2014 Who's Hot ... Week 1
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Rutgers RB Paul James
Okay, so James rolled for 173 yards and three scores on 29 carries versus a flimsy Washington State defense. But going out to Seattle and beating a Pac-12 team, any Pac-12 team, was a really big deal for Rutgers. And the win would not have been possible without the tough and balanced running of James.
Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Jake Spavital, Texas A&M
New quarterback. New receivers. Hostile territory to face the nation’s ninth-ranked team. None of it deterred the 29-year-old Spavital, who’s on the fast track of becoming a head coach someday. His Aggies, with sophomore Kenny Hill playing heir to Johnny Manziel’s throne, shredded South Carolina for 680 yards and 52 points in a statement performance for the coach, his quarterback and his entire program.
Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Neal Neathery, UTSA
Houston was opening a new building, while unleashing its myriad offensive weapons. The Roadrunners were just at TDECU Stadium to spectate, right? Uh-uh. In a statement win for Larry Coker’s team, UTSA completely demoralized the Cougars. Neathery’s kids shutout Houston for the first 59 minutes, picked off four John O’Korn passes and didn’t yield a play of more than 23 yards.
Stockpile more shares in … Charlie Strong’s D
Yeah, North Texas was on the other side of the field, and the Mean Green was starting a new quarterback. But it was the Longhorn effort and fundamentals that indicated the D was already performing in its new coach’s image. UT treated UNT like a Division III opponent, yielding no offensive points and fewer than 100 total yards. There’s enough talent in Austin for this unit to be as nasty as anyone in the Big 12, including Oklahoma.
Stockpile more shares in … The Nebraska Ground Game
Just because Florida Atlantic was on the other side of the field doesn’t mean the Huskers’ effort should be dismissed. They ran for 498 yards, including a gaudy 8.7-yard average, behind career days form Ameer Abdullah and Terrell Newby. The rebuilt line routinely blew open holes, an encouraging sign for the season ahead.
North Dakota State
The three-time defending national champion Bison have now beaten an FBS team in five straight years, courtesy of Saturday’s 34-14 stampede of Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. The latest ‘upset’ came with a rookie head coach, Chris Klieman, in charge. North Dakota State has resisted the temptation to move up a rung on the ladder, recognizing it’s got a good thing going as the dean of the FCS.
Madden Cover Material: Pitt RB James Conner
There’s a new Bus in Pittsburgh, but he’s not a Steeler. Panther RB James Conner is a load to bring down, as Delaware learned at Heinz Field Saturday. In a half of work, Conner rushed for 153 yards and four scores, showing tremendous burst through the hole. His production won’t dip too far south once Pitt starts playing a tougher slate of games.
Bucking for a promotion: Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm
Maybe the Toppers won’t miss Bobby Petrino after all. Brohm had a rather auspicious debut as Petrino’s successor, leading Western Kentucky to a 59-31 rout of defending MAC champion Bowling Green. Brohm’s quarterback pupil Brandon Doughty, the key to this season, was unstoppable, completing 46-of-56 passes for a school-record 569 yards and six touchdowns.
Can I be your agent … Danny Shelton?
Washington’s senior defensive tackle is not a household name … unless there’s an NFL scout in your household. At 6-2 and 339 pounds, he looks like the prototypical space-eater. But he slides shockingly well, as evidenced by Saturday’s team-high 12 tackles, three stops for loss and two sacks to help save the Huskies in a close call with Hawaii.
Can I be your agent … Devin Funchess?
So far, so good on the switch of Funchess from tight end to wide receiver at Michigan. Devin Gardner’s favorite target in Saturday’s rout of Appalachian State caught seven balls for 95 yards and three touchdowns, looking every bit like the prototype of today’s playmaking tight end at the NFL level.
Start designing the Fathead of … Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill
No quarterback in the storied history of Aggie football had ever thrown for more than 500 yards in a game. Hill achieved it in his first career start, shredding South Carolina in Columbia for 511 yards and three touchdowns on 44-of-60 passing. In a four-hour span, A&M’s expectations for 2014 shifted, largely because of the poise and precision of its sophomore hurler.
He’s how young?! South Florida RB Marlon Mack
If fortunes are going to improve for Willie Taggart in Tampa, he must have a workhorse to carry out his ground-based offense. It looks as if the coach has his man in Mack, a rookie out of Booker (Fla.) High School. The 6-0, 195-pound saved USF from a second-straight season-opening loss to an FCS team by trucking Western Carolina for 275 yards and four scores on only 24 carries.
He’s how young?! Arizona QB Anu Solomon
For the first time since arriving in Tucson, Rich Rodriguez is employing a young quarterback. You’ve been forewarned, Pac-12 defensive coordinators. Solomon was sharp in his first game, sparking an offense that compiled a school-record 787 yards in a blowout of UNLV. The first freshman quarterback to ever start a season opener at Arizona accounted for 475 of those yards, along with four touchdown passes and no picks.
Georgia RB Todd Gurley
As opening statements for the Heisman chase go, Gurley made the most resounding one of the opening weekend. The junior was a force of nature in the Dawgs’ 45-21 win over Clemson, rushing for 198 yards and three scores, while returning a kick-six 100 yards. A healthy Gurley is dominant enough on the ground to completely shift the balance of power in the SEC.
Now that’s more like it. After essentially sleep-walking through the first half of their game with Wisconsin, the Tigers steamrolled the Badgers with the running of Kenny Hilliard, defensive pressure and a timely fake punt in the third quarter. Never count out a Les Miles-coached team at halftime, especially with John Chavis coordinating his defense.
Team of the Week: USC
Steve Sarkisian couldn’t be much happier about his debut as the USC head coach. Fresno State was an underdog, yet Fresno State is always dangerous as an underdog, even in the post-Derek Carr era. Yet, the Trojans dominated in all phases and from start to finish, abusing the Bulldogs, 52-13. It was so easy for Troy, including QB Cody Kessler, that this team must be taken more seriously as a Pac-12 contender.
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