College football: Heisman watch, Week 2

Many players are still looking to find their rhythm in the second week of the college football season, but some are already in midseason form. Week 1 was a great introduction to what some of these stars could do, but Week 2 is where they showed what they could do consistently.

While one candidate from last week’s watchlist had a down game, others continued their hot starts to the season. And yet another player emerged from the crowded field with an unreal performance under the prime-time lights with most of the nation’s eyes on him.

Here are the players who helped their Heisman cases the most this past week.

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin  

One may be the loneliest number, but it isn’t so bad when you’re the only running back on this Heisman watchlist. Clemson’s Travis Etienne couldn’t sustain his Week 1 production when he played against Texas A&M this past weekend, while the Badgers’ Jonathan Taylor had no trouble dominating Central Michigan to the tune of 102 yards on 19 rushing attempts and three touchdowns.

He also continued to be a threat in the passing game where he caught three balls for 17 yards and a score. In two games this season, Taylor has already notched eight touchdowns — half of his production in that category from last year.

The junior running back continues to be a workhorse from first through third down. That kind of volume will put him in a great position to build his Heisman résumé.

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama  

It was another average day of excellence for the Crimson Tide’s star quarterback, who had no trouble carving up New Mexico State like a chainsaw crafting an ice sculpture. Tagovailoa ended his day halfway through the third quarter but not before he threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns.

While the Hawaiian native is known for his sweet passing touch, many forget he has some wheels too. Tagovailoa showed that with a 25-yard scamper for a score. 

Few opponents will be as easy as the Aggies were on Saturday, but the junior quarterback has a great chance be one of the last men standing with games like this.

Justin Fields, Ohio State

With every passing week, Fields’ decision to go to Columbus looks better and better.  It took a quarter for them to get going, but the Buckeyes shut out the Cincinnati Wildcats with the help of their transfer quarterback.

Fields had no trouble finding the open man, completing 20 of his 25 passing attempts. He ended the game with 224 yards through the air and 42 yards on the ground, adding four total scores to continue his fast start with Ohio State.

The former Georgia quarterback is moving forward, and the outlook is bright.

Joe Burrow, LSU

Under the hot air of Austin and with all eyes on him, Joe Burrow came up huge for LSU in the biggest game of Week 2. A lot of quarterbacks may fold under the spotlight of a prime-time game, but the sophomore signal-caller thrived.

With his family at Texas Memorial Stadium, Burrow lit up the Austin sky with one of the best performances of the week, completing 31 of his 39 pass attempts for 471 yards. The loud Longhorn crowd bore down on him for 48 minutes, but he led the Tigers with four touchdown passes, giving Texas fans the pageant wave as he left the state with a big win to start the season.

It’s been a while since LSU had an offense to brag about, but Burrow may be the man to get the people talking again.

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

The South Dakota Coyotes may not strike fear in a lot of Division I teams, but Jalen Hurts definitely should. The Sooners made quick work of the Coyotes, and Hurts ended their misery quickly.

Hurts played less than three quarters, but he still had 259 passing yards while completing 14 of his 18 passing attempts. He threw for three scores and added 47 rushing yards. He continues to be accurate at every level, and that’s a bad thing for any opponent in front of the Sooners.

Oklahoma has UCLA before starting its Big 12 schedule, and Hurts looks like he can roll through anyone who comes through Norman.

https://www.yardbarker.com/college_football/articles/college_football_heisman_watch_week_2/s1_13132_29948051

By: Daniel Tran

Why Jalen Hurts Could Be The Next Great College QB

Written by Andy Staples at SI.com

The drive that followed got most of the attention—and rightfully so—because it brought Clemson a national title and cemented Deshaun Watson’s legacy as one of college football’s all-time great quarterbacks. But perhaps we should examine the penultimate touchdown drive of the national title game more closely and consider what it might mean for the quarterback who engineered it.

