Perhaps it's a statement on the lack of depth in the conference, or maybe it's a nod to the sheer talent at Florida State, but after a 15-point loss to the Seminoles, NC State is finally getting some respect.

The Wolfpack jumped out to a 4-0 start this season, but the opposition was lackluster and the bandwagon remained sparse, but after Jacoby Brissett shredded FSU's vaunted defense to the tune of 24 first-quarter points, NC State suddenly seemed like a real player in a league desperate for a few challengers to Florida State's dominance.

[+] EnlargeDeshaun Watson
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsDeshaun Watson has established himself as the quarterback of the near future for the 2-2 Tigers.
"I believe we can beat anybody, and that game showed it," NC State coach Dave Doeren said. "We have that confidence."

That's a start for the Wolfpack, but it still wasn't a win.

For Clemson, respect in the league hasn't been hard to grasp. The Tigers have been the clear No. 2 in the conference the past few years, but the goal has been to reach just a bit higher. Two weeks ago, against those same Seminoles, they were painfully close to assuming the mantle atop the conference, but like NC State, they fell just a bit short.

But again, a loss to Florida State was just the start of something new for Clemson, too. Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson got his first start last Saturday, and he made it a memorable one -- tossing six touchdown passes against an overwhelmed North Carolina defense.

Like NC State, Clemson didn't knock off the champs, but it did gain some momentum.

"He's a special young talent," Dabo Swinney said of his new QB. "I haven't been around a freshman like him."

Neither team appears likely to win the Atlantic Division now, but thanks to all that post-FSU momentum, the Tigers and Wolfpack are set to face off in what might be the ACC's most intriguing game of Week 6.

The intrigue starts at the quarterback position, as Watson and Brissett have emerged as legitimate challengers to Jameis Winston's ACC supremacy. In fact, Swinney sees an awful lot of the reigning Heisman winner in NC State's QB.

"If you just take the jerseys off, [Brissett] looks a lot like Winston, just the size and kind of some of their movements and how they're both strong enough to break tackles and extend some plays," Swinney said. "I've been very impressed with him."

Watson has done his share of impressing, too. In his first four career games, his stat lines compares favorably with what Winston did to start his Heisman campaign just a season ago. Watson has averaged more yards-per-pass, posted a better TD-to-INT ratio and is just a 1 percentage point behind Winston's completion percentage from his first four games of 2013.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Brissett
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeNC State's Jacoby Brissett is pushing the Wolfpack to contend for the Atlantic Division title.
"He's a very mature individual and he knows his role," Clemson tailback C.J. Davidson said of Watson. "He knows what it takes to be great. I knew when he got his chance that he would step up."

But if the QBs are the hot story, the secondaries should be most concerned.

Clemson's vaunted pass rush has done its job (38 tackles for loss), but against FBS foes, the Tigers rank 95th nationally in passing defense, allowing 276 yards per game.

NC State's numbers aren't quite so troublesome — 238 passing yards-per-game vs. FBS teams — but Winston torched the Wolfpack for 365 yards and four TDs last week, with a host of missed tackles adding to the misery of a 56-41 loss.

"Coverage mistakes, missed tackles, mental errors, people aligned in the wrong place," said freshman linebacker Jerod Fernandez, who had two INTs against the Seminoles. "Florida State is a good team, and when you have those kinds of mistakes against that type of team, they're going to capitalize."

Clemson is another team more than capable of capitalizing on mistakes, but that's the ideal way to rebound from an ugly performance, Fernandez said. And a year after suffering through an 0-8 record in conference play, NC State is eager to get a win in the league on another big stage.

And that's really what's at stake in Death Valley on Saturday. Both Clemson and NC State are now squarely in FSU's rearview mirror, which makes earning some respect in crucial conference games all that much more important.

"I feel like we earned a little respect last week," Fernandez said, "and now we've just got to take it."

Video: Must-win games for bubble teams

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2

Heather Dinich picks out Stanford, Michigan State and LSU as teams that must win their high-profile games this week to keep their playoff hopes alive.

How did Michigan get to this point?

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2

Brady Hoke sat sweat-slicked and exalted at a dais inside New Orleans' Superdome on the night of Jan. 3, 2012. The coach had just led Michigan to an 11-2 season, capped by a BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech. A reporter asked if the traditional college powerhouse was back.

"Michigan never left," Hoke said.

Exactly 1,000 days later, Hoke stood Monday at another podium to defend his 2-3 football team and the way he handled the head injury of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris. The Wolverines were two days removed from a 30-14 loss to Minnesota, their third double-digit margin of defeat this year.

Hoke's future – and the future of the man who hired him, athletic director Dave Brandon -- has never looked so dim at Michigan. Both are responsible for several missteps that have the program scraping rock bottom after such a promising start three-plus years ago.

How did the proud Wolverines get to this point? There have been plenty of highlights (and lowlights) that mark the trail:

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertMichigan's 2012 Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech seemed to be the start of big things for Brady Hoke with the Wolverines.
Jan. 3, 2012: Michigan defeats Virginia Tech 23-20 in Sugar Bowl -- The Wolverines completed an 11-2 season in Hoke's first year by kicking a field goal in overtime to beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan may have backed its way into the BCS and didn't exactly win cleanly, but those were details. Bowl wins and Big Ten championships seemed like a realistic part of the program's near future. No one assumed that Michigan had reached its high point (thus far) under Hoke only 357 days after he was hired.

Sept. 1, 2012: Alabama defeats Michigan 42-14 in season opener -- The Wolverines started the season ranked eighth in the AP poll, but Nick Saban's Crimson Tide offered a harsh reminder that Michigan wasn't ready to compete against the country's top teams on a big stage yet. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson picked up only 27 yards with his feet, but more shocking was that Alabama (and Robinson's own coaches) limited the electric runner to 10 carries. In Hoke's first year, Robinson played to his scrambling strength. In 2012, the coaching staff tried to shoehorn "Shoelace" and his teammates into a pro-style offense that didn't play to their strengths. The team lost four more times that season, finishing with an 8-5 record.

Feb. 6, 2013: Michigan signs touted 27-man recruiting class -- Hope that Hoke still had the program pointed in the right direction grew around his ability to recruit big-time talent. The Wolverines ranked sixth in ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings and as high as second on other sites' rankings on national signing day in 2013. The 27-man class, headlined by five-star running back Derrick Green, featured 15 of ESPN's top 300 prospects. The young talent has yet to live up to its billing at the college level. Hoke made a large leap to the Michigan job from San Diego State, where he never experienced the process of fine-tuning and motivating blue-chip recruits.

