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  • Winless 'Noles look to bounce back at 4-0 Wake Forest
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, September 26, 2017

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Here's a sentence Florida State fans didn't think they'd hear: 4-0 Wake Forest will host an 0-2 Seminoles team that's still looking for its first win of the season.

    • Unusual, to say the least.

      Florida State, which started with a preseason No. 3 ranking in the Associated Press poll, has come crashing down in the matter of two games.

      A season-opening 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta -- and then last Saturday's stunning 27-21 defeat to visiting North Carolina State -- quickly changed the mind of poll voters. Florida State dropped from No. 12 last week to unranked, ending a streak of Top 25 appearances that had stretched for 89 weeks and was second in the nation behind the Crimson Tide.

      The Seminoles (0-2, 0-1 ACC) did lose two weeks of games due to Hurricane Irma. But when head coach Jimbo Fisher open his press conference Monday to discuss the rough start, he wasn't about to use that as an excuse.

      "After looking at the film at the N.C. State game, again, credit to N.C. State. They have a very good football team, did a great job," Fisher said.

      "There's some areas that we'll get our guys in and coach them up better ... and that's on us as coaches. And that's me as a head coach to make sure that gets done."

      The Seminoles are averaging 14 points, 75 yards rushing and 316 yards of total offense through two games.

      Those numbers are very un-Florida State-like, and the Seminoles don't have a lot of time in between games to fix the issues.

      Due to Hurricane Irma -- and the Seminoles having to move their Sept. 16 game against Miami to their open date Oct. 7 -- last Saturday against N.C. State marked the first of nine straight games for Florida State. And it may even be 10.

      On Monday, ESPN.com reported that the Seminoles are in talks with Week 2 opponent Louisiana-Monroe to reschedule their Sept. 9 game that was canceled due to the storm. The only possible date that could happen would be following the Seminoles' final regular-season game of the year Nov. 25 against Florida. The game would be made up for bowl eligibility purposes, Seminoles associate athletic director Rob Wilson said.

      Florida State receiver George Campbell said it doesn't matter how many games the Seminoles have to play in a row, the needed corrections are not only doable on the fly, but easier than most might think.

      "It's about execution. Nothing crazy," said Campbell, who had a solid game in the loss to the Wolfpack with three catches for 85 yards.

      "We beat ourselves. It's about execution on special teams and making sure we step up and make the plays. We have to make sure we block the right person and make the right reads. There's nothing special to it. Just making sure that we execute everything."

      That execution may have to come this weekend without two of Florida State's best players.

      Linebacker Matthew Thomas, last year's leading tackler and also the leading tackler in Week 1 against Alabama, left the game before halftime against N.C. State with a lower back injury and did not return. Later in the game, leading receiver Auden Tate injured his left shoulder on the Seminoles' first drive of the second half and did not return.

      Fisher said Monday that neither player suffered a season-ending injury; their status was officially "day to day."

      The Seminoles will also be without starting linebacker Jacob Pugh for the first half because of a targeting penalty in the second half against N.C. State.

      There is one bright spot, though, about the 0-2 start. The last time this happened was 1989. That year, the Seminoles won 10 in a row and finished 10-2, defeating Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl and finishing No. 3 in the final AP poll.

  • No. 5 USC, No. 16 Washington State in Friday showdown
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    No. 16 Washington State started the season with four victories, all at home, but those games were merely appetizers leading up to the main course: a Pac-12 showdown against No. 5 USC on Friday night.

    • It's a rare spotlight game in Pullman, Wash. Martin Stadium, with a capacity of about 33,000, was sold out last week and should be rocking.

      The Cougars are 4-0 for the first time since 2001. The Trojans have won 13 consecutive games, the nation's second-longest streak.

      Each team opened conference play with a victory.

      "It's an exciting game," said Washington State offensive lineman Cole Madison. "Every week is an exciting game but this one really sticks out. It should be a good one."

      USC coach Clay Helton -- whose team is playing back-to-back road games on a short week of practice -- said he is most concerned about Washington State having a "start-fast team," especially after the Trojans have either trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter in three of their four games.

      That was the story last week at Cal when USC rallied for 17 points in the final period to win 30-20. The Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) have outscored opponents 72-38 after three quarters.

      "You're very, very happy again when you see a team finishing in the fourth quarter," Helton said. "That's kind of been our hallmark."

      Washington State (4-0, 1-0) is outscoring opponents 87-19 in the first half this season.

      In contrast to USC's ability to come on strong late, Washington State trailed off in last week's 45-7 rout of Nevada. The Cougars scored only 10 points after building a 35-0 halftime lead.

      "I guess you guys feel some of the starts have been faster than I do," Leach said at his Monday press conference when asked about the reasons for the quick starts.

      "The short answer is that all sides of the ball played well together. ... We've emphasized it. But it's something that easier said than done."

      Washington State senior quarterback Luke Falk completed 36 of 47 pass attempts for 478 yards and five touchdowns against Nevada. His fourth touchdown pass in the second quarter marked the 100th of his career, moving him past former USC quarterback Matt Leinart for third on the Pac-12's career list.

      Through four games, Falk has guided Washington State to No. 12 in the nation in scoring, averaging almost 44 points per game in Leach's "Air Raid" attack.

      Falk, who has completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 344.1 yards a game with 14 touchdowns and only one interception, will face a USC defense that forced six turnovers against Cal. The Trojans have 11 takeaways -- the third-most in the nation.

      USC cornerback Jack Jones, part of an athletic secondary, earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after picking off two passes at Cal.

      "I have a competitive nature to where I don't ever want to lose," Jones said. "If someone catches a ball on me, I'm losing, and I don't want that feeling."

      USC redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold, considered to be a potential No. 1 NFL draft pick in 2018, has come up clutch late in games, but he's also been intercepted seven times this year -- just two fewer than he made in 10 starts last season.

      "He's a good player," Leach said. "I think he's mature, just really mentally together for a guy who is his age."

      Darnold will face a Washington State defense that ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in passing defense, allowing only 142.2 yards per game. He is averaging 306.2 passing yards a game, completing 98 of 146 passes (67.1 percent) with nine touchdown passes.

      Darnold might have to operate without his top rusher, junior Ronald Jones II (322 yards rushing on 59 carries with five touchdowns), who could miss his second consecutive game with a thigh contusion and sprained ankle. He was considered questionable early in the week.

      The Trojans might have to lead again with freshman Stephen Carr, who rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Bears. He was the first USC true freshman to start at tailback since Dillon Baxter in 2010.

      USC also played last week without receiver Steven Mitchell (groin) and defensive end Porter Gustin (biceps). Gustin is out indefinitely.

      The Trojans' 13-game winning streak is their longest since winning 34 consecutive games under Pete Carroll from 2003-05. They started the week as four-point favorites over Washington State.

      "What an incredible atmosphere that is going to be on a short week on a Friday night in the Palouse," said Helton. "It's going to be a lot of fun. We've got a big challenge on our hands."

  • Rebels seek clean game against No. 1 Alabama
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Taking on the top-ranked team in the country is a tall enough task.

    • Ole Miss doesn't want to give Alabama any help.

      The Rebels will be trying not to cause as much self-inflicted damage as they have in recent weeks when they head to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to take on the top-ranked Crimson Tide (8 p.m., ESPN). The Rebels (2-1) are the second-most penalized team in the Southeastern Conference, accumulating more than 73 penalty yards per game.

      It got ugly the last time out for Ole Miss, which racked up a whopping 16 penalties in its 27-16 loss at Cal. Most of those came up front with holds and false starts along an offensive line that lost center Sean Rawlings to an ankle injury in the first half and likely won't have him against the Crimson Tide.

      Coming off an open date, the Rebels have had an extra week to prepare for the 100,000-plus fans that will pack into Bryant-Denny Stadium. Ole Miss has piped crowd noise into its practices, which interim coach Matt Luke said has helped.

      "That's obviously been an area of focus for us," Luke said. "The open date gave us a chance to work on some of that. We think we got those things corrected, but when you get out there in front of 100,000 people, you've got to go execute and do it. But it has been better."

      The high number of flags pushed Ole Miss' average to more than 10 penalties a game, a number that would make it virtually impossible for the Rebels to get their second consecutive win in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Ole Miss won 43-37 in 2015 for just its second win ever in Tuscaloosa.

      Fresh off a 59-0 pasting of Vanderbilt, Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) leads the SEC in scoring and is second in total offense and total defense. The Crimson Tide has once again proven to be stout against the run, holding teams to a league-low 70.2 yards per game, and is tops in rushing after racking up 496 yards on the ground against Vanderbilt, the most ever under head coach Nick Saban.

      On the strength of the nation's fourth-best passing offense, Ole Miss enters Saturday's game with the top offense in the SEC. But Alabama will be by far the biggest test in the young season for the Rebels, who often stayed behind the chains against Cal because of the all the penalties and committed three turnovers, one of which resulted in a touchdown for the Bears.

      Ole Miss may find the going just as tough Saturday if the Rebels aren't able to stay out of their own way.

      "Execution and playing mistake-free football on offense is going to be the emphasis and the key for us on Saturday," offensive coordinator Phil Longo said.

      --QB Shea Patterson has come out smoking. The former five-star signee has completed nearly 71 percent of his passes for 1,281 yards and 11 touchdowns against just four interceptions, although three of those came his last time out against Cal. With one of the deepest and more talented receiving corps in the Southeastern Conference, the signal caller is directing the nation's fourth-ranked passing offense after three games.

      --WR A.J. Brown will give Ole Miss a physical mismatch against most defenses this season. Also lining up in the slot at times to try to find mismatches against bigger linebackers and smaller safeties, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown leads the SEC with 129.7 receiving yards per game and is tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches.

      --DE Marquis Haynes is one of the best pass rushers in the SEC and is a threat to any offense off the edge with his speed. He's not getting many chances right now with teams having so much success against the Rebels on the ground and has just half a sack through three games.

  • Gaskin re-emerges as weapon for No. 6 Washington
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Myles Gaskin was often an afterthought while the Washington running attack was practically invisible through the first three games of the season.

    • But toss in a career-best rushing performance in Game 4, and Gaskin and the Huskies' ground game looks significantly better entering Saturday's game at Oregon State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12).

      Gaskin rushed for a career-best 202 yards in last Saturday's 37-10 victory over Colorado. The junior entered with just 153 yards in three games.

      "Myles always gets better the more you give him the ball," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He'll get into a rhythm if you can give him a little bit of space. I think we took a step forward in the run game."

      Call it multiple steps now that the reliable Gaskin was able to get into the flow.

      Gaskin topped 1,300 rushing yards in each of his first two college seasons. But the No. 6 Huskies (4-0, 1-0) only gave him 24 carries over the first three games.

      He received 27 attempts in less than ideal conditions against the Buffaloes and suddenly looked like the highly productive back of the past two seasons.

      "The guys up front we're doing their job, they were making it easy for me," Gaskin said of an offensive line that enjoyed its best overall game of the season. "The rain and everything kind of factored in so we were sticking to the run and it worked out how it did."

      Going from the sparse workload to a bell-cow level certainly was fine with Gaskin, but it also spurred questions for why the drop in usage.

      Petersen insists there was no plan in place to keep Gaskin leashed up until the start of Pac-12 play.

      "No, I don't think we were that specific. I mean, we are trying to come out, and we always want to run the ball," Petersen said.

      "We are disappointed from Game 1 if it doesn't look like we want it to. It is not like some, 'OK, get him ready for the league.' We come out trying to do the best we can from the very start. But we do know it takes a minute. It's not ready made."

      Washington did receive a dose of bad news in the win over Colorado -- junior receiver Chico McClatcher broke his left ankle and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

      --QB Jake Browning has passed for 958 yards and nine touchdowns against two interceptions but experienced his second straight subpar performance against Colorado, including last season's Pac-12 title game. The junior completed just 11 of 21 attempts for 160 yards and one touchdown but did avoid key mistakes. Browning's completion percentage dipped to 69.7 percent, which ranks 14th nationally, but he could be in line for a nice rebound against an Oregon State team that has already allowed 12 passing touchdowns.

      --CB Jordan Miller is coming off a solid effort against Colorado in which he recorded his first two interceptions of the season. The junior will be counted on even more moving forward with redshirt freshman Byron Murphy out with a broken foot. "He's an athletic guy. He's another guy that's kind of been lurking in the shadows so to speak," coach Chris Petersen said. "I think we saw that he could do some really good things out there at a really tough position on the island."

      --DT Vita Vea displayed his rare form of athleticism by blocking a punt against Colorado in addition to his typical style of tying up blockers in the trenches. "Thought Vita Vea was playing at a really, really high level," coach Chris Petersen said. "Not only on special teams but on defense." The 6-foot-5, 340-pound junior has 13 tackles and one sack this season with room to elevate his performance.

  • Duke braces for No. 14 Miami in battle of unbeaten teams
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Duke coach David Cutcliffe doesn't like that his Blue Devils are playing a Friday night home game against No. 14 Miami, even issuing an apology to that effect.

    • "I don't like the fact that Friday night football exists because it should be for high schools," Cutcliffe said to the Raleigh News & Observer. "I apologize to all of the high school programs. But if we are going to do it, and do it contractually, we need to do it right."

      The Friday night game is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference's television package, which earlier this season featured Boston College defeating Northern Illinois, Syracuse beating Central Connecticut State, and Virginia notching a big win at Boise State.

      Duke-Miami is the first ACC game of the season on a Friday night, and it features two undefeated teams in the Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0 ACC) and the Hurricanes (2-0, 0-0).

