NCF Nation: Oregon State

3-point stance: Rival domination

November, 22, 2010
1. There are teams that dominate rivals because they are better (and we’ll say more about Ohio State-Michigan later in the week). And there are teams -- or coaches -- who dominate rivals because they just do. Oregon State’s season looked as if it had run off the rails. And then hotter than hot USC came to Corvallis. The Beavers beat the Trojans for the third time in four trips. And it doesn’t matter who Houston Nutt is coaching -- Arkansas or Ole Miss. His team is going to push LSU to the limit.

2. Alabama and Auburn fans think about past Iron Bowls and what’s at stake Friday. Players don’t really care. “We can’t focus on what the legacy will hold for us,” Tide wideout Julio Jones said Sunday in comments emailed by the university. “We just have to go out there and play for 60 minutes and give it our all. You can’t be disappointed if you go out there and give it your all. ... I don’t know what to tell you about trying to spoil their season or whatever, but it’s a competitive sport and everybody wants to win.”

3. So the Big Ten extended its season by a week last year to cut the dead time before the bowls, and won its first Rose Bowl in 10 years. But have you realized how nearly every other league has done so, too? Here it is Thanksgiving week, and only six teams have finished their regular seasons. It’s a smart decision. Stretching the season allows teams to get at least one week off. And it means the season stretches longer for all of us.

Final: Oregon State 36, USC 7

November, 20, 2010
The team that lost to Washington State just beat the pooh out of USC. Oregon State, which couldn't have been more in the dumps last weekend, made USC look like an FCS team in a 36-7 victory.

Go figure. The Pac-10, after Oregon and Stanford, is all over the place this season.

While USC lost QB Matt Barkley to an injury late in the first half, the story here was simple: Oregon State dominated. USC never made a move. Trojans backup Mitch Mustain never even suggested he could lead a comeback.

The Beavers outgained the Trojans 327-255. No USC offensive lineman could block Beavers defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 127 yards and caught seven passes for 43 yards.

Suddenly, Oregon State is interesting. It needs to win one of its final two games to become bowl eligible. But those two games are against Stanford and Oregon. Both those teams are hunting for BCS bowls. Or even national titles.

Oregon State looked like an easy date last week after the debacle versus the Cougars. Now? Not so much.


Halftime: Oregon State 20, USC 0

November, 20, 2010
Oregon State, the team that ended Washington State's 16-game Pac-10 losing streak last weekend, is dominating USC 20-0 at halftime.

And we might get to see Mitch Mustain after Matt Barkley appeared to suffer an injury at the end of the half.

Barkley wasn't sharp before he got hurt. Oregon State got a pick-6 -- 65 yards from Jordan Poyer -- and the Trojans looked sloppy and uninspired while the Beavers looked motivated to put last weekend's embarrassment behind them.

The key: Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers getting in rhythm in both the running -- 12 carries, 68 yards, TD -- and passing games (five receptions, 48 yards).

The Beavers need this win to have a fighting shot for bowl eligibility.

USC? It suddenly looks flat and unmotivated.

BYU-Georgia Tech set series

October, 18, 2010
BYU and Georgia Tech have agreed to a four-game series, starting with the 2012 season.

The teams will play in Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2012, and Oct. 11, 2014. Two games are also scheduled for Provo on Oct. 12, 2013, and Oct. 14, 2017.

“This should be a great series for our football program,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “As we fill our schedules for the coming years, we want to play storied football programs like Georgia Tech. It’s a great opportunity for Cougar fans in the Southeast to see our football team play.”

BYU is making progress in scheduling its games as an independent. So far, it has future games set with Oregon State, Texas, Utah, UCF and Boise State, in addition to WAC teams Utah State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State. It has 10 games set for next season, its first as an independent.

Boise State in the polls

October, 5, 2010
There has been plenty of chatter about Boise State dropping one spot in the polls to No. 4 after its 59-0 win over New Mexico State. Oregon moved up to No. 3 after its 52-31 win over No. 9 Stanford.

Predictably, Boise State coach Chris Petersen refused to get into the poll talk, saying, "You ask that question in December."

