Georgia has offered boxing great Evander Holyfield’s son a scholarship, and the Dawgs seem ready to deliver the knockout. Plus, Kansas State hosts Auburn in one of the biggest games ever in Manhattan, but there won’t be a lot of recruits in the stands.

Timeline: Ash's yearlong concussion battle

September, 17, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas quarterback David Ash has elected to retire due to concussion-related symptoms, ending a 376-day saga that began with one hit in Provo, Utah, and ultimately led to the 22-game starter's decision that his playing days are over. The following is an updated timeline of how we got here.

Sept. 7, 2013: Ash exits a 40-21 loss to BYU late in the fourth quarter after suffering a concussion. He does not play against Ole Miss the following week.

Sept. 20: Texas announces Ash has been cleared by UT medical staff to start against Kansas State. He'd participated in his first practice since the concussion two days earlier after being symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

Sept. 21: Ash passes for 166 yards and guides Texas to a 17-7 halftime lead over K-State, then is held out for the second half. Team trainers evaluate him for concussion symptoms.

[+] EnlargeTexas' David Ash
AP Photo/Eric GayDavid Ash suffered several hard hits on Saturday against North Texas.
Nov. 16: Ash attends his first Texas football game since Kansas State, a home loss to Oklahoma State.

Nov. 25: Texas officially announces Ash is out for the season and will seek a medical redshirt. "Though he's made a lot of progress, we have not been able to clear him to return to competition," Texas trainer Kenny Boyd says in a statement. "Due to the duration of symptoms, we are now at a point that we all believe the best approach for him is to not return this season."

Jan. 18, 2014: Ash is cleared for offseason workouts and is expected to be a full participant in spring practice.

March 18: First day of spring practice. Ash returns to the practice field for the first time since September.

April 11: Ash is shut down for the final week of spring practice after suffering a "Jones fracture" in his left foot which requires surgery. Texas also announces Ash officially received a medical redshirt for missing 2013, giving him two remaining seasons of eligibility.

July 21: Texas announces Ash is fully cleared to participate in fall practice. A day later, Strong says at Big 12 media days Ash is his starting quarterback.

Aug. 4: First day of fall practice. Ash speaks to media for the first time since BYU. "A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up, you need to quit.' Honestly, I never really thought about it," he says. "In my mind, I always knew I was going to play." He declines to discuss specifics about his concussion. When asked if he's ready to take his first hit, he declares: "Oh yeah, bring it on."

Aug. 25: During his Monday news conference, Strong refers to Ash as an "unbelievable quarterback who's had an unbelievable preseason camp." When asked again about taking his first hit in the season opener, Ash says, "I'm going to be OK. If I get hit, I'll be fine. I will be sliding a lot more this season, so you can count on that, and I'll be trying to protect myself and doing what's best for the team and taking care of my health during games so that I can last the whole season."

Aug. 30: Ash's first hit comes on the first play of Texas' second offensive drive. As he bends down to scoop up a fumbled snap, North Texas defensive end Jarrian Roberts hits Ash and his shoulder collides with the crown of Ash's helmet. Ash is slow to get up but does not report an injury to UT trainers. He takes at least five more hard hits during the 38-7 win, including three to his head or neck area.

Ash does not report any injuries or symptoms to team trainers during the game. A UT spokesperson says Ash spoke with trainers immediately after he came off the field from each drive.

After the game, Ash does not speak to reporters. OC Shawn Watson describes his performance as "sporadic" with some good moments. Strong is asked about the hits Ash took. "It's all within the flow of the game," he says. "I think the officials did a great job and the thing we have to do is just do a better job protecting. ... Sometimes we see it coming and you have to remember, you're going to get hit in this game."

Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, after leaving the stadium, Ash informs the Texas staff he's experiencing headaches and dizziness and is brought in for further evaluation. He tells Strong he thinks the first hit, by Roberts, caused his symptoms.

Sept. 1: Strong announces Ash will not play against BYU and offers no timetable for his return. He's concerned about Ash's concussion history but insists the coaching staff was unaware of any in-game symptoms. "I'm not ever going to jeopardize injury," he says. "You can never, ever in this program jeopardize a young man's health to compete in a football game."

Sept. 6: Ash is able to attend Texas' home loss against BYU and watches from the sideline in a jersey and khaki shorts. He also travels for Texas' loss to UCLA at AT&T Stadium but did not suit up.

Sept. 17: Ash meets with Strong and decides to end his playing career. Strong says there is "no way" Texas coaches or trainers would've let Ash take the field again, but the quarterback made the call on retiring and will remain involved with the team this season.

Baylor QB Russell ready when needed

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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The current No. 1 passer in the country, according to QBR, is neither a superstar nor a starter.

Baylor's Seth Russell, the unknown understudy to Bryce Petty, is not out to start a quarterback controversy. Three games into his sophomore season, he's served as both a mop-up reliever and spot starter during Petty's trials with a back injury. He knows this will pay off later.

"All it can do is help with improvement and learning and building my trust," Russell said. "Hopefully I'll build their trust in me that, whenever I get my opportunity, I'll make the most of it."

[+] EnlargeSeth Russell
Tony Gutierrez/Associated PressNeither star nor starter, Baylor's Seth Russell is one of the country's most efficient quarterbacks.
Russell's adjusted QBR of 96.2 puts him right ahead of his teammate Petty (93.6) and Texas A&M's Kenny Hill (92.9), and he's No. 3 nationally in passer efficiency.

"Aw, shoot, that's just numbers," Russell said. "That doesn't mean a whole lot. It's all about going out there, working with the team, getting the 'W.'"

When he's been on the field – nearly 45 percent of Baylor's offensive snaps this season -- there's been zero drop-off in production. In fact, the Bears average a whopping 8.5 yards per snap when Russell is in the game and 7.25 when it's Petty or third-stringer Chris Johnson.

After Petty exited at halftime in the opener against SMU, Russell was put in charge. He was nervous in the days that followed, knowing it was possible he might have to make his first career start.

"What really calmed me down was Coach [Art] Briles talking to us and saying,'This is a time to inspire people,'" Russell said. "He said just because you're a backup doesn't mean you can't play. It was definitely a burden taken off me and a sense of relief."

Petty was officially ruled out hours before kickoff against Northwestern State and Russell got his shot. He earned Big 12 co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for 438 yards and accounting for six touchdowns in one half of play in a 70-6 win.

"He was exceptional in how he handled himself and the decisions that he made," Briles said last week. "That's the thing that I told him I was proud of."

