Pac-12

College Football Week Six Preview

The weeks keep ticking by in the 2019 college football season, with another group of games that could have play-off ramifications further down the line. This weekend has some good under the radar games to pique interest also. Let’s look at the main talking points heading into week six.

1) Auburn – Florida Preview

The biggest matchup of the week is this Auburn – Florida game, with giant SEC implications. Both sides go into this one with plenty of confidence, and a 5-0 record. Auburn travels to Florida as favourites, having faced a much tougher schedule.

Bo Nix has been solid as a true freshman starter, but will face a tough task against a top 20 defense like Florida’s. For the Gators the game will depend a lot on backup Kyle Trask, making his third start, having played well against limited opposition. Both co-lead their SEC conference, with the winner closing in on a play-off berth.

2) Can Auburn do the Unthinkable in the SEC West?

The SEC West can legitimately claim to be the toughest conference in college football, but if Auburn can win against Florida could they claim the conference crown over Alabama? This has previously been an Alabama stronghold, but this year they face competition from Auburn and LSU.

Auburn have so far beat two top 25 teams on route to 5-0, and another win against tenth ranked Florida would boost them into play-off contention. They face a brutal schedule this season, with LSU, Georgia and Alabama to face. If they only lose to Georgia and beat the rest they will claim an unlikely SEC West title.

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Auburn has rolled over tough opponents this season, with another victory over Florida likely to bring them into play-off contention. Photo: Jason Caldwell/247Sports.

3) Iowa – Michigan Preview

Another massive conference matchup is this Big Ten game as Iowa travel to Michigan. The Wolverines are the traditional power in this game, but will go into it as underdogs after an underwhelming start to the season.

Iowa have started well at 4-0, co-leading the Big Ten West with Wisconsin. The Badgers brushed Michigan aside two weeks ago, and Iowa will feel confident heading into this game. Their defense ranks fifth in the nation, and Michigan have struggled on offense this season. Despite the home advantage Iowa should feel confident in this one.

4) Michigan Need Big Home Win

The result this weekend will have big implications for the rest of the Michigan season. They go into it 3-1 but have yet to convince in any of their wins. Their loss was in-conference to Wisconsin, putting them already a game behind Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten East.

Another conference loss to Iowa will likely take them out of the running for the title, and at two losses will make it almost impossible to secure a top ten ranking or featured bowl game. The Jim Harbaugh hot seat would only increase, so a lot rests on this game.

5) Michigan State – Ohio State Preview

Keeping things in the Big Ten East, this matchup of Michigan State and Ohio State will mean a lot going forward. Ohio State will feel confident after a 5-0 start and being at home, but 25th ranked Michigan State won’t roll over in this rivalry game.

This will be an interesting game, with the Ohio State offense, led by Quarterback Justin Fields, is currently eighth in the nation for total offense. Michigan State has the seventh ranked defense however. They key for Michigan State will be scoring points on an Ohio State defense that is second in the nation, allowing less than 225 yards per game.

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Justin Fields has excelled so far at Ohio State, and looks to be leading them into a potential national championship berth. Photo: Jay LaPrete/AP Photo.

6) Potential Banana Skin for Ohio State

As I mentioned above Ohio State will be favourites for this game, but don’t discount Michigan State. They currently co-lead the conference with Ohio State and Penn State, and are a ranked team worthy of respect.

Their defense is a top ten unit in the country, allowing just over 250 yards per game. Their edge rushers Kenny Willekes and Raequan Williams lead the team with 7.5 sacks between them in five games. Ohio State is also coming off a statement win against Nebraska, and with a rivalry game this weekend they may slip up at home.

7) Under the Radar Games to Watch

Some games that won’t receive massive hype but will provide plenty of intrigue include a likely lopsided affair as Utah State travel to fifth ranked LSU. This isn’t a matchup on paper, but I’ve included it as we’ll see potential NFL Draft top ten pick, Utah State QB Jordan Love take on a very good LSU defense, with comparisons with rising star Joe Burrow likely.