April 23, 2013: Athletic department increases student ticket prices to $280 per year -- Athletic director Dave Brandon rubbed fans the wrong way by increasing the cost of attending football games to $40 per student. The school also did away with a seating policy that made it easier for students to sit with groups of their friends. The department later revised that policy, but students were left with the impression that Brandon sees the student body as customers rather than as a part of the university. The most common complaint among protestors calling for Brandon's resignation now is that he values the bottom line more than the football program's long tradition.

Sept. 14, 2013: Skywriters hired by Michigan leave "Go Blue" message in East Lansing -- In a lead-up to its 28-24 win over Akron, Michigan's athletic department paid thousands of dollars for a skywriting company to leave messages among the clouds throughout southeast Michigan. One requested target was Lansing, where in-state rival Michigan State plays. The cheeky ruse backfired, as have several other stunts coordinated under Brandon's watch. Some of his attempts to spread the university's brand have been viewed by fans as marketing gimmicks from the former Domino's CEO.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Lon Horwedel/Icon SportswireSince last November, Brady Hoke's Wolverines have a 3-8 mark.
Nov. 2, 2013: Michigan State defeats Michigan 29-6 -- Sparty got its revenge two months later. Michigan's running game hit a historic low with minus-48 rushing yards in a thorough drubbing. The Wolverines failed to reach the end zone against Michigan State's defense for the second straight year. The loss, which highlighted Michigan's biggest offensive problem at the line of scrimmage, wasn't just a sign that the two programs were headed in opposite directions, but it began a stretch of five losses in six games to end the year. Since last November, the Wolverines are 3-8.

Nov. 30, 2013: Ohio State defeats Michigan 42-41 -- A failed two-point conversion with 32 seconds remaining handed the Wolverines another loss to rival Ohio State. A successful extra point attempt would have sent the game against the undefeated Buckeyes into overtime at the Big House. Hoke talked about the importance of beating "Ohio" the first time he was introduced as the program's head coach in 2011 but is 1-2 against the rival so far. Later that night, star offensive tackle Taylor Lewan allegedly punched an Ohio State fan outside a bar, leading to assault charges. A trial date has been set for later this month.

Dec. 20, 2013: Brendan Gibbons separates from the university -- Michigan officially cut ties with starting kicker Brendan Gibbons, according to documents uncovered by the student newspaper. Gibbons violated the school's sexual misconduct policy when he was accused of sexual assault as a freshman in 2009. Three days later, Hoke said Gibbons wasn't with the team at its bowl game because of a "family matter." The coach's evasive way of handling the matter was brought up again recently as questions about his integrity were raised in the aftermath of Shane Morris' concussion last week.

Jan. 10, 2014: Brandon introduces new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier -- Michigan needed to make changes after a disappointing 7-6 season, and they started on offense. The Wolverines' linemen took most of the heat for an offense that allowed 113 tackles for loss, more than any other FBS team in 2013. Hoke fired Al Borges and replaced him with former Alabama coordinator Doug Nussmeier two days later. But it was Brandon who introduced Nussmeier at a press conference in Ann Arbor. The athletic director, who reportedly watched film with the coaches on Sunday mornings, scoffed at the idea that he was overly influencing football decisions for the program. Nussmeier's work with the offense has yet to yield the desired results.

Sept. 30, 2014: Michigan apologizes for mishandling Morris' head injury -- Brandon and university president Mark Schlissel both released written statements acknowledging communication breakdowns that allowed an injured player to return to the field three days earlier. Brandon's statement contradicted several things Hoke said a day earlier in a press conference. Hoke declined to clear up any of those discrepancies Wednesday. The incident has magnified the heat coming from back-to-back embarrassing losses to Utah (26-10) and Minnesota (30-14).

Where do Brandon, Hoke and the team go from here? The Wolverines get a welcome reprieve from the turmoil on campus this weekend with a trip to Rutgers. They host Penn State the following week for the third night game in Michigan Stadium's history. Then comes a bye week, during which there is an Oct. 16 meeting of the university's Board of Regents, a group that can make changes in the athletic department. Without a turnaround in the near future, the next item on the timeline for Hoke and Brandon could be their last.

Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.

Kickoff Show: Week 6 (1 ET)

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
Join reporters Edward Aschoff, Heather Dinich, Ted Miller and host Chantel Jennings as they look forward to the packed slate of games this weekend and answer your questions live on screen.
AUBURN, Ala. -- All Auburn knows D'haquille Williams as is Duke. It's what the coaches call him. It's what his teammates call him. It's what the fans chanted when his name was first announced in the starting lineup or when he made his first catch or when he caught his first touchdown. You can't go to a game now and not hear "Duuuuuke" at least once.

But before there was Duke, there was Ducas.

That was Williams' original nickname growing up in LaPlace, Louisiana, a city of 32,000 people located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

[+] EnlargeD'haquille Williams, Nate Jackson
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesD'haquille Williams, who was recruited by LSU, is making a name for himself at Auburn this season as leads the Tigers in receptions through four games.
"It was too hard to say D'haquille, so a lot of people just started calling him Ducas as a kid," his younger cousin Darion Monroe said.

Monroe now plays defensive back for Tulane, but there was once a time when he was the one throwing passes to Williams. The two played together for East St. John High School. Monroe was the quarterback, and Williams was his go-to wide receiver.

"When the ball's in the air, he's going to get it," Monroe said. "If you don't beat him to it, he's going to get it. And he's going to tell you about it after he beats you, too."

There was one play Monroe remembers vividly. It was his junior year, Williams was a senior, and East St. John was playing against Landon Collins.

The call was a play-action fake and a deep ball to Williams, but when they got to the line of scrimmage, Williams yelled at his quarterback to switch the route. He wanted a quick route. It didn't leave Monroe much time to execute the play-action, but he got the throw off just in time, and Williams caught it and took it to the house.

"That was just him watching film," Monroe said. "They were playing him over the top, so he gave a great move and ran a post underneath the safety."

East St. John lost that game in double overtime, but Williams had nine catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns. He finished his senior season with 1,495 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns. Incredibly, it was only his second season of organized football.

In a perfect world, Williams would've graduated high school and signed with LSU, his dream school growing up.

However, because his credits didn't transfer over when he switched high schools, he couldn't qualify for LSU or any other major program. Instead of playing in Baton Rouge, he ended up in Perkinston, Mississippi, at Gulf Coast Community College.

"He was just a quiet, well-mannered, well-spoken kid that was still trying to feel his way," Gulf Coast offensive coordinator Chad Huff said. "He was a confident kid, but yet very to himself."

Williams could play football, though. On his first play at the junior college level, he caught a pass and went 80 yards for a touchdown.