Briles said there were two plays in which Russell made the wrong decision against Northwestern State. That's two too many by his standard, but not bad for a first start. Last Friday, as Petty's backup once again, Russell played two series and led two touchdown drives.

"Whenever I got out there, I have to have the mindset that it's a win-or-lose game," Russell said. "It's the mindset that, even if we're up 50 points, you always have something to prove."

Like Petty, Russell's road to Baylor was paved by a coaching change. He'd committed to Kansas and then-coach Turner Gill in the summer before his senior season at Garland (Texas) High School.

When Gill was fired at the end of the year, Charlie Weis came in and brought former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist with him. Russell says his scholarship offer was not pulled, but he had to reconsider his decision.

"It definitely tested my faith," he said. "I talked to the coaches there and gave them the best opportunity possible, but when I went up there I didn't feel like it was the right fit. Baylor opened up their arms and I felt like it was the right place for me."

Coincidently, Baylor had a scholarship open up when Robert Griffin III went pro early. Kevin Murray, the Dallas-area quarterback coaching guru and former Texas A&M quarterback, worked with Russell in high school and said he couldn't get any other Big 12 programs to bite on taking him. He played in a system at Garland that didn't showcase his passing ability.

Baylor was the best fit, Murray said, because Briles and offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery recognized Russell had a high ceiling to match unusual athleticism.

"I don't think anyone outside of Waco understands how good this kid is," Murray said.

They'll start to find out soon enough. As Baylor enters Big 12 play, its backup knows he's ready for whatever comes next. He must be rooting for a few more blowouts and fourth-quarter snaps, right?

"Aw, shoot, I'm just happy if we get the win," Russell said. "Obviously I want to play, but if we get the win, that's all the matters."
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nick O’Leary is the definition of a player who allows his play to speak for him. Any reporter looking to speak with the talented Florida State tight end is surely a glutton for punishment.

His teammates weren’t much help initially, either, expounding on O’Leary’s succinct, stone-faced answers, but that primarily was because of their exuberant and gleeful expressions watching the Mackey Award candidate’s highlights from the Clemson game last season.

“Nooo! Oh my goodness!” cornerback P.J. Williams said before repeating himself.

“Haha! You’re going to see more of that,” safety Jalen Ramsey said.

“Hehe. … It looks like buddy lost that one,” linebacker Terrance Smith added.

[+] EnlargeNick O'Leary
AP Photo/Mike StewartLike in last season's game, Nick O'Leary is looking to get physical against Clemson on Saturday.
All three were shown the video clip of O’Leary sending Clemson safety Travis Blanks tumbling out of bounds after the 6-foot-3, 247-pound tight end lowered the boom on the Tallahassee, Florida, native (a tidbit not lost on Smith. “He’s actually from Tallahassee, ain’t he?”)

As O’Leary watches the replay, he breaks character and cracks a smile, however fleeting. He calls it “just a play that happened in a game” before walking.

The play and explanation define O’Leary’s business-like approach to tight end. He is a throwback to a position that is in the midst of transformation. Rare are tight ends in this pass-heavy era that are capable of blocking a defensive end at the point of attack one play and registering a 94-yard reception the next.

And whether he’s blocking or breaking tackles, at the end of the play, he lifts himself from the turf and jogs back to the huddle without as much as a word. He’s the lone receiver on Florida State’s team that doesn’t wear gloves, either. He wore them for one play and dropped a pass, so since then he has went with the bare hands approach, which, of course, only accentuates his renaissance act.

“Nick’s just a football player, man,” Smith said. “He doesn’t get all that flashy stuff. He goes out and plays. He’s going to block anybody, catch on anybody. His routes are some of the best routes I’ve had to cover. Nick is just an old-school football player. He just comes to play ball.”

“He likes to get nasty,” receiver Jesus Wilson said.

O’Leary is the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, but he resembles a grizzly bear more than the Golden Bear. O’Leary needed a sport that was a little more violent. As O’Leary hauled in Jameis Winston’s pass against Clemson, he closed in on the sideline but decided to turn up field for extra yardage. Oh, and the score was 34-7 at the time, and the game was decidedly in hand.

“I’ve always had the mentality of being the more physical guy out there,” O’Leary said. “[On the Clemson play], I knew that one guy wasn’t going to take me down.”

Teammates aren’t immune either from getting embarrassed at the hands -- and shoulder -- of O’Leary. Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. said O’Leary is just as intense and physical in practice, calling the Clemson play “normal for him to do.”

So, allow the Florida State defenders to offer No. 22 Clemson’s defense advice on what to do if O’Leary is bearing down Saturday night.

“You got to know how to hit that person and know how fast and know high or low. Shoot, you see right here [Blanks] really didn’t know,” Williams said. “I guess he didn’t know what he had coming.”
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A year ago, Jameis Winston marched his offense onto the field in Death Valley, cracked a few jokes in the huddle to lighten the mood, then proceeded to dismantle the Clemson defense for 60 minutes straight. He threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns, and when the carnage had ended, Florida State was a legitimate contender for the national title and Winston was a national celebrity.

In the 11 months since, that spotlight has unraveled so much of the veneer Winston’s win over Clemson created, and now, just four days before the rematch, the scenario for Florida State and its star-crossed QB feels entirely different.

Sean Maguire will be the man leading Florida State’s offense onto the field this time around, thanks to a half-game suspension levied against Winston for his latest off-field troubles. The Seminoles will remain favorites to win, but Wednesday’s news means Florida State is hardly the safe bet it once seemed.

[+] EnlargeSean Maguire
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State is hoping that quarterback Sean Maguire will be a quick study this week.
Really, the questions began long before Winston stood atop a table in (or near) FSU’s student union and shouted obscenities that resonated around the country in a matter of moments, thanks to social media.

Winston’s offseason was a whirlwind of awards ceremonies and off-field scrutiny, and when the season began with a sluggish win over Oklahoma State, fans immediately began to wonder whether he was the same QB who’d looked so unflappable as a freshman.

Seminoles stars departed for the NFL, including Lamarcus Joyner, who forced the fumble that started the FSU avalanche in Death Valley last season, along with offensive stalwarts Kenny Shaw, Kelvin Benjamin and Devonta Freeman. Through the first two games of 2014, those absences were felt by Florida State, and the Seminoles were clearly searching for the right replacements to step up.

But even throughout all the turbulence since Jimbo Fisher hoisted the national championship trophy a year ago, Florida State remained the nation’s safest bet for the College Football Playoff, and Winston was the constant.

