Chat: CFB Saturday Live

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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On the first full day of the college football season, we'll be with you for more than 14 hours here at CFB Saturday Live.

From 9 a.m. to noon ET, get ready for game day while chatting with 12 of our reporters scattered throughout the country. Then from noon to 8 p.m. ET we'll be bringing in real-time reaction and analysis from dozens of our experts about all of the games. And finally, join us back in a live chat at 8 ET to discuss the evening slate as it happens.

Report: Rashard Robinson suspended

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
6:49
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson and wide receiver Malachi Dupre will not play in Saturday's opener against No.14 Wisconsin, according to multiple media reports.

LSU's student newspaper, The Daily Reveille, first reported Friday that Robinson -- who is listed as a starting cornerback -- did not travel with the No. 13 Tigers to Houston for the game. The Baton Rouge Advocate later reported that Robinson is suspended for the game and that Dupre sprained his ankle in practice and also would not play.

"We're not going to make a comment on who traveled or who didn't travel until game time," LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette said Friday afternoon.

Tigers coach Les Miles was scheduled to meet with reporters at NRG Stadium on Friday afternoon, but it was canceled.

Miles has played coy throughout the preseason when asked about Robinson and safety Jalen Mills, who was suspended throughout the summer following his arrest for allegedly knocking a woman unconscious in May.

To continue reading this story, click here.

Vandy can't 'Anchor Down' after all

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
4:43
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Vanderbilt's "Anchor Down" jerseys, which were the subject of controversy during the Commodores' season-opening game against Temple on Thursday night, will not be returning to the field.

That's the word from the NCAA, which has ruled that all schools, except the military service academies, may not put slogans on the back of their players' jerseys.

Chuck Dunlap, communications director for the SEC, issued a statement Friday confirming that the Vanderbilt jerseys with "Anchor Down" on the back "are not permissible under the NCAA football uniform regulations" and were worn against Temple because of "a miscommunication."

Click here for more.

Watch: Herbstreit previews LSU-Wisconsin

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
2:30
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ATHENS, Ga. – Two plays will be remembered from what was mostly a forgettable 8-5 season for Georgia in 2013.

In the final seconds of the Bulldogs’ 43-38 loss at Auburn, Georgia gave up a 73-yard touchdown on fourth-and-18 with 25 seconds to play. Georgia defensive backs Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews converged on Nick Marshall’s Hail Mary pass and had a chance to knock it down, but Clemons inexplicably knocked the ball into the air. Auburn’s Ricardo Louis hauled in the tip with his left hand and ran into the end zone for one of the more memorable finishes in college football history.

Then, in Georgia’s 24-19 loss to Nebraska in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, Georgia’s defense surrendered a 99-yard touchdown pass on third-and-14 late in the third quarter. It was the longest pass play in bowl history by any team.

As No. 12 Georgia prepares for Saturday’s opener against No. 16 Clemson at Sanford Stadium, all eyes are again focused on the Bulldogs’ much-maligned secondary. There’s a new man in charge of UGA’s defense and there are plenty of new faces. Harvey-Clemons and Matthews were dismissed from the team in the offseason and transferred to Louisville and Auburn, respectively.

For the second straight season, Georgia goes into its opener with an overhauled defense.

“The situations are very similar,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Guys that don’t have a lot of experience are going to be playing. Some of them don’t have any experience, other than in practice. It’s very similar to a year ago.”

If nothing else, Richt hopes his defensive backs will at least be in the right position on the field. Last season, Georgia’s secondary never seemed to be on the same page, and miscommunication and busted assignments resulted in too many big passing plays. Georgia allowed 41 pass plays of 20 yards or longer last season, the most allowed by the Bulldogs in the past 10 seasons. Worse, Georgia surrendered 377 points last season, the most allowed by any defense in school history.

Maybe that’s why the Bulldogs didn’t seem to shed many tears when former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left for a more lucrative contract at Louisville. Richt was able to hire former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to replace him. Pruitt helped the Seminoles win a BCS national championship last season, after serving as Alabama’s secondary coach from 2010-12.

“He’s a very demanding coach,” Richt said. “He’s definitely got a plan. I think he’s a very good teacher and communicator. He’s driven to have a great defense and over time he’ll do a phenomenal job.”