The Pac-12 provides some important games, with 4-1 California travelling to 13th ranked 3-1 Oregon. After that is 15th ranked Washington travelling to face a struggling 2-3 Stanford team.

8) ‘Fair Pay to Play ‘ Acts Building

The much talked about ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act introduced by California made headlines as it was officially signed this week on The Shop, and other states are now taking a stance on this divisive issue. Florida state representative Kionne McGhee proposed a similar bill this week that if passed, would go into effect July 1st 2020.

This has been followed by news that former Ohio State receiver and current U.S House of Representatives politician Anthony Gonzalez is proposing federal legislation allowing college athletes to earn money through endorsement deals nationally. After much blustering from the NCAA, their patriarchy may be coming to an end.

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California governor Gavin Newsom signed his state’s ‘Fair Pay to Play’ Act live on The Shop with LeBron James this week. Photo: The Shop.

9) Coaches Already on the Hot Seat

The firing of Chris Ash at Rutgers last weekend was the first of the year, but many college coaches are feeling the pressure after poor starts to the season. USC head coach Clay Helton was almost fired last year, but is unlikely to survive this season. They have a 3-2 record and face a tough schedule, starting with ninth ranked Notre Dame this weekend.

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt will be another facing being fired, with a 1-3 start hard to come back from. Coming from Alabama he was supposed to resurrect this historic program, but they have fallen even further away under him.

10) Nick Saban Doesn’t Follow Rankings

The Alabama coach made headlines this week, saying that the rankings don’t matter until the end of the season. This is a classic Saban quote, straight from the Bill Belichick school of media quotes. It does show once again however the relentless nature both show in coaching.

Saban has already cemented himself as a legend of college football, but his relentless desire to improve is a big reason why Alabama has become the dominant force in college football for a decade now.

That wraps up my preview for week six of the season, if you have any thoughts on these points feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this blog I really appreciate it!

College Football Week Five Review

This past weekend felt like the truest indicator so far of where the major teams are at this season. Five weeks in and some secured statement wins, some recovered well and some struggled in victory. Let’s take a look at some of the main talking points from yet another exciting weekend in college football.

1) Ohio State Flashes Potential on National Stage

Ohio State laid their biggest indicator of the season that this team is for real. They throttled a good Nebraska side 48-7, excelling on all phases of the ball. The offense always gets the headlines, but Justin Fields deserves praise for another stellar performance since transferring from Georgia in the summer.

15-21 for 212 yards and 3 TD’s, along with 177 rushing yards for Running Back J.K Dobbins shows how dominant they were. The defense did even better, limiting Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez to 47 yards passing and three interceptions. Now 5-0, they find themselves in the play-off places for the first time this season.

2) Clemson Battle Past North Carolina

From convincing to unconvincing wins, as top ranked Clemson came very close to a loss against a resurgent North Carolina. They didn’t look good in this game, with sophomore phenom Trevor Lawrence struggling again.

The Clemson team is an embarrassment of riches, but being a failed two-point conversion away from losing doesn’t inspire confidence. They’ve dropped to second in the AP Top 25 poll, and will need to regroup quickly as the pressure mounts.

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North Carolina gave Clemson an almighty scare, falling short 21-20 to a more talented Clemson side. Their response will show their character going forward. Photo: Chris Seward/AP.

3) Notre Dame Put Georgia Loss Behind Them

Notre Dame recovered from a tough loss to Georgia with the perfect rebuttal in this potential banana skin. Virginia came into this game full of confidence, but Notre Dame proved too strong and deserved their 35-20 victory.

Notre Dame relied on Running Back Tony Jones Jr on offense, with 131 rushing yards and 3 TD’s proving vital. On the defensive side of the ball, Defensive End Julian Okwara had a career day with three of the teams eight sacks, as well as forcing a fumble in one of their five turnovers. The defense played lights out and deserves national recognition for this performance.