Now, for the first 30 minutes of a game that will likely decide the ACC Atlantic Division, nothing seems certain.

Make no mistake, Maguire is capable of handling the role. He’s spent two full seasons learning Fisher’s system. He spent three chaotic weeks in November 2013 as FSU’s top backup during a time when the courts held Winston’s future in limbo. Winston said Wednesday he'd be spending extra time watching film and studying the playbook with Maguire to get him ready for his first career start. Maguire is prepared for this moment, but all the preparation in the world won’t entirely close the gap in talent between the Heisman winner and the anonymous backup.

Clemson’s pass rush is as good as any in the nation, and Maguire’s calm under pressure will be tested. That was always Winston’s strength.

Karlos Williams is a talented runner who could help ease the transition for the backup QB, but look no further than the Week 1 game against Oklahoma State to find serious concerns about Florida State’s ground game. Without Winston, the Tigers will almost certainly stack the box and dare Maguire to beat them downfield.

And while Rashad Greene remains as consistently productive a player as there is in the conference, there were already nagging questions surrounding the receiving corps' supporting cast. Now the burden falls on Maguire to help inexperienced targets like Jesus Wilson, Kermit Whitfield and Ermon Lane develop on the fly.

It’s just 30 minutes of football, and the stage will be set for Winston to return to action in the second half and erase a few more demons on the field. But last year, those first 30 minutes meant everything, with the Seminoles jumping out to a 27-7 lead that never allowed Clemson to get out of the starting blocks.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney grabbed headlines afterward, suggesting the talent on the field was split evenly, but the early momentum of the game tipped the scales Florida State’s way. This time around, there will be no excuse for the Tigers to cede the game within the first few drives. If the talent really is evenly split, Winston’s loss tips the scales back in Swinney’s favor.

But a year ago, there were questions about Winston, too, when Florida State’s bus motored into Death Valley, and he emerged a conquering hero.

Don’t expect the first chapter of the legend of Sean Maguire to be written in Tallahassee on Saturday. But the backup to college football’s biggest star will have a chance to script one heck of a footnote in the story of the Seminoles' 2014 season.
BERKELEY, Calif. -- When it came time to pick a senior quote in high school, Cal quarterback Jared Goff settled on a famous one from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
Ben Margot/AP PhotoJared Goff and the California Bears take on the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday in a game of unbeatens.
How's that for foreshadowing?

Barely into the second season of his college career, Goff has already lived both sides.

"Last year was terrible, there was people saying everything about us,” Goff said. "You try not to read it, but it comes across your [Facebook] news feed every once in awhile, and then this year it's almost the opposite."

With wins against Northwestern and Sacramento State, the Bears' 2-0 start has brought about a renewed sense of enthusiasm to a fan base that grew apathetic during a disastrous 2013 season. Goff said he's already noticed more students wearing Cal gear and he can't stray too far from his apartment near Memorial Stadium before noticing the changes winning has bred.

"Every single day there's a traffic sign near my place and it says 'Go Bears,'" Goff said. "That wouldn't have happened last year."

Goff admits he "loves seeing all that," but as Wooden taught him and coach Sonny Dykes has reinforced, there's an important caveat that comes with the positive vibes.

“[They] literally mean nothing," Goff said.

To better avoid the outside noise, Goff took a page out of former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers' book when he pledged to stay away from Twitter during the season.

It's an approach Dykes can appreciate because as immeasurably frustrating as the Bears' 1-11 record was in his debut season, he never lost faith in the process. And the ability to block out any unnecessary distractions plays a big role in that.

"[Last year] everybody on campus, media stuff, everything was remarkably negative -- and justifiably so -- but [the players] didn't need to listen to that," Dykes said. "When we get the thing rolling, they don't need to listen to everybody telling them how great they are, either, because nothing has changed.

"People's ability to ignore stuff that doesn't matter and focus on what does matter, I think, makes a huge difference with how successful somebody is. It's nice for people to tell you you're not stupid and you're not a bad player, all that stuff, but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter."

It's also important to keep things in perspective. Wins against Northwestern, which lost to Northern Illinois the following week, and FCS Sacramento State, which prepared for Cal with a win against Incarnate Word, don't exactly combine to form an enviable resume. The important byproducts of those wins are a small sense of validation and improved confidence, but beyond that Cal still has a long way to go.

And until the Bears prove they can consistently compete with Pac-12 teams -- beginning Saturday at Arizona -- a healthy level of skepticism is appropriate.

"We're not by any means hanging on to the Northwestern win or the Sac State win, but it's good to see us working hard in the offseason, doing everything right, going to class, and then seeing it pay off with the wins," said Goff, who ranks ninth in the country with a QBR rating of 90.1. "I think it makes the whole team's morale go higher, just seeing everything work the way it's supposed to work."

Offense was never going to be a major issue. When Dykes left Louisiana Tech for Berkeley, he and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin had just engineered the highest scoring offense in the country. Given time, there was no reason to believe it wouldn't pick up steam at Cal.

Defense was a different story. It was a question mark when Dykes was hired, but reality (45.9 points allowed per game) redefined any worst-cast scenarios floating about. Defensive coordinator Andy Buh had to go, and Dykes was led to Art Kaufman, whose history of quickly turning around porous defenses presented at least some reason for optimism.

For linebacker Jalen Jefferson, it was apparent early on in spring practice that things could be better when he noticed something strange.

"We were actually stopping the offense," he said. "And that's hard to do with the style they have and what they do."

Jefferson credits Kaufman's basic approach for allowing the defense to play faster.

"We still run a 4-3, but there aren't many adjustments," said Jefferson, who leads the Bears with 17 tackles. "We line up, play our gap and fly to the ball. That's what we needed. [Kaufman's] a great guy ... mellow. He gets on us when needs to and he trusts us, so we trust him."

Again, the competition level and small sample size need to be taken into account, but the early defensive returns are positive. Cal ranks third in the Pac-12 in total defense (328 yards per game), third in scoring defense (19.0 ppg) and is tied for the best turnover margin (plus-5).

Arizona (3-0) will provide an otherworldly kind of challenge. The Wildcats have averaged a conference-best 582.7 yards per game over their first three games, including a school-record 787 yards of offense in Week 1 against UNLV. True freshman running back Nick Wilson is fourth in the country with 449 yards rushing and quarterback Anu Solomon has thrown for 934 yards over his first three career starts.

"We're pretty anxious to see what we're capable of," Jefferson said.

He's not the only one.