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound receiver played two seasons at Gulf Coast and had every top program in the country calling and asking about him. Les Miles offered him a scholarship before he ever played a down. By the end of his first season, he had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Texas, Texas A&M and others.

Something changed, though, while Williams was in junior college. He committed to LSU in May 2013, but decommitted less than two weeks later. He began to explore his options, explore the possibility of getting away from where he grew up.

"He comes from a tough place over there," Huff said. "I think he kind of felt this was best for him, to maybe get away, get away from the area. LSU recruited him. Auburn recruited him. At the end of the day, I just think he felt more comfortable and felt like the best thing for him to do was to go to Auburn."

"D'haquille's mindset was that LSU's always been a dream school of his," added Kalen Henderson, another former high school teammate. "But to get to where he wants to go, I think Auburn was the place where he needed to be."

Williams committed to Auburn two months after decommitting from LSU. He spurned Miles and his home-state school to play for Gus Malzahn and the rival Tigers.

Through the first quarter of the season, the decision has turned out to be a good one. Williams has become a go-to wide receiver, and he currently leads the Tigers in receptions (23), yards (357) and touchdowns (3). He made another spectacular catch in Saturday's win against Louisiana Tech when he reached back and hauled the pass in with one hand for the score.

"He just has a special gift," Malzahn said after the game. "He knows how to catch the ball and high point it, so no, it doesn't surprise me."

There's already talk that this could be Williams' one and only season at Auburn, that he could declare for the NFL draft after the season is over.

"He definitely fits the mold," Huff said. "I think he's a guy that could very well be one and go. He's that talented. Now at the end of the day, does that end up being what happens? I think that's yet to be seen, but I definitely think he's got the talent to do it."

There's still a lot of football left to be played, though, and for Williams, no game looms larger than Saturday's matchup against LSU. He's facing the school he grew up wanting to play for and the same one he turned down to go to Auburn.

"He's going to be extra, extra motivated because those are the guys that we played against in high school," Monroe said. "Those guys are probably going to give him a little trash talk, but knowing him, he's just going to show them up with his game on the field."

Williams is ready to show LSU that it's not Ducas anymore. It's Duke.
Go on and doubt Rutgers. Say Maryland can’t stack up to the Big Ten’s best. Go on believing the conference's two newest additions were both mistakes.

Say whatever you want because, with identical 4-1 records, these teams don’t much care. Call them overrated and they’ll just use it as motivation. Call them underrated and they’ll note they still have a lot to prove.

“If people want to underestimate us, let them,” Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton said. “I’m sure we still have a lot of naysayers out there, but we still have a lot of football to play.”

Said Maryland offensive lineman Michael Dunn: “I think we’ve proved we’re not a team to think lightly of. But really, until we reach our goal of a Big Ten championship, I think we’re going to have to keep proving everybody wrong. Nobody believes we even have a shot to make anything special happen.”

Players are clamoring for respect, but sentiment is beginning to turn for the Big Ten’s two newest teams. They’re both playing above expectations right now, and those doubters are starting to thin out, at least a little.

Maryland is coming off an upset win over Indiana. Rutgers is favored this weekend over a Michigan team that most would’ve picked to win four weeks ago. In the preseason, the Terps were routinely picked to finish fifth or worst in the East, and they’re now the only 1-0 team in the division. Everyone -- Athlon, CBS, ESPN,, BTN, to name a few -- picked the Scarlet Knights to finish last in the division, and now they’ve already reached as many wins as most figured they’d end the season with.

“When you start the way we have, it makes people who maybe didn’t believe what we said in the preseason take a second look,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “And the more people look at our football team, the more they’re going to like our team.”

Flood acknowledged his team’s performance has helped with recruiting and in exciting the New Jersey fan base, but he was reticent to discuss what this quick start means for his program's image. So was Maryland coach Randy Edsall. That’s not a surprise. They both know their current performances are starting to steer Big Ten conversations in the right direction, but that wave of opinion can just as easily crash down as the season progresses.

They’ve been here before. Edsall’s team started 4-0 last season before a mixture of injuries and other setbacks saw the Terps finish 3-6 in the final nine games. The year before, Maryland started 4-2 before dropping six straight games to close the season. Flood’s team followed a similar path. Rutgers started 4-1 last season but ended on a 2-6 run. In 2012, a seven-game win streak to open the season was followed up with a 2-4 disappointment down the stretch.

That’s why these teams know, despite both being a play away from perfect records, they still have a lot left to prove.

“I mean, 4-1, it’s a nice record to have -- but it’s only five games into the season,” Dunn said. “People still don’t believe in us; people still don’t think we’re a respectable team.”

Said Flood: “I’ve been part of enough 4-1 teams to know if we don’t put our focus on being 1-0 this week, we’re not going to be where we want to be by the end of the season.”

But players and coaches at these schools know they’re on the right track. Dunn said campus buzz is at an all-time high; he’s never seen so many football T-shirts and jerseys on his way to class. Hamilton called the Big Ten home opener against Penn State one of the craziest football atmospheres he’s ever witnessed; he said it’s not even fair to compare past years at Rutgers.

Rutgers isn’t the pushover most assumed it would be. After all, who would’ve guessed the Knights would lead the B1G in sacks (21) right now -- and by a half-dozen? Maryland appears better than its “average” preseason tag. And who would’ve anticipated the Terps would be lumped in the Big Ten Power Rankings with Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska?

But, go ahead, point to both teams’ pasts and say they’ll falter again. Doubt them. Say they have a lot left to prove. Rutgers and Maryland are used to it all -- but they’re looking forward to proving even more critics wrong.

“We definitely have a chip on our shoulder, but, at the end of the day, no one can prove people wrong besides us,” Hamilton said. “We still got a lot of work left to do.”

Added Dunn: “We hear what people say about us, and we don't let it get to us. We just use it as motivation. All year we've been hearing it -- and we've been responding to it."
DeAndre Smelter AP Photo/Mike StewartDeAndre Smelter is a big reason why the Yellow Jackets have such a potent passing game this season.
In the past decade, four Georgia Tech receivers have at least three 100-yard games on their resumes. Calvin Johnson, Demayrius Thomas and Stephen Hill were each selected within the first 43 picks of the NFL draft. The fourth is a one-time pitching ace with a bum shoulder whose career on the gridiron began just 13 months ago.

The conclusion to DeAndre Smelter's college career is a million miles from where he started. He was supposed to be a star, of course, but it was that live arm and those wicked breaking balls that drew all the scouts.

"Coming out of high school, I was dead set on baseball being my ticket," Smelter said.

Five years later, Smelter isn't worried about his ticket to the pros. He's worried about Saturday's showdown with Miami, about the next eight games and what it means for his new team.

