Each Monday during the college football season, NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah identifies five things that are chugging along smoothly and right on track and five things that are off the rails.**
1. San Jose State QB has a big day: The Spartans were unable to pull off the upset against the Gophers (Minnesota won, 43-24), but quarterback David Fales had an impressive outing. The senior signal-caller completed 22 of 35 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. He did have two interceptions, but one of those occurred after a ball bounced off a Spartan wideout. Fales made several beautiful touch throws down the field, and I was pleasantly surprised with the velocity he generated on some intermediate throws. He got off to a slow start this season, but this game will impress NFL evaluators.
2. LSU's running game is rolling: The LSU passing attack has received plenty of praise early portion in the 2013 season, but the Tigers' rushing attack stole the show against Auburn on Saturday night. Sophomore running back Jeremy Hill has come under scrutiny for his off-field troubles, but there is no disputing his ability on the football field. He is a huge back (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) with vision, balance and power. He finished the night with 25 carries for 183 yards and three scores. Fullback J.C. Copeland also chipped in with a rushing touchdown, and he provided several impressive lead blocks to spring Hill into the open field.
Things we learned
From Stanford learning a lesson against ASU to Baylor's offensive onslaught, here are the things we learned from the fourth weekend of college football play. More ...
Because of the popularity of the spread offense, college running backs have been shrinking in size over the last few years. That isn't the case in the SEC, with big runners such as Hill, Georgia's Todd Gurley and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon. Hill and Gurley will share the field next week when LSU travels to Athens to take on the Bulldogs.
3. The USC defense continues to play dominant football: The Trojans' offense has struggled to score after the departure of quarterback Matt Barkley, but there's not much to complain about on the other side of the ball. On Saturday, the Trojans knocked off Utah State, 17-14, holding one of the most underrated offenses in the country well below its scoring average. (Utah State entered the game averaging 49.3 points.) The Trojans were once again led by the duo of senior outside linebacker Morgan Breslin and sophomore defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Breslin finished the game with four tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks, and Williams led the team with eight tackles and also contributed three tackles for loss. They harassed Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton consistently throughout the afternoon.
4. Let the Derek Carr Heisman campaign begin: The Fresno State athletic department has officially launched the Carr-for-Heisman campaign. It has a lot of data to support its efforts, especially after Carr carved up Boise State on Friday night, leading the Bulldogs to a 41-40 victory. The senior signal-caller completed 39 of 60 pass attempts for 460 yards and four touchdowns. Through the first three games of the season, he's completed 68.9 percent of his passes, racked up 12 touchdowns and thrown only one interception. Carr was already on the NFL scouting radar before the season kicked off, but the buzz is really starting to build with each impressive performance.
5. North Carolina has a big-time tight end: When I had the opportunity to watch North Carolina in person earlier this season, I came away very intrigued by the Tar Heels' gifted tight end, Eric Ebron. He has an ideal NFL build, and he is incredibly fast and athletic. He had one of the highlight plays of the weekend with a spectacular one-hand touchdown grab against Georgia Tech. He finished the game with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. The Tar Heels weren't able to secure the win (Georgia Tech won, 28-20), but Ebron continues to make a very strong case that he's one of the top tight ends in the country.
1. BYU needs to improve in the passing game: BYU suffered a 20-13 loss to Utah on Saturday night. The Cougars' defense played well, and their running attack was solid, but their passing attack continues to be inconsistent. Quarterback Taysom Hill is a dynamic runner, but his lack of accuracy and touch has been an issue. He completed only 18 of 48 passes against the Utes, missing several easy throws throughout the contest. On the season, he's completing only 35.1 percent of his throws.
2. West Virginia offense puts up a goose egg: Last season, the West Virginia offense was one of the most explosive in college football. After the departure of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the Mountaineers are anything but explosive this season. The Mountaineers scored only seven points against Oklahoma earlier this month, and they were even more futile against Maryland on Saturday. How bad was it? They were shut out. Zero points. Nothing. Nada. Smith's replacement at quarterback, freshman Ford Childress, completed 11 of 22 passes for 62 yards and was intercepted twice. The Mountaineers turned the ball over six times. It's going to be a long year in Morgantown.
3. Michigan barely escapes -- again: After escaping with a nail-biting win over Akron last week, the Wolverines were expected to make the necessary corrections and thump a winless Connecticut squad Saturday. That didn't happen. The Michigan offense continued to struggle, turning the ball over four times and posting only 284 total yards. Quarterback Devin Gardner still has a lot of work to do as a passer, evidenced by his 111-yard, two-interception performance against UConn. The Wolverines pulled out another narrow win, 24-21, over an inferior opponent, but they must play better as the competition improves.
4. Nebraska's defense still has issues: The Cornhuskers beat South Dakota State by a comfortable margin, 59-20, but they still had some issues on defense. SDSU piled up 465 yards, including 227 rushing yards. Nebraska actually trailed 17-14 at the end of the first quarter. The defense did force three turnovers, including one interception that Randy Gregory returned for a score. The upcoming schedule for the Cornhuskers isn't daunting, but they need to improve on defense to have any chance of competing for a Big Ten title.
5. Weak scheduling leads to several blowout games: This past weekend only featured one matchup between Top 25 teams. There were several lopsided games, including four contests where one team reached 70 points. As a scout, it's tough to evaluate prospects when they are playing inferior competition. Thankfully, the upcoming weekend features an outstanding slate of games.