[+] EnlargeJeremy Pruitt
AP Photo/Jason GetzGeorgia's defense, featuring several new players in the secondary, is learning new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's system.
But will Georgia's defense be good enough in 2014?

The Bulldogs bring back a deep defensive line and stout group of linebackers, but their secondary very much remains a work in progress. Only senior cornerback Damian Swann has much experience. Pruitt hasn’t settled on a starting lineup for the rest of the secondary, although junior cornerback Devin Bowman, senior strong safety Corey Moore and redshirt freshman Aaron Davis were listed as starters on the depth chart the school released on Monday.

Bowman started one game in 2013 before spending the rest of the season in Grantham’s doghouse. Junior-college transfer Shattle Fenteng, freshman Malkom Parrish, junior Sheldon Dawson and converted receiver Rico Johnson also are in the mix at cornerback. Davis, a former walk-on, hasn’t played since suffering torn knee ligaments in high school in 2012.

Richt said Tuesday that he wouldn’t put too much stock into what the depth chart revealed.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in Game 1,” Richt said. “There are a lot of moving parts and even the veterans are learning his system. There is a lot of youth on the back end, and nobody likes having youth on the back end.”

Swann said Georgia's defensive backs have worked hard to eliminate the gaffes that plagued them last season.

“That’s one of the things that Pruitt put in, that we’re going to have to communicate if we want to be good,” Swann said. “I think once everybody started learning the system, it wasn’t like we were learning one position. He was teaching it to everybody, where you could line up and play every spot. That’s the thing, knowing what we can do, knowing our assignments and playing fundamental football. That will get us where we need to be.”

Fournette, LSU will live up to hype 

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
11:13
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Leonard FournetteAP Photo/Gerald HerbertLeonard Fournette has been dubbed 2014's "prodigy" -- before even playing a single game.
Leonard Fournette is not a freshman.

Just keep repeating that to yourself, over and over, though not so loud that people think you’re strange.

I’ve spent the past few months working to condition and program myself to this thought. Maybe we should just call him LSU’s “first-year” running back.

Fournette doesn’t look, act -- or, most importantly -- run like a freshman. So let’s just move past the fact that he is one.

It’s a dangerous game, hyping those who have yet to gain a yard, throw a pass or make a tackle. It’s one that can make someone like me look quite foolish, causing hand-wringing from fans. (“He’s 18, HANEY!”)

But what happens when we’re right? What happens when Jameis Winston, as a first-year starter, wins the Heisman?

From all I’ve gathered, including a stop last week in Baton Rouge, we’re right on Fournette. You’ve seen the comparisons, from Michael Jordan’s determination to Adrian Peterson’s physique as a teenager.

“I’ve never seen a freshman like him,” someone close to the program told me. “Never.”

College football’s 2014 prodigy will debut Saturday night in Houston, when LSU meets Wisconsin in a top-15 matchup at the Texans' stadium.

In addition to Fournette, Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn are expected to be in the receivers rotation. Jamal Adams is a defensive back who isn’t getting enough buzz because of the offensive guys.

And, oh by the way, coach Les Miles has said QB Brandon Harris will play. He might even start.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Harris
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsFreshman QB Brandon Harris will also headline LSU's young group of impact players.
These players, and other youngsters, were recruited to play immediately.

“We just want to get the best players on the field,” defensive coordinator John Chavis told me last week. “We don’t care what year they are. We tell them that.”

In addition to natural attrition, LSU has lost 17 underclassmen to the NFL draft the past two cycles. That precipitates need unlike anything we’ve ever seen, really.

“These kids have embraced that idea since day one in the recruiting process,” said Jeremy Crabtree, ESPN.com senior recruiting writer. “They knew they were good. They knew they were going to have to play early. And they didn’t back away from it one bit.”

If some or all of the freshmen hit, LSU will be a dark horse playoff contender. Three of the 20 coaches I polled this week had the Tigers in the four-team field.

“They can sneak up on you some years,” one of them told me. “That’s when they’ve won [titles]. There’s a lot of attention on Alabama and Auburn right now, and Les probably likes it that way.”