His fellow WAC coaches came to the defense of the Broncos.

"I do know that Oregon, the last two times they played Boise State, they got beat," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker, who used to coach in the Pac-10, said he thought they would have no problem being "more than competitive" in the Pac-10.

Meanwhile, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said on the league's conference call he wanted poll reform in the coaches' poll, suspecting some had Boise State in "double digits." All the coaches' ballots are confidential except for the final regular-season vote. USA Today college football reporter Kelly Whiteside indicated on her Twitter account that one coach had Boise State at No. 10 and one had the Broncos at No. 8.

We all know there is a double standard when it comes to the Broncos, who are held accountable for their WAC schedule. You would be hard-pressed to find another team dropping in the polls after a 59-0 win. In fact, Oregon jumped four spots to No. 7 in the AP poll and three spots to No. 8 in the coaches' poll after beating New Mexico 72-0 in the season opener. New Mexico and New Mexico State are both winless and two of the worst teams in the country. So why the difference in voting?

I still have Boise State at No. 3 in my power rankings, much to the consternation of many readers. Here is my reasoning, for those who have asked for an explanation:

Boise State has beaten more ranked teams than Oregon at this point in time. The Broncos beat a top-10 team on the road to start the season. Hey, if you want to say Stanford was a top-10 team, then you have to say Virginia Tech was a top-10 team. That win over a top-10 team for the Ducks came at home. Oregon also beat an Arizona State team (2-3) that just lost to Oregon State -- the other ranked team the Broncos beat.

Boise State has not played an FCS team. Oregon has.

The other victory for the Broncos is over a 2-3 Wyoming team on the road. Oregon has a win over a 2-3 Tennessee team on the road.

To me, there is not much discrepancy in the results as I just laid them out. This is to take nothing away from the Ducks. They have obviously been impressive, and I leapfrogged them over TCU into the No. 4 spot on my ballot. But I am not yet ready to move Boise State from that No. 3 spot, certainly not after a 59-0 win.

Of course, most of this is moot right now anyway. An undefeated Boise State is going to need help to make it into the BCS national championship game. Sliding down to No. 4 does not change that. Will the Broncos keep sliding? If other teams from power conferences keep winning, no question about it. But we knew that would happen. What remains to be seen is how Boise State will be ranked when/if some of those teams start losing.

That of course, will no doubt create more interest in a playoff. Most coaches like the bowl system, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday he believes a playoff system is inevitable.

"There’s really not a lot of rhyme or reason some weeks what goes on," said Whittingham, whose team moved up two spots to No. 10 despite being idle. "What happens to your own team is more dependent on what happens to other teams, that’s just how it is. Until there’s a playoff system, I don’t think anything’s going to be real accurate. I think there should be a playoff system. Ranking teams and deciding by popular vote who’s the best, I don’t buy that."

What to Watch, Week 4

September, 24, 2010
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.

Boise State prepares for latest test

September, 23, 2010
Here we go again. Boise State. Another opponent from an automatic qualifying conference. Another nationally televised game. Another chance to prove the Broncos belong in the national championship conversation.

For the second time in three weeks, all eyes will be on No. 3 Boise State (2-0) in prime time. This time, the Broncos host Oregon State in a Saturday night game. They answered a few skeptics with their season-opening win against Virginia Tech, only to turn those skeptics into non-believers again when Virginia Tech lost to James Madison the following week.

Nonetheless, Boise State is only interested in what it can control. And it can control the way it plays against the Beavers.

Chris Petersen
AP Photo/AAron OntiverozCoach Chris Petersen and Boise State are braced for another nationally televised game.

The only problem is this – to many, the matchup represents the final game of the season for Boise State. There are not many people who take its remaining schedule seriously, even though Nevada and Fresno State have looked much improved this season. Hawaii and Utah State, too.

Those scheduling questions are fair to be sure. But this game against Oregon State is not the final game on the schedule. It is just the third. And Boise State knows it must continue to win, and go undefeated, if it has any shot at all at playing in the national championship game.

“I’m sure we’re going to have many more challenges down the road,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “The thing we think about is what we’ve got going this week.”