      Miami is coming off a 52-30 victory over Toledo in its first game in three weeks following the cancellation of one game (Sept. 9 at Arkansas State) and postponement of another (Sept. 16 at Florida State) because of the threat of Hurricane Irma.

      The unranked Blue Devils gave Cutcliffe the 100th victory of his coaching career last week, 27-17 at North Carolina.

      "Well, you remember a whole lot of players, a whole lot of coaches and a lot of families," Cutcliffe said when asked to reflect on reaching that achievement. "It mostly makes me think about my wife, Karen, who has won a hundred games. She has done a heck of a lot better job than I have.

      "But 101 is going to be a lot harder to get than No. 1."

      The last time these teams met at Durham, in 2015, the game produced one of the wildest finishes in college football history. Miami, which had fired Al Golden earlier in the week, was playing its first game under interim coach Larry Scott, and the Hurricanes won 30-27 on a 91-yard kickoff return that featured eight laterals as time ran out.

      With starter Brad Kaaya out with a concussion that week, junior quarterback Malik Rosier made his first start for Miami and passed for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

      Last year, Miami topped Duke 40-21 in Miami Garden, Fla., behind 396 passing yards and four touchdown passes from Kaaya.

      Rosier returns for the 2017 rematch. He has passed for 550 yards in two starts this season, with 333 coming last week against Toledo. In that one, he had only 50 yards passing in the first half.

      "He was rushing himself too much in the first half," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "He was throwing it sooner than he had to. We were protecting extremely well.

      "I thought his decision-making was excellent, but sometimes his feet were too fast and his brain was going a little too fast."

      Duke sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones is in his second season as the starter. He has passed for 904 yards this season, completing 61.9 percent of his 139 attempts with only two interceptions.

      Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton Manning as an assistant at Tennessee and Eli Manning as the head coach at Ole Miss, sees an NFL future for Jones.

      "He's got the size (6-foot-5, 215 pounds), he's got the arm strength, he's got the mentality, he's got the toughness," Cutcliffe said before the season. "And this guy can run."

      Cutcliffe said Jones, who has rushed for 141 yards, has the ability to put the ball where he wants it and when it needs to be there.

      "Whether it's touch or velocity or timing," the coach said, "he's got that kind of accuracy. Almost scary."

      Jones has found a nice target in junior T.J. Rahming, who has 24 receptions for 248 yards.

      Rosier has been without his potential No. 1 target because sophomore Ahmmon Richards, who set a Miami freshman receiving record last year, has been out with a hamstring injury. Richards could return this week.

      Rosier also has a huge weapon in running back Mark Walton, who ran for a career-high 204 yards last week. He has rushed for 352 yards on 27 carries in Miami's two games.

      "He's a very good instinctive runner," Richt said. "The thing that he can do, when you set a play to go a certain way and they're defending it, he just has a great instinct to hit the brakes and find the best place to go, I guess. It's something you can't coach or teach."

  • CFB notebook: Nine Florida players face felony charges
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett are among nine University of Florida players facing multiple third-degree felony charges on the heels of alleged credit card fraud, multiple outlets reported Monday.

    • Callaway and Scarlett join five other suspended players in facing two third-degree felonies: fraud/swindle in obtaining property under $20,000 and use or possession of another person's ID without consent.

      Defensive linemen Keivonnis Davis and Richerd Desir-Jones, linebackers James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller, wide receiver Rick Wells and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort are also facing the third-degree felony counts, according to Alachua County (Fla.) Circuit Court records, per the Orlando Sentinel.

      Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Smith is facing three additional felony counts of use or possession of another person's ID without consent.

      --Florida is making a change at quarterback -- inserting junior Luke Del Rio for redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks -- for this week's home game against Vanderbilt.

      Del Rio replaced Franks during the third quarter of Saturday's 28-27 victory over Kentucky, connecting with Freddie Swain on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 43 seconds left for the winning points.

      Franks was the hero a week earlier, when his 63-yard Hail Mary heave into the end zone beat Tennessee. He struggled against the Wildcats, completing 7 of 12 passes for 85 yards as the Gators fell behind by 10 points in the fourth quarter.

      --Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said starting quarterback Wilton Speight would not be available this week if the Wolverines had a game, adding that the hit that knocked him out last week was "egregious."

      Speight sustained a head injury in the first quarter of a 28-10 win at Purdue on Saturday. Senior John O'Korn came in and completed 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown.

      Speight was taken to a local hospital for tests during the game but did return to Ross-Ade Stadium. Harbaugh didn't express strong feelings after the game about the hit that knocked out Speight, saying he didn't see it, but then he reviewed the game film.

      --Washington junior wide receiver Chico McClatcher will miss the rest of the season because of a broken ankle, Huskies coach Chris Petersen said at his press conference.

      McClatcher is the team's second-leading receiver with 10 catches for 128 yards.

      He suffered the injury in a 37-10 victory at Colorado on Saturday, when a defender rolled into McClatcher's left leg as he was blocking on a run play.

  • Washington WR McClatcher out with broken ankle
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Washington junior wide receiver Chico McClatcher will miss the rest of the season because of a broken ankle, Huskies coach Chris Petersen said at his Monday press conference.

    • McClatcher is the team's second-leading receiver with 10 catches for 128 yards.

      He suffered the injury in a 37-10 victory at Colorado on Saturday, when a defender rolled into McClatcher's left leg as he was blocking on a run play.

      No. 6 Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) plays at Oregon State on Saturday.

      "I just feel really bad, like we all do, for Chico," Petersen said. "That's hard for guys who are playing well and work so hard ... but that's part of football.

      "Nobody feels sorry for us, at all, outside of this building. Everybody else is throwing a party when they see Chico is not going to be out there. So the next guy better step up and that is going to come from multiple guys."

      McClatcher, a 5-foot-7 slot receiver who never redshirted, has played in three games this season and would fit the criteria for receiving a medical redshirt for 2017, restoring his year of eligibility.

      He caught 34 passes for 574 yards and five touchdowns last season.

  • Michigan's Harbaugh: Hit on QB Speight was 'egregious'
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said starting quarterback Wilton Speight would not be available this week if the Wolverines had a game, adding that the hit that knocked him out last week was "egregious."

    • "If I had a stronger word to use, I would use it," Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference.

      Speight sustained a head injury in the first quarter of a 28-10 win at Purdue on Saturday. Senior John O'Korn came in and completed 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown.

      Speight was taken to a local hospital for tests during the game but did return to Ross-Ade Stadium. Harbaugh didn't express strong feelings after the game about the hit that knocked out Speight, saying he didn't see it, but then he reviewed the game.

      "After having seen it now, I thought it was egregious," he said.

      "With all the emphasis on protecting defenseless players, it appeared that the player knew what he was doing, targeted the head and neck area when the player was on the ground and accelerated into it. Surprised they had two officials standing back there that were both looking at it, plus a review in the press box, that that wasn't targeting, that that wasn't a personal foul."

      No. 8 Michigan (4-0) is off this week before hosting Michigan State on Oct. 7. As for Speight's status for the rivalry game, Harbaugh said, "We'll assess it as we go."

  • Florida QB Del Rio to start versus Vanderbilt
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Florida is making a change at quarterback -- inserting junior Luke Del Rio for redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks -- for this week's home game against Vanderbilt.

    • Del Rio replaced Franks during the third quarter of Saturday's 28-27 victory over Kentucky, connecting with Freddie Swain on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 43 seconds left for the winning points.

      Franks was the hero a week earlier, when his 63-yard Hail Mary heave into the end zone beat Tennessee. He struggled against the Wildcats, completing 7 of 12 passes for 85 yards as the Gators fell behind by 10 points in the fourth quarter.

      Del Rio led them back after Kentucky went up 13 early in the fourth quarter. He was 9 of 14 for 74 yards and the last-minute touchdown.

      "He came in and gave us that boost," Florida coach Jim McElwain said of Del Rio. "That's not to say Feleipe won't start again. He continues to get better."

      Del Rio started six games last season but underwent offseason shoulder surgery as Franks won the job through spring and fall competition. The Gators (2-1) added Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire in the summer, but he hasn't appeared in the past two games since replacing Franks in a season-opening loss to Michigan in Arlington, Texas.

      Florida is 112th out of 129 FBS teams in total offense, averaging 322.3 yards per game.

      For the season, Franks is 30 of 49 for 372 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception.

  • Callaway, Scarlett among Florida players facing felony charges
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, September 25, 2017

    Wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett are among nine University of Florida players facing multiple third-degree felony charges on the heels of alleged credit card fraud, multiple outlets reported Monday.

    • Callaway and Scarlett join five other suspended players in facing two third-degree felonies: fraud/swindle in obtaining property under $20,000 and use or possession of another person's ID without consent.

      Defensive linemen Keivonnis Davis and Richerd Desir-Jones, linebackers James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller, wide receiver Rick Wells and offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort are also facing the third-degree felony counts, according to Alachua County (Fla.) Circuit Court records, per the Orlando Sentinel.

      Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Smith is facing three additional felony counts of use or possession of another person's ID without consent.

      The players are accused of using multiple credit cards from multiple victims. Callaway transferred $1,970 from a stolen credit card to his University of Florida account and Scarlett transferred $1,940 to his account, making one fraudulent transaction apiece, according to State Attorney Bill Cervone.

      "Well, obviously, know this: I really care about those guys. We're going to do right by them," Gators coach Jim McElwain was quoted as saying by the Orlando Sentinel during a press conference Monday as the felony charges were first publicly posted in the court system.

      "You're asking me something, which this is the first I've heard about it. Obviously, we sit down as a staff, we sit down as an administration. Obviously, the university first and what that is. Yet, at the end of the day I'll do everything I can to help these guys."

  • First and 20: Georgia's Fromm leads freshman QB invasion
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 24, 2017

    Nothing is more treasured to a college football team than experience at quarterback.

    • Well, at least that used to be something people said.

      More true freshman quarterbacks than ever are arriving at the intersection of Readiness and Opportunity, and we're only a season removed from one such player -- Jalen Hurts -- taking mighty Alabama to within a play of the national championship.

      As this season takes shape after four full weeks, true freshman quarterbacks are influencing several major programs, which means their young minds and mettle, arms and legs, will hold sway over Power 5 conference races and, therefore, the College Football Playoff and the national title.

      Which brings us to Georgia.

      True freshman Jake Fromm -- handed the reins after one of last year's crop of true freshman quarterbacks, Jacob Eason, suffered a knee injury in the opener -- helped guide the Bulldogs to a 31-3 rout of No. 17 Mississippi State on Saturday.

      Georgia (4-0) has emerged as the clear favorite in the SEC East and a legit threat to top-ranked Alabama in a potential SEC title game matchup. The Bulldogs have a great rushing attack, a veteran and fearsome defensive front seven ... and Fromm, rated the No. 3 pro-style quarterback recruit in the nation in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

      Fromm was 9 of 12 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the team's complete effort against Mississippi State. One of the incomplete passes was a throw-away. The others were drops.

      Fromm's first pass of the game was a 59-yard touchdown strike to receiver Terry Godwin off a flea-flicker.

      "The kid is stepping up," said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. "He's starting to play. He's always had that in him. He's a good leader. He did a good job managing the game."

      With the rise of quarterback summer camps and clinics and coaching "gurus," more recruits than ever come in with a reasonable readiness to make the jump to hyperspace.

      Other true freshman quarterbacks thrust into big-time opportunities in the first month are Florida State's James Blackman (first career start in a loss at North Carolina State); Texas A&M's Kellen Mond (325 total yards in an overtime victory over Arkansas) and Texas' Sam Ehlinger (nearly pulled off the upset at USC two weeks ago.

      And over at Alabama, true freshman backup Tua Tagovailoa is waiting -- and quite possibly ready, given his relief effort in Saturday's rout of Vanderbilt -- should Hurts be hurt.

      Fromm leads the young pack for now, rated 10th nationally in passer efficiency with a rating of 172.0. Eason -- one of the "flavors of the month" last season as a true freshman -- has yet be to medically cleared to return to game action, but he's getting closer.

      He won the job through spring and fall competition, but Fromm always intrigued because of his skill, vocal leadership and decisiveness. Eason might not get his job back.

      "He's a born leader," Georgia senior running back Nick Chubb said of Fromm. "He plays hard. He makes the right call. He does everything we ask him to do. He's a great kid."

      5 thoughts from Week 4

      1. Gary Patterson is at it again. TCU has an occasional down season but always bounces back with a vengeance. The Horned Frogs followed losing records in 2004 and 2013 with one-loss seasons, and Patterson's crew -- 6-7 in 2016 -- stamped itself as legit big-prize contenders with a 44-31 victory at then-No. 6 Oklahoma State.

      2. Florida is living right. The Gators are 2-1, but needed divine help in beating Tennessee on a Hail Mary two weeks ago and got another gift Saturday, when a holding call on Kentucky in the final seconds pushed the Wildcats beyond the edge of field goal range; a last-play 57-yard fell just short. The Gators beat Kentucky for the 31st consecutive time.

      3. UCLA is too soft on defense. QB Josh Rosen always intrigues, but his I-have-to-do-it-all bad habits are only being magnified by a defense that gave up 44 points to Texas A&M, 48 to Memphis and 58 to Stanford. The Bruins are last nationally among power conference teams, allowing 524.8 yards per game.

      4. Michigan's QB battle is one to watch. John O'Korn hasn't been able to wrest the starting job away from Wilton Speight in the past couple of seasons, but there's nothing like game time to change minds. O'Korn was effective Saturday after Speight left in the first quarter due to injury, sparking four touchdown drives in a 28-10 victory over Purdue.