ESPN analyst and national recruiting director Tom Luginbill, who covered Harris in the Under Armour game, said his arm is in the top three for the past decade.

“He’s a great kid with a high ceiling,” he said. “[He’s] a superior talent to [Anthony] Jennings, but he hasn’t played yet.”

Even with Fournette, expect veteran RBs Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee to get the first carries. Second-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will roll Fournette in gracefully; those on staff agreed with my theory that the frosh would see between 10-15 planned carries. Don’t expect Peterson’s bruising running style as much as power mixed with elusiveness. Fournette would rather juke than bulldoze. And he’ll be more effective in the screen game.

But if he gets hot, the script could soon flip, with Hilliard and Magee serving as the complements. And that’s what I would expect, given the preface of his legend.

Fournette goes for 100-plus. A star is born.

Other breakout players to watch this week

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Every once in a while, Les Miles scrolls through the numbers stored in his cell phone and settles on digits that once connected him to a source of advice and camaraderie.

Bo Schembechler died nearly eight years ago, but Miles can’t bring himself to remove his coaching mentor’s number from his contacts list.

“It's impossible to take it out, isn't it?” Miles asked, staring at the number on the screen. “You know what, sometimes, I haven't dialed it in a while, but sometimes I dial it, too.”

Miles will kick off his 10th season as the LSU Tigers' coach on Saturday against Wisconsin, so the 60-year-old Ohioan had plenty of time to create his own unique identity within the world of college football. And boy has he ever done that, parlaying his wacky personality and consistent winning into a status as one of the sport’s rock stars.

[+] EnlargeBo Schembechler
AP Photo"Bo [Schembechler] had the feel of his team," LSU coach Les Miles said. "... I was fortunate to play for him and coach alongside him and I just saw how he touched his team in really special ways."
But Miles wouldn’t deny that lessons learned while coaching under father figures like Schembechler and Bill McCartney helped mold him into the head coach he became. Not that he can necessarily pinpoint individual ways that those mentors shaped his own philosophies.

“I think what happens is you have natural instincts in coaching and team philosophies and things that are in your mind right and wrong about a coaching year, scheduling, how you write the schedule for your team -- just the many things that go into developing a team,” Miles said. “And I think that these two guys have so marked my memory that I don't know that I can even separate it.

“But I can tell you this, the things that when you ask [how they influenced me], Bo had the feel of his team. He had just an unbelievable, uncanny recognition for what his team needed. I don't think anybody had that ability that Bo had. I was fortunate to play for him and coach alongside him and I just saw how he touched his team in really special ways -- just roughly and sometimes with humor and sometimes matter-of-factly. He just had it. He could really just speak to his team.”

It’s easy to see how Schembechler’s methods of communication might have rubbed off on his former pupil. In fact, he still speaks to Miles, even from the Great Beyond.

Well, sort of.

Miles chuckled while reporting that he has an enormous Schembechler bobblehead in his office at his family’s Baton Rouge home. Miles said he sometimes talks to the approximately 4-foot-tall doll as though it’s actually the man who coached him at Michigan, offered him his first college coaching job as a Wolverines graduate assistant in 1980 and later hired him as a full-fledged member of his staff.

Asked how those conversations might go, Miles replied, “Just some smiling thoughts. Or I can remember asking him some questions about personnel and his very candid responses.”

Michigan was already on top when Miles became a part of Schembechler’s program. He learned entirely different lessons about how to become successful when he followed McCartney to Colorado.

McCartney hired 28-year-old Miles to coach the offensive line as a member of his first Colorado staff in 1982. Through some rocky early seasons in Boulder, Miles helped McCartney lay the groundwork for what would become one of the nation’s winningest programs in the late 1980s. The Buffaloes had become competitive by the time Miles left McCartney’s staff to return to Michigan in 1987, and it would win a national championship a few years later.

Miles doesn’t speak of any coach as reverently as he does of Schembechler, but it’s clear that McCartney -- a man of great Christian faith -- also made a mark on his young assistant.

“Bill McCartney had vision that was unnatural,” Miles said. “He knew where he wanted to go with his program. He knew how he needed to lead his team. He could recruit as well as any.”