Ameer Abdullah sets pace for Cornhuskers

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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AP Photo/Nati HarnikAmeer Abdullah has run for 41 percent of Nebraska's rushing yards this season.
Ameer Abdullah might have already had his “Heisman Moment.” With Nebraska tied with McNeese State late in the fourth quarter in their Week 2 game, Abdullah took a three-yard pass, broke three tackles and ran 55 yards for a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

Not only did that reception give Nebraska the lead with 20 seconds remaining, but it also gave Abdullah more than 100 yards from scrimmage, something he has done in every game since the start the 2013 season.

Abdullah has a streak of 16 games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, the longest active streak in the FBS and fourth-longest streak for a running back in the last 10 seasons.

Given Abdullah’s streak, it should not be surprising that he leads all FBS players with 2,423 yards from scrimmage since the start of last season.

During that time, he has had the second-most offensive touches (368) in the FBS and is averaging 6.6 yards per touch, the 12th-best average in the FBS (min. 200 plays).

What has made Abdullah successful?
Abdullah has been the catalyst for this offense.
Nebraska ranks eighth in the nation in rushing yards per game (324.3) this season and second in yards per rush (7.4).

He has been responsible for 43 percent of the team’s carries and 41 percent of the Cornhuskers' rushing yards.

Abdullah is one of the most versatile running backs in the nation.
He is the only Power Five running back with at least 900 rushing yards both inside and outside the tackles since the start of last season.

During that time, Abdullah has gained 1,135 rushing yards outside the tackles, fourth-most in the FBS.

Abdullah is productive and consistent.
Since the start of last season, Abdullah is averaging 130.4 rushing yards per game, seventh-most in the FBS.

He leads all FBS players with 13 100-yard rushing games.

Abdullah finds the correct running lane.
He has 83 rushes in which first contact was not made until 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, tied with Washington’s Bishop Sankey for the most by any Power Five player.

That said, this week could be a challenge for Abdullah with Miami (FL) coming to Lincoln. The Hurricanes have allowed 2.0 yards per carry this season, fourth-best in the FBS.

If Abdullah can have a big game against one of the best rushing defenses in the FBS on national TV, it could vault him up the Heisman Watch list.
Nebraska and Miami met five times in bowl games from 1984 to 2002, with the winner staking claim to the national title four times. Here’s a look inside the series at three of the most memorable games from an era gone past in college football:

1984 Orange Bowl: Miami 31, Nebraska 30


Turner Gill, Kevin FaganAP Photo/John RaouxKevin Fagan hounded Turner Gill in the '84 Orange Bowl as Miami won its first national title.


December 1983 rated as one of the coldest months on record in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The high temperature was 36 degrees on Dec. 8. The low? Minus-24 on Dec. 22, part of a weeklong stretch when the thermometer did not reach zero while the top-ranked Cornhuskers readied to play Miami in the Orange Bowl.

At the time, Nebraska practiced outdoors on frozen grass and AstroTurf. Four years later, the school built an indoor facility, spurred in part by the horrendous conditions of that month. When the Huskers arrived in Miami, players and coaches exited the plane in their winter coats. The heat and humidity hit them hard -– which was a factor as the Hurricanes jumped to a 17-0 lead on Jan. 2.

The 1983 Huskers averaged 50.3 points and 370.8 rushing yards per game behind quarterback Turner Gill and Heisman Trophy-winning I-back Mike Rozier. But in that Orange Bowl, Nebraska sputtered offensively as Rozier left in the second half with an ankle injury.

The Huskers pulled within one, but Gill’s two-point conversion pass failed in the final minute as Kenny Calhoun knocked the ball away from Nebraska I-back Jeff Smith.

The whole scenario couldn’t have worked any better for Howard Schnellenberger, the Hurricanes’ showman of a head coach who, in buildup to the bowl game, landed a helicopter on the Nebraska practice field in Miami, jumping out with a pipe in his mouth.

A wayward program just five years prior when Schnellenberger took charge, Miami won its 11th consecutive game to earn the school its first national title and first of four in a nine-year period.

And the Huskers, again under Tom Osborne, were left out in the cold.



1995 Orange Bowl: Nebraska 24, Miami 17


Warren SappAP Photo/Jeffrey BoanMiami's Warren Sapp was chatty, but Tommie Frazier and Nebraska got the last word and the win.


The story is part of Nebraska lore. Not the two-touchdown comeback or the prescient halftime vow to his team by Osborne that Miami would tire late -– well, that’s all legendary, too -– but Tommie Frazier’s version of the trash talk shared with Warren Sapp perhaps best symbolizes Nebraska’s rise to surpass Miami in this once-lopsided postseason series.

Osborne had replaced Frazier with Brook Berringer early, the arrangement in place for much of the 1994 regular season as blood clots sidelined Frazier for eight games.

When Frazier returned to field late in the fourth quarter, the Huskers trailed 17-9. Sapp, the Hurricanes’ boisterous defensive tackle, shot jabs at the junior quarterback.

“Where you been, Tommie,” Sapp shouted, according to Frazier.

“It’s not where I’ve been,” Frazier said in 2009, recounting the exchange. “It’s where I’m going, fat ass.”

With fresh legs, Frazier, the Florida native who came up two points short against Florida State a year earlier in the same stadium, gashed Miami on the option. With less than eight minutes to play, fullback Cory Schlesinger burst through middle for a 15-yard score. Frazier found tight end Eric Alford for a two-point conversion to tie it.

Less than five minutes later, with Frazier at the helm, Schlesinger scored again from 14 yards out. The victory secured Osborne’s first national title and one of three in his final four seasons as coach.

As usual in his college career, which concluded with 33 wins in 36 starts, Frazier had the final word.



2002 Rose Bowl: Miami 37, Nebraska 14


Andre Johnson, Daryl Jones, Carl Walker, Ken DorseyAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMiami had 38 players go to the NFL, including Daryl Jones (L), Andre Johnson (C) and Ken Dorsey (R).


Six years before this most recent Nebraska-Miami meeting, the Cornhuskers fielded a team in 1995 that was considered by some as the greatest in history. Its average margin of victory approached 40 points. And true to form, Osborne’s team crushed Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl.

If only the 1995 Huskers could have met 2001 Miami. Because this Nebraska team had no chance. The Hurricanes, loaded with 16 future first-round NFL draft picks, blitzed the Huskers for 27 second-quarter points en route to a 34-0 halftime lead. Miami could have named its score, but coach Larry Coker showed mercy in the second half as the championship celebration began early.

