NCF Nation: Notre Dame

Big East fans shouldn’t sound any alarms just yet, even though Notre Dame’s departure to the ACC continues what seems like a never-ending cycle of losses for the Big East.

It may not be the devastating blow it seems.

“The appearance and the perception of the departure by other Big East and or potential Big East members are probably more damaging than the actual act,” said Tom Stultz, managing director of the media division of JMI Sports and former managing director of IMG College’s multimedia rights business.

(Read full post)

Elite WR Agholor picks USC

February, 1, 2012
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Receiver Nelson Agholor (Berkley Prep, Tampa, Fla.) has announced he will sign with USC.

Agholor, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, the nation's No. 6 receiver and No. 47 overall on the ESPNU 150, picked the Trojans over Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Andre Jones had a gift for reading people. Just a few moments upon meeting someone, he could tell if he or she were destined for great things. He would make people comfortable around him, they would eventually open up and relationships would gradually build.

There's a story Andre would often tell one of his sons, Malachi Jones, about how he befriended Jon Jeffries when both were at DeMatha (Md.) High School. Andre told his new friend that he loved him after just a few exchanges, that they would both accomplish a lot in school. Jeffries at first looked at him like he was crazy, but before long the two were playing football at Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, respectively.

"If you ever had the opportunity to meet my dad," Malachi said, "he pretty much touched everybody that he met."

More than 20 years later, Jeffries publicly called Andre Jones a brother.

That's more than the role T.J. Jones, a sophomore receiver on the Fighting Irish, has had to take on since June 22.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Jones
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIT.J. Jones now understands why his dad, Andre, would get so emotional when he saw T.J. take to the field at Notre Dame Stadium.
One day before then, a Tuesday, North Gwinnett High School coach Todd Wofford was texting back and forth with Andre around noon, telling Jones that Malachi needed to be more assertive and more aggressive as a leader.

Andre told Wofford he had a headache and was going to take a nap.

"I kept our conversation on my phone for the longest time, looking back and forth at it," Wofford recalled, "because he was more than just one of my players' dads."

A few hours later, Malachi Jones called Wofford to inform him he'd miss his senior picture the next day. A day later, Andre Jones was gone, victim of a brain aneurysm at the age of 42.

He left behind 147 tackles in a Notre Dame uniform, a national title from 1988 and a brief NFL career. More importantly, he left behind six kids, the second-oldest of whom is walking in his footsteps in a No. 7 jersey at Notre Dame Stadium.

"He's sitting in my dad's locker, going to his alma mater and wearing his uniform," Malachi said of older brother T.J. "I don't think it can get any better than that."

Malachi, who wears No. 9, does his part by pretending to draw a No. 7 on his chest with his hands whenever he reaches the end zone.

T.J. was working out at his campus' Guglielmo Athletics Complex on June 21 when receivers coach Tony Alford pulled him aside and told him his father was sick. T.J. hopped on a plane to Georgia, joined his family and stuck around for about a little more than a week.

He wanted to stay until the following Friday, to try to be the man of the house for his family that his father had always been. His mother Michele, however, forced him out that Wednesday, getting him back to classes, to practices, to pursuing his dreams.

The family was on the Notre Dame Stadium field together Sept. 3, before the Irish's opener against South Florida, for a ceremony honoring Andre.

"It was hard. It was real hard," T.J. said. "Seeing my mom out there for the first time in six weeks, and she was crying. So that made me more emotional. And definitely just, it hit home that he wasn't gonna be standing there in the tunnel when I came out this year."

Andre always told T.J. how special it was to walk out that tunnel, to hear the roar of all the fans cheering you on. T.J. never understood why his father would tear up or cry seeing his son enter the field, but now he does, as does Malachi.

"I have three younger siblings, and unfortunately they won't get to experience the same experiences we did with our dad because he's gone," Malachi said. "So looking back, we're extremely grateful to know we got to spend a significant amount of time with him during football season and off the field in a short span."

Two springs ago, during T.J.'s first semester on campus, Andre took the family to the Grotto at night, a sight illuminating enough for Malachi to call "beautiful."