But where does Miles’ trademark gutsiness come from? The trick plays in crucial situations? The decisions to go for it on fourth-and-short over and over? The call to throw for the end zone with seconds remaining when a field goal could win the game?

That’s mostly Les, although even that distinctive bravado might owe a bit to his mentor.

“You've got to understand something,” Miles said. “That Schembechler guy, he was pretty stinking confident.”

Miles is certainly no clone, however. It’s difficult to picture Schembechler or McCartney participating in TV commercials where they eat grass or engaging in some of the other antics that have transformed Miles into the sport’s clown prince. But their lessons are always there, forming a portion of the eccentric coaching personality for which Miles is famous.

Every coach -- actually every successful person in any industry -- can look back at the early stages of his career and point to the people who helped him get on the right track, whose daily presence helped him understand how to do the job correctly.

Miles’ first two bosses are both in the College Football Hall of Fame and Miles is well on the way there himself, proving that he must have been paying attention while learning at the feet of two football masters.

“Being around both those guys,” Miles said, “I can't tell you how fortunate I am.”

Texas A&M celebrates big win in style

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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After routing South Carolina, the Aggies had some fun in the locker room. What?

Bama battle, LSU phenom key Week 1

August, 29, 2014
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A lot of us were probably guilty of anointing Jake Coker before he’d ever graced the Alabama practice field.

We heard the stories about his bazooka arm, how he pushed eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in the Florida State quarterback race a year ago and how his old coach, Jimbo Fisher, said he would be the most talented quarterback Nick Saban has coached at Alabama.

Who’s to say Coker won’t live up to that billing?

[+] EnlargeBlake Sims
AP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherBlake Sims is taking advantage of his chance to be Alabama's starting quarterback.
But as it stands now, he still has fifth-year senior Blake Sims in his way before laying claim to the Alabama quarterback job. That’s more a credit to Sims than it is a knock against Coker.

It’s also a reminder that Saban is as bottom-line as it gets. He’s not going to reward a player for potential. He’s going to play whoever gives the team the best chance to win right now.

By all accounts, Sims has outplayed Coker.

That doesn’t mean he has locked down the job. Reports indicate Sims is expected to start against West Virginia in the opener Saturday, but both will get snaps.

Saban’s not nearly as concerned about settling on who his starting quarterback will be for this first game as he is on settling on who it will be for the season. Sometimes, the “process” takes a few games.

Moreover, Coker has been on campus for fewer than four months, since his transfer from Florida State. Sims has been there for more than four years -- sweating, working and sacrificing with his teammates.

The last thing Saban’s going to do is hand the job over to somebody who hasn’t won it, especially when that somebody is new to the program.

The added layer of drama in the quarterback situation this season is that Lane Kiffin is debuting as the Tide's offensive coordinator, their third in four seasons.

However it shakes out, the Crimson Tide would like to add more of a big-play element to their passing game. They ranked 45th nationally a year ago in completions of 20 yards or more (45). A healthy Amari Cooper at receiver should help pad those numbers.

Ultimately, Alabama doesn’t have to figure it out until a stretch against Florida at home on Sept. 20 and Ole Miss on the road two weeks later.

We’re now in the playoff era in college football, so it’s probably fitting that Alabama will have its own little playoff at the quarterback position during these next few weeks.

Fournette's debut


I’m old enough to remember Herschel Walker’s college football debut and can still see him running over Bill Bates at the goal line in Neyland Stadium. That was 34 years ago.

There was only one Herschel, for sure. But it’s been a while since I’ve been as eager to see a freshman play in this league as I am to see LSU running back Leonard Fournette. He’s built a lot like Walker (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and has the kind of speed and power the great ones possess.

Rest assured, NFL scouts will be watching, and not just because Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon will be on the other side Saturday night. This summer, I had a longtime NFL coach tell me he’d never seen high school tape of a running back as impressive as Fournette’s.

"I'm not so sure that he's not ready [for the NFL] right now," the coach said. "If he stays healthy, he's everything you're looking for wrapped into one."

Two-minute drill


• Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson feels better about his defense than he did at any point a year ago. The Tigers should be much more physical in the defensive line and plan to play Montravius Adams a good bit at end. “He’s 315 pounds and can flat run,” Johnson said. Johnson said Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost make up the best starting linebacker combo he has ever coached. The big concern is at the hybrid “star” position. There’s no timetable for when the Tigers will get Robenson Therezie back because of an eligibility issue, which means Justin Garrett has to stay healthy. Last season, that was a struggle for Garrett, who has had a terrific preseason camp.