That would be Oregon State (1-1), a team that already has lost to the other top non-AQ school in the country, TCU. The Beavers had a tough time getting Jacquizz Rodgers going in that game, gaining 75 yards, and the Horned Frogs got good pressure on quarterback Ryan Katz in the 30-21 win.

The vastly underrated Boise State defensive line has been outstanding in two games this season, though the Broncos could be without Shea McClellin, who suffered a concussion last week and is listed as day to day.

That would be a huge blow, considering he leads the team with 2.5 sacks. The other defensive end, Ryan Winterswyk, who led the team with nine sacks last season, has yet to get one as he has been double-teamed often.

Boise State ranks No. 2 in the country in rushing defense and No. 5 in total defense, and has no problems playing a physical game. If the nation learned anything from the Virginia Tech game, it was that this defense is not about finesse.

Meanwhile, Kellen Moore picked up where he left off in the final two minutes of that Virginia Tech game. Moore went 20-of-30 for 370 yards last week in a 51-6 win against Wyoming, with two touchdowns and an interception.

He is even better in the red zone. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Moore has a 209.1 pass efficiency rating inside the 20 since the 2009 season, which ranks him second among active quarterbacks in that time frame. His favorite receiver in the red zone – Austin Pettis, who has been targeted 32 times. Remember, Pettis had two red-zone touchdowns against Virginia Tech, including the game-winner.

There is no question this is a big game for both teams. Oregon State has painted its practice field blue in order to prepare for the turf at Bronco Stadium. But it is much bigger for the Broncos. They have won five of their past six games against AQ opponents.

This is the first game of the season at home for the Broncos, and the atmosphere should be raucous. "College GameDay" will be in Boise for the first time, and anticipation has grown throughout the week.

“It’s going to be a great environment,” Petersen said. “It seems to always be when we play at home. It’s such a great place. It’s not the biggest stadium, but it has as good an energy as any stadium we’ve been around. We’re real excited to get back here.”

Non-AQ Predictions: Week 4

September, 23, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 3 were the best yet. 9-3! Maybe I am getting the hang of this. With a 21-13 overall record, I am picking up steam with full-tilt conference play around the corner.

On to the picks!

BYU 31, Nevada 30. My upset special of the week. The Cougars have given us little reason to believe they can win this game, with the anemic offense and the way it has performed in two straight losses. Nevada, meanwhile, is coming off a huge win over California and has super stud Colin Kaepernick. But the Wolf Pack are going on the road for the first time this season, and BYU finally will have one quarterback playing. Jake Heaps is a true freshman, but this team is in desperate need of a leader, and having one quarterback will begin to help the offense get better. BYU has started 1-3 just once under Mendenhall. The Cougars started 1-2 in 2006 and 2007 -- both times they ended up winning 10 straight.

Boise State 34, Oregon State 21. This is the second of three games for Boise State against a team from an automatic qualifying conference and another opportunity to prove it deserves to be in the national championship conversation. The atmosphere should be wild. The Boise State defense has been impressive in its first two games, and should be able to put enough pressure on Ryan Katz and slow down Jacquizz Rodgers.

TCU 38, SMU 17. The Battle for the Iron Skillet resumes in Dallas, where SMU has asked its fans to wear red for a “Red Out” in the nationally televised game Friday night. The Mustangs are vastly improved, but they are no match for TCU, coming off its best game of the season. Watch for SMU to try and attack cornerback Greg McCoy, the way other teams have so far. Even still, the TCU defensive line could have a big game against a team that has already given up 10 sacks this season.

Ole Miss 24, Fresno State 20. The Bulldogs have won six of their last eight games against AQ teams, but they are 0-3 against the SEC. This is their first trip into Mississippi, and it comes at a really inopportune time. Why? Because Ole Miss finds itself 1-2 with losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. You can bet the Rebels will be extra motivated to win this one. Fresno State has played well defensively this year but faces its biggest challenge against Jeremiah Masoli.

