Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/tuesday-talking-points-2014-week-1-noles-bama-struggle-we-overreact
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Every Saturday night, Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall hosts The Scoreboard Show on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, Ch. 91. Every Tuesday, Athlon Sports will feature his take on the national conversation from fans to players to coaches. Follow the conversation from College Sports Nation hosts on Twitter using the hashtag #section91.

 

Everybody is overrated.

 

Alabama and Florida State looked beatable. Ohio State looked average. UCLA has a nasty defense and a star QB but not much else.

 

Auburn looked like, well, Auburn. The Tigers were unstoppable on offense no matter who played quarterback but the defense still has some major holes, no matter how many miracles defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson works at halftime this year.

 

The first weekend of the year is an eye-opening experience for the college football world. True freshmen are thrown into the deep end against grown men and told not only to swim, but to excel. New coaches get their first taste of battle in a new zip code with totally new players. And, most especially, six months of media prognostication is erased with 60 minutes of football, right?

 

After all that, let's not go crazy after one weekend.

 

That doesn't mean we didn't learn a few interesting things: Does Wisconsin have major issues at quarterback — and apparently a lack of communication about injuries? Does UCLA need to address the supporting cast for Brett Hundley, the nation's most sacked QB the last two years? And South Carolina? What was that?

 

But when the final whistle blew on Week 1, what was different? Again, the only real change of expectations is for South Carolina and Texas A&M.

 

All those teams that, according to the commentary Saturday night and Sunday, you would have believed had lost by more than three touchdowns? They all won. Except South Carolina.

 

I will be the first to admit I was shocked by the performance of Steve Spurrier — the same Head Ball Coach who was 22-0 in season openers as an SEC coach — at home against a team missing three first-round draft picks, including the most productive player per game in SEC history. Something tells me, however, the Gamecocks are going to bounce back.

 

Georgia coach Mark Richt made clear after the 45-21 win over Clemson he is preparing for a different South Carolina team in two weeks.

 

"They are going to hear about all of their flaws and we are going to hear about how good we are for a couple of weeks.” Richt told me on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. “They are going to be mad."

 

But the Bulldogs were still Athlon Sports predicted winner in the SEC East and were ranked No. 8 in the nation. After one week, I'm not going to lie, we can't help but feel better about that pick.

 

SiriusXM's Eddie George is a believer now, too.

 

"Everyone looked beatable,” George said on air. “With the exception of one team: Georgia."

 

I don't disagree, but the basic assumption that Georgia is the only team that looked unbeatable seems comical since the season is less than six percent over. Although, the Bulldogs appear to have increased the list of SEC title contenders from two to three (Alabama, Auburn).

 

But other than that, what exactly is different after Week 1? How deep do we want to dig into the standings?

 

Vanderbilt has major issues. Tennessee looks solid. Oklahoma State might be more of a Big 12 threat than anticipated. Oregon State might be better than Washington. Arizona looks dangerous in the South.

 

But when it comes to the College Football Playoff, what has changed?

 

Alabama is still the frontrunner to win the SEC West as it got decent QB play and held West Virginia to 28 yards rushing. Florida State is still the frontrunner in the ACC as Jameis Winston still posted nearly 400 yards of offense.

 

Ohio State still looks a step behind Michigan State in the Big Ten East but appears to be developing a lot talented playmakers in Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel and Ezekiel Elliott. UCLA is still my pick to win the Pac-12 South. And Auburn could be so unstoppable on offense it might be the top rated non-league champ vying for a Playoff spot at the end of the year.

 

This speaks nothing of conference frontrunners and popular College Football Playoff favorites Oregon, Stanford, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Baylor — all of which dominated like true top 10 teams.

 

The lesson after Week 1 is don’t overact. Don’t try to project the most unpredictable 60 minutes of college football into grand sweeping philosophical changes about what the 2014 season will look like.