      5. Central Florida enters battle for big bowl. Perhaps everyone had the wrong Florida "directional" school as the best from the Group of Five conferences. South Florida is moving along at 4-0, ranked all season, but UCF is surging under second-year coach Scott Frost, whipping Maryland 38-10 on the road Saturday. Central Florida and South Florida meet at the end of the regular season in an East Division showdown in the American Athletic Conference.

      5 top Heisman candidates

      1. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State. He moves quickly and effortlessly along every axis -- including vertically if he has to hurdle a defender -- and he just refused to be bottled up against Iowa, putting up 358 all-purpose yards in the Nittany Lions' 21-19 thriller.

      2. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. The senior leads the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 228.3, and his 13-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a nifty part of that.

      3. RB Bryce Love, Stanford. He's the nation's leading rusher -- and averaging 10.78 yards per carry -- and he's doing it while playing for a Cardinal team that lacks a complementary passing game. His speed and quick cuts carved up UCLA for 263 rushing yards Saturday night.

      4. RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State. The Aztecs' 28-24 win on a rainy day at Air Force is probably more impressive than you think, and Penny led the way with 128 yards and three touchdowns.

      5. QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville. The 2016 Mr. Heisman is still the most exciting quarterback in college football.

      5 things you might have missed

      1. UCLA defensive back Adarius Pickett was ejected for targeting in the first half for a hit on Stanford tight end Drew Schultz. Although no flag was thrown, officials tossed Pickett from the game after a replay review. While the game was still going on, Pickett tweeted from the locker room: "I get kicked out the game because I'm hitting to hard against a guy that is 6'6 are you kidding me. Tell me how I'm suppose to play please."

      2. Eastern Washington often has one of the most prolific offenses in the Football Championship Subdivision, and the Eagles are at it again as Gage Gubrud passed for a school-record 549 yards Saturday in a 48-41 victory over Montana on Saturday.

      3. Old Dominion true freshman quarterback Steven Williams Jr. became the second-youngest starter in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision. The 17-year-old completed just 8 of 26 passes in a shutout loss to Virginia Tech.

      4. As expected, the game between rivals St. John's and St. Thomas, played Saturday at the Minnesota Twins' Target Field, set a Division III attendance record of 37,355. The Tommies beat the Johnnies 20-17 in this battle of D-III heavyweights.

      5. North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb apologized for spitting on the Florida State midfield logo after the Wolfpack's upset of the then-No. 12 Seminoles. As far as postgame antics in hostile stadiums, we're ranking them like this: 1. Baker Mayfield planting the Oklahoma flag in the Ohio State turf. 2. Penn State QB Trace McSorley punting the ball after taking a knee at Iowa. 3. Chubb.

      5 games to watch in Week 5

      1. Clemson at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET) -- A rematch of last season's ACC Championship Game and a potential preview of the 2017 title tilt. The Hokies have pitched two shutouts this season and found a dynamic quarterback in redshirt freshman Josh Jackson.

      2. USC at Washington State (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET) -- Martin Stadium is going to be insanely rocking on a Friday night in the kind of home spotlight that rarely shines on Pullman. This will be a full-on blast of #Pac12AfterDark.

      3. Georgia at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET) -- Last season's meeting was one of the nuttiest of the season, with dueling touchdowns in the final 10 seconds, including the Vols' final-play 43-yard touchdown pass for a 34-31 shocker.

      4. Miami at Duke (Friday, 7 p.m. ET). A worthy Friday night undercard to USC-Washington State, with the Hurricanes putting their 2-0 record on the line vs. surprising 4-0 Duke, led by sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones.

      5. Ole Miss at Alabama (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET). This probably means nothing for this year, but the Rebels beat Alabama in 2014 and 2015, and lost by just five last season, 48-43. Worth keeping an eye on to see if Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson can threaten the Tide's D.

  • Florida State drops out of AP top 25
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, September 24, 2017

    Winless Florida State finds itself outside of the Top 25 for the first time since 2011 in the latest Associated Press poll released Sunday.

    • The Seminoles are 0-2 after Saturday's 27-21 home loss to North Carolina State. Florida State was ranked 12th prior to the defeat that caused the plummet out of the rankings.

      The Seminoles began the season ranked third. They dropped their opener to top-ranked Alabama and also lost standout quarterback Deondre Francois with a season-ending knee surgery.

      The 0-2 start is Florida State's first since 1989. On that occasion, they won their final 10 games to finish the season No. 3 in the nation.

      The top five remains unchanged with Alabama still atop the rankings and defending national champion Clemson sitting at No. 2. Oklahoma is third, followed by USC and Washington.

      The Crimson Tide received 52 first-place votes. Clemson got eight and Oklahoma received one.

      Washington moved up one spot to No. 6, while Georgia (No. 7) and TCU (No. 9) moved into the Top 10. Georgia rolled to a 31-3 victory over Mississippi State, while TCU jumped up seven spots after notching a 44-31 victory over then-No. 6 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys dropped to 15th and Mississippi State fell to No. 24.

      Also in the Top 10 are Big Ten teams Michigan (No. 8) and Wisconsin (No. 10).

      Another Big Ten program, Ohio State, slipped one spot to No. 11. It halts a streak of 42 straight polls in which the Buckeyes were ranked in the Top 10.

      San Diego State of the Mountain West is ranked 19th, matching its highest ranking since 1978. The Aztecs are 4-0 for the first time since 1981.

      Notre Dame (22nd) and West Virginia (23rd) moved into the rankings. Oregon, which was No. 24 before losing to Arizona State, joined Florida State in dropping out.

      Virginia Tech, which plays No. 2 Clemson this Saturday, sits at No. 12. Auburn is 13th and Miami is 14th.

      Washington State moved up two spots to No. 16 and prepares for Friday's Pac-12 showdown against USC. The Cougars are followed by No. 17 Louisville and No. 18 South Florida. Utah is 20th and Florida is 21st.

      LSU, one of six SEC teams in the poll, is No. 25.

  • Top 25 roundup: NC State knocks off No. 12 Florida State
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 23, 2017

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Ryan Finley threw a pair of touchdowns as North Carolina State upset No. 12 Florida State 27-21 on Saturday.

    • Finley completed 22 of 32 passes for 230 yards. He threw a 71-yard TD strike to Jakobi Meyers late in the first half and a 14-yard TD pass Jaylen Samuels with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Meyers caught five passes for 112 yards while Samuels totaled 12 catches on 64 yards for North Carolina State (3-1, 1-0 ACC).

      James Blackman made his debut as quarterback for Florida State (0-2, 0-1), which played for the first time in 21 days after Hurricane Irma postponed its previous two games. He finished 22 of 38 for 378 yards while Auden Tate contributed nine catches for 138 yards before getting hurt early in the third quarter.

      No. 1 Alabama 59, Clemson 0

      NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Top-ranked Alabama generally wins football games because it's bigger, stronger, faster and more prepared than its opponents. Those, and a phenomenal rushing attack, were the reasons the Crimson Tide went to Vanderbilt Stadium and pounded the Commodores.

      Running back Damien Harris rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns as the Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) lit up the nation's No. 1 defense for 677 yards while holding the Commodores to just 78. Fresh off an upset of then-No. 18 Kansas State last week, the Commodores were overmatched from the beginning. Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1) had more penalties (five) than first downs (three).

      Leading by 31 points at halftime, the Crimson Tide went for the throat in the third quarter. Harris scored his third touchdown on a 2-yard run and true freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to make it 52-0.

      No. 2 Clemson 34, Boston College 7

      CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns to break a tie and defeat Boston College.

      The No. 2-ranked Tigers improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. The Eagles (1-3, 0-2) tied the game on a 1-yard run by freshman running back AJ Dillon with 3:30 left in the third quarter, and it appeared the defending national champions were in for a down-to-the wire battle.

      But sparked by junior quarterback Kelly Bryant and freshman running back Travis Etienne, Clemson reeled off 27 unanswered points to defeat the Eagles for a seventh consecutive season. Both Bryant and Etienne posted the first 100-yard rushing games of their careers. Bryant had 106 yards on 22 carries and scored his sixth and seventh touchdowns of the season. Etienne added 113 yards on nine carries and scored on runs of 50 and 10 yards.

      No. 3 Oklahoma 49, Baylor 41

      WACO, Texas -- Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeff Badet and running back Trey Sermon broke loose for a long touchdown run to propel third-ranked Oklahoma past Baylor.

      Baylor (0-4, 0-1), overcame an early 14-point deficit and took the lead over Oklahoma late in the third quarter. But Mayfield's 48-yard touchdown pass to Badet took the lead back for Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

      On the Sooners' next offensive series, Sermon sliced through the Baylor defense for a 34-yard touchdown run that put Oklahoma ahead 42-31 with 10:31 left. The Sooners piled up 342 rushing yards. Oklahoma running back Abdul Adams ran for 164 and a touchdown and Sermon added 157 and two scores.

      No. 4 Penn State 21, Iowa 19

      IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Trace McSorley completed a 7-yard pass to Juwan Johnson on the game's final play and No. 4 Penn State defeated Iowa.

      In a game that was dominated by the defenses, the teams scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns. McSorley, who finished 31 of 48 for 284 yards with an interception, drove the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) 65 yards in 12 plays in the final 1:42 after the Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-1) took a 19-15 lead in only three plays.

      Akrum Wadley put Iowa in great position to pull off the upset when he capped that drive with a 35-yard run. Earlier in the quarter, Wadley and quarterback Nathan Stanley hooked up for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Penn State's Saquon Barkley rushed for a career-high 211 yards and one touchdown. He also had 12 receptions for 94 yards.

      No. 5 USC 30, California 20

      BERKELEY, Calif. -- USC took advantage of six California turnovers as the fifth-ranked Trojans broke away from a halftime tie to defeat California.

      While winning its first road game of the season, USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) won its 13th straight game dating to last season, and beat Cal (3-1, 0-1) for the 14th consecutive time. Sam Darnold completed 26 of 38 passes for 223 yards and two scores, but he also threw his seventh interception of the season to go along with his nine TD passes.

      Ross Bowers was 22 of 50 for 303 yards and a touchdown, but he threw four interceptions along with the critical fumble. Patrick Laird added 82 yards on the ground for the Bears, and wide receiver Kanawai Noa caught six passes for 110 yards.

      No. 16 TCU 44, No. 6 Oklahoma State 6

      STILLWATER, Okla. -- No. 16 TCU to win its first Big 12 Conference game in the state of Oklahoma, upsetting No. 6 Oklahoma State.

      TCU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) used a balanced offense and took advantage of four Cowboys turnovers, three by quarterback Mason Rudolph, who saw his Heisman Trophy candidacy likely took a hit. Horned Frogs running back Darius Anderson rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns, including a 42-yard scoring romp to clinch the outcome with 2:37 remaining. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill played efficiently, completing 22 of 33 passes for 228 yards with a touchdown.

      Rudolph, who entered the game as one of the nation's top-rated quarterbacks, finished 22 of 41 for 398 yards with two TDs, but lost a fumble and tossed two interceptions for Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1).

      No. 7 Washington 37, Colorado 10

      BOULDER, Colo. -- Myles Bryant returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown, and Jordan Miller added a pair of interceptions as No. 7 Washington pulled away to beat mistake-prone Colorado in a rematch of last season's Pac-12 title game.

      Myles Gaskin also had 202 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 57-yarder, and Salvon Ahmed scored on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter for the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12). Jake Browning completed 11 of 21 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown for Washington, which beat the Buffaloes (3-1, 0-1) for the eighth straight time.

      Bryant broke the game open when he stepped in front of wide receiver Bryce Bobo and raced down the right sideline untouched for the score late in the third quarter, boosting the Huskies' lead to 24-10.

      No. 8 Michigan 28, Purdue 10

      WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Fifth-year senior quarterback John O'Korn, a transfer from Houston, came off the bench during the first quarter when starter Wilton Speight was injured and led No. 8 Michigan to a come-from-behind victory against Purdue.

      O'Korn, through Michigan's first three games, had completed his one pass attempt for 37 yards. After Speight's head injury with 5:06 left in the opening period, O'Korn led four touchdown drives, completing 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards and one touchdown.

      Chris Evans' 49-yard touchdown run with 6:46 to play -- his second TD of the afternoon -- completed a 21-0 Michigan second-half blitz and helped the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) remain unbeaten. Evans rushed 14 times for 97 yards.

      No. 10 Ohio State 54, UNLV 21

      COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Quarterback J.T. Barrett threw for five touchdown passes as No. 10 Ohio State rolled to a non-conference victory over UNLV.

      Barrett reached five TD passes and completed 12 of 17 passes for 209 yards before giving way to backup Dwayne Haskins, who threw two more touchdown passes. Barrett, a senior, moved past Bobby Hoying into second place in Ohio State career passing yards.

      Haskins finished 15 of 23 for 228 yards as Ohio State (3-1) set a school record with seven different receivers catching a touchdown pass. Thirteen players caught at least one pass and nine had two or more receptions as the Buckeyes piled up 664 total yards. UNLV (1-2) running back Lexington Thomas rushed for two second-half touchdowns, including a 55-yard score.

      No. 11 Georgia 31, No. 17 Mississippi State 3

      ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 11 Georgia scored two second-half touchdowns and to a victory over No. 17 Mississippi State.

      Georgia's defense made the game a nightmare for Mississippi State and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who completed just 14 of 29 passes and with a pair of interceptions for 89 yards as Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) limited Mississippi State (3-1, 1-1) to 280 yards and zero touchdowns. Dan Mullen's squad entered the game as the leading offensive team in the SEC, averaging 47.7 points through its first three contests.