[+] EnlargeAlex Collins
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsArkansas' Alex Collins rushed for 1,026 yards and four TDs in his freshman season.
Alex Collins burst onto the scene last season at Arkansas and ran his way to SEC Freshman of the Year honors with 1,026 rushing yards, but the Hogs’ coaches think sophomore running back Korliss Marshall (6-foot, 205 pounds) is the most explosive of the group. Junior Jonathan Williams is also back and rushed for 900 yards last season.

• Tennessee’s Curt Maggitt plans to move between end and outside linebacker, as the Vols need him to be a disruptive presence. The concern with Maggitt is whether he can stay healthy. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and has battled a high-ankle sprain in camp. The Vols’ most consistent pass-rusher this preseason has been true freshman Derek Barnett, who will play a key role Sunday night in getting after Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

• One of the best matchups of the opening weekend will be Georgia’s running game against a Clemson defensive line that’s as deep, talented and experienced as any in the country. Todd Gurley won’t have to go it alone. The word out of the Dawgs’ camp is that Keith Marshall looks as good as new after suffering that nasty knee injury last season. Interestingly enough, they also want to play both true freshmen, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. They are that good, although dividing carries among four running backs gets tricky.

• Why does Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen think this is his best team? For one, this is the most depth he’s had, and he also has a quarterback in junior Dak Prescott who’s the best fit he’s had in Starkville for the offensive system he wants to run.
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SEC

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Dan Mullen wants the pressure. He wants gaudy expectations and anxious fans.

Mississippi State’s head coach is entering his sixth season in Starkville, heading a team viewed as a legitimate contender in the SEC Western Division. It’s not something this program is used to and situations like this for programs like this usually don’t work out, but this is the exact position Mullen wants his team to be in.

“Hopefully we have a lot of pressure Week 10, 11 and 12 of the season and then we’ll see how we deal with it then,” Mullen said.

[+] EnlargeDan Mullen
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis"These guys want to win a championship," Dan Mullen said. "They want to get to Atlanta and go play for that title."
“These guys want to win a championship. They want to get to Atlanta and go play for that title. The expectations on the outside don’t get to them. … In their minds, this is what we want. There’s no pressure on them, that’s their goal to go out and accomplish this right now.”

And why not? In a league that has seen the talent gap from the top to the middle tighten in recent years, both divisions really are up for grabs. And the Bulldogs return 18 starters, 16 of whome are upperclassmen.

Mullen has a potential All-SEC quarterback in the very versatile Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs’ top five receiving targets from last year are back, and the defense is finally stacked with an SEC-caliber lineup in its two-deep.

The naysayers point at past failures this program has had, most notably it’s tumble in 2012. That’s when Mississippi State started the season 7-0 and rose as high as No. 11 in the AP poll before losing at Alabama 38-7. The Bulldogs then went into a full free fall, losing four of their last five games.

A year earlier, the Bulldogs went 7-6 after a 9-4 season that included wins over Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss and an absolute thrashing of Michigan (52-14) in their bowl game.

This is a program that has made it to one SEC championship game (1998) -- and lost -- and it hasn’t won 10 games in a season since 1999. In the past three seasons, Mullen is 0-15 against teams that finished the season ranked in one of the final polls, and SEC West foes Alabama, Auburn and LSU have a combined 36-3 record against Mississippi State since the start of the 2000 season.

History hasn’t been kind to the Bulldogs, and it certainly isn’t on their side, but players don’t care. They’re concerned about the present and foresee a special season in Starkville.

“To be honest, we don’t care about respect,” redshirt junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney. “We’re just going out there to play to win. We know what we can do. People are going to put us down, but that’s just a part of life.”

To Mullen, who is 36-28 during his five years with Mississippi State and owns the highest overall winning percentage by a Mississippi State coach since 1956 (.563), this is the most complete team he’s had in Starkville. For the first time, Mullen feels like he can rotate quality depth in and out at just about every position, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

He has an All-America-caliber defensive lineman in Chris Jones whom Mullen could see sharing a handful of reps this fall because there isn’t a lot of drop off with the players around him. He’s happy with playing five of his safeties and six of his linebackers this fall.