Remember the circumstances? Clemson had just taken a 28–24 lead thanks to a Wayne Gallman touchdown run. Alabama got the ball back on its own 32-yard line with 4:38 remaining. A true freshman quarterback, who had struggled for weeks to throw the ball with any accuracy, had to drive his team 68 yards for a touchdown. Against one of the most ferocious pass rushes in college football. With a playcaller who had been on the job for eight days. In the national title game.

And he did it.

Forget everything else about Jalen Hurts’s first season as Alabama’s quarterback and just think about that drive. When the Crimson Tide absolutely, positively needed a touchdown against a defense that had shut down the offense for most of the second half on the game’s biggest stage, Hurts delivered that touchdown. That drive ended with him sprinting 30 yards up the middle and into the end zone. And if almost anyone other than Watson had been the other quarterback, Alabama would have another national title.

Hurts, who will begin his first spring practice as an incumbent starter on Tuesday, might be the most intriguing player in college football. At the start of last season, he looked as if he might make Alabama invincible. By season’s end, his throwing was the Crimson Tide’s biggest liability. But even though Hurts only completed one pass on that last drive—remember, ArDarius Stewart hit O.J. Howard for 24 yards on a trick play—the march down the field showed a spark that suggests Hurts can become exactly what we thought he could be when he first took over the starting job.

When Hurts won the starting job with his performance against USC in Alabama’s season opener, he appeared to be the one who would bridge the gap between the pro style offense Alabama ran for years and the spread-out, read option-heavy up-tempo schemes that had taken over the game. An offense that could combine those schemes would be virtually unstoppable—especially when paired with the kind of talent Alabama can collect. But then something strange happened. Either smart defensive coordinators figured out how to make Hurts uncomfortable as a thrower or Hurts regressed as a passer after hitting a freshman wall or Alabama’s coordinators deliberately played more conservatively with Hurts.

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Why We Should Stop Labeling Quarterbacks.

Written by Erik McKinney at ESPN.com

In mid-August, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson gave a scathing critique of people who referred to him as a dual-threat quarterback. In an interview with Bleacher Report, Watson said, “People think, ‘Oh, he’s a black quarterback. He must be dual-threat.’ People throw that word around all the time. It’s lazy.”

Well, good news, Deshaun: You might have personally played a critical role in making that “dual-threat” label obsolete.

Watson and quarterbacks with similar skill sets have changed college football and quarterback recruiting, and they should change the accepted definition of what a “dual-threat” quarterback is.

Almost exclusively, dual-threat quarterbacks have been those whose scrambling ability far outweighed their talent throwing the ball, while those without that running ability were deemed “pocket passers” and “pro-style” quarterbacks.

What happens now, when agility, mobility and movement in and out of the pocket aren’t just bonuses — they’re necessities — when it comes to quarterbacks? Maybe it’s time to slide that “pro-style” designation away from “pocket passer” and over to “dual-threat,” where it truly belongs.

Watson threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns in leading Clemson to a win over Alabama in the national championship game. He rushed for 43 yards and another score. And the Tigers aren’t the only program heading that direction, as three young signal-callers took over at historic bluebloods and led the way to successful seasons.

With Sam Darnold at USC, Trace McSorley at Penn State and Jalen Hurts at Alabama, three programs where pocket passers have dominated the landscape went to dual-threats this year. None of it involved moving away from pro-style offenses.

“It’s been all year we’ve found his ability to create in the pocket,” USC head coach Helton said of Darnold before the Rose Bowl. “We’ve been able to call our pro-style passing game, knowing his elite arm strength and being able to throw the ball down the field, and in trusting him … It just gives you so much trust in being able to call those passes — [not just] run game with perimeter but truly the pro-style offense that we want to be — and he’s been really effective in creating.”

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Alabama Outlasts LSU to Win 10-0


Written by Ted Lewis at The Advocate.com

Maybe there’s another team in the country that can beat Alabama.

Maybe Clemson? Maybe Michigan? Maybe Washington? How about Auburn?