Georgia Tech's newest star receiver has already spent enough time trying to recapture the future he'd always dreamed about. Now, he wants to enjoy the moment.

"I'm just excited where my team is at, excited what the season holds," Smelter said. "I'm focused on that."

The Minnesota Twins selected Smelter in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2010, but he opted to pitch at Georgia Tech instead. A year later, he was the Yellow Jackets' top reliever, allowing just one earned run in 17-1/3 innings. But a shoulder injury had nagged him from the moment he set foot on Tech's campus, and by 2012, it was clear he wasn't ready to pitch. He sat out the season rehabbing the injury, but each time he revved up the arm again, the pain returned and the velocity didn't. By the spring of 2013, Smelter knew it was over.

"He worked real hard trying to get back to where he was in baseball," his mother, Cora Smelter, said. "When he decided to make the transition to football, we talked about it, and I told him I just wanted him to be happy."

Paul Johnson had recruited Smelter as a defensive back, despite the fact that the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder hadn't played football since his senior season at Tattnall Square. Three years later, Smelter wondered if the Georgia Tech football coach might still be interested.

Smelter's meeting with Johnson was concise. Sure, Johnson would give him a shot, but safety wasn't a realistic option. If Smelter wanted to see the field, his best bet was receiver, and even then, he'd have to earn his roster spot. It was no easy task for a broken-down pitcher who hadn't played a down of football in four years.

"I started off being No. 112 [on the roster]," Smelter said. "I had to earn everything I got."

The work had never been the issue. Smelter always put in the hours., and after so many years spent trying to breathe life back into his fastball, he was eager to attack a new challenge.

He spent his first summer working with his fellow receivers and devouring the playbook, and by the time fall camp opened, he'd made real progress.

"I didn't know what he could do initially, but he had some ability," said Tech receivers coach Al Preston. "He never talked about what he wanted to do, he just came to work."

It earned Smelter a job in a thin receiving corps, and that was a start. He wrapped up his junior season -- his first as a football player -- with 21 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns. Still, it was clear Smelter had much to learn.

The offseason began with Smelter spending day after day on the practice field. He ran routes by himself. He spent hours with the JUGS machine, catching one ball after another. He had a few months of practice to make up for four years away from the game.

"He legitimately works hard and he tells himself he's not going to quit until he perfects his craft," Tech B-back Zach Laskey said. "You can't say enough good things about the guy."

New Tech starting quarterback Justin Thomas would call his receivers to the practice field a few days a week early in the summer. After a few weeks, though, Thomas' phone would ring first. It would be Smelter hoping to get in a few more reps.

They'd trudge out to the field and run routes and talk shop, working through the scenarios they couldn't simulate in practice but were bound to see on game days. By the time fall camp opened in August, Smelter had turned a corner.

"When he first got out there, we had to pretty much tell him what to do on each play," Thomas said. "Now he knows what he's doing, he's playing with confidence and he's comfortable. From last year, it's night and day."

All that time working during the summer also helped Thomas and Smelter build a rapport that has quickly translated to game days this fall.

Georgia Tech is 4-0 and in control in the Coastal Division. The passing game has been a big part of the Jackets' success, and no one has been a bigger part of the passing game than Smelter. He's been on the receiving end of 43 percent of Tech's passing attempts -- second-most in the nation behind Alabama's Amari Cooper, a Heisman contender -- and he's averaging nearly 25 yards-per-catch. He's topped the 100-yard mark three times in four games.

"He can match up with anyone in the league right now and win, so I have a lot of confidence to go his way," Thomas said.

It's a nice start, Smelter admits, but it's not the end of the journey. There's a reservoir of untapped potential there, plenty more work to be done.

Smelter is always thinking of ways to get better, but after three years waiting for a dream that never materialized, he wants to soak in the moment, too.

"I didn't have some of my best years my first couple years," he said. "But these past couple have been some of the best years of my life. It's a lesson learned. I went through some hard times, but now that everything is panning out. Keeping my head down and still working and finding something I like to do, I think it's a good thing."

Smelter said the best part of his success in football comes after the games, finding his mom and dad waiting for him with smiles on their faces. They'd seen him struggle for so long, and now there's finally some relief.

But Cora Smelter isn't smiling because her son is suddenly a star. She knew that would happen no matter what DeAndre did with his life. She's just happy to see him doing something he loves again.

"DeAndre tries not to let anything get in his way," Cora Smelter said. "We all have frustrations, and I'm quite sure he had some in baseball. But he doesn't let much get him down. He picks himself and goes forward to what he needs to do."

Keys to Texas A&M-Mississippi State 

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
Kenny Hill and Dak Prescott USA TODAY SportsQuarterbacks Kenny Hill and Dak Prescott will duke it out at Davis Wade Stadium this weekend.
While there are a multitude of stellar Week 6 matchups, for me one clearly stands out as being the most intriguing: Texas A&M at Mississippi State.

Simply put, these two programs could not be more different.

The Aggies, often characterized as flashy, are the hottest program in the state of Texas (if not the country). Kevin Sumlin is known as "Coach Swag," arguably the coolest coach in college football (he's known to attend rap concerts and make dramatic entrances via helicopter on the recruiting trail). The roster is filled with some of the country's top recruits, and quarterback Kenny "Trill" Hill's family trademarked his nickname just as Johnny Football's did last year. Most consider the Aggies a finesse team with elite athleticism.

On the other hand, Mississippi State is the self-proclaimed "band of misfits" who see themselves as blue-collar -- tough players who were under-recruited and are looking for respect. They're led by coach Dan Mullen, who calls himself a "Yankee" in the South. Most consider the Bulldogs a tough, physical team.

Which one of these contrasting styles will come out on top and continue its quest for the SEC West crown? After studying both clubs, here's a look at three keys that will determine whether the Aggies or Bulldogs win on Saturday.

1. Can the Aggies contain QB Dak Prescott?

The Aggies have to limit Prescott to less than 100 yards rushing in order to win.
TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012 with justifiably high expectations. After all, the Horned Frogs went undefeated and won the Rose Bowl in 2010, then won 11 games the following season.

Yet so far, TCU has been a big disappointment in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs have gone just 6-12 in the league in two seasons, which culminated last year with the worst record of the Gary Patterson era.

But Saturday in Fort Worth against fourth-ranked Oklahoma, TCU has a grand chance to establish its credibility in its new conference.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
AP Photo/LM OteroTCU quarterback Trevone Boykin's improved play this season is a big reason why the offense has been more potent.
And prove it belongs in the Big 12.

“I don’t think ... as a whole team we are there yet,” said Patterson, whose club debuted in the Top 25 this week after a 3-0 start. “But I do believe we have good enough players to win Big 12 ballgames. I said it takes three to five years, and we are in our third year.”

