Today’s offerings: Four-star receiver Trent Irwin’s offer list isn’t going to blow you away like some other elite receivers, but his ability to flat-out catch the football has him in the middle of one of the most intense recruiting battles in the Pac-12. Plus, has Oklahoma made up ground in the battle to land in-state four-star offensive guard Joshua Wariboko? And we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.
First, we had the confusing saga of Melvin Gordon's injury/non-injury that was to blame for his limited second-half appearance in a 28-24 loss to LSU on Saturday night in Houston.
Stave, of course, is the quarterback who started all 13 games for Wisconsin last year yet got beat out for the starting job this preseason by Tanner McEvoy. As McEvoy struggled mightily vs. LSU, Stave remained on the sidelines. I asked head coach Gary Andersen after the game if he considered bringing Stave in, and Andersen said no, because the pass protection was so bad that it wouldn't have mattered.
That seemed weird to me, but then on Tuesday morning, the school sent out an official statement saying Stave and tight end T.J. Watt would "miss time due to injuries."
“Joel has been dealing with some issues with his throwing shoulder for the last couple of weeks and we have come to a decision, after talking with Joel, that the best thing for him right now is to shut it down and give him some rest," Andersen said in the statement. "It was a tough decision because Joel is a great competitor and has a tremendous desire to help this team. We will continue to monitor his progress but we’re not putting a timetable on his return at this time.”
Case closed, right? Not so fast.
Reporters attending the end of practice on Tuesday night found out Stave wasn't hurt. Andersen backtracked from the statement put out just a few hours earlier (Listen to audio from Andersen and Stave here).
"He has not re-injured anything," Andersen said. "When he gets himself to the point where he's ready to play, he'll be ready to play. 'Injured' is probably a bad word, I guess, of choice by me that I decided to use in the press release."
Stave, who injured the AC joint in his throwing shoulder in the Capital One Bowl and was limited this offseason, said everything was structurally fine with his arm. But he added that it "just wasn't working the way I'd like it to, I guess. I don't know what it is." The reports out of early fall camp were that he was throwing the ball much more accurately than McEvoy. But then something apparently changed.
Shoulder injuries are notoriously unpredictable; just ask Braxton Miller. But Andersen and Stave are now saying he's not hurt. It could be a mental thing. Stave told reporters that he's a "perfectionist" and can overthink things when he misses a throw; he said "maybe on same level" that he has the dreaded "yips." To put it in baseball terms, Steve Blass Disease comes to mind.
Adding to the chaos, initial reports suggested Stave might miss the season because of his "injury." Later Tuesday night, the Badgers said Stave -- who'll keep throwing but is not currently involved in game prep -- could return as soon as Week 3.
So ... to sum up: Stave was hurt, but then he's not. Gordon was not hurt, but then he was. Coaches sometimes go to great lengths to protect their players when injuries or other issues are involved, and I can respect that. But by not being on the same page with either Gordon or Stave or his own earlier statements, Andersen -- remember his "I don't know" quote when asked why Gordon didn't get more carries? -- has opened himself up to criticism, and the team's overall credibility has suffered. This isn't Utah State; Wisconsin prides itself as a national program and needs to carry itself like one.
I don't believe there's any grand conspiracy going on behind the scenes. Andersen has always struck me as a pretty straight shooter who only wants what's best for his players and the team. But by crisscrossing messages and giving out conflicting information, he only gives the appearance that there's disarray in a program that's usually pretty drama-free.
Wisconsin looks pretty silly right now, though the good news is that the next few opponents appear to have little chance of beating the Badgers. The team has done a pretty good job of inflicting its own wounds the past 72 hours or so.
Cook completed a pass for a touchdown on the play but was slow to get up. And he is also apparently slow to get over it, after he watched film of the hit by Jacksonville State's Folo Johnson.
"I thought it was a pretty bad cheap shot," he told ESPN.com. "I've seen a lot of hits, growing up, watching TV and stuff like that. I've never seen a hit like that, so low and so late. I thought it was a really dirty hit. But I'm glad things aren't as bad as it looked."