It's a place Andre tried to stop by before every home game, and when he wasn't in town he would often tell T.J. to light a candle for someone else who asked.

T.J. tries to go a little bit more now, though the fall is a busy time for a football player at Notre Dame.

Instead he will think about his father before each game, say a prayer and talk to him. Malachi will read the two Bible passages his dad texted him during a pregame meal a year ago: Matthew 10:16 and Psalms 18: 32-38.

Malachi drew connections from the readings to the football field, though a message in the latter may resonate a little bit more in his everyday life:

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.

What to Watch: Week 4 at Pitt

September, 22, 2011
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Here are a few things to keep an eye on Saturday when Notre Dame invades Pitt:

  • An opening-drive score: Notre Dame has been nearly flawless on its opening drives so far. Of course, that one flaw ended up costing the Fighting Irish six points the other way. Regardless, the Irish have been efficient in the early going, scoring opening-drive touchdowns in their past two games and coming a yard shy in their first game before a goal-line fumble. Expect more of the same against a suspect Pitt secondary.
  • A few faces returning punts: We've seen Theo Riddick and John Goodman before, and we will likely see them in some capacity once again. But Brian Kelly said Robby Toma has been seeing action on the punt return team this week, and he even threw out Harrison Smith's name, as well, though it's likely that Smith would be used deep in Irish territory to guard against a fake.
  • Heinz Field packed for something other than the Steelers: Pitt is expecting its sixth sellout since moving into Heinz Field in 2001. Three of the previous five have been against Notre Dame. A building that's lacked some buzz through two Saturdays this season should resemble its rocking Sunday atmosphere a little bit more with the Irish in town.

Non-AQ Did You Know? Week 9

October, 29, 2010
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It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for a little non-AQ Did You Know?. Thanks to the conference and team sports information departments for these nuggets of information.

Tulsa and Notre Dame are playing for the first time on Saturday, but the school dug up an interesting factoid. A postseason game between the two at the end of the 1916 almost materialized. Tulsa, known as Kendall College back then, went 10-0 that season and a few local businessmen tried to get Notre Dame to play in Tulsa.

According to the book, “The Golden Hurricane: Fifty Years of Football at The University of Tulsa” published in 1952, the deal fell through because of the large guarantee Notre Dame wanted to play there. Nearly 100 years later, some things never change, right?

The 1960 Navy football team will be honored at halftime in recognition of the 50th anniversary of its berth in the Orange Bowl. The Midshipmen went 9-2 that year, losing 21-14 to Missouri in the big bowl game. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino led the team.

Troy quarterback Jamie Hampton has been nominated for the 2010 Discover Orange Bowl Courage Award. Hampton originally committed to Purdue but instead went to Troy in 2007 in order to stay closer to his mother after his father went to prison. As a sophomore, he won a three-player battle at quarterback and was off to a good start before seriously injuring his knee. He missed the rest of the 2008 season and 2009 as well.

He returned to action this fall as a short-yardage and change-of-pace quarterback. But in the fifth game against Middle Tennessee -- almost two years since his initial injury -- he broke his leg. A team captain, Hampton participated in the pregame coin toss the following week, heading to midfield on crutches. He plans to try another comeback in 2011.

At least two Mountain West teams have been ranked in the USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll for 41 consecutive weeks, dating back to Sept. 7, 2008. The MWC joins the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC as the only four conferences that have had at least two teams ranked for 41 consecutive weeks.

If you compare the win percentage of the top four teams in each of the 11 FBS conferences, the Mountain West Conference currently ranks fourth behind the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten. The top four teams in the Big 12 are a combined 25-3 (.893), followed by the SEC at 28-4 (.875) and Big Ten at 27-4 (.871). The top four teams in the MWC boast a .833 win percentage with their collective 25-5 mark.

TCU did not punt in last week’s 38-7 victory over Air Force. It was the first game in which the Horned Frogs did not record a punt since the Horned Frogs’ 45-14 win at Colorado State on Nov. 25, 2006.