      Individually, Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm enjoyed his best game in three starts, completing 9 of 12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Nick Chubb, meanwhile, enjoyed another customary solid game, rushing for 81 yards and two scores, including a 28-yarder on the opening possession of the third quarter that extended Georgia's lead to 21-3.

      No. 13 Virginia Tech 38, Old Dominion 0

      BLACKSBURG, Va. -- No. 13 Virginia Tech used a dominating defensive performance to dispatch visiting Old Dominion.

      The Hokies (4-0) outgained the Monarchs 583-149 in securing their second shutout in their last three games. ODU (2-2) was held scoreless for the first time since a 49-0 loss to Appalachian State in 2005.

      Despite throwing his first career interception, Hokies freshman quarterback Josh Jackson had another stellar start, passing for 298 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 29 yards. He completed 20 of 30 passes.

      No. 14 Miami 52, Toledo 30

      MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Junior quarterback Malik Rosier passed for a career-high 333 yards -- 189 in a big third quarter -- and junior running back Mark Walton rushed for a career-high 204 yards to lead No. 14 Miami over Toledo.

      Rosier completed 11 of 14 passes in the third quarter, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dayall Harris and a 55-yarder to receiver Braxton Berrios to set up another score, to rally the Hurricanes (2-0) from a 16-10 halftime deficit.

      Rosier hit Berrios with a 19-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter and tight end Christopher Herndon with a 2-yarder on the ensuing series before capping his evening with a 23-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Logan Woodside passed for 342 yards and three touchdowns for the Rockets (3-1), two in the fourth quarter.

      No. 15 Auburn 51, Missouri 14

      COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Running back Kerryon Johnson rushed for five touchdowns -- four in the first half -- and No. 15 Auburn rolled past Missouri.

      Johnson battled a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Auburn's previous two games, but he finished with 48 of Auburn's 263 rushing yards. Auburn (3-1, 1-0 SEC) opened the second half with back-to-back touchdown drives to put Missouri away. Johnson scored on 1-yard plunge and quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Nate Craig-Meyers to put Auburn in command 45-7.

      Stidham completed 13 of 17 passes for 218 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Missouri (1-3, 0-1) lost its third straight game and struggled on both sides of the ball.

      No. 18 Washington State 45, Nevada 7

      PULLMAN, Wash. -- Luke Falk threw for 478 yards and five touchdowns and No. 18 Washington State rolled over Nevada.

      Thirteen players caught a pass for the Cougars (4-0). Falk, who was 36 of 47, was replaced by backup Tyler Hilinski in the fourth quarter after Washington State built a 45-0 lead. Senior running back Jamal Morrow rushed for a game-high 73 yards and also caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown for the Cougars.

      Nevada (0-4) struggled to move the ball. Blake Wright had a team-best 37 yards on five carries and Wyatt Demps caught six passes for 39 yards.

      No. 19 Louisville 42, Kent State 3

      LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Lamar Jackson threw two touchdowns as No. 19 Louisville easily rolled past Kent State.

      The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner opened the game with a 69-yard completion to Jordan Davis. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 299 yards along with a rushing touchdown as Louisville (3-1) scored 21 points in the first quarter.

      Kent State (1-3), which lost starting quarterback Nick Holley to an ACL tear last week, attempted only five passes, completing two for 11 yards. Dustin Crum ran 18 times for 62 yards for the Golden Flashes, who gained just 150 total yards.

      No. 20 Florida 28, Kentucky 27

      LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Luke Del Rio threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide-open wide receiver Freddie Swain with 43 seconds left as No. 20 Florida rallied to beat Kentucky.

      It was the Gators' only lead of the game. Florida defeated the Wildcats for the 31st straight time dating to 1986. Florida (2-1, 2-0 SEC) used 13 plays and chewed up 5:48 seconds in the game-winning drive. Eddy Pineiro's PAT provided the winning margin. Florida, which used two quarterbacks, had 395 total yards of offense.

      The Gators' long drive left Kentucky only 43 seconds to steal the win. Kentucky marched to the Florida 25-yard line, but a holding penalty nullified the play leaving the Wildcats with a desperation field goal attempt of 57 yards. Austin MacGinnis' kick was straight, but fell short. Senior quarterback Stephen Johnson had 196 yards and three touchdowns for Kentucky (3-1, 1-1).

      No. 22 San Diego State 28, Air Force 24

      AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Rashaad Penny's third touchdown turned the tide in No. 22-ranked San Diego State's favor for good, and the Aztecs survived a back-and-forth challenge from Air Force in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

      Penny's 128 yards were a season low for the nation's rushing leader, who came in averaging 196, but his three rushing touchdowns set a career high. The lead changed four times from the late third quarter until Penny's 53-yard scoring rush put San Diego State (4-0, 1-0 MWC) ahead for good in a game that included a 90-minute lightning delay.

      Air Force (1-2, 0-1) had two opportunities to respond, but Arion Worthman's last-ditch pass attempt was intercepted by San Diego State safety Trey Lomax. The Falcons took their second lead of the fourth quarter when Tim McVey hurdled a trio of San Diego State defenders en route to a 12-yard touchdown.

      Arizona State 37, No. 24 Oregon 35

      TEMPE, Ariz. -- Freshman Brandon Ruiz kicked a 41-yard field goal with 2:33 remaining and quarterback Manny Wilkins accounted for three touchdowns as Arizona State upset Oregon.

      Wilkins drove the Sun Devils 57 yards in seven plays to set up Ruiz's field goal, and Arizona State (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) held on. Wilkins passed for 347 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 35 yards and two scores for the Sun Devils' first victory in the series since Oct. 2, 2004 in Eugene, Ore.

      The Ducks' Justin Herbert passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns, but he was stopped on a 4th-and-3 scramble at midfield with 1:10 remaining. Oregon (3-1, 0-1) got the ball back with 46 seconds left but misfired on four pass attempts from their 23.

      No. 25 LSU 35, Syracuse 26

      BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 25 LSU nearly blew an 18-point second-half lead, but wide receiver D.J. Chark raced 20 yards on a jet sweep for a touchdown with 1:52 left to help the Tigers hold off over Syracuse.

      LSU (3-1) was a heavy favorite but had its hands full with Syracuse, which rolled us 265 yards passing in a quick-tempo offense led by quarterback Eric Dungey. Dungey completed 32 of 53 passes for 265 yards and one score, and he ran 22 yards for a touchdown that narrowed the deficit to 28-26 with 5:40 left.

      But after LSU recovered an onside kick, starting quarterback Danny Etling returned to the game and engineered a 56-yard drive to put the game away. Running back Darrel Williams was the key player on the drive, racing 25 yards to the Syracuse 28 against a blitz. Williams finished with 92 yards rushing and 50 yards on three catches.

  • Draft scout: N.C State's Chubb stars, Florida State's James stumbles
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, September 23, 2017

    Led by pro prospects Bradley Chubb and Jaylen Smith, North Carolina State outlasted No. 12 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, winning 27-21 in a contest sure to shake up the polls and potentially NFL scouts' rankings.

    • Chubb, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 1 defensive end for the 2018 draft and top-rated overall senior prospect, only confirmed his ranking with one of the more dominating performances by a defender in a high-profile game this season.

      The 6-foot-3, 275-pound edge rusher recorded two sacks and landed several other heavy hits on FSU true freshman quarterback James Blackman, showing a wicked combination of snap anticipation, initial quickness, refined hand play and a high-revving motor. All that could help him earn a similar grade as former Tennessee Volunteers star Derek Barnett, the 14th overall pick last spring by the Philadelphia Eagles.

      Like Barnett, Chubb is a full-service defensive end, playing just as well against the run as the pass.

      When necessary, he unselfishly took on blockers to create tackle opportunities near the line of scrimmage against Florida State. On back-to-back plays in the red zone late in the second quarter, Chubb showed excellent lateral agility to avoid a would-be blocker to make a tackle. He strung out another play to the sideline for a minimal gain, forcing a field goal attempt -- one of five for the Seminoles, who managed just one touchdown.

      Not to be outdone, his teammate, Samuels -- currently ranked third on NFLDraftScout.com's board at fullback and projected as just a seventh-round pick -- was very nearly as effective on offense, scoring the 37th and 38th touchdowns of his illustrious career while splitting time between wide receiver, tight end and running back.

      The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder hauled in double-digit receptions for the second time this season, catching 12 passes for 64 yards and the deciding touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

      Samuels, who began the season with 15 receptions (for 85 yards and a touchdown) in a loss to South Carolina, also rushed five times (for 11 yards and a score) and even completed a 25-yard pass in Saturday's win, showing off the human Swiss Army knife-like versatility that is sure to intrigue creative offensive coordinators throughout the NFL.

      Possessing a compact frame with good quickness, agility and excellent hand-eye coordination, Samuels proved a mismatch in the passing game, generating space against FSU's notoriously speedy linebackers and fighting through arm tackles by future high draft picks in FSU's secondary to create yardage after the catch.

      While North Carolina State's top NFL prospects shined on the big stage, the Seminoles' most exciting talent -- redshirt sophomore safety Derwin James -- made a notable mistake, allowing Wolfpack wideout Jakobi Myers to shake him in the middle of the field that resulted in the game's biggest play, a 71-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.

      James dropped back on the play, eyeing junior quarterback Ryan Finley, who delivered a strike between Florida State's 6-2, 211-pound safety and the trailing cornerback. With James bearing down him, Myers initially lowered his shoulder and appeared poised to accelerate toward the sideline, causing the defender to get flat-footed in preparation for the hit.

      Instead, Myers deked to his right, racing past a stumbling James and the rest of Florida State's pursuing defense for the long score that gave back North Carolina State the momentum shortly after the Seminoles' only touchdown of the day.

      The raw athleticism that has scouts so intrigued by James showed up a little later, although unfortunately for him and the Seminoles, it did little good in this contest. A penalty erased a third-quarter interception by James, and he also showed off his natural playmaking ability with a 49-yard kick return in the fourth quarter as the Seminoles attempted a late comeback.

      Rob Rang is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a collaboration between The Sports Xchange and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

  • Rashaad Penny runs Aztecs into Top 25
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, September 22, 2017

    SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny racked up 32 carries in a 20-17 victory over Stanford last Saturday, marking a personal high -- not just in college, but high school, as well.

    • Add the five pass receptions Penny made and it is small wonder college football's leader in all-purpose yardage through three games said he needed some additional time in the ice tub.

      "I honestly feel like I didn't do too much," Penny said of his Week 3 performance. "This was more of a team thing, offensively. We played a great game."

      That performance included 175 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards.

      He'll look for more Saturday as the 22nd-ranked Aztecs (3-0) open Mountain West Conference play at Air Force.

      The workload has indeed picked up for Penny early in the 2017 season, as he has taken over for NCAA career rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey. As a secondary option last season, Penny eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing and scored 11 touchdowns, while also handling kickoff return duties.

      Now the Aztecs feature back, Penny leads the nation in rushing yards at 588, has increased his already lofty yards-per-carry average from 7.49 to 8.28, and continues to return kickoffs. His effort against Stanford sealed his place atop the Football Bowl Subdivision as its leading rusher, and earned him Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors.

      "I feel like if we can move the ball like that against Stanford, and break through, we can move the ball against anybody, and that's the confidence we have to start having as a team," Penny said.

      Commensurate with his individual success, Penny is at the forefront of an impressive stretch for San Diego State. The win over Stanford marked the Aztecs' second in as many weeks over Pac-12 Conference competition, with SDSU fresh off a 30-20 victory at Arizona State.

      Penny rushed for 203 yards against the Sun Devils, scoring touchdowns of 95 yards via the run; 33 yards on a reception; and 99 yards on a kickoff return.

      The Power Five wins elevated San Diego State into the AP Poll for the first time in 2017, and second time in as many regular seasons.

      San Diego State coach Rocky Long said the ranking is nice recognition but ultimately meaningless unless it comes at the end of the season. A Mountain West championship, Long said, is the primary focus. San Diego State has won two consecutive titles.

      San Diego State last played Air Force in the 2015 MWC Championship Game, a game in which Penny made a profound but wholly unexpected contribution.

      His 28-yard touchdown run broke a 17-17 fourth-quarter stalemate, and San Diego State held on to win 27-24.

      "I wasn't supposed to be in the game," Penny said. "They called the wrong personnel."

      Even when he isn't meant to be on the field, Penny still delivers.

  • CFB notebook: Nebraska fires AD Eichorst
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 21, 2017

    Nebraska fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, five days after the football program's embarrassing home loss to Northern Illinois.

    • Eichorst has been under heavy criticism for many things, including the hiring of third-year coach Mike Riley, who is just 16-13 after the 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois.

      Eichorst, who was nearing five years on the job, is owed $1.7 million on a contract that runs through June 2019. Nebraska plans an immediate search to identify a new athletic director. Riley said he was saddened by the firing. Meanwhile, Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green asserted that the firing of Eichorst has nothing to do with Riley's status.

      "Mike Riley is our football coach. We expect him to compete," Green said. "This is not about Mike Riley. We expect him to compete. We expect our players to compete in baseball and volleyball and you name the sport."

      --Clemson kicker Greg Huegel is done for the season after suffering a torn ACL at the end of Wednesday night's practice.

      Huegel was injured when a defensive player rolled into him while he was attempting a kick, the school announced.