The star power at Miami in 2001 was incredible, featuring running backs Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, quarterback Ken Dorsey, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, safeties Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams, receiver Andre Johnson, cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork -- the list seems never-ending. In all, 38 players from that team were drafted. They accumulated more than 40 appearances in the Pro Bowl.

Miami outscored its opponents in 2001 by 33.2 points per game. Its offense, defense and special teams units each could lay claim to a ranking as the nation’s best.

And for all the work Nebraska accomplished in the '90s to close the gap on Miami’s dynasty of the previous decade, it looked wider than ever on Jan. 3, 2002.

WVU's White playing like a man on fire

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
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Kevin White, Bradley SylveJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsWVU receiver Kevin White has surpassed 100 receiving yards in all three games this season.
The last time he faced Oklahoma, West Virginia wideout Kevin White had the ball with a chance to give the Mountaineers a late lead. But as he attempted to slide past a pair of Sooner defenders, Oklahoma safety Quentin Hayes jarred the ball loose, thwarting what would be West Virginia's final chance to win in Norman.

"When I think about Oklahoma, all I think about is that fumble," White said. "We could have won that game.

"That play put a fire in me."

Saturday, White will get another crack against the fourth-ranked Sooners in a showdown that could hold major Big 12 championship implications. Everyone expected Oklahoma to be in the hunt. But thanks in large part to White playing like a man on fire, the unheralded Mountaineers have emerged as a dark-horse contender after a surprisingly strong start to the season.

Through three games, White ranks second in the country with 460 receiving yards and 32 receptions.

"He's a great player and he is making big plays in every game," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of White. "He's physical and is tough going up after the football. He's got a great physical presence -- just a great football player."

Stoops isn't the only one to take notice.

After reeling in 143 receiving yards and a touchdown in a narrow 33-23 loss to second-ranked Alabama in the opener, White boarded the bus outside the Georgia Dome and finally got around to checking his phone. The Twitter mentions came pouring in, but one specific tweet prompted him to look twice:



"That was really cool," White said. "I was pretty shocked. Larry is a guy I watch a lot, a guy I try to mimic my game after."

White has been putting together quite the imitation.

Besides sharing Fitzgerald's No. 11 jersey number, his hairstyle dreads and his physical 6-foot-3 body type, White has been destroying opposing cornerbacks downfield the way Fitzgerald has been for years.

White has already hauled in 17 receptions of 10 yards or more, a year after leading the Mountaineers with only 21 such catches during his entire first season at West Virginia.

"I don't think any cornerback not his size can guard him," said White's West Virginia cohort at receiver, Mario Alford. "He's unbelievable the way he uses his body and his athletic ability to block out smaller cornerbacks to go up and attack the ball.

"He's got a ton of confidence right now."

That confidence, however, wasn't always there.

White didn't have the grades or the tape to play FBS football coming out Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania, which prompted him to enroll at Lackawanna College down the road in Scranton. But White always had the tools. He just needed the discipline to unleash them.

"When we saw him run, jump, catch, we realized he was so much superior than any ordinary player," said Lackawanna head coach Mark Duda. "But he was undisciplined. Not in a criminal way. Just in a really young way. If we had a meeting at 10:30, he'd be there at 10:35. We knew if we didn't work a little harder on him, he might not make all that potential a reality."

Even though White had the talent to help Lackawanna right away, Duda redshirted him to get the message across.

"They were very tough on me my freshman year," White said. "At the time, I didn't understand why. I thought coach disliked me. But I realize he was trying to bring out the talent I had and show me the things I need to do to be successful."

After redshirting, White missed another season at Lackawanna for financial reasons. But when he rejoined the team for his third season, he returned a completely different player, on and off the playing field.

"He came back focused like a laser beam," Duda said. "He was like a full-grown man. Attentive. A guy who had completely bought in to being a college athlete. He didn't just get athletic, he didn't just get character. He had those things. He just put it all together."

White has continued to put it together since arriving in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Facing off last weekend against Maryland's William Likely, one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten, White was unstoppable. He finished with 13 receptions and 216 receiving yards, as West Virginia avenged last year's 37-0 thumping from the Terrapins with a thrilling 40-37 victory over Duda's alma mater on the road.

"I thought he was the best player on the field," said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. "He's playing really well."

But as well as he's been playing, White still hasn't extinguished the memory of last season's fumble against the Sooners. The play that lit a fire also is the one he hopes to atone for this weekend.

"It still leaves a bad taste," White said. "But we're confident. We're looking to prove everyone wrong.

"We're looking to show we're not playing any games this year."

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videoSTARKVILLE, Miss. -- “You’re not going to Mississippi State unless you can tell me why,” Peggy Prescott said to her son late one night during his senior year of high school. Dak, her youngest, wanted to play college football in Starkville, but he was only 17 years old at the time. Because of that, he couldn’t sign his own letter of intent. Mom held the keys to his future and she wasn’t going down without a fight.

Raising three boys on her own in Louisiana, Peggy needed to be heard. Her whistle, how it cut through the crowd from the bleachers to the football field below, is still ringing in her sons’ ears today, 11 months after she passed away from a year-and-a-half-long bout with cancer.

She loved football and was there for every one of her sons’ games. Before she passed, she broke down and got her first tattoo: a football on her ankle with the number three written inside it for her boys.

“With the cannon going off on the football field and people yelling you could still hear my mom's sharp whistle over everybody,” Tad, her eldest, recalled. “She was not the mom that sat under a blanket and kept her mouth shut the entire game. You could hear her screaming, 'Hit him! Get your hands off him!’”

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Michael Chang/Getty ImagesDak Prescott knows he has something to prove on Saturday against LSU.
It was how she felt about Mississippi State, too. Starkville wasn’t allowed to have Dak, she thought. The seven-and-a-half-hour drive across state lines was too much for her. The two-and-a-half hour trip to LSU felt much more reasonable.

Besides, it was LSU that recruited Peggy the hardest, 10 times harder than Dak, he said.

“They knew whatever Mom said was going to matter,” Dak said. “They battled her and battled her, but I wanted to be an honest guy, and when I give my word I’m committed.”

That decision didn’t come easily. Dak had to keep his mother up until 2 a.m. to finally convince her why Mississippi State and coach Dan Mullen were the right choice.

“I didn’t want to go to a team that had already won a championship and had been in the top 10 every year,” Dak explained. “I wanted to help a team grow and be a part of something special, and I thought Mississippi State had the best chance at the time.”

LSU, he felt, was telling him what he wanted to hear. Mullen said redshirting his first year on campus was a possibility while Miles told him he wanted him to play right away, he said.