So far, the Horned Frogs have looked like a different team in Year 3.

Its first two years in the league, TCU continued to field tenacious defenses. But it also endured total ineptness offensively, which stymied the Horned Frogs’ transition from the Mountain West Conference.

The offensive line struggled to pave running lanes or protect quarterbacks Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin. The wide receiving corps failed to develop a consistent, go-to target for the quarterbacks. And the quarterbacks, well, they were part of the problem, too.

But after Patterson brought on coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to install an up-tempo, spread attack, the Horned Frogs have begun to show a pulse offensively again.

After finishing eighth in the league in scoring in back-to-back years, TCU is third in the Big 12 at the moment with a scoring average of almost 45 points per game. The offensive line is deeper, stronger and more experienced. The Horned Frogs feature four of the top 25 statistical receivers in the league in Kolby Listenbee, Deante' Gray, David Porter and Josh Doctson.

But the biggest difference has been the improved play of Boykin, whose QBR is up 30 points from last season. Boykin has already thrown for eight touchdowns, one more than he passed for all of last season.

“Trevone has matured and has worked to get better as a quarterback, definitely,” center Joey Hunt said. “He’s got a really good understanding of this offense.”

Yet while the offense has shown improvement, TCU’s calling card again is its defense.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, TCU has allowed an FBS-low 0.31 points per drive this season, which is on track to be the lowest for any defense anywhere in the last 10 seasons.

Even without defensive end Devonte Fields, the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year who was dismissed from the team before the start of the season, the Horned Frogs have been overwhelming opposing quarterbacks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, TCU has sacked opponents on 15 percent of dropbacks -- three percentage points better than any other Power 5 defense.

"We're still not there yet," All-Big 12 safety Sam Carter said. "We've still got a lot of things we have to improve on. We still have to improve in the run game as well as the passing game definitely this weekend. Those guys (Oklahoma) run great.”

The Horned Frogs, however, seem to be getting closer.

And a win over Oklahoma would place them where they haven’t been before -- in the thick of the Big 12 title race.

“It would be a big win,” Hunt said. “It’s been a struggle for us. I came to TCU to win football games, and we want to get back to doing that. But the only way we’re going to establish our credibility is by winning games.

“Hopefully we can get over the hump.”
Mark Frye makes sure his rental cars come with unlimited miles. His son Ian's football games are not always all that close to their Bristol, Virginia, home, but Mark hadn't missed a single kick. So when Ian, the place-kicker for Virginia, connected on three first-half field goals at BYU -- a quarter-tank short of 2,000 miles from home -- Mark and wife Dana were in the stadium.

"It's not that I need to be there," Mark said by telephone Tuesday, "it's I enjoy being there."

[+] EnlargeIan Frye, Mark Frye
Courtesy of Mark FryeMark Frye had never missed a kick of Ian's -- until Sept. 20 when Mark suffered a heart attack while sitting in the stands at BYU.
But Ian didn't need to be there with his dad at halftime, Mark felt. Anything Ian would hear from his dad would be something he has already heard and probably more than once. There was no need for closure, because Mark and Ian have had it all their lives.

"There's nothing unsaid between me and my son. We know how we feel about each other," Mark said. "So, I didn't think it was necessary for him to be there if I was going to die."

The timing could not have been worse the afternoon of Sept. 20, a day that began blissfully for the Fryes. As Ian, already 2-for-2 kicking, lined up for a field goal to end the second quarter, Mark began feeling pain in his chest. Squared away in the corner of the stadium's upper bowl directly in the sun, he wondered if it was simply the elements. Doctors took Mark, who had his first heart attack 14 months ago, off a post-attack blood thinner just recently, but he took a doctor-prescribed nitrate at the game to treat his angina. He had never needed to take one before, and the pain intensified, forcing him to hastily leave his seat and seek paramedics.

Dana sprinted from the bleachers toward the field where Ian was walking off. Mark was having a second heart attack.

Mark would miss Ian kick for the first time in his life.

"He was bummed," Ian said Tuesday by telephone.

As Ian walked off the field, he saw his dad, still conscious, collapsed on the ground as paramedics attended him. Emergency workers assured the family Mark would survive, but human nature and fear played devil's advocate. For Ian, this was the man who suggested place-kicking to Ian as a means to ease his transition to public school. This was the man who, when he realized how strong his 150-pound, mohawked teenage son's leg was, ordered instructional videos on technique. ("Don't remember them being great help," Mark said.) And this was the man who splits time on his smart phone watching kicking highlights and offering advice and support to Ian.

Now this was the man ushering him back to the field to be with his teammates.

"I was distressed. My mom mentioned he was having heart pains, and I had an off feeling something was wrong when I saw him," Ian said. "He looked the same way when he had his first heart attack."

That came in 2013 near the peak of Whitetop Mountain the day before fall camp began at Virginia. Ian had to carry Mark 300 yards to the car and then drive an hour down Virginia's second-tallest mountain.

This time it came during the middle of a pivotal game, and the Cavaliers led 16-13 at halftime on the strength of Frye's accuracy.

"My dad and mother both said I need to be with the team, needed to be there for them and perform. [The paramedics] assured me enough," Ian said. "So, I told myself I needed to be there and stay focused. Coach came over and I told him I was [ready]. I had a job to do."

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Ian took aim at a 46-yard field goal. If he converted, it would cut BYU's lead to a single score and offer hope for a season-altering comeback for Virginia.

At the same time, Mark, who passed a stress test earlier this year, was in surgery to clean two stents from the first heart attack.

"You always complain about having to wait two hours in the emergency room," said Mark, who added doctors still aren't sure what is causing his issues. "Well, it's not much fun to have them roll you right through the door and have three doctors and five techs hook you to a machine and stab you with their needles. Your mind doesn't want to accept that reality."

Ian didn't fully know what was going on with his father despite the best efforts of Virginia staffers keeping him up to date. So when he lined up for one of the longest kicks of his college career, he couldn't clear his mind and focus on his three queues: find the right spot, align and foot placement. There wasn't any of that for this kick, just the thought of making his father proud.

Ian made it, but it was just the second kick Mark missed. Ian was 4 of 4, the first time he's made four field goals in a college game.

"The first thing he told me when I came in to the hospital was 'It's the first two kicks he's ever missed,'" Ian said.

Mark was back home in Virginia five days after the heart attack. A week later he was back in the stands, watching Ian kick against Kent State.

"He was happy the team did well," Ian said, "and I didn't have to kick any [pressure] field goals, so he wasn't stressed."

"I'm happy to be here," Mark said, "and see every game I can."