Tulane wide receiver Casey Robottom has four touchdowns on the season -- more than he had his previous three seasons combined (three).

San Jose State plays New Mexico State on Saturday, its first FBS opponent of the season with a losing record. The Spartans scored a season-high 18 points last week against Fresno State, but they have lost 11 straight road games and five straight overall.

Nevada RB Vai Taua needs 72 yards for his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz needs 79 passing yards to reach 3,000 on the season.

Northern Illinois has won five straight, its longest winning streak since the 2004 season, when the Huskies won six consecutive games between Sept. 24 and Oct. 30. Northern Illinois’ 6-2 start this year matches the team’s record through eight games in 2004.

Since joining the MAC in 2007, Temple owns the league’s best home record for MAC games at 12-2.

Central Michigan is 18-1 in its last 19 games against MAC opponents from the state of Ohio. The Chippewas had won 18 straight against Ohio MAC opponents before a 27-20 loss to Miami on Oct. 16. The streak began after a 27-22 loss at Ohio on Oct. 23, 2004. Central Michigan plays Bowling Green on Saturday.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 7 were so hideous, I should be disqualified from making any more of them for the rest of the season. I mean not even a dog guesses and finishes 2-8. Wow, that hurts my fingers. Also because of all the e-mails and mailbag comments I have received, I will begin picking all games involving ranked non-AQ teams. See, I do hear you!

With a 43-31 overall record, I am ready to avenge my poor performance from Week 7. Or am I?

On to the picks!

No. 5 TCU 24, Air Force 10. Gary Patterson takes the Falcons seriously because of their dangerous triple-option. But there might be a little less danger this week with top fullback Jared Tew out (broken leg). Air Force still has the top-rated rush offense in the country and was a two-point conversion away from sending its game against San Diego State into overtime last week. But the TCU defense is looking really strong, and the Horned Frogs have never lost to the Falcons at home.

No. 9 Utah 44, Colorado State 3. The Utes beat Wyoming last week, but had three interceptions and are still lacking when it comes to creating turnovers. They are going to have to do better than minus-6 headed into their tough stretch, which starts next week at Air Force. Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas can throw the ball, but not sure how much progress he will make this week.

UPSET SPECIAL: Navy 20, Notre Dame 18. The Midshipmen have not made things easy on themselves this season. Essentially all of their games have come down to the fourth quarter. While the offense might not be as prolific as expected, the defense has been terrific and kept this team in games. Last week against SMU, Navy forced three turnovers and held the Mustangs to 21 points. Notre Dame has had problems stopping the option, and Ricky Dobbs is not pressing as much.

SMU 38, Houston 28. My how the tide has turned in the West Division of Conference USA. Houston has dropped two straight, and it is the Mustangs who are alone in first place and in control of their own destiny. Ja’Gared Davis will cause fits for true freshman quarterback David Piland, and Kyle Padron will be able to throw on a Houston defense that continues to struggle.

UPSET SPECIAL II: Miami (Ohio) 28, Ohio 21. The emergence of the RedHawks has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the MAC and college football. Their three-game turnaround from last season is the best of any team so far this season. They sit alone atop the East at 3-0, but Ohio is right behind at 3-1 in this crucial matchup. Ohio has won four straight in the series, but the Miami defense makes the difference in this one.

BYU 20, Wyoming 17. Two of the worst scoring offenses in the country face off in a fight for their bowl lives. BYU is averaging 14.7 points a game and Wyoming 11.6 points a game. The Cowboys rank last in rushing defense, and that is going to be the difference. Because BYU has proved it can run the ball behind a strong offensive line and JJ Di Luigi. Coach Bronco Mendenhall promised more power running, and that should work this week.

Hawaii 44, Utah State 24. The Warriors are coming off a big win over Nevada, while Utah State had a week to prepare for the best passing offense in the country. Utah State has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the WAC this season, so it is hard to figure the Aggies out. But we do know Hawaii will pass and pass some more. The Warriors have won four of the five meetings between the school in WAC play.