Cook didn't miss any plays and was nearly perfect in the 45-7 win, throwing just one incompletion to go along with 285 yards and three touchdowns before sitting out the second half. He said his knee was a little sore on Saturday but that all the pain is now gone. He's fully ready for this Saturday's game at Oregon.
"I'm so lucky, so fortunate," he said.
Johnson was called for a 15-yard penalty on the hit. A new rule went into effect this season designed to protect quarterbacks against low hits.
Former Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner -- one of two players Sarkisian accused of faking injuries -- made that clear with a not-so-subtle joke on Twitter in the aftermath of the Josh Shaw fake-hero saga.
At least sarkisian won't have to wait until the games are played to start calling people out for faking injuries this year— Ben Gardner (@BennyG49) August 27, 2014
Clearly some tension remains.
Moments after Stanford's 31-28 win went final, Sarkisian told KJR 950-am in Seattle: "Their defensive line coach [Randy Hart] was telling them to sit down. I guess that's how we play here at Stanford, so we'll have to prepare for that next time."
Next time is this week.
When contacted by ESPN.com, Gardner said, more than anything, he was surprised by Sarkisian’s comments.
“Obviously, all of this is in the past, but we always pride ourselves at Stanford in doing things the right way and we try speak positively about our opponents and give credit where credit is due,” he said. “It was disappointing. To call out senior captains, guys like had been there a long time, and our coaches ... I felt like he was questioning our character and our integrity without really the background knowledge about us.”
The shoulder injury he suffered against the Huskies didn’t immediately hold Gardner out of any games, but it progressively got worse and eventually required season-ending surgery. Despite missing the final six games of the season, Gardner was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He'll miss this season, too, after dislocating his shoulder twice in training camp, which also required season-ending surgery.
To their credit, Shaw and Sarkisian have both seemingly moved on.
"We never talked about it again. It was over. It was in the past," Shaw said Tuesday. "[Sarkisian] and I sat together at lunch and breakfast a couple times and talked about a bunch of other things. Our wives are getting to become good friends; they know each other well. There’s no animosity whatsoever."
When asked if he and Shaw had patched things up, Sarkisian echoed what Shaw said.
"I think, first of all, I have a great deal of respect for David as a coach and as a person," Sarkisian said. "We had a disagreement in the heat of the moment and I think both of us have moved on. We’ve seen each other on different occasions since then. We were in Hawaii together at an event. We haven’t spoken on it and I think our relationship is fine. We’ve moved on."
Kickoff for Saturday's matchup between No. 14 USC at No. 13 Stanford is set for 3:30 p.m., ET on ABC.
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezSEC teams went 8-1 in Week 1 as the race for the national championship trophy began.
After an exciting slate of non-conference games in Week 1, the SEC proved why it was considered the top conference in the nation entering the season. The SEC went 8-1 in non-conference games, the best winning percentage of any FBS conference.
Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU all beat opponents ranked in the top 50 in the preseason Football Power Index, while Tennessee and Alabama took care of business against improved FBS teams. What might be surprising is the way that some of these SEC teams won the games, though.
The SEC was not nearly as dominant in its wins as some may have expected. LSU had the lowest average in-game win probability (34%) of any team that won this weekend, and Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia were all in one-score games in the second half.
Nonetheless, the SEC pulled out these wins and jumped 1.4 points in the conference power rankings. The strength of the top of the conference (six teams in top 15 of the AP Poll) is unmatched by any other conference.
Big Ten falls despite strong Week 1
The Big Ten had the second-best winning percentage in non-conference games of any of FBS conference. Notable wins include: Rutgers beating Washington State in Seattle, Penn State defeating UCF in Ireland, and Ohio State outlasting Navy in Baltimore.
However, the other nine wins for the Big Ten were against six FCS teams and three lower-tier FBS opponents.