Week 6 roundtable: Breakout player

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
Derrick HenryKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDerrick Henry has 320 yards and two scores on 53 carries this season.

Saturday should be fun -- a full-scale clash of the SEC West titans. We're focused on three games from the nation's toughest division featuring six top-15 teams -- Alabama-Ole Miss, Auburn-LSU and Mississippi State-Texas A&M. So far, our roundtables have discussed the game we'd pay to see, the team with the most to prove and the best clutch quarterback.

The West crown, a trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, a berth in the College Football Playoff … it all hangs in the balance on Saturday. With that in mind, here are our SEC writers' picks for the breakout players whose performances will carry the day.

Alex Scarborough: Call him Megaquon. Laquon Treadwell is the star no one is talking about, and against Alabama, that's going to change. Ole Miss' sophomore receiver is the complete package: big, physical and explosive. Just look at his stat line last week: Five receptions, 123 yards, two touchdowns. Alabama's cornerbacks can't handle that. Cyrus Jones gives up four inches and 30 pounds to Treadwell. Eddie Jackson is a better matchup physically, but we don’t know how his body will hold up. Tony Brown is on a level playing field as far as talent goes, but the true freshman lacks experience. All that adds up to a matchup nightmare for Alabama.

Greg Ostendorf: If Alabama wants to beat Ole Miss on Saturday, it has to run the football. There, I said it. I don't care how good Blake Sims looked against Florida, this Ole Miss secondary is no joke. AJ McCarron struggled against the Rebels last year, and I can see Sims having a rough day on the road. That means it's up to T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry to carry the load. Take your pick for breakout player -- they're all good -- but I'm going with Henry. He's averaging 6.0 yards per carry, had a big game against Florida and has a knack for ripping off long runs. The only question is do the coaches trust him? I say yes.

David Ching: Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne, Mississippi State's Josh Robinson and Treadwell all came to mind as I considered this question, but I'm going with LSU quarterback Brandon Harris. He'll get his first career start on Saturday at Auburn, which is a tall order for anybody. But this kid possesses special talent. Even if he makes some mistakes or if LSU fails to pull the upset, he's going to become a star eventually. My bet is he will validate Les Miles' decision to allow him to guide the Tigers offense by keeping Saturday's game competitive.

Jeff Barlis: I knew I wouldn't be alone in choosing Harris. He just oozes athleticism, has an efficient delivery and poise beyond his years. Despite being a true freshman, Harris has looked worlds better than LSU's previous starter, sophomore Anthony Jennings. When Harris has been in the game, the LSU offense has come alive, as evidenced by his touchdown on all seven of his possessions after relieving Jennings last week. The Tigers have plenty of skilled athletes in Cam Cameron's offense. With Harris at the reins, LSU flat out has a better chance to go into Auburn and pull off the upset.

Sam Khan: Keep an eye on Mississippi State sophomore wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson. He's coming off a good game at LSU (four catches, 91 yards and a touchdown) and he looks like a budding star for the Bulldogs. He had success against Texas A&M last season, catching seven passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 51-41 loss at Kyle Field. He's big (6-foot-5), athletic and has a large catch radius, which is perfect when Mississippi State needs to move the chains on third down or get in the end zone. He leads the team in catches of 20-plus yards this year (four), and this game looks to be a shootout, so he should have plenty of opportunities to make an impression.

Edward Aschoff: My breakout player is Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones. He was supposed to be an All-American this year, but he's yet to really get things going for the Bulldogs. He does have two sacks on the season, but those came against cupcakes. Texas A&M’s offensive line presents a great test for the sophomore, who I think will put some nice pressure on A&M quarterback Kenny Hill and force him into some tough situations. It's time for him to impress us. His bulky, 6-5, 308-pound frame will clog the middle against the run, but where I see him standing out is against the pass, which is the key to stopping the Aggies' offense.
Florida State and Virginia broke long droughts between 1,000-yard rushers a season ago, but so far this season both schools have struggled to run the ball consistently.

So has Clemson, in danger of failing to produce a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in four seasons.

So has Miami even, a program that returned the best back in the ACC in Duke Johnson.

The four schools rank in the bottom half in the nation in rushing, which is somewhat surprising considering the talent they have in the backfield. In the 18 combined games the four starting running backs in the group have played this season, only two resulted in 100-yard performances. Johnson is the only one on pace for a 1,000-yard regular season.

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesDuke Johnson didn't get his first 100-yard rushing game of this season until last week.
Kevin Parks, the only returning 1,000-yard rusher from a season ago, has 258 total yards this season, and his yards-per-carry average is down from 4.5 to 3.4.

One common theme ties them all together – each program has dealt with inconsistency along its offensive line. Florida State has had a tough time replacing starting center Bryan Stork; the entire right side of the Miami offensive line is new; Virginia has been a revolving door up front; and Clemson has gotten little or no push from its linemen.

In fact, no offensive line is doing less for its team than Clemson, which is averaging just 1.04 yards before contact per rush. Florida State is second in the ACC in highest rate of runs resulting in zero yards or loss, at 24.3 percent; Miami is fourth (20.9 percent).

FSU also has been the worst team in the ACC in rushing between the tackles on non-quarterback runs (3.06 yards per carry). Miami, Clemson and Virginia rank 9-10-11, respectively.

The Canes had their best rushing day of the season last week against Duke, when Johnson had his first 100-yard game and the team had over 200 yards rushing. Johnson said in a phone interview one of the biggest reasons was because Miami changed up some of its blocking schemes and honed in on little details that the veterans on the offensive line a season ago intuitively knew.

“Changes on the offensive line, it kind of hurt just because last year we had two seniors on the right side of the line, so that kind of helped out in case the communication got lost, you had two older guys on the right side who understand everything that’s going on and they’re able to make the check and help out,” Johnson said.

What also hurt Miami was seeing a stacked box early in the season, with true freshman Brad Kaaya starting at quarterback. Virginia also has seen the same, with unproven quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns.

But Virginia also is going with a running back by committee approach, similar to Clemson. Producing a 1,000-yard rusher when going that route becomes more difficult. Still, neither team is getting much production out of any of its backs.

Virginia ranks 11th in the ACC in yards per rush (3.81), while Clemson is 13th (3.53). The Hoos have just 15 runs of 10 or more yards, while Clemson has 11.

“As a running back, you always want to have those home runs, and when you don’t get them, you think back and wonder what’s going on?” said Clemson back C.J. Davidson, who leads the team with 133 yards rushing. “But just by watching film, I know we’re a few steps or a few plays away from having those plays.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says he would love one of his backs to step up and emerge “but we’re not quite there yet after four games.”