Marshall 33, Ohio 20. Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl redux! The Herd won their matchup in December, and this is as close to a must-win as you can get so early in the season. It’s not a conference game, but Marshall is 0-3 and in desperate need of a shot of confidence going into conference play. Ohio, meanwhile, still is shuffling its quarterback and has gotten little generated in the way of offense, ranking 119th in the country.

Minnesota 20, Northern Illinois 19. The Huskies played better against Illinois last week and almost had a chance to win. But until they can get Chad Spann going, it is going to be tough to win these games against non-AQ teams. The Gophers have looked shaky, and there is talk that coach Tim Brewster is on the hot seat. They cannot afford to lose this game.

San Diego State 27, Utah State 20. The Aztecs could be 3-0 if not for a block in the back that went unnoticed on Missouri’s game-winning touchdown catch last week. They are running the ball this season more effectively thanks to the contributions of freshman Ronnie Hillman. That has made Ryan Lindley better, too. The Aggies have had nothing but close calls in their two losses. This is going to be another one.

FAU 24, North Texas 10. The Owls go into the game off a bye week and face a team reeling because of injuries. The Mean Green must start their third different quarterback after losing their top two for the season with injuries. Riley Dodge returns to start. Eight other starters have been lost for the season as well. A season that started with coach Todd Dodge on the hot season has only gotten tougher.

Air Force 28, Wyoming 13. Air Force put up a valiant effort against Oklahoma, falling just short of the upset. Its offense is humming with the triple option right now, and the defense is playing well, too. The Falcons were able to slow down Landry Jones last week and should have the same success against Austyn Carta-Samuels this week.

Houston 30, Tulane 10. The Cougars survive Week 1 in the post-Case Keenum era, but mainly because they play the overmatched Green Wave. True freshman Terrance Broadway gets the nod, and there is no question he is going to need help from his supporting cast. He handled himself well against UCLA last week when Keenum and backup Cotton Turner went down for the season with injuries. It may be a good thing he gets to start against Tulane. After a bye week, Houston hosts Mississippi State.
Houston quarterback Case Keenum is done for the year, but is he done for his career? There is a possibility the prolific quarterback could appeal to the NCAA for a medical hardship redshirt and a sixth year of eligibility.

Coach Kevin Sumlin said it was too early to consider such a possibility, which would appear to be a long-shot based on recent decisions the NCAA has made with other players. Under NCAA rules, a student-athlete has five years to complete four years of eligibility. Student-athletes can apply for the sixth year of eligibility should they lose more than a season for reasons beyond their control. Since Keenum took the typical redshirt season as a freshman, Houston could have difficulty making the case.

Here is a look at some of the recent waivers the NCAA has granted, and some it has rejected. Keep in mind each appeal is handled on a case by case basis:


FAU senior running back Jeff Blanchard got a sixth year because he suffered season-ending injuries in 2007 (ankle) and 2009 (knee).

Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis was granted a sixth year after a lacerated kidney forced him to miss nearly all of 2009. He was redshirted as a freshman because an error with his high school grades had him declared academically ineligible.

South Carolina LB Rodney Paulk had his waiver granted after missing most of the past two seasons with knee injuries.

USF running back Moise Plancher was granted a sixth year because he did lose two seasons to injury. He redshirted his freshman year because of a shoulder injury in 2005, then the following season he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

Arizona State WR Brandon Smith got his sixth year of eligibility. He missed the 2007 and 2009 seasons because of injuries.


Ball State TE Madaris Grant had his appeal denied. Grant tore an ACL in the first quarter of the season opener last season against North Texas. Coach Stan Parrish said that the appeal was rejected because the NCAA requires two severe injuries for a sixth year. Grant redshirted his freshman year without injury.

Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk had his appeal denied. Mauk was redshirted as a freshman, then missed almost all the 2006 season with a shoulder injury. He argued he did have an injury in his redshirt season, but the NCAA still said no.

Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao had his appeal rejected. Moevao injured his right shoulder during the 2008 season, then suffered a foot injury in October 2009. The school said his appeal was denied, “due to him not demonstrating the loss of two seasons beyond his control."