      Huegel, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last season, is 43 of 55 on field goals in his career, including 2 of 4 this season. He booted a career-long 49-yarder in last week's win over Louisville.

      The second-ranked Tigers (3-0) will host Boston College on Saturday. Huegel will be replaced by junior backup Alex Spence.

      --LSU running back Derrius Guice has been ruled out of Saturday's game against Syracuse, coach Ed Orgeron said on his radio show.

      Per The Advocate of Baton Rouge, Orgeron said that Guice "will not play this week, but he is getting better."

      Guice exited Saturday's 37-7 loss to Mississippi State with what Oregeron told reporters earlier in the week was a "minor injury." Oregeron did not disclose the nature of the injury, however.

      The SEC's leading rusher last season, Guice has rushed for 300 yards on 57 carries (5.3-yard average) with four touchdowns. He has yet to break off the long rushes that were his signature last season.

      .

  • Clemson K Huegel suffers season-ending ACL injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 21, 2017

    Clemson kicker Greg Huegel is done for the season after suffering a torn ACL at the end of Wednesday night's practice.

    • Huegel was injured when a defensive player rolled into him while he was attempting a kick, the school announced Thursday.

      "It was a freak accident on the last play of practice on Wednesday," head coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement, per the Post and Courier of Charleston (S.C.)."We were in the two-minute drill, which we do at the end of every Wednesday practice. A defensive player rolled into him after his kick. He walked off the practice field and we hoped it was just a strain or a bruise, but the tests revealed a torn ACL."

      Huegel, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last season, is 43 of 55 on field goals in his career, including 2 of 4 this season. He booted a career-long 49-yarder in last week's win over Louisville.

      The second-ranked Tigers (3-0) will host Boston College on Saturday. Huegel will be replaced by junior backup Alex Spence.

      "It is a big loss, we are talking about a two-time all-conference kicker. But, I have confidence in our kickers," Swinney said. "Alex Spence will move up. He is in his fourth year with our program and has shown great improvement this year. He really had a good August camp."

  • Nebraska fires AD Eichorst after loss to No. Illinois
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 21, 2017

    Nebraska fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst on Thursday, five days after the football program's embarrassing home loss to Northern Illinois.

    • Eichorst has been under heavy criticism for many things, including the hiring of third-year coach Mike Riley, who is just 16-13 after the 21-17 loss to Northern Illinois.

      Eichorst, who was nearing five years on the job, is owed $1.7 million on a contract that runs through June 2019.

      "Shawn has led Nebraska Athletics in many positive ways, but those efforts have not translated into on-field performance," Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green said. "Our fans and our student-athletes deserve leadership that drives the highest levels of competitiveness, as well as excellence across all facets of Husker Athletics."

      Nebraska plans an immediate search to identify a new athletic director.

      Eichorst wasn't happy to see his tenure end.

      "While I am deeply disappointed in the decision today, I am grateful for the wonderful years that my family and I have spent at Nebraska," Eichorst said in a statement. "I am proud of how our student-athletes, coaches and staff represented this great university and state, and I am confident that the future is bright for Nebraska Athletics."

      Riley said he was saddened by the firing. He said he briefly spoke with Eichorst and let him know he was sorry about the day's events.

      "I'm just thankful he brought me here," Riley said after Thursday's practice. "He's the one who stepped out and gave us a job here as a staff. We're at a great place and thankful to be here."

      Eichorst hired Riley away from Oregon State, but the football program has not flourished during his tenure.

      "I know I'm really confident in what we're doing and the people that we have and how this thing is being run in the football office," Riley said. "I really, really feel good about that. I understand expectation and performance so far, too. So I get all that."

      Eichorst was recommended for a one-year contract extension in August by Green but Nebraska president Hank Bounds refused to sign off on it and indicated he would revisit the situation in December.

      Riley's contract was extended through 2020 last week despite his lackluster record at the school.

      But now the athletic director who hired him is gone and Riley will need to oversee a sharp turnaround.

      However, Green asserted that the firing of Eichorst has nothing to do with Riley's status.

      "Mike Riley is our football coach. We expect him to compete," Green said. "This is not about Mike Riley. We expect him to compete. We expect our players to compete in baseball and volleyball and you name the sport."

      The decision to fire Eichorst seemingly assures that.

      "Winning can and often does happen in concert with well-run, quality college programs that work to ensure the success of the student," Green said. "That's our expectation. We take pride here in doing things right and doing the right thing, and that won't change. This is not an either-or equation. We can and should win in that kind of environment."

      Nebraska (1-2) opens Big Ten play at home on Saturday against Rutgers. Riley said his focus is on figuring out how to get a victory.

      "This is supposed to be fun," Riley said. "I want to get them ready to play. And it's only fun, I've found, when you win, so we're trying every way to just do that."

      Eichorst was athletic director at Miami before taking the Nebraska job in October 2012.

  • LSU's Orgeron: RB Guice will play after all
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 21, 2017

    One day after ruling Derrius Guice out of the Saturday game against Syracuse, LSU coach Ed Orgeron reversed his field and said the star running back would play.

    • Guice was back at practice Thursday and received clearance to play Saturday against the visiting Orange.

      "(Guice) came to us today, said, 'Coach, I'm feeling better. I want to practice,'" Orgeron said. "He practiced pretty good today. He's going to get some snaps. He will play."

      Although Guice will start against Syracuse, Orgeron said he would be restricted to a "limited role."

      On his radio show Wednesday night, Orgeron said Guice would not play Saturday. Guice exited the Tigers' 37-7 loss to Mississippi State last week with what Orgeron told reporters earlier in the week was a "minor injury."

      The SEC's leading rusher last season, Guice has rushed for 300 yards on 57 carries (5.3-yard average) with four touchdowns. He has yet to break off the long rushes that were his signature last season, however.

      Darrel Williams likely will season plenty of action Saturday for 25th-ranked LSU (2-1). He has 28 rushes for 159 yards and four touchdowns this season.

      Orgeron also said defensive end Rashard Lawrence (ankle) would see limited action against Syracuse.

  • Scout's Eye, Week 4: CFB handbook for NFL fans
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 21, 2017

    Concerned about that 0-2 NFL team? Here is your key to window shopping during some of this week's college football games.

    • Here are the NFL draft prospects to watch in the biggest games this weekend. This is a weekly feature in Draft Slant, distributed by NFLDraftScout.com.

      The games, players to watch:

      Mississippi State (3-0) at Georgia (3-0)

      Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, (ESPN)

      Sanford Stadium (Athens, Ga.)

      These SEC programs haven't met since 2011, but the winner of this contest will be deservedly viewed as the No. 2 team in the conference, behind Alabama. Mississippi State is coming off a dominant win over LSU in Starkville, and a road win in Athens will help ignite the hype machine for Nov. 11 when MSU welcomes the Crimson Tide to Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State held LSU's Derrius Guice to 76 yards rushing and the front seven will need another impressive performance to limit Georgia's talented running back duo.

      Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State, rJR. (6-4, 227, 4.68, #7)

      With 12 touchdowns through three games, Fitzgerald, who grew up a Georgia fan, has been impressive through the first quarter of the regular season. His capabilities as a mobile quarterback due to his size/speed combination were expected, but Fitzgerald has steadily progressed as a passer since he became the starter and is currently completing 61.4 percent of his passes (43-for-70). While his ball placement and zip have stood out, Fitzgerald's decision-making and timing have been the difference, working through his progressions and reading the defense to understand where to throw the ball or tuck and run. Georgia ranks 16th in the FBS in total defense, allowing only 266.0 yards to opponents.

      --RB Sony Michel, Georgia, SR. (5-11, 212, 4.56, #1)

      Senior RB Nick Chubb (5-10, 228, 4.54, #27) is atop Georgia's running back depth chart, currently leading the team in rushing with 290 yards, 6.6 yards per carry average and four touchdowns. But Michel is just as important to the Bulldogs' offense because of the explosive skill-set he offers, challenging the defense in ways that Chubb doesn't. Michel, who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and 80.0 yards per game, runs with excellent quickness in his cuts, quickly scanning and finishing with deceiving run strength. He doesn't have the build of Chubb, but Michel has been impressive in pass pro, using leverage and courage to take out blitzers. Michel missed last week (ankle), but is expected to play vs. MSU.

      --LT Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State, rSR. (6-5, 304, 5.17, #55)

      One of the keys to this game will be the battle between Georgia's front seven and the Mississippi State offensive line. UGA has a handful of future pros rushing the passer on every snap, but the Starkville Bulldogs have talent in the trenches, starting with Rankin at left tackle. He delivers pop at the point of attack and uses his strong hands to latch-and-control defenders in the run game. The biggest test will be in pass protection where he shows the necessary balance and alert instincts for the next level, but does he have the lateral range to cut off and mirror Georgia's edge speed? He held up well against LSU's pass rush last week and another strong week will have his draft arrow pointing north.

      --DE/OLB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia, SR. (6-5, 242, 4.79, #7)

      Similar to Georgia's rush attack on offense, the Bulldogs have a pair of talented rushers on defense with Carter and redshirt senior DE/OLB Davin Bellamy (6-4, 242, 4.79, #17). Two weeks ago, Notre Dame had few answers for Carter, who finished with seven tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles, recovering both. He has the flexible athleticism and edge speed that NFL teams covet in pass rusher prospects, also using his length to maintain leverage and stay free from blockers. Carter lacks ideal functional strength and doesn't get much push when nose-to-nose with blockers, but he shows various jab techniques to get blockers off balance, while also tracking the backfield action to follow the football.

      --LB Roquan Smith, Georgia, JR. (6-0, 224, 4.64, #3)

      Notre Dame's mobile quarterback Brandon Wimbush is averaging 6.4 yards per carry this season, but managed only 1 yard on 16 carries against Georgia -- and Smith was the main reason. The Bulldogs' leading tackler is a tick undersized, but he has sideline-to-sideline speed and closes in the blink of an eye. Smith is quick to key and diagnose, putting himself in position to attack and breaking down well on the move to wrap and finish in space. Mississippi State uses the run to set up the pass and Smith will be tasked with not only mirroring Fitzgerald, but also limit the big plays by junior RB Aeris Williams (6-0, 215, 4.59, #27), who is averaging 112.0 yards per game and 7.0 yards per rush through three games.

      Other Mississippi State prospects to watch: WR Donald Gray, SR. (5-9, 193, 4.58, #6); TE Jordan Thomas, SR. (6-4, 281, 4.88, #83); MLB Dezmond Harris, rSR. (6-3, 239, 4.80, #11); LB Gerri Green, rJR. (6-3, 243, 4.70, #4); CB Tolando Cleveland, rSR. (5-10, 190, 4.56, #7); DS Brandon Bryant, rJR. (5-11, 205, 4.54, #1).

      Other Georgia prospects to watch: DE Jonathan Ledbetter, JR. (6-3, 251, 4.76, #13); NT John Atkins, rSR. (6-3, 300, 5.29, #97); DL Trenton Thompson, JR. (6-3, 307, 5.02, #78); TE Jeb Blazevich, SR. (6-5, 248, 4.73, #83); WR Javon Wims, SR. (6-3, 218, 4.59, #6); WR Terry Godwin, JR. (5-11, 175, 4.42, #5)

      OTHER KEY MATCHUPS

      Virginia (2-1) at Boise State (2-1)

      Friday, 8 p.m. ET at Albertsons Stadium (Boise, Idaho), ESPN2

      Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --LB Micah Kiser, Virginia, rSR. (6-1, 240, 4.76, #53): The team leader in tackles (36) and sacks (5.0), Kiser is a plus run defender, trusting his backfield vision and playing physical to the hole. He uses quick feet and aggressive hands to work off blocks, which also comes in handy as a blitzer, getting skinny to squeeze through gaps. Kiser is out-matched at times in coverage, but there is a lot for NFL teams to like vs. the run.

      --WR Cedrick Wilson, Boise State, SR. (6-2, 183, 4.49, #1): Easily the top NFL prospect on Boise's offense, Wilson is an explosive weapon with the vertical skills to stretch a defense and the foot quickness to break off routes and separate. He isn't physically impressive, with minimal muscle definition and run power, but his tape shows soft hands with steady focus to make tough grabs, quickly becoming a ball-carrier to create.

      --DL Andrew Brown, Virginia, SR. (6-4, 280, 4.93, #9): Lining up mostly as a three-technique over the B-gap, Brown has flashed improvement in key areas from last season, living up to the potential that made him a top recruit. He is a violent player with impressive blend of size, strength and athleticism, although his lack of discipline will get him in trouble -- like last week when he committed a targeting penalty and was ejected.

      --Other Virginia prospects to watch: QB Kurt Benkert, rSR. (6-3, 225, 4.92, #6); SS Quin Blanding, SR. (5-11, 215, 4.58, #3); CB Juan Thornhill, JR. (6-0, 195, 4.53, #1); WR Doni Dowling, SR. (6-1, 215, 4.53, #5); LT Jack English, rSR. (6-5, 300, 5.12, #67); SLB Malcolm Cook, rSR. (6-1, 205, 4.64, #17).

      Other Boise State prospects to watch: LT Archie Lewis, rSR. (6-3, 300, 5.32, #74); RB Ryan Wolpin, rSR. (5-7, 197, 4.63, #21); TE Jake Roh, rSR. (6-3, 237, 4.77, #88); OC Mason Hampton, rSR. (6-2, 296, 5.43, #59); LB Leighton Vander Esch, rJR. (6-3, 243, 4.80, #38)

      UCLA (2-1) at Stanford (1-2)

      Saturday, 10 p.m. ET at Stanford Stadium (Stanford, Calif.), ESPN

      Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --QB Josh Rosen, UCLA, JR. (6-3, 220, 4.97, #3): Rosen is an intelligent quarterback with immense arm talent and smooth mechanics, but he is also prone to several mistakes throughout the course of four quarters. Against Texas A&M, Rosen got away with some of those mistakes, but not against Memphis, including a costly interception late in the fourth quarter. Sam Darnold carved up Stanford's defense -- can Rosen do the same?