Northern Illinois 30, Central Michigan 20. The Chippewas have won three straight in the series, but they are on a four-game losing streak and are 1-3 in the division, an unusual spot for them after winning the MAC championship three of the last four years. Many figured this would be a rebuilding year with Dan LeFevour gone and a new coach in Dan Enos. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois has won four straight and has found a groove with Chad Spann and Chandler Harnish leading the way on offense.

Middle Tennessee 27, ULM 24. The Blue Raiders need this game in the worst way. At 2-4, they are in a fight to become bowl eligible, though they have only played two conference games to date. ULM has needed two comebacks to beat FAU and Western Kentucky -- two of the worst teams in the league.

UTEP 31, Tulane 21. UTEP beat up on some bottom feeders en route to a 5-1 start. But the Miners stumbled on the road at UAB last week (one of two picks I got right!) and had only 229 yards of total offense. They are banged up going into this game but should have enough to beat the Green Wave, who are improved over last season.

Non-AQ college town

September, 27, 2010
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Inspired by the new social game ESPNU College Town, here’s what I would select from around the non-AQs to build the best program in the conference.

Academics: Rice. The top-ranked academic school among the non-AQs according to U.S. News & World Report.

Athletic director: Gene Bleymaier. Say what you will about Bleymaier, but he has led an athletic program that is now on the national map. It was his idea to put the blue turf in at Bronco Stadium, and he led the move to the FBS level as well. Plus, have you seen his coaching hires for the football program? The guy does not miss.

City: San Diego. How can you go wrong with one of the most beautiful cities in America right in the heart of a recruiting hotbed?

Coach: Gary Patterson, TCU. This is a close one between Patterson, Boise State coach Chris Petersen and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. You could go with all three and not lose. But Petersen took over a program that was already on the rise. Patterson has resurrected TCU. Slight advantage there.

Facilities: Notre Dame. The Irish have to have the best among the schools not affiliated with a conference.

Fans: BYU. Boy do those Cougars fans have passion. Sure the expectations are high, but they are high everywhere. This is a loud and proud fan base, no arguing that.

Game-day atmosphere: Boise State. What the fans did when "College GameDay" came to town last week was pretty awesome, jamming the stadium in the wee hours, then showing plenty of enthusiasm throughout the game against Oregon State.

Mascot: Ohio Bobcat. Did you see his sneak attack on Brutus? Love it or hate it, you have to appreciate his mentality.

Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium. Do I need to say more than the home of Touchdown Jesus?

Strength and conditioning: Air Force. The football players are never the biggest guys, but they compete with anybody in the country.

Considering the five non-AQ conferences and three independents are all candidates here, all of these topics are up for debate. Be sure to sound off, and have some fun!

What to Watch, Week 4

September, 24, 2010
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We’ve got big games from coast to coast in Week 4, so let’s check out the top 10 storylines to watch heading into Saturday:

[+] EnlargeRyan Mallett
Kim Klement/US PresswireCan Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett lead his team to a win over the No. 1 team in the nation?
1. Does Arkansas have what it takes to beat Alabama? Certainly the Razorbacks are much improved on defense, and Ryan Mallett has lived up to his Heisman Trophy billing. But does this team have a killer instinct? This is a team that had a 7-0 halftime lead over ULM, then blew a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead against Georgia last week before rallying for 31-24 the victory. Alabama will try to confuse Mallett the way it did last season. Offensively, there are so many options for the Tide, the Razorbacks are going to have to prove just how good they have become on defense.

2. Does Oregon State have a chance to beat Boise State? Absolutely the Beavers have a chance. Is it going to happen? That is another question. Some keys to watch: Oregon State might not be able to run into the heart of that Boise State defensive line. Do the Beavers try to run sweeps to the outside with their speedy receivers to loosen them up? The Rodgers brothers, James and Jacquizz, are always a threat to take it the distance. The Boise State secondary has been vulnerable at times, so if Ryan Katz has time to throw, he could connect for some big plays.