Jones might be the biggest talent on the team, but Mullen finally sees a deep, collective group of quality players who can carry this team in 2014.

“I don’t think we have superstars. I don’t know if were a team loaded with first-round draft picks, but I think we’re loaded with a bunch of really good football players,” Mullen said. “I like having that depth instead of having five superstars and then role players around them.”

On paper, Mississippi State’s nonconference schedule is an absolute cakewalk, but road trips to LSU, Alabama and Ole Miss could thwart their Atlanta hopes. But the Bulldogs aren’t running from it. They know that in order to be relevant in the SEC West in late November, this team has to take down the big boys.

There’s the opportunity to catch a relatively unproven LSU team on the road in late September, while Texas A&M and Auburn will visit Starkville. Then there’s that road trip to Alabama on Nov. 15, which could hold the Bulldogs’ SEC fate.

To senior cornerback Jay Hughes, the team isn’t even looking at its schedule. It’s looking at the players in the locker room and the coaches around them. That’s where their focus is, and where their confidence is bred. Hughes believes there’s something great in Starkville, and he can’t wait for the Bulldogs to show it.

“It’s almost like we know, man,” Hughes said. “We have as good of talent as anybody with the numbers that we have and the experience we have on the field. We have the talent, we have the numbers, so what are we going to do?"

Email saves Vanderbilt from penalty

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt's new uniforms already are creating confusion -- and not just because the gray lettering on black jerseys is difficult to read.

The Commodores had their team slogan "Anchor Down" written on the back of their jerseys. NCAA rules say a jersey may contain only a player's name, the school name, the NCAA logo, sleeve stripes, an American flag, a state flag or a logo for a school, conference, mascot, postseason game, memorial or the military.

During Vanderbilt's 37-7 loss to Temple on Thursday, officials said Vanderbilt would be charged one timeout each quarter the jerseys were worn because they were impermissible, but the officials later reversed themselves and said the Commodores wouldn't be penalized.

Vanderbilt athletic department spokesman Larry Leathers said the jerseys were approved by the Southeastern Conference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SEC morning links

August, 29, 2014
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1. Raise your hand if you saw that coming from Texas A&M last night? Nobody? That's OK, I didn't and neither did my SEC colleagues, as evidenced by our Week 1 predictions. The Aggies coming out of Columbia, South Carolina with a win wasn't far-fetched but absolutely dominating? That was unexpected. Especially for the College Station-area Ashley Furniture store. Ashley promised customers free furniture if the Aggies beat the Gamecocks by 10 or more points. The result? More than $1 million in free furniture given away. The Aggies themselves were pretty fired up, evidenced by this celebration video involving Kevin Sumlin and the team. But the biggest story on Thursday night was none other than quarterback Kenny Hill, who -- in his first career start -- broke Johnny Manziel's single-game school record for passing yards and completions. Hill proved that the Aggies are far from a one-trick pony.

2. There's some good and some not so good to take away from Ole Miss' win against Boise State on Thursday night. The good is the defense was stout. The not so good was that quarterback Bo Wallace wasn't as consistent as you'd like a senior quarterback and third-year starter to be, throwing three interceptions and four touchdowns. Those are two of the three things we learned from the Rebels 35-13 win over the Broncos. Robert Nkemdiche was certainly pleased with the defensive effort. Here's a look at some of the plays that changed the game for the Rebels.

3. Nick Saban hasn't publicly named Alabama's starting quarterback, but reading into his commentary during his radio show on Thursday night, but it certainly sounds like Blake Sims might take the first snap. Saban dropped a few hints into his thought process Thursday and one report claims that Sims will indeed start, citing a source. Saban lauded Sims' experience, something Jacob Coker lacks after arriving in Tuscaloosa, Alabama just this summer. "Here's the thing everybody needs to understand that people don't understand," Saban said. "We have a guy playing quarterback who has been in the system for a long time and really has a really good understanding, very confident in what he's doing. I know he didn't play very well in the spring game and that's how a lot of people evaluate him. But he has done very well this fall and he did very well last spring and he has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge."