4) Washington Back in Pac-12 Mix

Washington have recovered well from a tough early season loss to California, swatting aside USC 28-14 to regain ground in the Pac-12. Salvon Ahmed had a big day at Running Back, with 153 yards and touchdown in a vital win.

This win jumps them back up to second in the Pac-12 North. Whilst any faint dreams of a national title chance are long gone, they find themselves 15th in the AP Polls. If they can win out from here on out they will have earned a top ten berth and a prominent bowl game.

5) Penn State Shutout Maryland

Penn State responded perfectly to their first challenge this season, mauling a high-powered Maryland offense. The defense stood out in this game, keeping a previously top ranked scoring offense to zero points. A previously unstoppable Maryland team couldn’t get anything going at all, holding Quarterback Josh Jackson to 65 passing yards and two interceptions.

For Penn State their offense had no problem scoring points, with sophomore Quarterback Sean Clifford going off with over 450 combined yards and four touchdowns in this rout. This is a big win for Penn State and they have kept themselves in the hunt.

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Penn State Running Back Ricky Slade celebrates his touchdown in this 59-0 rout of Maryland on their own turf. Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sport.

6) Other Key Results This Week

After such a disappointing loss last weekend Michigan responded in the perfect manner, dismantling a poor Rutgers team. Much criticised Quarterback Shea Patterson responded with three passing touchdowns and a rushing TD in a 52-0 rout. The only negative for the Wolverines was their running game struggling again.

Arizona State beat 15th ranked California 24-17, which is a pivotal win for them after a slow start to their Pac-12 season. They are on the outside looking in right now, but this is a massive win and will give them confidence going forward.

7) Stand Out Week Five Performers 

For the standout performer we can’t overlook Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith. The third head of their receiving core behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs went off against Ole Miss, with 274 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

Another receiver who impressed is Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, who showed an incredible turn and burst of speed on a 71 yard touchdown against Texas Tech, ending up with 185 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a first round prospect in a loaded wide receiver class this year.

8) Heisman Contenders Update

Now we’re well into the season, the key contenders for the 2019 Heisman Trophy are emerging. Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa is having a monster season, currently second in the nation with over 1700 yards in only five games. He’s also protecting the football, with 23 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Of the rest Joe Burrow is the outside bet, having surprised everyone with the impressive start he’s had. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts has played lights out this season, going for over 1200 yards passing and over 440 yards rushing in four games. Tua remains the favourite, but there’s plenty of contenders keeping him honest.

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Tua Tagovailoa is living a charmed life this year. He’s the current Heisman favourite and is many draft experts pick for the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

9) AP Top 25 Rankings

The latest rankings going into week six have been released, with the mild surprise that Alabama have overtaken Clemson for the top spot. It’s an understandable move after their performances last weekend. After their impressive win Ohio State jumped LSU for fourth and the final play-off place.

Further down, Notre Dame are the only other team to move in the top ten, vaulting Florida for ninth. Washington improve two places to 15th, with Utah, UCF and Michigan all moving up to 17th,18th and 19th respectively. California, USC and Kansas State are the big losers, all dropping out of the rankings this week.

10) First Coaching Casualty of the Year

Rutgers head coach Chris Ash was the first casualty of the 2019 season. After his teams 52-0 demolition against Michigan he was shown the door after three years in charge. His 8-32 record is poor, along with a 3-26 record in the Big Ten conference. Offensive coordinator John McNulty has also been fired after their 1-3 start.

Tight Ends coach Nunzio Campanile will take the interim head coach job for the season. Ash had previously been defensive coordinator for the 2014 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Early favourites to replace him include Greg Schiano, Mike Elko and Jeff Monken.

That wraps up the main talking points from another week of college football, if you have any thoughts on this points feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a big thank you to everyone who read this blog I really appreciate it!