 

Saturday Conversation

 

Each week, I get a chance to sit down with some of the day’s biggest names. Here is what our Saturday conversation sounded like this weekend: 

 

JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State

The Ohio State passer was thrust into the fire and showed his inexperience at times. But he knew his role and that was to get the ball to the playmakers and “not do anything too crazy.”

 

 

Mark Richt, Georgia

The Bulldogs outlasted Clemson in impressive fashion on Saturday evening Between the Hedges. Richt attributed that to his team’s excellent conditioning and Jeremy Pruitt’s halftime adjustments.

 

 

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The star wideout for Bama had a career day, catching 12 passes for 130 yards in the win over West Virginia. But how did he grade quarterback Blake Sims’ debut? “I’d give him an A-plus.”
 

 

Kenny Hilliard, RB, LSU

The burly tailback spearheaded a furious second-half comeback against Wisconsin late on Saturday night. He gives his offensive line and Anthony Jennings all of the credit.

 

 

Chris Klieman, North Dakota State

One of the more entertaining stories of Week 1 was the Bison’s upset of Iowa State on the road. Klieman, making his coaching debut, understands there is a tradition of winning at North Dakota State that he is trying to continue.

 

Teaser:
Tuesday Talking Points 2014 Week 1: Noles, Bama Struggle, We Overreact
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-1-charlie-strong-trevor-knight-baylor
Body:

It was a rather eventful first weekend of action for the Big 12. 

 

Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and TCU were picked to finish in the upper half of the league and each did nothing in Week 1 prove anything otherwise. 

 

The same can't be said for Texas Tech or Iowa State. The Red Raiders still appear to have defensive issues, and Paul Rhoads - a coach respected by many despite a poor win-loss record - did nothing to help his case in Ames.

 

On the flip side of the coin, Oklahoma State and West Virginia went up against the top two teams in the nation and acquitted themselves very well. 

 

Here is what we learned from the Big 12 in Week 1:

 

Rumors of Oklahoma State's demise premature

Glenn Spencer did a fantastic job with the Oklahoma State defense on Saturday night in Arlington. Yes, Florida State scored 37 points, 476 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per play. But Jameis Winston looked like anything but a former Heisman winner and national champion. Spencer's unit forced two Winston interceptions and never allowed Karlos Williams to get going (23 att., 66 yds). Offensively, key miscues by the quarterback cost the team a shot at a win, but J.W. Walsh played admirably for most of the contest, and Mike Gundy found himself a shiny new toy in do-everything dynamo Tyreek Hill. The junior college transfer set a school record for all-purpose yards with 278 (44 rush, 62 rec., 172 return) in his OSU debut and was operating on a different speed than everyone else in black and orange. After losing more than 30 players off last year's roster, a six-point loss to the defending champs in the opener could be a sign the Pokes are more of a contender than expected.

 

Ash, Espinosa injured in Strong's debut

Charlie Strong debuted in exactly the way fans likely wanted to see. Texas was physical on both lines of scrimmage, as the Longhorns thoroughly dismantled an overmatched North Texas squad. Strong's defense allowed eight first downs and an absurd minus-22.0 opponent passer rating (3-17, 15 yds), while the offense scored on five out of six trips into the redone. That said, Strong revealed on Monday that David Ash won't play against BYU due to concussion-like symptoms he suffered in the opener. This against a quarterback who posted more than 400 yards of offense and five total touchdowns in an easy road opener against UConn. Unfortunately for Strong, it's probably time for Ash to step away from the game before he inflicts long-term damage to himself. Equally as troubling, his starting center, Dominic Espinosa, will be out for the rest of the year with a broken ankle. It was a great debut in the box score for Strong but he may have lost his two most important offensive players in the process.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

Clint Trickett ready for a big year?