“I feel like I’m a smart guy and I can see through bull crap,” Dak said.

“I wanted to get to where LSU and all those other schools were and beat them.”

On Saturday, he’ll have that chance.

If only Peggy could be in Baton Rouge to see it.

For the first time in a long time, there’s hope among Mississippi State fans that beating LSU is a real possibility. The Tigers have won 14 consecutive times in the series, after all.

But the Bulldogs are 3-0 themselves, the defense is as deep as it’s ever been and Dak is quietly building a case for the Heisman Trophy. He’s an outsider at this point, but his numbers speak volumes: 43 of 72 passing for 696 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns. And for good measure, he’s also caught a touchdown pass.

Between his number (15) and his charismatic leadership, there have been comparisons to Tim Tebow. Mullen, after all, was Tebow’s offensive coordinator at Florida when he won the Heisman in 2007.

“He’s evolved,” said safety Jay Hughes, who hosted Dak and his mother on their official way back when. “Just his knowledge and understanding of the game have gone to another level.”

“I don’t even think he knows how good he can be,” he added.

But while putting up big numbers against LSU would surely catapult Dak into the Heisman conversation, Mullen doesn’t want him thinking that way.

“There will be plays he has to make to win the game for us, but not every play,” Mullen said. “Disperse the ball, get it to the playmakers, lead the offense, and then when there are plays to be made go make them.”

Dak insists he’s ready to do just that. He knows Tiger Stadium will be loud, but he’s excited for it. With more than 20 family members expected to be on hand, he knows, “All eyes will be on us and LSU this time.”

The same quarterback who turned down LSU and convinced his mother it was the right decision is now returning to his home state with hopes of an upset. Mississippi State is ready to break through, he thinks. Now is the time to prove it.

“There’s nothing like starting 1-0,” he said. “Starting off against a top-10 opponent would be a great chance to put ourselves ahead and let the nation know.”

And in some way, it would let Dak know, too.

A win would do more than lift Mississippi State in the SEC West. A win would do more than lift Dak’s Heisman chances.

A win would make Dak right about that 2 a.m. conversation so many years ago. A win would be the perfect way to say to his mother that leaving home and helping build something in Starkville was well worth it.
They were told they would never have a chance against Nebraska, the fiercest, most powerful team in America.

Looking across the line, safety Kenny Calhoun and his Miami teammates saw big boys all right. But Miami had speed, and it had confidence, and it had its own toughness, too. Calhoun showed as much when he batted down Turner Gill’s two-point conversion pass attempt in the 1984 Orange Bowl, delivering the defining moment in one of the most memorable national championship games ever played.

Their rivalry only grew from there, Tom Osborne on the Nebraska sideline with his plodding, ball-control offense, trying to figure out a way to neutralize the warp-speed Hurricanes. Their national championship battles became referendums on strength and toughness versus speed and athleticism. Speed won twice. Then Tommie Frazier came along, trash talkin’ Warren Sapp and putting on the moves to back it up, delivering Osborne his first national championship in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

But the advantages they once used to build their dynasties seemingly have disappeared as the college football landscape has changed. The last time they met, Miami routed Nebraska for a fifth national title in the 2002 Rose Bowl.

Since then, neither school has replicated the success they had when their paths met during the 1980s and 1990s. When they play Saturday in Lincoln, their matchup will serve as another reminder that college football has moved on without them.

"Those two teams, those two decades are moments in time and I seriously doubt that they can ever be duplicated," Calhoun said. "Just basically because of recruiting, the bowl structure now, the playoff system and the NCAA regulations and rules on how they govern the game."

[+] EnlargeHoward Schnellenberger and Al Golden
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeHoward Schnellenberger, left, led Miami to the 1983 national title. The college football landscape has changed for current Miami coach Al Golden.
So much has changed in the 30 years since the two teams met in the Orange Bowl. At the time, Nebraska had built a strength and conditioning program that was the envy of everybody across the country. The Huskers had perfected the option offense and had a strong coaching lineage, big draws for players growing up in the Plains.

Miami, meanwhile, began to focus on recruiting the South Florida area. Coach Howard Schnellenberger coined the term "State of Miami," hoping to lock down the best athletes from the three counties surrounding the school. He also brought a pro-style offense with him from his days as an NFL assistant. After Miami began having success, other programs started to follow the Hurricanes’ blueprint.

Their advantages were no longer a secret. Schools from across the country now recruit in South Florida, and are looking for speed. That includes Nebraska. Plus, there are more FBS programs in state looking for a piece of the recruiting pie. South Florida, Central Florida, Florida International and Florida Atlantic were not part of the equation during the dynasty years.

As for Nebraska, the Huskers no longer own an edge in strength and conditioning. The option offense is virtually obsolete, negating another edge it used to have. They no longer have rivalries with Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma to sell. Their closest conference "rivals" are Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

And recruiting has changed for the Huskers, too.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Tom Osborne
AP Photo/Hans Deryk"One thing that we did have in common is, if you looked at our recruiting classes, we were usually -- Miami and Nebraska -- ranked around 20th or 30th, 35th," Tom Osborne said.
"One thing that we did have in common is, if you looked at our recruiting classes, we were usually -- Miami and Nebraska -- ranked around 20th or 30th, 35th," Osborne said. "They seemed to get a lot of players out of South Florida that lots of people didn’t know about. And we got a lot of kids out of Nebraska and other places that people didn’t know much about. We developed talent. We didn’t have as many blue-chip players, but we certainly had guys who could play."

Former Miami defensive end Kevin Fagan echoes that sentiment, believing Miami can win again with the right group of players -- a group that shows the same characteristics that his 1983 championship team showed.

"Throw away the five-star stuff and go out there and look at kids," Fagan said. "Put on the film against really good opponents. When they’re getting beat, do they have character? Look beyond the speed and vertical jump and bench press. ... Schnellenberger, that was something he was really, really good at. He looked for those tough kids that other people didn’t want. Who finds a Jim Burt, or Jim Kelly? No one thinks he’s a quarterback, but Schnellenberger did."

Since the 2001 season, only Miami has played for another national championship, in 2002. Since 2004, neither team has won a conference championship. The highest final ranking for Miami was No. 11 in 2004; for Nebraska, it was No. 14 in 2009.

"Football is still a developmental game," Osborne said. "People go about it in different ways. Every place has an offseason plan and a sophisticated strength program. I agree that we might have had an edge for a period of time, but by the '90s, I think that was pretty well gone. ... But you always look for things -- whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s academic support, whether it’s schemes -- things to give you an edge."