Virginia has relied on Parks, Taquan Mizzell and Khalek Shepherd -- all three have 35-plus carries. But Parks started off slowly against FBS competition last year, too, before hitting his stride. He reeled off three straight 100-yard games to close the season.

The better news now is that Virginia already has more wins than all of 2013, a trade-off Parks gladly will make.

“We’re winning. Yards will come,” Parks said. “For me, I just try to let the game come to me and see what I get.”
videoMark Helfrich's 15-2 record at Oregon is the best start of any Pac-12 coach since Pappy Waldorf went 16-1 beginning in 1947 at Cal, but that second loss was a doozy. While there was no shame in losing 26-20 at No. 6 Stanford last season, the 42-16 shellacking the Ducks suffered at Arizona two weeks later was stunning.

The Wildcats handed Oregon its first defeat to an unranked team since 2009. The 26-point margin was the program's biggest since losing 44-10 to USC in 2008. The defeat ended a run of four consecutive BCS bowl berths, and included an added dose of negative publicity when receivers De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff turned up their noses during the preceding week at the prospect of playing in another Rose Bowl.

[+] EnlargeMark Helfrich
AP Photo/Steve DykesMark Helfrich knows the Ducks may have extra motivation on Thursday after last season's loss to Arizona.
This accumulation of negatives unleashed the naysayers who wasted little time insisting that it demonstrated that Helfrich couldn't match the leadership of former coach Chip Kelly.

Helfrich, clearly aware of this, didn't bob and weave with the media after the game. He didn't snarl, either. Or pass the buck.

"Very sluggish in every phase. That's 100 percent my fault," he said. "I have to figure out exactly which levers to pull and buttons to push."

While Kelly repeated his "forward-looking" mantra ad infinitum, Helfrich admitted at the time the Ducks were due some "inward-looking." Ten months later, No. 2 Oregon prepares for the Wildcats to visit Autzen Stadium on Thursday night. Helfrich completely embraces the Ducks' "win the day" philosophy -- he helped establish it, as Kelly's offensive coordinator -- including only looking forward to playing "nameless, faceless opponents." But, he said this week, he doesn't write off the idea that some of his players might find some additional motivation from the events of Nov. 23, 2013, in Tucson.

“Anytime you don’t give somebody your best shot, that should leave a bad taste in your mouth," Helfrich said. "There were some guys that felt that way. It certainly looked that way on film. Hopefully that contributes to fuel the engine of your process.”

It was a strange game. Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota threw his first two interceptions of the season, ending a Pac-12 record streak of 353 passes without a pick. It was the first of three Oregon turnovers. The Ducks also turned the ball over on downs twice and were flagged eight times for 66 yards.

Mariota looked as stunned as Oregon fans after the game. "I have never been blown out like this before in my life," he said at the time.

Yet, as bad as the Ducks looked, Arizona deserved plenty of credit. It played a near-flawless game in all three phases. The Wildcats had no turnovers, just two penalties, converted 11 of 16 third downs and were 6-for-6 with six touchdowns in the red zone. Critically, the Wildcats tackled well in space. They yielded some big plays but not any huge plays, as the Ducks had six plays of more than 20 yards but none longer than 30 and none reached the end zone.

That's pretty much the formula for beating anyone, but tackling in space is particularly noteworthy against the Ducks.

“That’s what’s going to be the key again," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.

The biggest new variable in this year's game is Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon making his first road start in Pac-12 play. While Solomon made his first career road start in the Alamodome against UTSA, Autzen Stadium is a far more challenging venue. Further, Solomon had his worst game of the season against the Roadrunners in terms of traditional pass efficiency rating and Total QBR.

“He’s kept his poise pretty well," Rodriguez said of Solomon. "This will be a test for him. He’s shown a lot of maturity. I’m sure there will be a few mistakes but I think he’s got the kind of mentality that if he does make a mistake or two to shake it off and keep playing.”

Helfrich was asked this week if he'd figured out "which levers to pull and buttons to push" to avoid another lackluster performance. Not surprisingly, he didn't divulge a eureka moment.

That's because there's no magic. A team like Oregon, a national title contender for the past five seasons, has no margin for error. Every bad weekend is judged harshly and analyzed endlessly. There's no "oh, well," any more for Oregon. Wins are expected, and any loss is a cause for panic.

Helfrich has posted a historically good start to his career, but coaching the Ducks after Kelly has left him with a fan base that owns a "national title or bust" mentality. Ultimately, the loss at Arizona a year ago only serves as an Exhibit A for an unsurprising truism for all teams aspiring to be champions.

Said Helfrich: “It doesn’t just happen. Winning is really hard. You have to earn every single bit of it.”

South Carolina State's Buddy Pough reaches milestone

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
It’s not every day a person has a chance to reach a milestone in his career. These opportunities don’t come along very often. Buddy Pough was able to get to that special plateau when South Carolina State defeated Hampton, 17-10, last Saturday to earn his 100th career coaching victory.

Pough is in his 13th season as South Carolina State's head coach. He has compiled an impressive 100-45 record. Pough has consistently been one of the best FCS coaches in the country. He has led the Bulldogs to two outright MEAC championships and shared three other league crowns while guiding SC State to four FCS playoff appearances.

[+] EnlargeBuddy Pough
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroWith a 100-45 record at South Carolina State, Buddy Pough is behind only legendary coach Willie Jeffries in wins at the school.
In addition, he has coached some great players, who have gone on to play in the NFL such as Phillip Adams (New York Jets), Jakar Hamilton (Dallas Cowboys), Rafael Bush (New Orleans Saints) and others. Since the big win over the Pirates, Pough hasn’t been able to reflect on his great accomplishment. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

“You know, one of the tough things about reaching milestones during the year, you’re so busy trying to figure out how to get another one,” Pough said. "You’re not really paying that much attention to the guys who you’ve met over the years.

“I did try to thank most of the people who were involved. We’ve had some really good players here. You think about the coaches, all the different secretaries and the people in our department who pull for us like there’s no tomorrow. It’s a reflection of a lot of years. I’m trying to hide out on those years. I don’t want people to know how long I’ve been hanging around here.”

Pough has shown great longevity and commitment to South Carolina State not only as a coach, but also as a player. With his latest win, he’s second on the Bulldogs' all-time coaching list for wins behind the legendary Willie Jeffries (128-77-4, 19 seasons).

Pough picked up a lot of knowledge about the game during his playing days at South Carolina State. He played for Jeffries, the school’s Hall of Fame coach. In 1974 and 1975, Pough was a terrific offensive lineman, helping South Carolina State put together a 16-6-1 record during those seasons.

He realizes how fortunate he was to play for Jeffries who was a real trail blazer for black coaches. In 1979, Jeffries was hired by Wichita State making him the first African American to coach at a Division I-A program.