Quarterback play was a huge issue for West Virginia in 2013. Dana Holgorsen's passing attack threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last fall and ranked No. 102 nationally in pass efficiency offense (115.52). But the veteran Trickett had arguably his best game as a Mountaineer, throwing for a career-high 365 yards on 29-of-45 passing. More importantly, he didn't throw the ball to Alabama one time while keeping his offense moving. There was no help whatsoever from the running game (28 yards on 24 attempts) so his performance against one of the nation's best defenses is even more impressive. If Trickett can repeat his play from Saturday, Holgorsen's squad could bounce back this fall.

 

Contenders hold serve

Oklahoma and Baylor both won in impressive fashion against overmatched opponents. The Bears christened a gorgeous new home venue in McLane Stadium with a 45-0 shutout of SMU behind a dominant defensive performance — try 64 total yards allowed and eight sacks. Bryce Petty cracked two vertebrae late in the game but it sounds much worse than it actually is (he should play). The Sooners were slightly less thorough on either side but still crushed Louisiana Tech by 32 points. TCU and Kansas State followed suit in similar fashion over Samford and Stephen F Austin. Texas Tech was the only "contender" who didn't play up to expectations by allowing 35 points and 406 yards of offense in a nail-biter against Central Arkansas.

 

Paul Rhoads inching toward hot seat

Charlie Weis' Jayhawks didn't play and Holgorsen's Mountaineers played valiantly in a 10-point loss. But after allowing 34 consecutive points in an ugly home loss to North Dakota State, many are ready to add Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads to the hottest list in the Big 12. Most agreed that Rhoads entered the season with tremendous job security despite his current 27-37 record in five seasons in Ames. He is an affable guy who is respected by the power structure at Iowa State for a variety of reasons. Three bowl games in five years is a reasonable bar of success at a place like ISU. But while the Bison are a championship program and boast a five-game FBS winning streak, isn't giving up a two-touchdown lead to an FCS opponent at home in a 20-point blowout completely unacceptable?

 

Big 12 Power Rankings:

 

RkTeamRecordLast WeekWeek 2
 1.1-0W, 48-16, La. Techat Tulsa
2.1-0W, 45-0, SMUNW State
3.1-0W, 55-16, SFAat Iowa St
4.1-0W, 38-7, N. TexasBYU
5.1-0W, 48-14, SamfordBye
6.0-1L, 37-31, Florida StMissouri St
7.1-0W, 42-35, C. Arkansasat UTEP
8.0-1L, 33-23, AlabamaTowson
9.0-1L, 34-14, N. Dakota StKansas St
10.0-0ByeSE Missouri St

 

Teaser:
Big 12 Takeaway: Pokes and Mountaineers impress in defeat, Strong debuts at Texas
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-1-takeaway-sarkisian-petersen-hundley-mariota
Body:

The Pac-12 held serve in Week 1. But just barely.

 

Most of the contenders — Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, USC, Arizona and Utah — crushed overmatched opponents to start the year. But UCLA had to fight to top Virginia, and Washington barely held on for a win over Hawaii. Both are considered disappointing showings despite each achieving victory. Oregon State also had to fight to beat FCS cellar dweller Portland State.

 

Washington State and Colorado also began the year in disappointing fashion as well. The Cougars were upset in Seattle by a Big Ten bottom feeder, while the Buffaloes fell to an instate rival. 

 

This Pac-12's saving grace came from an unlikely source as Cal pulled off one of the bigger upsets of Week 1 over Northwestern.

 

Here is what we learned from the Pac-12 in Week 1: 

 

Mixed Debuts 

There are a lot of new faces on the sidelines out West. Don Pellum debuted as Oregon's defensive coordinator by allowing 13 points and 370 yards to South Dakota. Lance Anderson debuted as Stanford's defensive coordinator by pitching a shutout and allowing just 115 yards against UC Davis. And Jeff Ulbrich's first game as UCLA's defensive coordinator netted three defensive touchdowns on the road against Virginia. But the two biggest debuts came in the form of two head coaches forever interwoven at USC and Washington. Steve Sarkisian's Trojans were masterful over Fresno State on both sides of the ball despite a short roster. Meanwhile Chris Petersen's Huskies barely topped a bad Hawaii team on the Islands. While fans in Los Angeles needed this type of showing after a rough week of news, those in Seattle are looking forward to the return of quarterback Cyler Miles in Week 2. Washington's Jeff Lindquist completed just 10-of-26 passes as UW mustered just 336 yards of offense. Cody Kessler, meanwhile, posted 422 yards of offense. The Trojans are clearly talented but will need to stay healthy to get into the Pac-12 title mix.