Miami and Nebraska are still looking.

Big Ten reporter Mitch Sherman contributed to this report.

2015 Pac-12 football schedule

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:00
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We're three weeks into 2014 ... so let's talk about 2015.

The Pac-12 released the full 2015 football schedule Tuesday, which begins the third cycle of scheduling among conference teams since the 2011 expansion.

We've known about most of these games for awhile, but it's still fun to scan them all in one place. Chris Petersen's return to Boise State, Arizona State's trip to Houston to play Texas A&M and the state of Oregon against the state of Michigan (on the same day) immediately stand out.

10 notable nonconference games
  • Michigan at Utah
  • Arizona State vs Texas A&M
  • Washington at Boise State
  • Oregon at Michigan State
  • Oregon State at Michigan
  • Washington State at Rutgers
  • BYU at UCLA
  • California at Texas
  • USC at Notre Dame
  • Notre Dame at Stanford

Here is the full schedule:

Week 1

Thursday, Sept. 3
  • UTSA at Arizona
  • Michigan at Utah
Saturday, Sept. 5
  • Arizona State vs Texas A&M, NRG Stadium, Houston
  • Arkansas State at USC
  • Virginia at UCLA
  • Colorado at Hawaii
  • Eastern Washington at Oregon
  • Weber State at Oregon State
  • Washington at Boise State
  • Portland State at Washington State
  • Grambling State at California
  • Stanford at Northwestern
Week 2

Saturday, Sept. 12
  • Arizona at Nevada
  • Cal Poly at Arizona State
  • Idaho at USC
  • UCLA at UNLV
  • UMass at Colorado
  • Utah State at Utah
  • Oregon at Michigan State
  • Oregon State at Michigan
  • Sacramento State at Washington
  • Washington State at Rutgers
  • San Diego State at California
  • Central Florida at Stanford
Week 3

Saturday, Sept. 19
  • Northern Arizona at Arizona
  • New Mexico at Arizona State
  • Stanford at USC
  • BYU at UCLA
  • Colorado vs. Colorado State, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
  • Utah at Fresno State
  • Georgia State at Oregon
  • San Jose State at Oregon State
  • Utah State at Washington
  • Wyoming at Washington State
  • California at Texas
Week 4

Friday, Sept. 25
  • Stanford at Oregon State
Saturday, Sept. 26
  • UCLA at Arizona
  • USC at Arizona State
  • Nicholls State at Colorado
  • Utah at Oregon
  • California at Washington
Week 5

Saturday, Oct. 3
  • Arizona at Stanford
  • Arizona State at UCLA
  • Oregon at Colorado
  • Washington State at California
Week 6

Thursday, Oct. 8
  • Washington at USC
Saturday, Oct. 10
  • Oregon State at Arizona
  • Colorado at Arizona State
  • California at Utah
  • Washington State at Oregon
Week 7

Thursday, Oct. 15
  • UCLA at Stanford
Saturday, Oct. 17
  • Arizona at Colorado
  • Arizona State at Utah
  • USC at Notre Dame
  • Oregon at Washington
  • Oregon State at Washington State
Week 8

Thursday, Oct. 22
  • California at UCLA
Saturday, Oct. 24
  • Washington State at Arizona
  • Utah at USC
  • Colorado at Oregon State
  • Washington at Stanford
Week 9

Thursday, Oct. 29
  • Oregon at Arizona State
Saturday, Oct. 31
  • Arizona at Washington
  • USC at California
  • Colorado at UCLA
  • Oregon State at Utah
  • Stanford at Washington State
Week 10

Saturday, Nov. 7
  • Arizona at USC
  • Arizona State at Washington State
  • UCLA at Oregon State
  • Stanford at Colorado
  • Utah at Washington
  • California at Oregon
Week 11

Friday, Nov. 13
  • USC at Colorado
Saturday, Nov. 14
  • Utah at Arizona
  • Washington at Arizona State
  • Washington State at UCLA
  • Oregon at Stanford
  • Oregon State at California
Week 12

Saturday, Nov. 21
  • Arizona at Arizona State
  • USC at Oregon
  • UCLA at Utah
  • Colorado at Washington State
  • California at Stanford
  • Washington at Oregon State
Week 13

Friday, Nov. 27
  • Oregon State at Oregon
  • Washington State at Washington
Saturday, Nov. 28
  • Arizona State at California
  • UCLA at USC
  • Colorado at Utah
  • Notre Dame at Stanford
Friday, Dec. 4
  • Pac-12 Championship Game, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

Meet Booker Mays, the Fainting Goat

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
9:34
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Booker Mays went from gunner to goat on the Arkansas State punt team.

A Fainting Goat, to be exact.

Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the bizarre fake punt from the second quarter of the Red Wolves’ 41-20 loss on Saturday at Miami by now.

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Since Monday night, when the video emerged online, Mays’ life has turned ... well, let him explain.

“It’s been totally crazy,” he said.

A sophomore receiver from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Mays said he learned of the video’s existence from a fraternity brother at their Jonesboro, Arkansas, campus. By Tuesday morning, Mays said, "it was total chaos.”

“I’m loving it,” he said. “It’s all fun. My job was to take one step back and fall straight down. I was supposed to get the attention of the defense while my teammate got the touchdown.”

It didn’t work out quite like that. While Mays executed his part of the play to perfection, Arkansas State punter Luke Ferguson – on fourth-and-4 from the Miami 41-yard line with the Hurricanes up 20-7 – misfired in his attempt to hit Frankie Jackson.

Miami’s Raphael Kirby intercepted the pass as Mays lay motionless.

The idea for the Fainting Goat came from ASU special teams coordinator and receivers coach Luke Paschall.

The inspiration? North Carolina, with Pascall on staff and first-year Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson in charge of the offense, pulled a prank in a 2012 practice on quarterback Bryn Renner in which everyone but Renner toppled to the ground.

They called it the Fainting Goat.

So early last week in Jonesboro, Paschall approached Mays.

“He told me the play of the week, the special teams funky deal, was a fake punt – the Fainting Goat,” Mays said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘What’s that?’”

Said Paschall: “Book, you’re going to be the goat.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ What is he saying?” Mays said.

Usually, Mays works as the gunner in punt coverage. In this alignment, though, he was ineligible to run downfield. Mays said he practiced the fall all week.

And when it came time to run it, he added a little fun to the equation by acting sick at the line of scrimmage.

“I was talking to the guy across from me, saying, ‘Wow, there is some thick air down here in Miami,” Mays said. “I sold out for the play. I was all in.”