3. Can Notre Dame close out a win? So far 2010 has looked a lot like 2009 for the Fighting Irish, what with losing games in the closing seconds to Michigan and Michigan State. They could just as easily be 3-0 with a few more plays going their way. Instead, they are staring at the prospect of a 1-3 start, given the way Stanford has played going into the game. This could be a national statement game for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who has 674 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

4. Can the Big East represent in big nonconference games? Pittsburgh, one of the popular preseason picks to win the Big East, fell flat on its face Thursday night in a 31-3 loss to Miami. That leaves Cincinnati and West Virginia this weekend in huge national profile games. Oklahoma visits the Bearcats, who have fallen on hard times just one season removed from an undefeated regular season. They hardly resemble the outfit that made it to the Sugar Bowl last season, having already lost to Fresno State and NC State. West Virginia, meanwhile, travels to LSU. The Mountaineers might be the best hope to win the Big East, but then again they nearly lost to Marshall.

5. How does Michigan State respond without coach Mark Dantonio? Luckily, the Spartans play Northern Colorado, not exactly the toughest challenge. Dantonio suffered a heart attack in the hours after the Spartans’ overtime win over Notre Dame, and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will lead the team in his absence. A big game looms next week at home against Wisconsin. The bigger question is whether Dantonio will be back in time for that one.

6. Does South Carolina need to prove that it is for real even after beating Georgia? Some believe the answer is yes. Well here it is, perhaps an even bigger test because the Gamecocks must play a better Auburn team on the road. Last week, Auburn struggled to stop Clemson running back Andre Ellington, who had 140 yards and a touchdown. This week, the Tigers face a bigger, more physical back in freshman stud Marcus Lattimore. The key for the Tigers: shutting him down to force Stephen Garcia into trying to win the game. South Carolina has the defense to be able to slow down Cam Newton.

7. How does Iowa respond after its heartbreaking loss to Arizona? The Hawkeyes get an easier challenge this week against Ball State, but they are beginning life once again without Jewel Hampton, out for the season with a torn ACL. This game serves as an excellent tune-up headed into next Saturday’s big game against Penn State. Iowa has to figure out how to get its offensive line going, perhaps the most glaring weakness on the team, which was completely exposed against the Wildcats.

8. How does Arizona respond after its big win over Iowa? We can ask the question both ways. The Wildcats are up to No. 14 in the polls after that win, and now all of a sudden are a team everyone believes is right there in the mix for the Pac-10 title. They play a California team that lost to Nevada last week. What was striking in that game was the way Nevada dominated on both lines. That doesn’t bode well going into this game, considering how strong Arizona looked on the offensive and defensive lines against the Hawkeyes.

9. Can Virginia Tech win at Boston College without Ryan Williams? This is a crucial game for the Hokies, who could drop to 1-3 with a loss. Without Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson will carry the load. But Evans has lost two fumbles in two weeks, and the Hokies traditionally struggle running the ball against the Eagles. That was until last season, when they had 235 yards on the ground. They are going to need another performance like that to win, but it’s going to be much harder without their top runner.

10. Can Oregon keep up its scoring pace? Hard to imagine the Ducks will be able to hang half a hundred on Arizona State, a team that came thisclose to beating Wisconsin on the road last week. Oregon has averaged over a point a minute in its three games this season, but the Sun Devils are no New Mexico and are certainly no Tennessee. Still, Arizona State has to be better in the red zone to have any shot at the upset.

Aviva Stadium to host Navy-Notre Dame

September, 21, 2010
9/21/10
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When Notre Dame and Navy play in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012, they will do it in a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium.

[+] EnlargeAviva Stadium
Aviva StadiumNotre Dame and Navy will play in Aviva Stadium when they meet during the 2012 season.
Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Tuesday that the game would be held at Aviva Stadium, home to the Irish rugby union team and the Irish national soccer team. The stadium, which opened this past May, seats about 50,000 people. All of the seats are covered by a steel roof that is in the shape of a wave, reminiscent of the main Olympic stadium in Beijing.