 

Listen to Cover 2 college footbll podcast:

 

Cal scores road upset

Sonny Dykes is a well-respected coaching mind but had an extremely rough first campaign in Berkeley. He's already matched his win total from last year by pulling off a big road upset over Northwestern. Cal opened up a 31-7 third-quarter lead before holding on for the seven-point upset. His Bears held the heavily favored Wildcats (-11) to just 354 yards of offense after allowing 529.5 yards per game last season. Jared Goff finished 21-of-34 passing for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Alongside Dykes in the 2013 Pac-12 head coaching narrative, Colorado's Mike MacIntrye didn't start his second season nearly as well in a disappointing 31-17 loss to instate rival Colorado State.

 

Arm race heats up

This league has the best signal callers in America but it might be even better under center out West than we expected. Kessler and USC posted 701 yards of offense and 37 first downs on a Pac-12 record 105 offensive plays. He finished with 394 yards passing and wasn't even one of the top two passers in the league. Washington State's Connor Halliday threw for 532 yards, while Arizona's Anu Solomon posted 425 in his first career game (more on him in a minute). Marcus Mariota also rolled up 310 total yards, while Sean Mannion posted 328 yards through the air. This deep and talented collection of passers might actually be deeper and more talented than believed. In fact, one of the few players who struggled in the season opener was UCLA's Brett Hundley. But was that really his fault...

 

Hundley's supporting cast not ready

Brett Hundley was the most sacked quarterback in the nation over the last two seasons (87). He was running for his life once again facing a team that lost 10 times last fall. Virginia isn't your average last place team as it does have some young talent on defense, but UCLA's lack of overall skill on offense was exposed. This team doesn't have a proven playmaker of any kind to support Hundley, and the offensive line was abused for four sacks. If UCLA wants to win the Pac-12 it will have to prove that it has the ability to slow the opposing pass rush or teams will simply pin their ears back and attack the star quarterback.

 

RichRod has found a QB

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats. Against his hometown team, the first-time starter didn't disappoint. He used a barrage of big plays to roll up 425 yards passing and four touchdowns while adding 50 yards rushing on eight carries. In all, Arizona set a school record with 787 total yards of offense, breaking the previous mark of 691 set back in 1969 against New Mexico. Two different Cats (Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson) topped 100 yards rushing but Solomon was the clear star of the show and appears to be the next big thing in RichRod's offense.

 

Pac-12 Power Rankings:

 

RkTeamRecordLast WeekWeek 2
1.1-0W, 62-13, S. DakotaMichigan St
2.1-0W, 45-0, UC DavisUSC
3.1-0W, 28-20, VirginiaMemphis
4.1-0W, 52-13, Fresno Stat Stanford
5.1-0W, 45-14, Weber Stat N. Mexico
6.1-0W, 58-13, UNLVat UTSA
7.1-0W, 17-16, HawaiiE. Washington
8.1-0W, 29-14, Portland Stat Hawaii
9.1-0W, 56-14, Idaho StFresno St
10.1-0W, 31-24, N'WesternSacramento St
11.0-1L, 41-38, Rutgersat Nevada
12.0-1L, 31-17, CSUat UMass

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 Takeaway: Sarkisian and Petersen have mixed debuts
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/previewing-five-best-college-football-games-week-2
Body:

Just when you think you've got it all figured out… the season starts.

 

Texas A&M, Rutgers and Temple got things started on Thursday evening in shocking fashion by pulling off huge upsets.