 

College Football Week Two Preview

The opening week of college football didn’t provide many shocks, but that should change this weekend. There are some marquee games which will impact the Top 25 polls, as teams get up to speed after the opening week. Let’s look at the ten major talking points heading into week two.

1) Texas A & M @ Clemson Matchup 

The biggest matchup of the week is Texas A & M visiting Death Valley to face number one ranked Clemson. Last seasons game in College Station was a close 28-26 Clemson win, with home field advantage giving added confidence.

Texas A & M are now in their second year under Jimbo Fisher and showed signs of improvement in week one despite facing lowly Texas State. This will be a close game where Clemson will have to be at their best to win, but they will enter the game as favourites.

2) Massive Opportunity for Trevor Lawrence

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence took the college football world by storm last year, coming in mid-season and leading them to a national championship as a true freshman. This year the expectations are massive yet in the opening week he struggled.

He went 13-23 for 168 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT’s, yet the Clemson team still handily beat Georgia Tech 52-14. This can be put down to opening week rust, but this will not cut it against a very talented Texas A & M side. Clemson will need more than it’s rushing attack to win this game.

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Trevor Lawrence struggled last weekend, and will need a big game against Texas A & M if he harbors Heisman hopes this year. Photo: Ken Ruinard/Greenville News.

3) LSU @ Texas 

This is another massive game involving a team from the Lone star state, as LSU rolls into Texas. This top ten match-up between sixth ranked LSU and ninth ranked Texas will have play-off implications.  Both sides won comfortably in week one and have looked resurgent this season.

After years of struggle at the position, both LSU and Texas now have QB’s they feel confident with. Joe Burrow for LSU has rebounded from a difficult time at Ohio State, whereas Sam Ehlinger has lived out a dream and proved people wrong at Texas. This will be a highlight game this weekend.

4) Sam Ehlinger and Grant Delpit Marquee Matchup 

There are plenty of big name players on both teams, but the key matchup of the game will be Sam Ehlinger and Grant Delpit. Ehlinger has improved every year whilst at Texas, and could rise up draft boards with another good season. Key to that will be a impressive win in this game.

Standing in his way is the player some have called the best player in college football. LSU safety Grant Delpit is a likely top ten pick in next years NFL Draft,after proving himself a beast at LSU. Whoever wins this matchup will likely prove key to their teams victory.

5) Can Cincinnati Shock Ohio State?

A potential shock of the weekend could unfold in Columbus, Ohio, as Cincinnati will prove a stern test for Ohio State. The Bearcats are feeling confident after a 24-14 win against UCLA, and have taken a massive step forward these past two years.

Head coach Luke Fickell has taken them from 4-8 to 11-2 last year, along with an AP Top 25 berth. He was a former player and coach at Ohio State, so he knows the school well. Ohio State were not challenged in week one, and therefore new QB Justin Fields may struggle if pressured early. Ohio State should win, but an upset could happen.

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Texas QB Sam Ehlinger grew up a longhorns fan, and has helped restore them back to prominence. A win against LSU will thrust them into the play-off hunt. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images.

6) What Can USC do Against Stanford? 

This game was set to be another big matchup, however both teams are dealing with quarterback injuries. K.J Costello will miss this game for Stanford with a head injury, and J.T Daniels has a torn ACL for USC.

Stanford will go into the game as favourites as they are ranked 23rd in the polls, and their QB Davis Mills matches up well with USC QB Kedon Slovis. Mills is more experienced and was a former five star recruit, whereas Slovis is a true freshman going up against a good Stanford defence.

7) Can Opening Weekend Losing Sides Rebound? 

Opening week losses can ruin a season after it’s barely begun, so this week will prove crucial to those who lost last weekend. Top of the list is Oregon, who lost agonizingly to Auburn. They face a good Nevada side, however they should rebound comfortably.