      --RB Bryce Love, Stanford, JR. (5-9, 191, 4.43, #20): Stanford has struggled through the air so far in 2017, but there has been nothing wrong with the run game. Love enters the weekend No. 2 in the FBS with 174.7 rushing yards per game, using his foot quickness and elusive traits to create chunk plays (12.2 yards per carry). The UCLA defense ranks 122nd in the FBS defending the run, allowing 275.0 rush yards per game.

      --DL Harrison Phillips, Stanford, rJR. (6-4, 290, 4.96, #66): The early departure of Solomon Thomas left a void on the Cardinal defensive line, but the early season productive of Phillips, who leads the team with 27 tackles, has been impressive. Phillips, who is a team captain and high class individual off the field, has a unique blend of power, athleticism and instincts, allowing him to two-gap and play multiple positions.

      Other UCLA prospects to watch: TE Caleb Wilson, rSO. (6-4, 241, 4.76, #81); OC Scott Quessenberry, rSR. (6-3, 315, 5.36, #52); MLB Kenny Young, SR. (6-1, 235, 4.78, #42); WR Darren Andrews, rSR. (5-10, 185, 4.49, #7); DL Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, SR. (6-2, 275, 4.88, #91); SS Adarius Pickett, rJR. (5-11, 190, 4.52, #6)

      Other Stanford prospects to watch: WR Trenton Irwin, JR. (6-1, 202, 4.47, #2); LT David Bright, rSR. (6-5, 301, 5.23, #64); DE/OLB Peter Kalambayi, rSR. (6-2, 245, 4.78, #34); LB Kevin Palma, rSR. (6-2, 250, 4.89, #44); CB Quenton Meeks, JR. (6-1, 204, 4.64, #24); CB Alijah Holder, rJR. (6-1, 185, 4.56, #13)

      N.C. State (2-1) at Florida State (1-0)

      Saturday, noon ET at Doak S. Campbell Stadium (Tallahassee, Fla.), ABC

      Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State, SR. (6-2, 250, 4.76, #7): Ranked second in the ACC in tackles for loss (5.5) this season, Chubb has the physical characteristics of a NFL defensive end with long strides to run the arc and the length to attack blockers before they can counter. He comes off the ball high at times and ends up too far upfield, but Chubb, who is a two-year captain, won't give anything less than his full effort.

      --FB/TE Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State, SR. (5-11, 223, 4.79, #28): A jack-off-all-trades offensive weapon, Samuels averages 4.8 yards per rush (8/38/3), leads the team in receiving (26/220/2) and does an admirable job as a lead blocker, lining up all over the formation. He offers a unique mix of balance, power and quickness and scouts are excited to see him match up with redshirt sophomore SS Derwin James (6-2, 211, 4.52, #3).

      --LB Matthew Thomas, Florida State, rSR. (6-2, 227, 4.67, #6): The Seminoles' leading tackler against Alabama, Thomas is a fierce tackler and arrives with pop, using active hands to stay clean from blocks. Although he shows some stiffness when asked to change directions, Thomas has the straight-line speed to close in pursuit and play both sidelines. He received mostly mid-round grades from scouts over the summer.

      Other N.C. State prospects to watch: DT Justin Jones, SR. (6-2, 300, 5.14, #27); DT B.J. Hill, SR. (6-3, 300, 4.94, #98); DL Kentavius Street, SR. (6-2, 290, 4.96, #35); RG Tony Adams, SR. (6-1, 315, 5.32, #50); QB Ryan Finley, rJR. (6-3, 205, 4.80, #15); WR Nyheim Hines, JR. (5-8, 197, 4.50, #7)

      Other Florida State prospects to watch: CB Tarvarus McFadden, JR. (6-1, 198, 4.49, #4); WR Auden Tate, JR. (6-4, 228, 4.56, #18); DE/OLB Josh Sweat, JR. (6-4, 250, 4.76, #9); DT Derrick Nnadi, SR. (6-0, 312, 5.17, #91); TE Ryan Izzo, rJR. (6-4, 245, 4.88, #81); DT Demarcus Christmas, rJR. (6-3, 290, 5.08, #90)

      Alabama (3-0) at Vanderbilt (3-0)

      Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET at Vanderbilt Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.), CBS

      Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --RB Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt, rSR. (5-9, 202, 4.50, #7): Vandy is off to a 3-0 start despite Webb, the program's all-time leading rusher, struggling in the first three games with only 149 yards on 58 carries (2.6 average). Webb has never been a home run hitter, with only average speed and elusive traits, but he is built low to the ground and is fearless attacking the teeth of a defense -- an important trait vs. an Alabama front seven.

      --DE/OLB Charles Wright, Vanderbilt, rJR. (6-2, 241, 4.69, #11): A first-year starter, Wright is the only player from a Power Five conference with at least six sacks on the young season, also leading the SEC with seven tackles for loss. He has recorded a sack in each of the Commodores' first three games but will have a tougher time going against Alabama's offensive line, which has only allowed three sacks in 2017.

      --WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama, JR. (6-1, 190, 4.50, #3): With 15 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns, Ridley is the clear No. 1 weapon for the Tide in the passing game and a quarterback's best friend as he always works to get open and can do damage at every level of the field. He shows loose body control at the catch point and finds his top speed quickly, sustaining that pace to run away from pursuit.

      --Other Alabama prospects to watch: CB/FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, JR. (6-0, 201, 4.52, #29); NG Da'Ron Payne, JR. (6-2, 308, 5.38, #94); LB Rashaan Evans, SR. (6-2, 234, 4.73, #32); LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, SR. (6-0, 233, 4.79, #20); CB Anthony Averett, rSR. (6-0, 185, 4.49, #28); RB Damien Harris, JR. (5-10, 216, 4.55, #34).

      Other Vanderbilt prospects to watch: QB Kyle Shurmur, JR. (6-3, 223, 4.79, #14); DT Nifae Lealao, SR. (6-5, 317, 5.17, #77); CB Oren Burks, rSR. (6-2, 225, 4.64, #20); CB Tre Herndon, SR. (6-0, 188, 4.49, #31); TE Jared Pinkney, rSO. (6-4, 250, 4.78, #80); WR Trent Sherfield, SR. (6-1, 199, 4.54, #10)

      TCU (3-0) at Oklahoma State (3-0)

      Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET at Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, Okla.), ESPN

      Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, SR. (6-4, 230, 4.83, #2): The numbers look silly for Rudolph with 72.3 percent completions (68-for-94) for 1,135 yards, 11 touchdowns and only one interception, but TCU will provide the toughest test he'll face so far in 2017. As a prospect, he has improved in some key areas, but the Cowboys' quarterback-friendly offense helps hide some of his issues, which is why he isn't considered a first-rounder.

      --WR James Washington, Oklahoma State, SR. (6-0, 205, 4.50, #28): Rudolph has several weapons at his disposal (four OSU receivers had 100-plus yards receiving last week at Pitt), but Washington is clearly the lead singer in the band. He has only average size, but is one of the best finishers at the catch point in any level of football. Washington also flashes his physicality after the catch, using body strength to run through tackles.

      --LT Joseph Notebloom, TCU, rSR. (6-5, 318, 4.98, #68): For several scouts, Noteboom was the highest-rated senior prospect for the Horned Frogs over the summer and that has held true through three games. He stays wide in his stance to keep rushers in front of him, using his strong, persistent upper body to control defenders. While he should stay at tackle in the NFL, some think he is better suited inside at guard.

      Penn State (3-0) at Iowa (3-0)

      Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET at Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City, Iowa), ABC

      Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:

      --RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State, JR. (5-11, 223, 4.49, #26): The top back for the 2018 NFL Draft, Barkley is also making a strong run at the Heisman Trophy with his early season play, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Barkley has also been a playmaker as a receiver, leading the Nittany Lions with 241 receiving yards and 21.9 yards per reception. Iowa redshirt senior MLB Josey Jewell (6-1, 236, 4.78, #43) will have his hands full.

      --CB Joshua Jackson, Iowa, rJR. (6-0, 193, 4.48, #15): Despite being a first-year starter, Jackson quickly introduced himself to NFL scouts with impressive play over the first three games, ranking No. 1 in FBS with eight passes defended. He does a great job staying in phase with receivers and shows the coverage awareness to find the football and put himself in position to make a play at the catch point.

      --WR/TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State, SR. (6-5, 252, 4.85, #88): Although he lacks a prototypical build for the position with lean limbs, Gesicki is a new breed tight end, creating mismatches with his height/length, athleticism and ball skills. With his large catch radius, it is near impossible to truly cover him. OC Joe Moorehead relies on various run-pass option plays with Barkley and Gesicki -- the two foundations of the offense.

      Other Penn State prospects to watch: QB Trace McSorley, rJR. (6-0, 201, 4.64, #9); WR DaeSean Hamilton, rSR. (6-1, 211, 4.58, #5); MLB Jason Cabinda, SR. (6-1, 232, 4.87, #40); FS Marcus Allen, SR. (6-1, 202, 4.55, #2); CB Grant Haley, SR. (5-9, 185, 4.50, #15); WR Saeed Blacknall, SR. (6-2, 212, 4.62, #5)

      Other Iowa prospects to watch: RB Akrum Wadley, rSR. (5-10, 191, 4.54, #25); RT/RG Sean Welsh, rSR. (6-3, 290, 5.10, #79); OC James Daniels, JR. (6-4, 295, 5.24, #78); LB Ben Niemann, SR. (6-2, 230, 4.74, #44); DS Miles Taylor, SR. (6-0, 205, 4.59, #19); DT Nathan Bazata, rSR. (6-2, 285, 4.93, #99)

      --Dane Brugler is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.

  • Stock Report: Scouts excited over progress of Mississippi State QB Fitzgerald
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, September 21, 2017

    A look at NFL prospects who helped and may have hurt themselves this past weekend:

    • Who helped themselves?

      Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State, rJR. (6-4, 227, 4.68, #7)

      Replacing arguably the best player in program history is an unenviable task, but Fitzgerald has embraced that challenge. Last season as a redshirt sophomore, he did an admirable job as a first-year starter in the SEC, posting 37 total touchdowns (21 passing, 16 rushing). Known as a better runner than passer, Fitzgerald's best plays were generated with his legs, which was reflected in the stat sheet with only 54.3-percent completions. However, he showed steady improvement through the air over the second half of last season and that positive progression has carried over to this season. Against LSU on Saturday night, Fitzgerald completed 65.2 percent of his throws and scored four touchdowns, two on the ground and two through the air as the Bulldogs dominated the Tigers, 37-7. His inconsistent mechanics will alter his accuracy, but he makes whole-field reads and delivers with placement. Although he is still far from a finish product, Fitzgerald's decision-making and awareness have improved by leaps and bounds -- and that development along with his physical traits are why NFL scouts are excited about his trajectory.

      Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis, rSR. (5-11, 190, 4.53, #3)

      Isaac Bruce was the only receiver in Memphis history to post a 1,000-plus receiving yard season -- until Miller set the school single-season records for receptions (95), receiving yards (1,434) and touchdown catches (14) last year. He was at his best on Saturday, helping Memphis upset UCLA with nine catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Lining up in the slot and outside, Miller has galloping play speed and uses his initial quickness and route acceleration to separate from defenders. A former walk-on, he has only average size/strength, but he does a great job leveraging his body at the catch point and the ball sticks his hands at contact. Factor in that his coaches rave about his work ethic and drive, and it's even easier to see why Miller is one of the top senior wide receiver prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.

      Poona Ford, DT, Texas, SR. (5-11, 303, 5.09, #95)

      A substantial reason why Texas almost pulled the upset over USC on Saturday night was the play of the defense, specifically Ford up front. The senior captain nose guard consistently created issues at the line of scrimmage due to his initial quickness, motor and finishing skills. Ford might need his tip-toes to reach 6-foot, but he does a great job using his natural leverage to get underneath blocks and attack gaps with balance, burst and unrelenting effort. His instincts also frequently show up, recognizing the play call and putting himself in position to make plays or unselfishly allowing his teammates to get there. There aren't many effective NFL players 300-plus pounds and sub-6-foot, but there is a place at the next level for a player with Ford's skill-set.

      Kurt Benkert, QB, Virginia, rSR. (6-3, 225, 4.92, #6)

      Although he hasn't been fully tested on the young season, Benkert is a quarterback prospect who has everything clicking right now. Against Connecticut on Saturday, the senior completed 75 percent of his passes (30-for-40) for 455 yards and three touchdowns as he looked in rhythm for all four quarters. He spread the wealth with spot-on placement, velocity and timing, carrying himself with obvious confidence. He can be a stubborn passer at times, staring down his initial read, but his athleticism also allows him to get second chances, avoiding the pressure. Benkert and Virginia travel to Boise this Friday for a battle on the blue turf that will gives scouts a better look at Benkert and his next-level potential.

      Who hurt themselves?

      Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, rJR. (6-4, 233, 4.76, #17)

      Allen entered this season with immense hype as a potential top-10 NFL Draft pick and with Iowa and Oregon on the schedule in the first three weeks, NFL scouts were eager to see his development. After a poor performance in Iowa City in the opener, Allen had a chance at redemption against the Ducks on Saturday, but it was another disappointing outing as he managed only 37.5 percent completions (9-for-24), for 64 yards, one rushing touchdown and one interception. From a physical standpoint, Allen is elite with the size, arm strength and athleticism that belongs in the NFL. However, he has shown little development with several critical factors of the position, including poise, touch and overall mental awareness. Allen did lose several key weapons from last season, including Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt and Jacob Hollister, who accounted for 70 percent of his completions last year. Turnover happens in college football and ideally scouts want to see a quarterback adapt, but for a player like Allen, who is so young in quarterback years, it could also possibly stunt his development. The toughest question for NFL scouts moving forward will be to assess the draft value of a player with Allen's immense potential but also lack of development.

      Other notes:

      --Aside from the loss, Texas suffered another tough blow with the injury to junior left tackle Connor Williams (6-5, 320, 5.31, #55). He suffered a sprained MCL and PCL in his left knee and also a meniscus tear that requires arthroscopic surgery this week, putting Williams on the shelf for the foreseeable future. An All-American last season, he entered the year as a possible first-round pick, but Williams struggled against Maryland in the opener and now this injury clouds his immediate football future.

      --One of the best playmakers in the SEC, South Carolina redshirt junior WR Deebo Samuel (5-11, 208, 4.50, #1) was off to a great start to the season with six total touchdowns -- three receiving, two returns and one rushing. Unfortunately, his 2017 season is apparently over after breaking his left leg in the third quarter Saturday night against Kentucky.

      --In Week 2, Washington senior WR Dante Pettis (6-0, 192, 4.49, #8) broke DeSean Jackson's Pac-12 record with his seventh career punt return for a touchdown. This past Saturday against Fresno State, he returned a punt 77 yards for a score -- his eighth career punt return touchdown, which ties the NCAA record. Why do teams continue to punt to him?

      --Dane Brugler is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a collaboration between The Sports Xchange and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

  • Division II player dies from in-game injury
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 20, 2017

    Midwestern State football player Robert Grays died following injuries while making a tackle in last weekend's game, the university announced Wednesday. He was 19.

    • Robert Grays, a sophomore cornerback from the Houston area, suffered a neck injury late in the fourth quarter in the Mustangs' 35-13 Division II home win over Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday in Wichita Falls, Texas.

      Midwestern State athletics department spokesman Trey Reed told ESPN that Grays was hospitalized in Wichita Falls on Saturday night and then flown to a hospital in Houston, where he died Tuesday.

      "Today we mourn the loss of one of our own," Midwestern State president Suzanne Shipley said in a statement released by the school on Wednesday morning. "Robert Grays died yesterday from critical injuries suffered in Saturday's game. I know you will join me in expressing the sincerest condolences of the MSU community to Robert's family and friends. Please keep them in your thoughts in the coming days.

      "Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile. He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches, and teammates."

      Grays played at Fort Bend L.V. Hightower High School in Missouri City, Texas, before enrolling at Midwestern State, which was ranked 12th in the latest Division II poll. He played in all 11 games as a freshman in 2016.

      "He is a guy you'll love to be around, and as I walked up here, I want to make sure this is a support for him and his family," Midwestern State coach Bill Maskill said.

      Grays was taken off the field in an ambulance after the injury.

      "He's made this tackle hundreds of times, but it was just one of those situations that landed wrong," Midwestern State interim athletic director Kyle Williams told the school paper.

      Grays was the second college football player to die this week.

      College of Wooster senior offensive lineman Clayton Geib died Sunday, a day after the school said he was "complaining that he did not feel well" following the Division III school's 38-20 victory over Ohio Wesleyan in Wooster, Ohio. He was 21.

      "Clayton was a wonderful student and member of the College of Wooster community, and beloved by many," Wooster president Sarah R. Bolton said. "Our hearts are breaking, and all our prayers and thoughts are with Clayton's family, teammates, and friends."

  • Big Board: Clemson defenders on the rise
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 20, 2017

    Deshaun Watson and an extraordinary group of draft-eligible skill position talent earned the spotlight last season for the national champion Clemson Tigers.

    • Quarterback Kelly Bryant is making his own waves but if the Tigers return to their third consecutive title game, it will be difference-makers along the line of line of scrimmage -- third-year stars Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Mitch Hyatt -- leading the way.

      Updated weekly in preparation for the 2018 NFL draft, these are the top 32 NFL prospects (potentially eligible) in college football.

      1. Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal, 6-3, 225, 4.74, Redshirt Sophomore

      The calm, clutch play Darnold showed in USC's double-overtime win over Texas is precisely why he entered the year as my top-rated prospect and has only strengthened his position since. Critics will quibble with the slight wind-up in Darnold's throwing motion or point out his admittedly disappointing touchdown to interception ratio (7:6 through three games), something I attribute more to the new supporting cast around him this season. Darnold is the cleanest quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and the strong favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick whenever he makes himself eligible.

      2. Derwin James, SS, Florida State, 6-2, 211, 4.52, rSoph

      James and the Seminoles will play only their second game of the season in Week Four, visiting North Carolina State after Hurricane Irma postponed a showdown with rival Miami. He is coming off of a solid, if unspectacular start in the season-opener against Alabama, recording six tackles, including one for loss in the 24-7 defeat. Projecting James this high is a risk, as he missed all but the first two games of last season with a torn meniscus. However, he looked like a future NFL superstar as a freshman, standing out on a 2015 squad loaded with NFL prospects. He is a moveable chess piece with big plays on tape while playing defensive back, linebacker and edge rusher, projecting best as a hybrid safety/linebacker role in the NFL.

      3. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State, 5-11, 223, 4.49, Jr

      Given the number of quality running backs drafted into the NFL a year ago, it may surprise some that the most gifted runner in the country – Barkley – returned to the college game this fall. Bigger than either Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook, more dynamic in the open field than Leonard Fournette and without the off-field concerns which dogged Joe Mixon, Barkley is a rare bell-cow running back worthy of top five consideration. His matchup against Josey Jewell and a proud Iowa defense in Week Four is must-see scouting.

      4. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, 6-3, 220, 4.97, Junior

      Past injuries and an outspoken personality may scare off some but no one in this class spins the ball better than Rosen, a trio of reasons why the junior reminds me a bit of a young Jay Cutler. The comparison held true in Week Three with Rosen alternately dazzling (four touchdowns and 463 yards passing) and disappointing (two INTs, including a pick-six) in a loss at Memphis.

      5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS/CB, Alabama, 6-0, 201, 4.52, Jr

      Looking for the next top 10 NFL draft pick for Alabama? Focus on Fitzpatrick, who while bouncing back and forth between starting at cornerback and safety over the past two seasons for the Tide has already set the school record with four touchdowns scored off of interceptions. Fitzpatrick is athletic enough to handle corner duties in the NFL but his build, instincts and physical, reliable tackling project even better to safety.

      6. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, 5-11, 212, 4.52, Jr

      Guice is not the freakish combination of size and speed that his predecessor Leonard Fournette is but he may prove an even more effective all-around back, a theory supported by the fact that he led the SEC with 1,387 rushing yards (averaging 7.6 yards per carry!) and 15 touchdowns despite splitting carries. Guice has a squatty, powerful frame as well as excellent balance and a determined running style which help him consistently bounce off would-be tacklers, recording 224 yards and four touchdowns over the first two games of the season.

      7. Arden Key, DE, LSU, 6-5, 238, 4.74, Jr

      After offseason shoulder surgery, Key made his much-anticipated season debut in Week Three against Mississippi State. The results were far from what he and the Tigers hoped with the edge rusher recording just three tackles (including half a sack) as the Bulldogs dominated the line of scrimmage and the scoreboard, alike, winning 37-7. Key, is not yet as polished as some of the other top edge rushers in this class but he offers an ideal combination of length and speed off the corner and is noticeably bigger this year with room to grow. Similar in many ways to LSU predecessor Danielle Hunter (who had 12.5 sacks for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016), with some refined technique Key could be even more effective in the pass-happy NFL than in the SEC; a scary thought considering that he recorded 14.5 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks a year ago.

      8. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, 6-3, 310, 5.04, Jr

      From his off-beat personality to his versatility along the defensive line, Wilkins is one of the more intriguing prospects in this class. He earned All-American honors at defensive tackle as a true freshman, recording an eye-popping 84 tackles before moving out to defensive end last season and boosting his big plays, registering 13 tackles for loss (among 56 total stops) and setting a new school record among defensive linemen with 10 passes broken up. A natural penetrator with terrific first-step quickness, Wilkins projects best inside as a three-technique at the next level.

      9. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M, 5-11, 200, 4.39, Jr

      With three receivers earning top 10 picks a year ago, the NFL's thirst for playmakers has never been more obvious and Kirk is this year's most dynamic pass-catcher. Kirk possesses the squatty frame of a running back, using terrific lateral agility, balance and pure speed to be a threat to score any time he touches the ball as a receiver or returner.

      10. Vita Vea, DT, Washington, 6-4, 344, 5.34, rJr

      In terms of raw ability, Vea competes with only Houston true sophomore Ed Oliver as the most exciting defensive line prospect in the country. As his size suggests, Vea can dominate as a run-stuffer. He is also incredibly athletic for a man of his size, surprising opponents with his initial burst and speed in pursuit.

      11. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, 6-1, 190, 4.50, Jr

      Expectations were huge for Ridley last season after breaking Julio Jones' school record for most receptions and receiving yards as a true freshman (89 for 1,045). A stacked roster and the development of young Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts resulted in less production (72 for 769 yards) for Ridley last season but his polished routes, deceptive speed and strong hands remain just as impressive on tape and he has taken the next step this year, emerging as Alabama's clear top target. A late enrollee at Alabama, Ridley is a bit older than most of the top prospects, turning 23 in December.

      12. DaRon Payne, DT, Alabama, 6-2, 308, 5.38, Jr

      Payne may lack the imposing size and burst of some of the other top defensive linemen but his pure strength (including a 545 pound bench press) and motor stand out, even amongst the NFL junior varsity team that is the Alabama Crimson Tide. As his statistics last season (36 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks) suggest, however, Payne's value lies with his ability to be a two-gap run stuffer not a consistent pass rush threat.

      13. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, 6-2, 200, 4.42, Jr

      Jackson quite literally ran away from the competition for the Heisman Trophy a season ago, showing off the raw speed and playmaking ability that has earned him plenty of comparisons to 2001 No. 1 overall selection Michael Vick. A true dual threat, Jackson is a potential difference-maker in the NFL if a team is willing to commit its offense around his unique talent. He undeniably remains a work in progress as a pocket passer, however, still staring down his primary target and showing erratic accuracy, overall, when penned in the pocket. Jackson is noticeably bigger this season but remains undersized by NFL quarterback standards, a significant concern given his playing style.

      14. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State, 6-3, 275, 4.84, Sr

      Ranked 17 spots higher than his cousin, Nick (the star running back at Georgia), Chubb deserves family bragging rights after a breakout 2016 campaign in which he recorded career-highs in tackles (58), tackles for loss (22) and sacks (10.5). Named a captain as a true junior after the former linebacker gained 25 pounds of muscle in the off-season, Chubb has the work ethic to go along with his strength and tenacity. Through three games this season, Chubb has 14 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and a sack with a high profile matchup at Florida State looming in Week Four.

      15. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson, 6-4, 265, 4.78, rSoph

      Players as young as Ferrell rarely make the Big Board this early in their respective collegiate careers but the prototypically-built edge rusher is a unique talent with an already impressive résumé, including 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks (along with a team-high 24 QB hurries) a season ago. Ferrell stood out last week against Auburn, using his combination of burst off the ball and length to apply consistent pressure off the edge and record six tackles, as well as a sack and forced fumble.

      16. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, 6-4, 233, 4.76, Redshirt Junior

      If someone were to draw up the physical prototype for an NFL quarterback, it would look a lot like the strapping, rifle-armed, and shockingly athletic Allen. Unfortunately, for all of his raw traits, Allen remains very raw, failing to show the accuracy and poise in losses to Iowa and Oregon that are required in the NFL. Allen was not helped much by his teammates in these losses, however, and his head coach, Craig Bohl, proved with his last quarterback, Carson Wentz, that he knows how to develop talent at the position.

      17. Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist, 6-3, 218, 4.58, rJr

      The Mustangs have not churned out a top 50 NFL selection since 1986 but clubs on the lookout for a prototype split end will certainly be intrigued by Sutton, a physically imposing receiver with the height, strength and aggression to beat NFL defensive backs for contested passes. Sutton has averaged nearly 17 yards per reception since 2015 with 25 combined touchdowns grabs over that time, including four in a Week Two win over North Texas. He was the obvious focus of TCU's game plan last week with the Horned Frogs limiting Sutton to just one catch for zero yards in a wild 56-36 victory.

      18. Billy Price, OG, Ohio State, 6-3, 312, 5.19, rSr

      A three-year starter and reigning All-American guard, Price is about as safe as it gets in preseason NFL draft prognostication. He could have made the NFL jump a year ago and been one of the first interior offensive linemen selected but should only improve his stock by returning and proving his versatility, making the switch to center this season. Built like a cinder block (and just as tough), Price's initial quickness and power play a key role in the Buckeyes' offensive attack.

      19. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma, 6-7, 358, 5.47, rJr

      The prodigal son of the late Orlando "Zeus" Brown (a 13-year veteran who played with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens), the Sooners' behemoth blocker's sheer size and strength make referring to him as "junior" almost laughable. While lacking the nimble feet to likely remain at left tackle in the NFL (where he's started the past two years for the Sooners), Brown's rare arm length, powerful base and surprising balance make him a quality pass protector and not just the bulldozer in the running game that his bulk suggests.