“To see this stadium is to believe it has to be one of the finest venues in the world,” Gladchuk said in a news release. “Although modest in capacity, few stadiums anywhere have attended to the detail, aesthetics and fan comfort found at Aviva. I guarantee those who travel to Ireland and attend this event will enjoy an experience that will be awesome and a memory not to be forgotten. Navy is very much looking forward to our visit and the wonderful experience we expect our coaches, players, fans and friends will enjoy.”

The two teams last played in Ireland in 1996. The 2012 game is scheduled for Sept. 1. This year's game is set for Oct. 23 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Non-AQ Power Rankings, Week 4

September, 20, 2010
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A little bit of movement in the bottom half of our weekly non-AQ power rankings after Houston, BYU, East Carolina and Notre Dame lost:

1. Boise State (2-0). The Broncos returned to the field and put together a thoroughly complete win over Wyoming, 51-6. Kellen Moore passed for 370 yards, and Boise State has now won 16 straight games.

2. TCU (3-0). The Horned Frogs had their best game yet in a 45-10 win over Baylor, and are creeping up on the Broncos. Andy Dalton threw just two incompletions, and the defense harassed Robert Griffin all day.

3. Utah (3-0). The Utes were able to win a second straight game with Terrance Cain starting at quarterback in place of the injured Jordan Wynn (thumb). If there was any time to be without your starter, these past two games were it -- against UNLV and New Mexico.

4. Fresno State (2-0). The Bulldogs were tested against a much-improved Utah State team, rallying from a 24-17 third-quarter deficit to win 41-24. The defense tightened up, and the Aggies gained just 37 yards in the final quarter.

5. Nevada (3-0). The Wolf Pack have one of their best wins under coach Chris Ault, a convincing 52-31 victory over California. Colin Kaepernick was sensational again, with 329 yards of total offense and five touchdowns.

6. Air Force (2-1). The Falcons might have lost to No. 7 Oklahoma 27-24, but they nearly pulled off the upset with 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Their triple-option gave the Sooners fits all day, and Air Force had 351 yards on the ground.

7. Temple (3-0). The Owls return to the power rankings after an important 30-16 win over Connecticut, their first against an automatic qualifying opponent since joining the MAC. Temple is 3-0 for the first time since 1979.

8. Navy (2-1). The Midshipmen have been dealing with a rash of injuries, including a hobbled Ricky Dobbs, and could be 3-0 if they had gotten a few more inches against Maryland.

9. Southern Miss (2-1). The Golden Eagles made up for their embarrassing loss to South Carolina in the opener with a quality win over Kansas, which had beaten Georgia Tech the previous week. With Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner gone at Houston, Southern Miss could be the team to beat in Conference USA.

10. Notre Dame (1-2). The Irish stay in the rankings based on their heartbreaking losses in the final minutes to Michigan and Michigan State. If a couple of bounces go their way, they could be 3-0.
1. Notre Dame fans howled after it appeared that the play clock read :00 when Michigan State made the snap on The Fake Field Goal. The Big East, whose officials called the game, said Sunday that there’s a “natural lag time” between when the back judge sees :00 on the clock and when he looks to see if the ball has been snapped. "(T)his lag time created the situation where it appears the play clock expired just before the snap.” I checked -- the phrase “lag time” doesn’t appear in the NCAA Football Rule Book.

2. In case you missed it, quarterback Andrew Hatch, who transferred from Harvard to LSU and back, made his first start for the Crimson on Saturday against Holy Cross. Hatch completed 20 of 25 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-6 victory. That adds up to an efficiency rating of 212.34. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, whose ascendancy helped Hatch decide to pursue an Ivy education, has a rating of 113.15. I know, I know: Jefferson isn’t playing Holy Cross.

3. Virginia Tech did not strengthen Boise State’s schedule the way that everyone thought. But Nevada might. The Wolf Pack stunned California late Friday night, winning 52-31 in a game that should remind everyone how dangerous Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick (181 yards and three touchdowns passing, 148 yards and two touchdowns rushing) can be. Thanksgiving Friday just got a lot more interesting. No. 3 Boise State plays at Nevada, and No. 14 Arizona plays at No. 5 Oregon.

Top 10 storylines to watch: Week 3

September, 17, 2010
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Monster Saturday may have turned into a dud, but there are plenty of intriguing national storylines to watch in Week 3.