The main reason that the Big Ten fell in the ratings, however, is that last week’s numbers were based off of the preseason AP Poll that did not account for Braxton Miller’s injury.
Ohio State struggled in the first half against Navy without Miller, and as a result, the AP voters dropped the Buckeyes from fifth to eighth despite a win. That was the second largest drop in AP ranking for a team that won last weekend (UCLA went from 7 to 11).
ACC falls further behind rest of Power Five
The ACC dropped five more points in the conference power rankings after Wake Forest lost to Louisiana-Monroe, Syracuse almost lost to Villanova, North Carolina struggled against Liberty and Florida State played a closer-than-expected game against Oklahoma State.
Clemson's loss to Georgia also significantly affected the ACC in the ratings because the top of the ACC is considered even weaker than when it began the season.
Florida State is the only team from the ACC ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll; every other Power Five conference has at least three top-20 teams.
In terms of the bottom of the ACC, Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina State and Wake Forest all have an FPI below zero (zero is considered an average FBS team by FPI). No other Power Five conference has more than two such teams.
Big Week for Big Ten/Pac-12
Week 2 is a big week to prove conference superiority. Highlighted by Michigan State traveling to Oregon, the Big Ten is a part of three marquee games next weekend.
Michigan will look to build upon a strong Week 1 at Notre Dame and Ohio State will look to prove it can be successful without Braxton Miller as it hosts Virginia Tech.
In the Pac-12, Oregon likely needs to win at home against Michigan State in order for it to stay alive in the playoff.
Also out west, USC and Stanford will meet in one of the top Pac-12 games of the season.
You know these are coming every week, so just bear with us.
We don’t have much data to work with. I’m thinking a couple of things might get sorted out when USC travels to Stanford next week. And there will be some critical games to keep an eye on in the future (Utah vs. Washington State on Sept. 27, Cal at Washington State on Oct. 4, etc.).
Just a refresher of how things work in the new College Football Playoff era: After the four playoff teams are picked, the selection committee will also pick at-large games for the Fiesta, Peach, Orange and Cotton bowls.
The flexibility in bowl arrangements might shake some things up also. Some conferences have moved away from the traditional “in-order” selection process and moved to a “tier” process.
It’s early, so if you see your team listed, great. If you don’t, don’t get into too much of a huff yet. (What am I thinking? Of course you're going to get into a huff.)
College Football Playoff: Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford
Valero Alamo Bowl: UCLA
National University Holiday Bowl: USC
San Francisco Bowl: ASU
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: Washington
Cactus Bowl: Oregon State
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Utah
And we have some immediate changes from our preseason projections. Nebraska and Michigan move up, while Iowa moves down. (The Wolverines not only looked pretty good in Week 1, but they're a very popular team for bowls). Northwestern, fresh off a home loss to Cal, is out. Rutgers, which won at Washington State, is in.
Michigan State remains a College Football Playoff pick for us, but this weekend's game at Oregon is obviously crucial to that.
It's ridiculously early, so don't overreact. But here are our latest Big Ten bowl picks:
College Football Playoff semifinal: Michigan State
Chick-fil-A Peach/Cotton: Ohio State
Capital One: Nebraska
National University Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin
TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Iowa
San Francisco: Minnesota
New Era Pinstripe: Maryland
Quick Lane: Indiana
Heart of Dallas: Rutgers
At this point, we have 11 SEC teams in all making the postseason, but there is still plenty of football left to be played. The projections will fluctuate throughout the season, but here's our best guess after Week 1.