Maybe none of the above or anyone else.

LSU’s best efforts, at least defensively, certainly weren’t enough in Saturday’s 10-0 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide at Tiger Stadium.

“You come in here with the noise and the emotion and the music has you jumping around and everything,” said Bama sophomore safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, whose fourth-quarter interception of Danny Etling at the Tide 43 ended any LSU comeback effort. “I loved it. And then go out and do what we did is a tribute to our whole team. We’ve been feeling this way for the last two weeks, and we kept our focus the whole night.”

What the Tide defense did was hold LSU to 125 yards. The Tigers had but one first down in the second half, and it didn’t come until the fourth quarter.

As it did last year, Alabama made things tough on LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette had 17 carries, all but five in the first half, for 44 yards. He was dropped for losses four times, and his longest gain was for but 9 yards as the Alabama defensive front consistently beat the LSU offensive line to the punch, giving Fournette little room.

The Tide also put constant pressure on Etling, sacking him five times and forcing him into making early and/or awkward throws.

Etling did have a 41-yard completion to D.J. Chark in the first quarter. But that was followed by Fournette being dropped for a 5-yard loss and two incompletions by Etling, who finished 11 of 24.

Those 41 yards were 33 percent of the night’s output for the Tigers.

“You can’t ask much more from a defense than that,” said Tide coach Nick Saban, who has now beaten his former employer six straight times with no end — other that perhaps his retirement (Saban turned 65 on Halloween) — in sight. “The guys had a great week of practice, and then they came in here and executed it tonight.”

To be sure, the LSU defense wasn’t bad.

The Tigers kept a Saban team from scoring in the first half for the first time since 2007, his first year in Tuscaloosa. They added another zero in the third quarter before finally surrendering a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth.

But when you’re going against a defense like Alabama’s, even that’s not enough.

The Tigers were shut out at home for the first time since 2002 — when Saban was the Tigers’ coach and Alabama did the blanking 31-0.

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What is Alabama’s QB Situation?

Written by Josh Chatham at Roll Bama Roll.com

Unsurprisingly, the quarterback competition at Alabama has been perhaps the most discussed position battle in the country this preseason. Also unsurprisingly, Nick Saban has stuck to his normal talking points when asked about what the coaches are looking for in their offensive leader: some combination of winning the locker room, managing the game, limiting turnovers, taking what the defense gives you. All of those are prerequisites to getting the keys to the offense – after all, you can’t lead if others won’t follow and you can’t win if you give the ball away. For today, let’s assume that any of the prime candidates can meet those criteria and focus instead on what an explosive runner such as Jalen Hurts can bring to the Alabama running attack.

From day one, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has heavily utilized run-pass option plays, or RPOs. These plays are designed to give the QB an option at the snap to hand the ball off on what is typically a zone run or throw a quick pass based on a read of a single defender. Alabama has had quite a bit of success with these types of plays, but for whatever reason have not used the QB as a running threat. This was particularly surprising in 2014 with the dynamic Blake Sims at the helm, leaving many to speculate that Blake was either banged up or that the coaching staff was being overly cautious in protecting him.

In any event, let’s take a look at a couple of plays from last season that highlight just how a dynamic running threat at the QB position can impact the Alabama running game. We’ll start with a first-half inside zone read (IZR) against Mississippi State:

A couple items of note: first off, take a look at the Bulldogs’ alignment. There are eight men in the box and packed tightly in effort to limit the running game of Derrick Henry. They were fairly effective in this regard, as evidenced by the paltry 34 yards of offense in the first quarter. Alabama ultimately won this game by busting some big plays, but in general the Bulldogs were a feisty bunch that gave Alabama problems offensively. Second, notice that Richard Mullaney is completely uncovered in the slot. The safety at the top of the screen is sending out an SOS, but neither the Alabama QB nor the Mississippi State coaches seem to notice. As we will see below, this play appears to be an RPO featuring a shallow cross paired with the IZR.

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