Making unwanted headlines last weekend was Tennessee, who may struggle again this week against BYU. Both sides are 0-1, however BYU’s 30-13 loss to 13th ranked Utah is respected more than Tennessee’s loss to Georgia State. This will be a close game that BYU should feel quietly confident about.

8) Upset Alert for Week Two?

Everyone in college football loves upsets, and there’s some contenders in week two. Clemson could fall to 12th ranked Texas A & M, whereas sixth ranked LSU could lose to a very good ninth ranked Texas side.

Outside of these Maryland are coming off a 79-0 win and could upset 21st ranked Syracuse at home. As I mentioned above Cincinnati could also shock Ohio State in Columbus. 25th ranked Nebraska face a tricky road test against a good Colorado side. Teams that might also struggle include West Virginia, UCLA and Tennessee.

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The moment Oregon’s hopes of victory faded in the final seconds against Auburn. Their season effectively starts this week now. Photo: Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports.

9) Games of the Weekend

The two standout games are undoubtedly Texas A & M at Clemson 3.30PM ET Saturday, before LSU travels to Texas 7.30PM ET. All four teams are ranked in the top 12 and would love to make early play-off claims with a win.

Outside of the obvious games, some hidden gems include Syracuse travelling to Maryland noon ET, Cincinnati vising Ohio State at the same time and Nebraska at Colorado 3.30PM ET.

10) Injury Curse Strikes at Northwestern 

Opening week injuries are tough, especially in this case. Northwestern QB TJ Green is out for the season after suffering a foot injury in their loss to Stanford last weekend.

The injury occurred in the third quarter, and means he may now be forced to seek a medical redshirt to preserve his eligibility as a fifth year senior. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson will now take over, with the former five star prospect having a bye week to give him extra time to learn this offense.

That wraps up my preview of the main talking points heading into a loaded week two of the college football season. If you have any thoughts about this weekend’s game leave them in the comment section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you for reading this article!

 

 

College Football Week One Talking Points

This is the first in a new series, examining the main talking points from the opening week of the college football season, from the eyes of an Englishman now living in the U.S.

The opening weekend didn’t throw up many shocks, however here are my ten major talking points. Also a quick disclaimer before I begin, this is simply a shallow dive into the main stories of the week through the eyes of a fan, if you want more in-depth articles it’s probably best to read the analysts articles.

1) Big Win for Auburn and Bo Nix 

Bo Nix and the Auburn Tigers took down the Oregon Ducks 27-21 in the only surprise result between ranked teams last week. The true freshman Nix threw a go-ahead touchdown with nine seconds remaining in a legendary moment on his debut.

Nix struggled during the game, going 13-31 for 177 yards with 2 INT to match 2 TD’s, but the five star phenom has Auburn fans feeling excited about the next three years. Auburn jumped to tenth in the AP Top 25 poll, and now face Tulane in their home opener on Saturday.

2) Oregon Big Losers in Week One 

Oregon will feel distraught after an especially tough opening week loss. The team played well throughout and led right up until the final nine seconds, with a long recovery ahead if they want to compete for the College Football Playoff.

Senior QB Justin Herbert was the better QB in the game, going 28-37 for 242 yards and a TD. Receiver Johnny Johnson III built good chemistry with Herbert, to the tune of seven receptions for 98 yards. This is a tough loss, but starting this week against Nevada, their schedule helps them going down the stretch.

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Bo Nix played beyond his true freshman status to earn the comeback win against Oregon last weekend. Photo: Ron Jenkins (AP).

3) Jalen Hurts Already Anointed Heisman Favourite?

Jalen Hurts proved the pre-season hype on him as a Heisman contender was justified in week one. The Oklahoma QB had a monster six touchdown game in their 49-31 win over a good Houston team. 332 passing yards and 3 TD’s was matched with 176 yards rushing and another 3 TD’s.