College Football Playoff semifinal (Rose Bowl): Georgia
Orange Bowl: Alabama
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Auburn
Capital One Bowl: Texas A&M
TaxSlayer Bowl: LSU
Outback Bowl: South Carolina
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Mississippi State
Belk Bowl: Florida
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Missouri
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Ole Miss
Birmingham Bowl: Tennessee
Oklahoma State and West Virginia were impressive in losses while Texas Tech was disappointing in a victory. Keep in mind, our Big 12 bowl projections will remain fluid throughout the season as teams start to distinguish themselves as bowl contenders or pretenders.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma State
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: West Virginia
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Texas
Cactus Bowl: TCU
So, after a week of games, here are our ACC bowl projections:
College Football Playoff: Florida State
Orange Bowl : Louisville
Russell Athletic Bowl: Virginia Tech
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Clemson
Belk Bowl: North Carolina
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Pitt
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Notre Dame
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Duke
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Miami
Quick Lane Bowl: Boston College
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Georgia Tech
But Kiffin Cam and the QB battle didn’t yield much in the way of controversy. There were no sideline sparks between Kiffin and Saban, and Sims played well enough to hang on at quarterback until the game was essentially over. Coker came on for the final series, only to turn and hand the ball off to the running backs until the clock struck zero.
The game everyone expected to see against West Virginia wound up being turned on its ear. Alabama’s defense -- you know, the one everyone assumed would return to its 2009-2012 form -- instead laid an egg in the Georgia Dome. Tempo got the best of them once again. West Virginia’s running backs gashed the front seven. Its wide receivers ran roughshod over the secondary. Had it not been for a number of dropped passes, quarterback Clint Trickett might have led the Mountaineers to within reach of a monumental upset.
Returning to Tuscaloosa, Saban took stock of the hard-fought win on Monday. He started out optimistically, praising the team’s effort and the “intangible things” it did, like playing with toughness, competing and not letting one bad play carry over to the next. He pointed out that his defense made “two huge stops inside the 10-yard line” and that when Sims did turn the ball over, it responded by forcing a three-and-out.
That was the good news. But there was plenty of bad. Nearly 400 yards of offense and nine trips inside Alabama’s 40-yard line said so.
“We didn't play very well in the secondary at all,” Saban explained. “We didn't play very well at linebacker. We had too many miscommunications, too many missed coverages, too many missed assignments."
On one play, Jarran Reed doubled back nicely on a screen pass and helped force a minimal gain. But then, Saban said, there was another screen where the lineman didn’t get back and it ended up resulting in a 17-yard pickup.
“I think we have a lot to improve on defensively, all the way around,” he said. “So I'm not disappointed. It is what it is. This is where we are. This is the starting point.”
If Alabama hopes to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff, it better hope so. Because while West Virginia is certainly talented offensively, there are a handful of teams on the schedule that could give the defense even more trouble. Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M all have explosive offenses that like to push the pace. Even Mississippi State, with the improvements its made at receiver and running back, can move the ball in a hurry.
There’s plenty of time to improve, though. Florida Atlantic, which lost 55-7 to Nebraska on Saturday, is up next, and its starting quarterback might not even be available to play. After that it’s Southern Miss, which has won one game since 2011. Neither opponent figures to challenge the defense.
Taking advantage of those tune-ups will be crucial.
By the time Week 4 and Florida comes around, Alabama's defense could take on a different look, especially in the secondary.
Cyrus Jones has shown signs of improvement at corner, but Bradley Sylve had a rough go of it on Saturday. Five-star freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey are itching to take their spots in the starting lineup, but for now the fear is that their inexperience will lead to busts in coverage. Eddie Jackson might be the answer, but the sophomore is only five months removed from a torn ACL. He was cleared to play recently, according to Saban, but his status is uncertain as of today.
On top of that, veteran nickel back Jarrick Williams is out for the next four weeks with a fractured foot.
The good news is there’s time to find the right personnel and fix some of the issues we saw against West Virginia. The bad news is there are so many issues in the first place.
Maybe after so much time and energy devoted to Kiffin and the quarterbacks this offseason, it’s worth finally turning our attention to the other side of the football. It’s there where the most things are happening.
But the way they lost their openers has completely changed the outlook for the rest of their seasons.
For the better, too.
The Cowboys took defending national champion Florida State to the wire. The Mountaineers went toe-to-toe with second-ranked Alabama.