Here is a little sampling:

1. How does the ACC rebound? To call the ACC's performance last week abysmal would be giving the word abysmal a bad name. Virginia Tech loses to James Madison. Miami and Florida State lay eggs in their big non-conference showdowns. Kansas beats Georgia Tech. N.C. State got the league off to a good start Thursday night with a win over Cincinnati, but that is not really saying much considering the Bearcats hardly look like their 2009 selves. Florida State-BYU, Maryland-West Virginia, East Carolina-Virginia Tech and Clemson-Auburn highlight Saturday. Here’s hoping the league doesn’t embarrass itself again.

2. What will we see out of Boise State? The Broncos had the week off last week, but you wouldn’t have known it for all the chatter about them once Virginia Tech lost. They finally return to the field Saturday against Wyoming to play in Game 2 after what feels like a very long layoff. The Cowboys have played Boise State tough in recent meetings. The game will be sold out, and the crowd fired up. Key to watch: Will the Wyoming spread offense be able to take advantage of a Boise State secondary that looked shaky at times in the opener?

[+] EnlargeKellen Moore
AP Photo/Joe Jaszewski/Idaho StatesmanThe last time we saw Kellen Moore and Boise State they were celebrating a win over Virginia Tech.
3. Jake Locker vs. Nebraska. It may be unfair to pit one player against an entire team, but that is what this one is going to come down to on Saturday. Locker essentially had his Heisman campaign parked in a season-opening loss to BYU, a team that it turns out may not be as good as advertised. How will he do against a defense that continually brings pressure and is considered to be one of the best in the country? That will go a long way toward determining how people view Locker the rest of the way.

4. Can Georgia keep itself in the SEC East race? It may be a stretch to say the Bulldogs are reeling, but Saturday’s game against Arkansas has got to be considered a must-win. Georgia struggled in a 17-6 loss to South Carolina last week, with shoddy tackling headlining the defensive performance. While Marcus Lattimore and run-oriented South Carolina punished them last week, a different type of offense meets them this week behind pass-happy Ryan Mallett. Georgia is expected to open up more of its playbook for redshirt freshman Aaron Murray, but the onus is going to fall on the Georgia defense to stop Mallett and the Razorbacks.

5. Nick Foles vs. Adrian Clayborn. Arizona faces its biggest test of the season against the No. 9 Hawkeyes, and this one is going to come down to the way quarterback Nick Foles is able to handle the pressure the Iowa defensive line is sure to bring. And by that we mean Clayborn, who is still waiting on his first sack of the season after notching 11 in 2009. Of course, there is this from ESPN Stats & Information: Since 1990, Pac-10 teams are 25-6-1 at home against Big Ten teams.

6. What does Denard Robinson do for an encore? Surely the Michigan quarterback can’t keep up his torrid pace, what with 885 yards of total offense in the first two games. He may not have to do as much Saturday against Massachusetts, though FCS teams have proven to be problematic for several teams this season. Still, Robinson has inspired awe throughout the country, and now word is out that high school players are leaving their shoelaces untied in order to be just like him.

7. Does Notre Dame rebound against Michigan State? Surely a heartbreaking loss to Michigan won’t be easy to get over, but the bigger question is whether Dayne Crist is 100 percent after he admitted he played against the Wolverines with blurred vision before being pulled from the game. If you thought the series against Michigan was a nail biter, check this out from ESPN Stats & Information: Over the past 10 meetings, the Notre Dame-Michigan State game has been decided by seven points or less eight times, with the game-winning score coming late in the fourth quarter or overtime in seven of the 10 meetings.

8. Any FCS upsets this weekend? Already this year, five FCS schools have beaten their upper division opponents, headlined of course by James Madison over Virginia Tech. Last year there were only four. There isn’t an overload of FCS-FBS games this week, but these are the teams on alert: Oregon, South Carolina, Michigan, Syracuse and San Jose State.