More from around the SEC
Tweets of the day

ATLANTA -- It was by no means a pretty win, but it was a win nonetheless for No. 18 Ole Miss. In a game that featured eight Ole Miss false starts and seven total interceptions (a record for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game), the Rebels trudged their way to a sloppy 35-13 win over Boise State inside the Georgia Dome. It most be noted that 28 of those Ole Miss points came in the fourth quarter.

Momentum awkwardly traveled back and forth between the teams before Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell put the Rebels ahead by eight with a beastly 14-yard touchdown grab with 12:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.

1. Finding that menacing Megaquon

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Quarterback Bo Wallace, who was having one of his more forgettable performances to this point, saw the obvious mismatch with the 6-foot-2, 229-pound Treadwell facing Boise State cornerback Cleshawn Page (5-9, 178) to his left. Without hesitation, Wallace looked to his left and zipped a pass to where only a leaping Treadwell could get it. The sophomore caught the pass at the 2 and tumbled into the end zone to give the Rebels a 14-6 lead.

Offensive coordinator Dan Werner: "We felt like if we could get him singled up, which they weren't letting that happen very often, but if we did, we were going to audible and run the fade. Bo did a nice job; he saw that they were bringing the free safety, so we had one-on-one coverage and he just threw it up high and let Laquon make a play."

Treadwell: "Man-to-man, throw it up. That's really all I saw. I knew he was pressing. He tried to jump jam, but he kinda jumped offside. After he did that, I knew he was beat, and I was just waiting for Bo to throw the ball, really."

2. Bouncing Adeboyejo

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Not to be outdone a couple minutes later was fellow sophomore receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who officially put the game away with a springy 31-yard touchdown catch. Adeboyejo, whose touchdown was set up by a fantastic interception by safety Tony Conner two plays earlier, caught a bullet of a pass from Wallace at Boise's 10-yard line before bouncing off two defenders and into the end zone to make it 21-6.

Treadwell: "I think that broke Quincy out of his shell. Quincy's a great player and we know he can play. It's just that he's inconsistent, but now I think that broke him out of his shell, really, and he should have a great season. I think that really helped the offense."

3. Can't catch Cody Core

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So this is what Ole Miss' offense was supposed to look like, huh? An offensive line that struggled all night (did I mention those eight false starts?) held its ground for the second Wallace needed to find Core sprinting through the middle of the field. Core caught the ball in space and was gone.

Wallace: "It was just a vertical route. We swung the backs so maybe the husky would jump out and give us leverage, and they did, so we got it. It's something that we ran in camp that when we first put it in, it was tough on our defense. We felt like that would be a good play for us."

Core: "I saw the field open and I trusted my teammates and just cut loose. I actually didn't [see the linebacker jump out], but I knew the cornerback was behind me so if I cut over to the other side, it would be for the field."

Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
12:22
AM ET
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Bo Wallace passed for 386 yards and four touchdowns in Ole Miss' 35-13 win over Boise State in Atlanta. Receiver Cody Core caught four passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Maybe the whole Johnny Manziel phenomenon was a bit overblown.

That’s not to diss Johnny Football. Few players in the SEC have been more entertaining or transcendent. No, it’s more a validation that the other guy rocking the visor, the guy with the “good negotiator” and $5 million salary, knows what he’s doing.

Manziel, Case Keenum, Kenny Hill

It obviously doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback for Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin. His offenses are going to put up points, and lots of them.

The Aggies left little doubt Thursday night that they’re going to be just fine without Manziel -- especially if they can straighten out some bugs in the secondary -- by slicing through a helpless South Carolina defense in a 52-28 declawing of the No. 9-ranked Gamecocks before a stunned crowd of 82,847 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“Quite frankly, there was a chip on our shoulder. Basically, nobody gave us a chance in this game,” Sumlin said. “What we did tonight kind of shows that we’re not a one-trick pony. We’re not anywhere near where we want to be, but we’re not going anywhere any time soon.”