      20. Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College, 6-2, 250, 4.76, Sr

      Landry led the country with 16.5 sacks a season ago, surprising many with his decision to return for his senior campaign. Landry lacks elite length but he possesses terrific burst and bend off the edge, showing the balance, core strength and athleticism to handle either stand-up or hand-down rush duties in the NFL. Landry needs to bounce back in Week Four against defending champion Clemson after getting largely shut down last week by Notre Dame, officially registering just a single tackle in a 49-20 drubbing.

      21. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame, 6-7, 312, 5.27, rSr

      With a full season of starts at both left tackle (2016) and right tackle (2015) already under his belt in Notre Dame's pro-style attack, McGlinchey entered his final year of college football as one of the more established blockers in the country and his stock is rising after helping silence Landry in Week Three. He is not in the same class of athlete as his former teammate and 2016 first round pick, Ronnie Stanley (Baltimore Ravens), but NFL offensive line coaches will appreciate his experience, versatility and technique.

      22. Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State, 6-1, 198, 4.49, Jr

      After losing Jalen Ramsey early to the NFL and Derwin James (my top-rated defender in 2017) to injury, any question about the depth and talent in the Seminoles' secondary was emphatically answered by McFadden last year, who simply tied for the national lead with eight interceptions in his first starting season. McFadden offers an exciting upside with the quick feet, instincts and soft hands scouts covet, though his focus as a tackler and in coverage can wane.

      23. DaShawn Hand, DE, Alabama, 6-3, 282, 4.87, Senior

      With just six combined sacks over his first three seasons at Alabama, Hand has been unable to live up to the lofty expectations of recruiting experts, many of whom tabbed him as the No. 1 prep edge rusher in 2013. Hand looks the part of an NFL player with a powerful, well-proportioned physique, long arms and impressive timed speed for his size. Unfortunately, while fast in pursuit downfield or on the track, Hand shows below average initial quickness off the ball, thus far limiting his effectiveness as a rusher.

      24. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State, 6-4, 265, 4.76, rJr

      Powerful, fundamentally sound and tenacious against the run and pass, alike, Hubbard is one of the better all-around defensive ends in the country and comes with relatively high floor. That said, Hubbard does not possess the quick-twitch explosiveness to consistently threaten the edge, recording just 3.5 sacks a season ago.

      25. Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas, 6-2, 240, 4.66, Jr

      Anyone who watched the Longhorns nearly upset USC at home in Week Three surely noticed Jefferson as he was virtually everywhere, recording 11 tackles – including a game-high nine solos – as well as two tackles for loss. A highly touted signee three years ago who earned the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2015, Jefferson already possesses an NFL-caliber build and athleticism and has shown improved instincts this season.

      26. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson, 6-5, 295, 5.08, Jr

      Skill position superstars earned most of the hype on the Clemson offense a year ago but Hyatt played a key cog in the Tigers' national championship run. Hyatt is well suited to Clemson's spread offense, showing light feet and good balance for a nearly 300 pound offensive lineman. To boost his NFL stock, he'll need to continue to get stronger at the point of attack.

      27. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State, 5-10, 191, 4.43, Jr

      Ward served as the nickel corner alongside 2017 first round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley last season, tying with Lattimore for the team lead with nine passes broken up. It won't be difficult for him to beat that mark as Ward registered a FBS-leading six pass breakups in a Week One win over Indiana, alone. Few have challenged him since. Ward may lack the starting experience and length scouts would prefer but he is a superb athlete who plays bigger than his size.

      28. Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama, 6-2, 214, 4.57, Jr

      A major question mark heading into his first season as a starting safety, Harrison emerged as a legitimate star by year's end, finishing second only to Butkus Award winning linebacker Reuben Foster for the team lead in tackles (86) and proving to be a big play magnet. When under control, Harrison can also be a weapon as a hitter, specializing in cleaning up the play with a stiff shoulder to stop a ball-carrier in his tracks, though risky pursuit angles and grabby hands in coverage must be improved in 2017.

      29. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan, 6-2, 282, 4.93, rSr

      With today's focus on the quick passing game in the NFL, "undersized" defensive tackles who can collapse the pocket from the interior are much more valuable than in previous years. Hurst, the son of the former New England Patriots cornerback of the same name, saw his tackles for loss jump from 6.5 in 2015 to 11.5 last season. If his 2017 debut against Florida (five tackles, including one for loss) is any indication, Hurst may be in for another big jump this season.

      30. Connor Williams, OT, Texas, 6-5, 320, 5.31, Jr

      The Longhorns have not produced a single first round pick on offense since Vince Young was selected No. 3 overall by Tennessee back in 2006 but Williams is a strong bet to end that dubious streak. Williams is a bit of a throwback, showing the power and aggression as a run blocker that scouts covet with the athleticism, balance and girth to stone pass rushers, as well. Unfortunately, Williams suffered a knee injury September 16 against USC and is expected to undergo surgery, potentially impacting any thoughts about leaving early for the NFL.

      31. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, 5-10, 228, 4.54, Sr

      Chubb surprised many with the decision to return to Georgia for the 2017 season after proving the health of his surgically-repaired knee with 1,130 rushing yards, including eight touchdowns. As his squatty frame suggests, Chubb is powerful. He also shows excellent vision, balance and lateral cuts to elude defenders, as well. With 605 career touches already, however, there will be questions as to how much punishment his body has absorbed at the college level.

      32. Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State, 6-4, 230, 4.59, rJr

      If the pressure of a replacing a legend like Dak Prescott bothered Fitzgerald last year, he sure did a terrific job of hiding it, turning in one of the more statistically impressive debut campaigns of any quarterback in SEC history, accounting for 4,160 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns (24 passing, 19 running). Even better than his statistics were the improved passing, command of the offense and overall poise he showed in a Week Three blowout win over LSU, a 37-7 drubbing in which Fitzgerald threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 88 and two scores.

      Just Missed The Cut:

      Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan, 6-5, 330, 5.39, Sr

      Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah, 6-1, 320, 5.22, Sr

      Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State, 6-1, 225, 4.62, Jr

      James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 205, 4.50, Sr

      Dante Pettis, WR, Washington, 6-0, 192, 4.49, Sr

      --Rob Rang is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.

  • No. 24 Oregon brings balance into Pac-12 opener
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 20, 2017

    TEMPE, Ariz. -- After almost exactly a year away, No. 24 Oregon is back in the national rankings. The Ducks have given their FBS-shredding offense a defense it can work with.

    • Now comes the first test of the rest of the year, when Pac-12 Conference play begins Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium with a game against an Arizona State team that is 1-2 and has struggled to make defensive stops.

      Oregon (3-0) enters the game ranked second among FBS schools with 609 yards of total offense per game and third with an average of 56 points a game. But it has run those types of numbers before.

      Perhaps most significantly, the Ducks have given up only 303 yards per game, tied for 33rd nationally. They held Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, considered a top NFL draft candidate, to 9-of-24 passing for 64 yards in a 49-13 road victory last Saturday.

      The Ducks gave up 518.9 yards per game, 126th among 128 teams in the FBS last season, and ranked last in first downs allowed (28.1).

      The "O" can stand for obstruction, not just offense.

      "That's something we have to fight against every day -- people's perceptions," first-year coach Willie Taggart said after a victory over Wyoming last week.

      "But they can't let anyone else define them. They have to define themselves. We know we can play defense. It's about pride, and playing together. And that's what we're seeing."

      That, and blistering starts. Oregon has scored exactly 42 points in the first half in each of its three victories -- against Southern Utah, Nebraska and Wyoming -- while allowing only 45.

      The running game has played a significant role. Senior Royce Freeman has 460 yards rushing and an FBS-high nine rushing touchdowns. His backup, Kani Benoit, has six rushing scores, tied for second in the nation. Freeman had three touchdowns against Wyoming and tied LaMichael James for the school record for career touchdowns (53). Freeman has 785 rushing attempts, the most in school history.

      "The first half of all these games is probably what I want our football program to look like," Taggart said.

      "Our challenge each week is to show how well we can play. So far we haven't shown that yet. We've got to continue to get better. It's great when you can win big and still have a lot to improve on."

      Quarterback Justin Herbert has completed 60 of 83 passes for 897 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Charles Nelson leads the team with 15 pass receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown, but he is questionable to play after suffering a sprained ankle in the Wyoming game. Taj Griffin replaced him at wide receiver after the injury.

      The Ducks are back in the AP poll for the first time since the third week of 2016, dropping out after a defeat at Nebraska that started a five-game losing streak. They have won 10 in a row in the series against ASU, including the last six at Sun Devil Stadium.

      Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins leads an offense that is averaging 34 points and 412 yards a game, but defense has been an issue, as it was a season ago. The Sun Devils have given up 37.7 points and 505.3 yards per game.

      Texas Tech had 615 yards, 543 passing, in a 52-45 victory over Arizona State last Saturday.

      The Sun Devils, who beat New Mexico State in the season opener before losing at home to San Diego State, are off to their worst since 1999.

      "Everything starts this week," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "You look at the history (of conference games), it usually comes down to one score."

      Wilkins completed 27 of 41 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions at Texas Tech, when the Sun Devils recovered from an 18-point deficit only to see the Red Raiders go 90 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown in the final minutes.

      Wilkins has not thrown an interception in his last 149 pass attempts dating to last season. Wide receiver N'Keal Harry had a career-high 13 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech, and the Sun Devils rushed for a season-high 168 yards while welcoming back halfback Demario Richard after starter Kalen Ballage was injured. Ballage will be back.

      "We have to play better and coach better," Graham said.

      Senior linebacker Koron Crump, a significant part of the Sun Devils' defense, suffered a left leg injury in the first half of the Texas Tech game and is considered doubtful, Graham said.

  • No. 2 Clemson riding high as it hosts Boston College
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, September 20, 2017

    CLEMSON -- Kelly Bryant continues to prove that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made the right decision when he tabbed the junior to be the Tigers' starting quarterback this season.

    • Bryant is coming off a strong performance in the first road start of his career -- a career-high 342 yards of total offense in Clemson's 47-21 victory at Louisville.

      "It was another opportunity for him to mature and grow," Swinney said. "He's growing up right before our eyes."

      Bryant's fast start has the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) off to a fast start as well. The defending national champions are ranked No. 2 and are the only team in the nation with victories against two Top 15 teams this season.

      Bryant and Clemson will attempt to keep that perfect record intact Saturday when the Tigers host Boston College (1-2, 0-1) in an Atlantic Division clash at Memorial Stadium.

      Clemson has won 18 consecutive games against division opponents and owns a six-game winning streak against Boston College.

      "They've got playmakers all over the field," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said.

      Clemson's early success this season had hinged on the play of Bryant, who played sparingly in the past two seasons as Deshaun Watson's understudy. But given his chance to shine, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has embraced the challenge.

      "He has put in the work, so it's awesome to see him having the success that he's having," Swinney said. "He's put the time in, he's learned, he has complete ownership in what we're doing."

      While Bryant's running ability has never been in question, his passing ability has. So, it's no surprise that he has rushed for 162 yards and five touchdowns in Clemson's first three games. But he also has exhibited a nice touch in the passing game, completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 733 yards and two scores.

      "I think the quarterback, Kelly Bryant, is a very athletic guy," Addazio said. "He runs the ball. He reminds me of how (Boston College quarterback) Tyler Murphy used to run the ball. Throws the ball well."

      Clemson also showed a strong running game at Louisville, amassing 297 yards on the ground, which is likely to concern a Boston College team that ranks last in the ACC in rushing defense, surrendering 279 yards per game.

      The Tigers continue to get yardage from multiple backs. Freshman Travis Etienne showed his potential by rushing for 98 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown, last week. Sophomore Tavien Feaster chipped in with a career-high 92 yards on only 10 carries. C.J. Fuller, the most experienced of Clemson's backs, is the likely starter for a fourth straight game.

      "Being able to run the football is really what makes us go," Swinney said.

      To add to the Eagles' concerns, Clemson's defense leads the nation in sacks (16) and is ranked eighth in total defense. Linebacker Dorian O'Daniel has emerged as the Tigers' leading tackler behind an all-star line. He had five tackles at Louisville last week and returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown.

      "On defense they've always been outstanding, and they continue to be," Addazio said. "Their front is big and athletic. Their linebackers run well. Their secondary is one of the better secondaries I've seen. They rally to the ball as good as any defense I have ever seen."

      Despite a seemingly overwhelming advantage in Clemson's favor, Swinney expects nothing to come easy.

      "They're 1-2, but you've got to look beyond that," Swinney said.

      "They beat a Northern Illinois team that just beat Nebraska, lost to a really good Wake Forest team that is sitting there at 3-0 right now and then played Notre Dame and in the third quarter it was really tight before it got away from them in the fourth quarter.

      "Boston College is a tough, hard-nosed physical team. ... You're going to have to win the physical matchup because they're going to force the issue."

      Anthony Brown, a freshman, will get his fourth straight start at quarterback for the Eagles and is coming off his best passing performance of the season -- a 24-for-40 effort for 215 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame.

      "They're playing really fast, a lot of tempo, and I'm impressed with their quarterback," Swinney said. "He's a young player, but he has a good feel for what they're doing."

      Junior Jon Hilliman, one of the top running backs in the ACC, and has rushed for 203 yards in three games, while the Eagles' defense is led by consensus preseason All-American Harold Landry, a defensive end who led the nation in sacks last year with 16.5.