9. What do we see out of Alabama running back Mark Ingram? The Heisman Trophy winner is getting his first action of the season after missing the first two games while recovering from knee surgery. Does Alabama need him to beat Duke? No. But they will need him for its run through the SEC, which begins next weekend with a huge game at Arkansas. Better get him game ready before then.

10. Any last-second heroics between Texas and Texas Tech? We all remember the last time Texas visited Lubbock -- Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree ruined the No. 1 Longhorns’ shot at the BCS national championship. Point to remember from ESPN Stats & Information: Texas Tech has upset a top-10 Texas team twice in the Longhorns’ previous four visits (2002 and 2008).

Non-AQ Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
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A little bit of movement in the bottom half of our weekly non-AQ/independents power rankings:

1. Boise State (1-0). The win over Virginia Tech doesn’t appear to be as big as it did a week ago, but the Broncos are still deserving of the top spot. After a bye last week, they get Wyoming on Saturday.

2. TCU (2-0). The Horned Frogs weren’t really tested in a 62-7 win over Tennessee Tech, but a big test does loom on Saturday against much-improved Baylor.

3. Utah (2-0). The Utes were able to win with Terrance Cain starting in place of Jordan Wynn at quarterback, beating UNLV 38-10. Wynn sat out with a sprained thumb on his throwing hand.

4. Houston (2-0). Even after Case Keenum went down with concussion-like symptoms, the Cougars kept pouring it on UTEP in a decisive 54-24 win.

5. Fresno State (1-0). The Bulldogs were off after their big win over Cincinnati. The defense faces a difficult matchup Saturday on the road against Diondre Borel and Utah State.

6. Nevada (2-0). The Wolf Pack have beaten an FCS team and a pretty bad Colorado State team to start the year, but Colin Kaepernick looks better than ever. California visits on Friday night in a huge primetime spotlight game.

7. Air Force (2-0). The Falcons snapped their six-game losing streak to BYU with a 35-14 win in a balanced effort that totally stymied the Cougars.

8. BYU (1-1). A week after looking so good against Washington, quarterbacks Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps looked confused and flustered against Air Force.

9. Notre Dame (1-1). The Irish came seconds away from beating Michigan. But for the second year in a row, the Wolverines won the game with late game heroics.

10. East Carolina (2-0). A dominating win over Memphis put the Pirates at 2-0, but now they face a fired-up Virginia Tech team coming off a loss to James Madison of the FCS.

Non-AQ power rankings

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
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Well, Week 2 brings us a decidedly different look to the non-AQ/independent power rankings.

1. Boise State. Huge win over Virginia Tech on Monday night puts the Broncos in position to continue to contend for a spot in the BCS national title game.

2. TCU. Big win over Oregon State also has the Horned Frogs in good position to make another run as a potential BCS national title contender.

3. Utah. The Utes proved they know how to rebuild, and though the game looked sloppy at times, they get credit for beating Pittsburgh, the preseason pick to win the Big East.

4. Houston. The Cougars didn’t lose, so why are they dropping? Because Utah had a more impressive win.

5. BYU. I took a lot of grief for leaving the Cougars off this list to start. So consider this my mea culpa. Beating Washington with a two-quarterback system gets huge props in my book.

6. Notre Dame. The win over Purdue helped answer some questions, but we will know more after Saturday’s big game against Michigan.

7. Fresno State. A hearty welcome into the rankings to the Bulldogs after a very solid win over Cincinnati.

8. Nevada. Sure the Wolf Pack beat an FCS team in Eastern Washington, but they have plenty of potential. After Colorado State this weekend, big games loom against California and then at BYU.

9. Air Force. Falcons have one of the best backfields among the non-AQs. Huge test coming this weekend at home against BYU.

10. East Carolina. So the Pirates had a last-second win over Tulsa, but it was an important win over one of the top teams in the West.

Off the list this week: Navy, SMU, Middle Tennessee, Temple, Northern Illinois. Four of the teams lost, and Temple looked unimpressive in its win.

Video: Herbstreit's Saturday storylines

September, 3, 2010
9/03/10
9:28
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Kirk Herbstreit runs down the top storylines for the first week in college football.

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