It’s hard to know where to start when heaping praise on the Aggies, who had outgained the Gamecocks 142 yards to 1 at one point in the first quarter en route to scoring the most points against South Carolina on its home field in the Steve Spurrier era. The only other time an opponent had hung 50-plus on South Carolina in Williams-Brice with Spurrier on the sideline was when Tim Tebow came to town in 2007 on his Heisman Trophy march.

As fate would have it, Tebow was in the house Thursday as part of the SEC Network’s coverage and witnessed a Heisman Trophy-like performance.

[+] EnlargeKenny Hill
Phil Ellsworth/ESPN ImagesIt took just one game for Texas A&M's Kenny Hill to break Johnny Manziel's school record for most passing yards in a game.
"Give Texas A&M and their coaches and players credit. It was a mismatch tonight," Spurrier said. "I don't know what else you can say. If we played them again, they'd be a three-touchdown favorite. We tried everything we could to slow them down."

Hill, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore, broke Manziel’s Texas A&M single-game passing record in his first start. He finished 44-of-60 for 511 yards and three touchdowns and was the essence of composure. He spread the ball around, got rid of the ball quickly and leaned on an impressive array of receivers.

And up front, it was a total mismatch. The Aggies’ offensive line manhandled the Gamecocks in rolling up a staggering 99 offensive plays and 680 yards of total offense – the most ever gained against any South Carolina team.

Hill joked that he was more nervous meeting with the media than he ever was on the field.

“I was more excited than nervous,” Hill said. “I was ready to go. I’ve been ready for this my whole life. Everybody was doubting us, and we were just ready to go and prove everybody wrong and that we could be good without Johnny.”

Hill wasn’t quite ready to take on a nickname yet, although he was asked about it.

“I don’t really like Kenny Football. That’s sort of played out,” he said to a round of laughter.

If you’re wondering, Manziel was 23-of-30 for 173 yards and no touchdown passes in his first career start in 2012, a 20-17 home loss to Florida.

“It’s the reason I came to Texas A&M, to replace Johnny,” said Hill, whose record night sent the Gamecocks to their first home loss after 18 consecutive wins.

The Texas A&M players were almost nonchalant about Hill’s performance. They didn’t necessarily see a record performance coming in his debut, but they knew following in Manziel’s footsteps wasn’t too big for him.

“He’s a pocket passer. He’s going to stay in the pocket,” said Texas A&M receiver Malcome Kennedy, who caught 14 passes for 137 yards. “If you stay on your routes, he’s going to put it right there.”

For Sumlin, this was especially sweet, although he did his best to downplay it afterward.

Spurrier, in vintage form, had taken a few shots at the Aggies’ nonconference schedule and how they rolled up a lot of their big numbers against smaller teams last season. He also quipped during the SEC Media Days that Sumlin had a good negotiator after Sumlin received a raise to $5 million annually when the University of Southern California showed interest in him.

The truth is that Spurrier and Sumlin are friends and even went to Ireland together to play golf two summers ago. Spurrier visited the Texas A&M locker room after the game. Even so, Sumlin made it clear that he wasn’t a big fan of some of the things said about his program during the offseason.

“I heard somebody say we made a bunch of yards against the little teams, but we also made a few yards tonight,” Sumlin cracked.

Granted, it was just one game, but he was genuinely peeved that anybody would suggest he and his staff would suddenly forget how to coach just because Manziel was gone. All offseason he was bombarded with questions about life without Manziel.

Sumlin’s public response was that the Aggies had recruited extremely well to a system they believed in. Privately, he couldn’t wait for the opportunity to fleece a few more SEC defenses with a system that has a way of bringing a defense to its knees no matter who’s playing quarterback.

On Thursday, the Gamecocks were on their heels from the Aggies’ first possession and never recovered. Just a thought: Maybe Jadeveon Clowney had a little bigger impact on that South Carolina defense than some people gave him credit for a year ago.

Either way, it’s clear that Texas A&M has recovered much better without its departed star than South Carolina has without its departed star.

Here’s another thought: The entire complexion of the Western Division race all of a sudden looks a little different, and we’re only a game into the season. If you’re going to beat the Aggies, you'd better be able to score.

The same goes for the Eastern Division race. South Carolina has two weeks to shake off this nightmare and find something that works on defense before Georgia visits.

In the meantime, looks like they’re not going to cancel the season in College Station after all.

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