Not anymore in Stillwater.
And not anymore in Morgantown.
“They should be able to establish a certain level of confidence from the way we played,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his team. “The second half we were very competitive. Once they got up and going and realized they could play with the speed that Florida State brought to the table, they were much better. And so I think there’s a certain amount of confidence they should have developed from that game.”
The Mountaineers should take plenty of confidence out of their opener with Alabama, too.
West Virginia went into Atlanta almost a four-touchdown underdog. But on the first drive, the Mountaineers took it right to the Crimson Tide. Rushel Shell grinded out tough yards between the tackles, while quarterback Clint Trickett fired completions all over the field. The opening drive stalled inside the Alabama 5-yard line, leading to a field goal. But the Crimson Tide quickly learned they’d have a fight on their hands.
“We’re not interested in any moral victories,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday. “But we felt like we could play with those guys. And went into the game with a good frame of mind that was going to happen. And it did.”
Coming off an injury-riddled year in which he was still learning Holgorsen’s offense, Trickett looked like a completely different quarterback. With perfect poise and even more perfect hair, he completed 29 of 45 passes for 365 yards -- the second-highest passing total a Nick Saban defense had ever allowed at Alabama.
“Clint is a completely different quarterback than he was last year,” West Virginia receiver Jordan Thompson told reporters after the game. “People are basing our team off of what we were last year. We were inexperienced last year. Everybody now has a year under their belts. We’re healthier, stronger, faster, a little bigger, but most of all we’re more experienced, and Clint’s the No. 1 difference.”
Mario Alford and Kevin White were difference-makers, too. Against one of the top-rated defensive backfields in the country, White showed he could flourish as West Virginia’s first go-to wideout since Stedman Bailey. White hauled in nine receptions for 143 yards and a 19-yard touchdown pass. Alford, meanwhile, kick-started a return unit that ranked last in the Big 12 last fall, returning a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Mountaineers should get better, too. They struggled to contain Alabama’s powerful rushing attack up front. But at the back end Karl Joseph finished with 18 tackles and Daryl Worley pick off a pass, underscoring the playmaking West Virginia will have in its secondary this season.
Ultimately, the Mountaineers dropped too many passes and coughed up too many touchdown chances to pull off the upset. But along the way, they learned they can play with anyone in the country, which should do wonders for a program that has struggled the past season-and-a-half.
“Our guys are in a good place right now,” Holgorsen said. “That’s the standard that we need to play with. And if we can play with that kind of mentality the whole year, we’ll have a good team.”
With the fewest returning starters among any team from a Power 5 conference, Oklahoma State’s young squad seemed to be on the verge of getting blown out after falling behind 17-0 in the second quarter.
Instead, the Cowboys hung tough. Quarterback J.W. Walsh settled down after a rocky start. Tyreek Hill began running away from anyone wearing a white Seminoles jersey. And Oklahoma State’s defensive line began imposing its will against Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a Florida State offensive line starting five seniors.
"We saw our team grow a little bit and mature," Gundy said. "I wasn't really sure how a number of players would react, and I think we learned that they'll fight and compete. We were in a really tough situation at one point, being down 17 points to a really good football team, but they kept their focus. I was proud of them for that."
Every time Florida State made a play, the Cowboys answered. And only after the Seminoles -- who won every regular-season game last season by least two touchdowns -- recovered an onside kick in the final minutes could they rest easy.
The Cowboys figure to be favored in at least their next five games, with the key tilt coming Sept. 25 at home against Texas Tech. And as Saturday showed, Oklahoma State has the pieces to transform its season outlook from rebuilder to Big 12 contender.
"We've got a lot of things to work on, and we had our mistakes, but there's obviously a lot of talent,” said slot receiver David Glidden, who hauled in a 55-yard touchdown bomb against the Seminoles. “There are a lot of guys who can play the game of football pretty well.”
The Cowboys and Mountaineers didn’t win Saturday. But based on how they played, plenty of victories could be on the way.