 

The madness continued on Saturday with a thriller in Dublin between Penn State and UCF before the top two teams in the nation struggled mightily with West Virginia (Alabama) and Oklahoma State (Florida State). Needless to say, it was an outstanding first weekend of action. What could Week 2 do for an encore presentation?

 

The Week Ahead: Sept. 4-Sept. 6


Michigan State at Oregon
When and where:
6:30 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... we don't really know anything about either team after lopsided victories in Week 1. Sparty crushed poor Jacksonville State 45-7, while the Ducks routed lowly South Dakota 62-13. This is the ultimate contrast in schemes with Marcus Mariota leading one of the nation's most powerful spread attacks and Pat Narduzzi directing one the gnarliest defensive units in the land. Who wins at college football: Powerful up-tempo offense or physical, hard-hitting defense? And there is that small matter that the loser might be knocked out of the College Football Playoff two weeks into the season. This could be the biggest non-conference game of the entire 2014 season.
Vegas says: Oregon by 11

USC at Stanford
When and where
: 3:30 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... these two rivals always put on a show out West. Stanford got its Pac-12 title defense underway in workmanlike and boring fashion by defeating lowly UC Davis with ease to open the year. USC, a team with just 62 scholarship players, handled Fresno State with equally impressive ease behind elite play from Cody Kessler in Steve Sarkisian's debut. In Week 2, they get conference play started in style with an old-school California bout in Palo Alto. Look for quarterbacks Kevin Hogan (204 yds, 4 total TD) and Kessler (394 yds, 4 TD) to build on excellent Week 1 performances. Stanford is looking for revenge after a late-season upset at the hands of the Trojans in Los Angeles a year ago and the loser will fall a game behind higher ranked division contenders.
Vegas says: Stanford by 4

Virginia Tech at Ohio State
When and where:
8 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... we can't wait to see Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett thrust back into the fire against an always excellent Virginia Tech defense. Barrett had a slow start against Navy but finished with a solid line (12-15, 222 yards, 2 TD, INT) in a harder-than-the-score-looked win over the Midshipmen. Facing Bud Foster's Hokies is a bird of a totally different feather all together. If the Buckeyes offense can be modestly effective against Virginia Tech, then Ohio State should be able to get the win. Despite 488 yards in the opener, the Tech offense doesn't figure to have much room to work with in Columbus against one of the nation's best defensive lines.
Vegas says: Ohio State by 12

Michigan at Notre Dame
When and where:
7:30 p.m., NBC
We’re watching because... we may not see this game for a while. Doug Nussmeier's debut for Michigan couldn't have gone any better. Both Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess agree as the duo connected seven times for 95 yards and three first-half touchdowns. Gardner looked more comfortable under center than he did at any time last season. Some of that, of course, has to do with one of the best rushing outputs of Brady Hoke's tenure. Michigan ran for 350 yards at almost 10 yards per carry (9.7) in the easy revenge win over Appalachian State. Notre Dame, meanwhile, welcomed back Everett Golson with five total touchdowns in a resounding victory over Rice in the Irish's opener. Look for quarterback play to be the deciding factor when these two rivals meet for the last time (for now).
Vegas says: Notre Dame by 6

BYU at Texas
When and where:
7:30 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... of what happened last year between these two. Taysom Hill got his 2014 season started in style with over 400 yards of offense (308 pass, 97 rush) and five total touchdowns in a blowout win on the road over UConn. Meanwhile, Charlie Strong debuted in impressive fashion for the Longhorns with an easy win over North Texas — Texas held the Mean Green to just 94 yards of total offense. This was a record-setting meeting for both programs last year when BYU rolled up 550 yards and 40 points in a win over the Horns in Provo. With a new sheriff in town, however, how different will things be for Texas' defense down on The 40 Acres? Charlie Strong, though, may be in trouble due to his offense down a starting quarterback (David Ash, concussion) and center (Dominic Espinosa, ankle) perhaps for the remainder of the season.
Vegas says: Texas by 4.5

Teaser:
Previewing the Five Best College Football Games of Week 2
Post date: Monday, September 1, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-1-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Undefeated should be the Pac-12's goal in Week 1.