Florida RB Dorian Munroe had his appeal denied despite tearing his ACL last year for the second time in his career. The NCAA turned down the appeal because he played in a game in 2009.

Bad snaps plague variety of teams

September, 7, 2010
No, you did not imagine it. Several quarterback-center exchanges were less than a snap in the first college football weekend.

In the more high-profile cases, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon State and Virginia Tech all cost themselves thanks to bad snaps. In the case of the Beavers, a miscommunication with the center and new quarterback Ryan Katz cost the team a safety on what could have been the game-tying drive late in their 30-21 loss to TCU.

The Tar Heels lost one fumble on a bad snap early in the game, and also gave up a safety because of another. The Gators had a new center and new quarterback playing. They lost one fumble early in the game because Mike Pouncey snapped the ball into the ground. In all, there were 13 bad snaps -- five that Brantley missed. The Hokies had a bad snap on the second play of the game and lost the fumble, leading to a field goal for Boise State.

[+] EnlargeBrown/Brantley
AP Photo/John RaouxAustin Brown of Miami (Ohio) disrupted John Brantley and the Florida offense according to Redhawks coach Mike Haywood.
One of the root causes for the problems seems to be the shotgun snap, and the cat-and-mouse game the offense and defense play in those formations.

“It’s become an issue,” said Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit, whose team had a bad shotgun snap Saturday that Michigan State converted into a touchdown. “If I could, we’d be underneath the center but with the defenses today, you’d like to give your quarterback a little bit more room, but then you create the double edged sword.

“What’s happening is I think all of us are trying to be cute. Now everybody is faking the signal to snap to the center. Sometimes the center doesn’t see that, he sees a foot movement, the quarterback out there he may be checking to his wideouts, the center doesn’t know that and snaps it.”

The shotgun snaps also become an issue in loud stadiums, where teams have to rely on a silent snap count. “That’s where I think the issue is, all the silent counts now," Culbit said. "The center’s checking back there, what’s the signal to snap the ball? All the while nobody on the defense is moving. It’s a long process and it’s a little bit intricate.”

Pouncey took full responsibility for his botched snaps Saturday against Miami (Ohio), but Redhawks coach Mike Haywood had a front-row seat to all the problems the Gators had. He said his defensive tackle, Austin Brown, played a role in wreaking havoc.

“It’s really important that you understand Austin Brown is an undersized guy going up against a guy the size of Pouncey,” Haywood said. “His initial quickness and his tenacity caused him a problem because Pouncey didn’t expect a guy as quick as Austin Brown on him. When you try to change up head counts with one bob or two bobs and try to do different things to slow down the defensive line it sometimes because a problem.”

Shotgun snaps aren’t easy, of course. They take timing and precision, considering the quarterback is lined up 5 yards behind the center. Air Force offensive line coach Clay Hendrix said his team practices shotgun snaps every day before practice, even though the Falcons do not rely on the formation for their base offense.

Absolute precision is the key in their offense because they do run a lot of the option. Hendrix doesn’t want his quarterback getting the ball too far to the right when he has to go to his left. He wants the shotgun snap to become second nature.

“On certain plays, you have to be dead on as far as the snap goes,” he said. “If you don’t, it’s going to screw everything up.”

He also cited more responsibility on the center as another key factor when snaps go wrong.

“I know a lot of people particularly in the passing game are asking the center to make decisions from a protection standpoint,” he said. “Now he’s caught up -- are we protecting right? Protecting left? and Oh by the way, I have to snap it. In the gun, the snap’s going 5 yards backward -- you have a lot more opportunity to mess it up than when he’s under center.”

Perhaps some of the problems can be attributed to first week jitters. Though the Gators were under center more than they ever were when Tim Tebow was there, Gators coach Urban Meyer says the team will continue to line up in the shotgun. "We are going to correct that issue," Meyer said.

We’ll see whether teams have made improvements this week.

Video: Herbstreit's Saturday storylines

September, 3, 2010

Kirk Herbstreit runs down the top storylines for the first week in college football.

What to watch around the nation

September, 3, 2010
Our esteemed conference bloggers gave us their top 10 storylines to watch yesterday. Today, we present the top 10 storylines to watch across the country.

