had last year, it's easy to say we made it, but that's not the case. Or goal is to come out and get better every day." -- Iowa DT Jaleel Johnson.

  • Longhorns face uphill battle to bowl game
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, August 30, 2016

    Texas coach Charlie Strong insists things are different within the Longhorns' program this time around.

    • The attitude has changed, as has the intensity and the bond among the players and coaches, Strong said. However, as he took the podium for the first game-week press conference of the season, Strong's demeanor had not changed. He was still the same steady head coach giving relatively drab answers to the media's queries.

      No matter though, the evidence for whether or not the Longhorns have progressed from their 5-win, 7-loss campaign of last season is coming quickly.

      Texas began the 2015 campaign by being stomped at Notre Dame. The Longhorns' offense was so ineffective in a 38-3 loss that the rest of the Big 12 salivated at the chance to play Texas. Now, all the same eyes will be watching as the Horns host the Fighting Irish on Sunday.

      "We're not that team anymore," Strong said on Monday. "That's not us. We're a totally different team than we were last season."

      In order for that to be true, Texas has to get better on offense.

      Although Strong didn't reveal who Texas' starting quarterback will be on Sunday against Notre Dame, there's really only one choice. Texas senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes hasn't shown the ability to command the position the last two seasons. That means it will likely be true freshman Shane Buechele's turn.

      If Buechele starts against Notre Dame, he'll be the first true freshman to start for the Longhorns since Bobby Layne in 1944. But that's what Texas fans are hoping to see. Anything less will not sit easy, but that won't be Strong's determining factor.

      "The fans, they'll be fine," Strong said. "Both of those guys (Swoopes and Buechele) are competing. It's been a great matchup. Our team's going to know who the starting quarterback is."

      That's Strong staying consistent. Texas fans can only hope the action on the field is more exciting.

      NOTES, QUOTES

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --LB Malik Jefferson is the best player on the Horns' better side of the ball. He'll be expected to elevate the rest of the defense, which lacks major impact players elsewhere. Last season, Jefferson made 61 total tackles, including 7 for losses playing in 11 games as a true freshman.

      --Shane Buechele has shown the work ethic, passing ability and intangibles to convince many in Texas that he's the future at QB. He passed for 6,379 yards and 73 TDs and rushed for 1,805 yards and 21 TDs in his career at Arlington Lamar High School. He'll likely get his first chance to show he can translate that ability to the major college level versus Notre Dame on September 4.

      --Texas needs play makers at WR and freshman Collin Johnson has the credentials to step in and do the job. Strong mentioned him as a freshman with a chance to play right away. He enrolled in January, so he's worked with the Horns QBs prior to preseason practice. No doubt the Texas passers will be happy to have the 6-foot-6, 212-pound receiver running routes and providing a big target.