“Coach is around here a bunch,” Pough said. “He’s still around doing a lot of great things. He’s going to be the head coach of the Medal of Honor game, which is a big all-star game that’s going to be held in Charleston, South Carolina, during the Christmas holidays. So, he’s doing all kinds of stuff and still as fit as ever.”

South Carolina State (3-2) will face North Carolina A&T (4-1) in what appears to be a great HBCU matchup in the Atlanta Football Classic. The game will be played in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. If the Bulldogs can slow down Aggies running back Tarik Cohen, they will have a chance to grab a key win in the MEAC and another victory for Pough.


  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff quarterback Benjamin Anderson was named the SWAC Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week. Anderson passed for more than 200 yards for the first time this season as he finished with 256 passing yards, completing 19 of 33 passes, with two touchdowns in overtime against Jackson State. He also rushed for 135 yards on 25 carries and another TD to finish with 391 total yards.
  • Alabama State linebacker Daerius Washington was named the SWAC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week. Washington and the Hornets defense held the Texas Southern offense to only three points and 221 total yards. Washington led with a team-high 10 tackles, five solo, had two sacks and two tackles for a loss of seven yards.
  • Bethune-Cookman quarterback Quentin Williams was selected as the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week. Williams accounted for three touchdowns as he led the Wildcats’ offense in a 34-33 nonconference win over Florida Tech. He had a career-high tying 16 completions on 28 attempts and produced a career-high 222 yards through the air along with two passing TDs. He also ran for a rushing TD with 15 rushing attempts for 31 yards.
  • Delaware State defensive back Terrick Colston named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Colston had nine tackles, seven solo stops in a 35-10 conference win over Savannah State. He intercepted one pass and forced and recovered a fumble to help seal the win.
SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll

1. Bethune-Cookman
2. Alcorn State
3. North Carolina A&T
4. Tennessee State
5. Alabama State
6. South Carolina State
7. Winston-Salem State
8. Texas Southern
9. Jackson State
10. Livingstone

The Black College Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday that 25 finalists will be on the ballot for induction into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.

Emerson Boozer (RB, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 1962-1965)
Roger Brown (OL, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 1956-1959)
Ken Burrough (WR, Texas Southern University, 1966-1969)
Harold Carmichael (WR, Southern University, 1967-1970)
Richard Dent (DE, Tennessee State University, 1979-1982)
Hewritt Dixon (RB, Florida A&M University, 1959-1962)
L.C. Greenwood (DE, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 1965-1968)
Harold Jackson (WR, Jackson State University, 1965-1968)
Gary “Big Hands” Johnson (DL, Grambling State University, 1971-1974)
Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd (DL, Grambling State University, 1957-1960)
Leo Lewis (RB, Lincoln University, 1951-1954)
Tyrone McGriff (OL, Florida A&M University, 1976-1979)
Timothy Newsome (RB/KR, Winston Salem State University, 1976-1979)
Jethro Pugh (DE, Elizabeth City State University, 1961-1964)
Ken Riley (QB, Florida A&M University, 1965-1968)
Donnie Shell (DB, South Carolina State University, 1970-1973)
Otis Taylor (WR, Prairie View A&M University, 1961-1964)
Emmitt Thomas (QB/DB, Bishop College, 1962-1965)
Everson Walls (DB, Grambling State University, 1977-1980)
Aeneas Williams (CB, Southern University, 1987-1990)

Coaches and contributors:
Joe Gilliam, Sr. (Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee State University, 1963-1983)
W.C. Gorden (Head Coach, Jackson State University, 1976-1991)
Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones (President, Grambling State University, 1936-1977)
Arnett Mumford (Head Coach, Southern University, 1927-1961)
William J. “Billy” Nicks (Head Coach, Morris Brown, 1930-1942, Prairie View A&M University, 1945-1965)

Can Spartans stop Huskers run game?

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2

Eric Francis/Getty ImagesAmeer Abdullah ran for 123 of Nebraska's 182 yards vs Michigan State last season.
At 5-0, Nebraska enters its matchup against Michigan State as the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten. Led by Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah, the Cornhuskers have been fueled by a potent rushing attack, while the Spartans have made their mark by stopping the run.

Something has to give on Saturday when these two teams square off in East Lansing (8 ET on ABC).

A matchup of strengths
Nebraska ranks in the top three in the FBS in rushing yards per game, yards per rush and rushes of 10 yards or longer.

The Cornhuskers are averaging a Power Five-high 4.4 yards before contact per rush and have made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 32 percent of their runs (best in the Big Ten).

Against Illinois last week, Nebraska had five rushing touchdowns, one more than Michigan State has allowed all season.

The Spartans rank in the top five in the FBS in rushing yards allowed per game and yards per rush.

They have allowed 92 TOTAL rushing yards before contact, fourth best among Power Five schools. Nebraska has rushed for 1,136 yards before contact in five games this season, most among Power Five schools.

Ameer Abdullah leads the way
Last week against Illinois, Abdullah ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

That was his FBS-leading third game with 200 rushing yards and 18th straight game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. No active running back has a streak of more than 10 such games.

Abdullah has been able to get his yards in chunks, gaining at least 10 yards on 25 percent of his carries. He leads the nation with 29 rushes of 10-plus yards.

Abdullah has gained 546 of his FBS-leading 833 yards before contact. He has 39 rushes in which first contact was not made until five yards past the line of scrimmage, the most by any Power Five player.

What does Michigan State do well?
Despite losing six defensive starters from last season, Michigan State is allowing eight fewer rushing yards per game than it did last season, when it ranked second in the FBS in rushing defense.

Like last year’s squad, the Spartans have not allowed their opponents to get going. They have contacted opposing rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage on 63 of their 111 rushes (57 percent), the highest percentage for any Power Five defense.

They lead the nation in percentage of opponents’ rushes that do not gain yards (39 percent).

The Spartans also have been great at wrapping up opponents. They have only nine missed tackles on opponents’ rushes (tied for second in the Big Ten) and lead the conference with 55.3 rushing yards allowed after contact per game this season.

Looking toward Saturday
Last season, Michigan State beat Nebraska 41-28 in Lincoln. It was the Spartans’ first win against the Cornhuskers in eight tries.

However, the 182 rushing yards allowed were the second-most Michigan State has surrendered over the last two seasons, with 123 coming from Abdullah. The Spartans were helped by five Nebraska turnovers and an inefficient Nebraska passing game.

This year, if Michigan State allows Abdullah to again rush for that many yards the results may be different. In the last four years, Nebraska is 18-3 when Abdullah runs for at least 100 yards, and Michigan State is 6-5 during that time when allowing a player to rush for 100.