The Alabama graduate transfer smashed the Oklahoma record for single game yardage with 508, Baker Mayfield previously held it with 396 yards. Some call it the Lincoln Riley effect, but Oklahoma could have three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners come December.

4) Big Debut for Justin Fields

Another high-profile summer transfer showed up big in week one, Ohio State QB Justin Fields. The sophomore standout was key as Ohio State rolled over Florida Atlantic 45-21. He lit up the first quarter with 4 TD’s, in a statement performance on his debut after transferring from Georgia.

This Ohio state team is loaded with NFL talent, and Fields has shown after week one he can take over from Dwayne Haskins. The team will face a tougher test this week against Cincinnati, but they have already shown this team will be a serious play-off contender this season.

5) Florida State Return Still on Hold 

The Florida State Seminoles hoped to put last season behind them, but old demons returned in a 36-31 loss to Boise State in Tallahassee. The team collapsed in the second half after looking dominant in the first half.

QB James Blackman looked good with 327 yards and 3 TD’s, but they let Boise State score 23 unanswered points to steal the win. This FSU team has plenty of NFL talent, but under Willie Taggart they struggle to close games out. 5-7 is not acceptable at FSU, and Taggart will feel the pressure even more after this loss.

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A Florida State players reflects the mood of the team as they let Boise State come back for the win as the pressure piles on head coach Willie Taggart. Photo: Mark Wallheiser/AP.

6) Georgia State Win Upset of Week One

Another historic program currently struggling is Tennessee, and their home loss to Georgia State 38-30 was undoubtedly the shock of the opening week.  It’s been a while since Tennessee has been a title contender, but this is a new low for the once proud program.

A fourth quarter collapse gave the underdog Georgia State team the win. This is a historic win for their team and they deserve the plaudits. This season may prove tough for Tennessee fans in the ultra competitive SEC.

7) USC QB J.T Daniels Out for Season 

Week one was brutal for USC despite a 31-23 win against Fresno State. This is because of a torn ACL for starting QB J.T Daniels, after being sacked in the second quarter.

Daniels was a five star phenom in California and was hoping to step up after a mixed freshman season. USC had PAC-12 championship hopes, which now lie in the hands of true freshman Kedon Slovis. The season just got a whole lot tougher for USC.

8) Running Backs Put on a Show

Running backs stole the show for a lot of Offences in week one. Clemson junior Travis Etienne led the way with 205 yards in their win against Georgia Tech. Fellow junior D’Andre Swift ran for 147 yards in Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt. Jonathan Taylor got 135 yards and 2 TD’s against USF.

Cam Akers of Florida State and Eno Benjamin of Arizona State are two more highly touted backs who ran for over 100 yards on opening weekend. All of these players are juniors, which means the 2020 NFL Draft running back class may be the best in years.

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Clemson Running Back scampers past his sideline in one of his three touchdown runs to open the season. He will likely be a first round NFL Draft pick next year if he declares. Photo: Richard Shiro/AP.

9) UCLA Struggle Once Again

The Chip Kelly era started with massive promise, but is now in danger of flaming out. The once heralded coach is now on the hot seat after they lost their opening game 24-14 to Cincinnati.

UCLA struggled with ugly turnovers from QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and struggled for identity in a tough loss to a better Cincinnati team. The 3-9 record last year is well below expectations and this season hasn’t started any better.

10) No Major Top 25 Surprises in Week One      

Week one didn’t provide much upsets for the top 25 ranked sides, other than Auburn upsetting Oregon. Ranked teams usually like to start the season with easier opponents to give them time to get up to speed before the real season starts.

The NCAA does try to provide showcase games in the opening week, but more needs to be done to ensure we get bigger games in the opening week. For now the AP top 25 has stayed largely the same other than Auburn and Oregon moving.

That wraps up my brief look at some of the major talking points from the opening weekend of college football. Do you have any thoughts on these points or your college football team? Let me know either in the comments section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to anyone who reads this I really appreciate it!