1. How does North Carolina recover emotionally from losing so many players? We know North Carolina is going to be depleted on the field against LSU on Saturday. Twelve players have been declared ineligible, including six starters. Of those six, five are on what is supposed to be one of the best defenses in the country. Players are going to have to step up, yes, but you have to wonder what type of toll this is going to take on the team from a mental standpoint. North Carolina is going into one of the biggest national games in the country with one arm tied behind its back. Surely the players know this. Surely coach Butch Davis knows this. He is going to have to do one heck of a coaching job to get his players to focus on the actual game and not all the outside distractions.

2. Big debut for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: Opinions are mixed on just how well Kelly will do in his first season as Irish coach. There are some who believe a 10-win season is possible. Others think seven wins is more likely. We will have to see how Dayne Crist does in the new spread offense, but more importantly -- how much better is the defense going to be this season? This is a team that returns nine starters from a defense that ranked 86th in the country last season. Yes, there is another new defensive scheme in place, but it should get a big test from Purdue and pass-happy quarterback Robert Marve.

3. How much of a home-field advantage will Virginia Tech have against Boise State? We have gone over some of the matchups, most notably the Hokies running backs vs. the Boise State defense. But intangibles are going to play a role here. How does Boise State handle traveling across the country and going into what should be a hostile environment? It has practiced for the heat and humidity, but it is hard to simulate actual game conditions with 90,000 fans -- most of whom are against you. Boise State has played in front of hostile crowds before, but this should be especially loud.

4. How does Year 3 of the Rich Rodriguez era start? Rodriguez could have the hottest seat of any coach in the country right now, what with NCAA sanctions looming and two straight losing seasons on his resume. Michigan fans want to win yesterday, let alone now. There is still uncertainty at quarterback, where up to three players could play against Connecticut. Every game Michigan plays these days feels like a must-win, but especially this one because of all the distractions outside the program.

5. No Tim Tebow, now what? The Florida Gators are ranked so high in the preseason polls this year largely because of the expectations on new quarterback John Brantley. He has a different style to be sure, more of a drop-back passer with a much stronger arm, but many expect him to step in and keep the Gators offense rolling along. He will have to do it without two of the team's top receivers, Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez. Who is going to step up to be the leader of that receiving group? Will the Gators have an effective way to run the ball with Tebow gone? After all, Tebow led the team in rushing the past three seasons.

6. How does Alabama handle playing without Mark Ingram and defensive end Marcell Dareus? Yes, the Tide is only playing San Jose State, but a big game against Penn State looms and the Tide could potentially be without both players in that one. Alabama has a capable back in Trent Richardson, and Damion Square is expected to play in Dareus' place. Both are going to need to get comfy out there before Sept. 11.

7. Does Nebraska have an offense to match its defense? The Cornhuskers are getting much love based on the way their defense played last season, and their near-upset of Texas. But their offense was atrocious, ranking 99th in the entire country. Once again, there is quarterback uncertainty, so that does not exactly project the confidence that this unit is going to magically be better. In its four losses last season, Nebraska averaged 11 points.

8. Can Oregon State put enough pressure on TCU quarterback Andy Dalton? Much of the focus on this game has centered around the Rodgers brothers and their return to Texas. Jacquizz Rodgers vs. the always strong TCU defense is a great matchup to watch. But another one is how Oregon State defends Andy Dalton. The last time we saw Dalton, he was frazzled into throwing three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State. He threw only five in the regular season.

9. Georgia breaks in a new quarterback and new defense: How are the Bulldogs going to look with a redshirt freshman in Aaron Murray leading the offense, and a new defense playing the 3-4? Georgia is going to need answers fast with a road game at South Carolina looming. The Gamecocks looked pretty good Thursday night.

10. Charlie Strong vs. Joker Phillips: It's great to see two African-American head coaches making their debut in such a huge rivalry game. Their rise has helped increase the number of minority head coaches to 13 going into the 2010 season, up from nine in 2009.