No one from Miami said a word to Mays after the play.

“No, sir,” he said. “It was like nothing even happened.”

Maybe next time, the Red Wolves can fool the opponent.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mays said.

Familiar foe awaits Pitt's Paul Chryst

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
5:11
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Manasseh Garner was playing a different position at a different school in 2010, so forgive him if he does not know exactly how to attack Iowa's defense. But the former Wisconsin defensive end and current Pitt receiver is in a familiar spot this week as his Panthers ready to welcome the Hawkeyes to Heinz Field.

"It seems long, but it really seems like it was just yesterday," Garner laughed.

[+] EnlargeManasseh Garner
Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY SportsPanthers WR Manasseh Garner and his head coach will face a familiar opponent in Iowa in Week 4.
He's not alone.

Garner and third-year Pitt head coach Paul Chryst will recognize what they see across the field Saturday, having become quite familiar with Iowa in their previous lives at Wisconsin, where Chryst was the offensive coordinator. Chryst went 3-3 when the Heartland Trophy was up for grabs against Iowa, with the effects of the game usually leaving marks on his players in one fashion or another. The Badgers averaged just 18 points in those six games, and they failed to crack even that much on four different occasions.

There are new faces now, sure, most notably with Phil Parker having taken over as Iowa's defensive coordinator in 2012, replacing Norm Parker (no relation), who died this past January. But many of the hallmarks of 16th-year head coach Kirk Ferentz's program remain the same.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kirk Ferentz, and it's going to be a well-coached team," Chryst said. "He believes in physical offense, physical defense. It's always going to be a challenge. I'm excited for our guys to play. It's going to be a good atmosphere. It'll be a good physical game, and we've got to rise up and meet that challenge. It's a great opportunity for us. The amount of success that he's had for a long time -- there's a lot of programs across the country trying to do that."

Chryst and Garner have had the last laugh against Iowa since 2010, escaping Kinnick Stadium with a 31-30 win that helped propel their Wisconsin squad to the first of three straight Rose Bowls, two of which they were a part of.
Four years later, Garner remembers the feeling of his lone meeting with the Hawkeyes.

"Just the physical nature that they bring -- I feel like Big Ten teams, they pride themselves on being physical, physical, physical," Garner said. "Relentless, four quarters, smash mouth. So that's one of the things I really got to see in my two years up in the Big Ten. That was something at Wisconsin, something we took pride in, wear and tearing you, and beating you to the punch, making sure that you felt the beatdown through four quarters. I'm sure that's what Iowa's preaching to their players as well. We're a physical team, smash-mouth and we want to wear you down. And that's one of the things that I've seen and I've witnessed, I went through it when playing them at their house. They're definitely a physical team and I respect them for being the team that they are."

Saturday will be akin to the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, as Pitt enters as the nation's No. 3 rushing team (1,086 yards), while Iowa ranks seventh against the run (65.67 yards per game). James Conner, the burly 250-pound sophomore, leads the nation with 544 rushing yards, and is the ideal antidote for a stout front-seven.

Chryst said he looks forward to facing teams like Iowa, knowing that every yard comes with a price. Asked if he sees Chryst putting a similar stamp on the Panthers, Garner couldn't help but laugh.

"Oh without question, yeah," Garner said. "That's one of the main things Coach emphasizes: Let it go, let it go. Don't hold anything back. Just be instinctive and be physical. You have nothing if you're not physical, especially in this type of offense. Your front men, if they're not laying a foundation, (if) they're not winning the fight at the line of scrimmage, you really have nothing."
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Amari Cooper is a game-changing talent at receiver. His ability to catch the football, make one guy miss and take it the distance is uncanny. His yards-after-catch numbers are gaudy. As of Monday, he leads the country with 33 receptions and is third overall with 454 yards receiving. And that’s not counting the passes he hauls in behind the line of scrimmage, of which he has three “carries” for 29 yards. But those are just the cherries on top.

Cooper is arguably the best receiver in the country. But for Alabama's offense to be successful, he can’t continue to do it alone.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
AP Photo/Brynn AndersonAmari Cooper has accounted for just over half of Alabama's receiving yards this season.
It’s fine that Cooper is the focal point of the offense, but he can’t be the entire playbook on a weekly basis. Teams like Florida won’t allow it. Cornerbacks like Vernon Hargreaves III and safeties like Jabari Gorman will get in the way of an Amari Cooper-centric attack. Florida's Will Muschamp didn’t look great coaching against Kentucky last weekend, but the man knows defense and understands how to double- and triple-team a receiver.

Take last season for instance. Despite the mess that it was for Florida, the defense held down LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Neither receiver had more than 60 yards receiving or a single touchdown. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri’s most talented receiver last season, was held to 52 yards and no touchdowns, too.

Receivers are reliant. Quarterbacks are not. Blake Sims, despite all the good work he’s done in winning the starting job, must get the ball to his other weapons on Saturday against the Gators.

So far, Cooper has accounted for 48.5 percent of all of Alabama's receptions and 50.8 percent of all passing yards. He’s been targeted 43 times. The next closest is Christion Jones, who has been thrown to only 14 times. Chris Black, who has started in place of DeAndrew White, has three total receptions. Starting tight ends Brian Vogler and O.J. Howard have combined for just one reception.

While there’s been a lot to like about Sims and the new life Lane Kiffin has breathed into the offense, there’s still a lot of uncharted territory to be discovered. Kenyan Drake has shown flashes of Reggie Bush-like ability, Jalston Fowler has caught the ball a few times in his versatile H-back role and even young ArDarius Stewart has gotten somewhat involved. But none have been truly featured.

Howard, who has the ability to be a mismatch against any defense, simply hasn’t gotten the football. We’re waiting on an APB to be sent out on the All-America talent. He’s been thrown to once all season and it resulted in an interception. You could say he’s not worked to get himself open, but that’s a faulty argument because good coordinators find a way to get their best players the football in space. Sometimes that means setting a pick, dump it off into the flat or dialing up a screen pass. Howard is fast and athletic enough for any of those options.

Before Saturday’s win over Southern Miss, Saban insisted that Howard needed to be more involved in the offense. That obviously didn’t happen. Following Alabama’s 52-12 beat down, Saban reiterated the need for more playmakers to emerge.

“We need to get more people involved offensively,” he said. “Coop has had a great start, but we have other guys that are capable players. Chris Black dropped the ball tonight. He’s a capable playmaker. We need those guys to play and get confidence. Getting DeAndrew White back will help us. Christion Jones had four catches tonight. We need to get more guys involved.”

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