Non-AQ predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
It’s the most wonderful time of the year -- college football season. Watch as I put on my picking cap and make my supremely awesome predictions for 12 selected games involving non-AQ teams.

Now, on to the picks!

South Carolina 24, Southern Miss 14. We know Weslye Saunders is out for the Gamecocks, but we're unclear about anybody else. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said his team didn’t pay attention to the distractions. With those players or not, South Carolina is simply too talented, especially on defense. Southern Miss goes into the game with just three returning starters on offense.

Pittsburgh 21, Utah 17. The Utes won the last meeting in the Fiesta Bowl in 2005. But this time around the Panthers have Dion Lewis, and he should make the difference -- especially against a defense that only returns four starters.

Northern Illinois 28, Iowa State 27. One of the best teams in the MAC will pull the upset behind the legs of Chad Spann.

Minnesota 31, Middle Tennessee 20. If Dwight Dasher was playing in this game, I would have called for the upset. But the Blue Raiders aren’t going to be the same with Logan Kilgore at quarterback.

Washington 35, BYU 21. The Huskies break their 12-game road losing streak behind the arm and legs of Jake Locker. BYU has had problems against quarterbacks like Locker in the past. The two-quarterback rotation for BYU is going to be a work in progress.

Colorado 21, Colorado State 10. Both teams essentially have coaches on the hot seat, and quarterback uncertainty. While the Rams won the meeting last year, they go into this game with a freshman starting at quarterback in Pete Thomas. Only two first-time starters at quarterback have won this game for Colorado State.

SMU 44, Texas Tech 40. Upset indeed. Kyle Padron should have a big day and break the Mustangs’ 13-game losing streak to Texas Tech.

Navy 30, Maryland 10. The Midshipmen have the real deal in quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who should pose all sorts of problems for the Terrapins defense. Maryland gave up over 200 yards on the ground four times last season.

TCU 24, Oregon State 20. TCU is 9-2 against AQ teams in its past 11 games. Andy Dalton is eager to erase the memories of his Fiesta Bowl performance. The defense should be able to slow Jacquizz Rodgers down enough to limit his impact.

Fresno State 35, Cincinnati 34. The Bulldogs controlled the ball in their game last year and ran for 290 yards. Ryan Mathews is gone, but Robbie Rouse hopes to get the running game going. Fresno State lost that game because Cincinnati was able to score and score quickly on a defense not used to seeing the spread. The Bulldogs should be improved there, and that will make the difference.

Tulsa 27, East Carolina 17. G.J. Kinne, Damaris Johnson and the Golden Hurricane offense are going to be too much for the rebuilding Pirates to handle. Tulsa starts the season on the road for the third straight year but that might not be such a bad thing in this case. The home team in this series has lost three straight.

Drumroll please …

Boise State 21, Virginia Tech 20. The Broncos squeeze this one out on the strength of their offense, and their much improved defense. Darren Evans and Ryan Williams will get their yards, but their big games will be limited thanks to the great tacklers Boise State has in the open field -- Winston Venable and Jeron Johnson. Boise State will be able to take advantage of a Virginia Tech defense that lost seven starters, including three on the defensive line.

Big Ten helmet stickers

September, 6, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

There were plenty of tense moments, but the Big Ten got through Week 2 undefeated. Time to hand out helmet stickers.

Penn State QB Daryll Clark -- Clark aced his first significant test as the Nittany Lions' starter, passing for 215 yards and two touchdowns and adding 61 rushing yards and a touchdown on only five carries in a 45-14 rout of Oregon State. Penn State might have the Big Ten's most explosive offense, and Clark is proving to be the linchpin.

Minnesota QB Adam Weber -- It's a different season for the Gophers, who already have eclipsed last year's win total, and Weber remains the biggest reason why. The sophomore was nearly perfect, completing 22 of 26 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-17 road win against Bowling Green. Weber added a rushing touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Michigan State RB Javon Ringer -- Jehuu Caulcrick has graduated, and that means more touchdown opportunities for Ringer. The senior cashed in with five rushing scores -- the second-highest single-game total in team history -- and gained 135 yards on the ground in a 42-10 win over Eastern Michigan.