 

Every team in the league is favored to win its season opener with the exception of Cal — an 11-point underdog on the road at Northwestern.

 

So barring a Golden Bears’ road upset, the league should be hoping to avoid the upset bug in the first weekend of action. All of the league front-runners are huge favorites to win and an early slip up would be crushing.

 

An 11-1 mark in Week 1 would be considered holding serve for the Pac-12.


Week 1 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 SEC

 

1. Fresno St at USC
7:30 p.m., FOX

Part of the reason the Pac-12 should win at least 11 games in Week 1 is that there is no marquee showdown. Fresno State is picked to win the MW West Division and should be one of the better non-Big 5 teams in the nation. Storylines such as Steve Sarkisian's Trojans' debut, USC and Fresno State's Las Vegas Bowl matchup to end last season and the Josh Shaw saga only adds intrigue.

 

2. UCLA at Virginia
Noon, ESPN

The Cavaliers pulled an improbable upset against a team from the West (BYU) at home in their season opener last fall. A repeat performance is highly unlikely this go around. Still, Virginia's defense is much more talented than its 10-loss record from last year so Brett Hundley will need to be sharp. But the Virginia offense will have a tough time against one of the better Pac-12 defenses. There are no excuses for UCLA in this one.

 

3. Rutgers at Washington St
Thurs., 10 p.m., FS1

What should be one of the most competitive Week 1 matchups will feature a “traditional” Big Ten-Pac-12 bout. While a Cougars-Scarlet Knights game is anything but traditional the entertainment value should be high. Kyle Flood enters a critical year as head coach of Rutgers while Mike Leach has a productive returning quarterback and bowl aspirations. Stay up late for this one on Thursday evening, it will be worth it.

 

4. Colorado St at Colorado
Fri., 9 p.m., FS1, Denver

When it comes to intensity, the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver is arguably the most intriguing game of the weekend out West. This meeting marks the 85th between these two in-state rivals. Rams coach Jim McElwain topped the Buffs in his introduction to this series two years ago and has turned the CSU program into a winner while Mike MacIntyre won his debut against the Rams last fall. The Buffs are a 2.5-point favorite.

 

5. Cal at Northwestern
3:30 p.m., ESPN2

The only Pac-12 underdog in Week 1 is Cal’s trip to Evanston. Sonny Dykes’ first game as the Bears head coach ended in a 44-30 defeat at home against these Wildcats last fall. His squad allowed 508 yards of offense but his freshman quarterback, Jared Goff, threw the ball 63 times for 445 yards in his first career game. Look for more points and a more competitive game this time around (although, the outcome may be the same).

 

6. UNLV at Arizona
Fri., 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Arizona breaks in a new star at quarterback when redshirt freshman Anu Solomon makes his first career start in his first career game. The Wildcats are a heavy favorite (-23.5) and defeated the Rebels in Las Vegas — Solomon’s hometown — by a 58-13 margin a year ago. Tuning in to see how Solomon handles himself will be important, so get the coffee ready as this was Arizona’s longest game of the year last fall (3:30) and is the final game to kick off on Friday evening.

 

7. Washington at Hawaii
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports

Chris Petersen makes his Washington debut on the islands this weekend. He will be without starting quarterback Cyler Miles and is one of just two Pac-12 teams to start the season on the road. That said, there is a reason the Huskies are a 17-point favorite and Hawaii head coach Norm Chow is on the hot seat. Washington’s defense should dominate a team picked to finish dead last in its division.

 

Listen to the Week 1 Cover 2 podcast:

 

8. UC Davis at Stanford
4 p.m., Pac-12 Net

A fairly competitive Big Sky team last year (5-3 in league), UC Davis doesn’t figure to challenge mighty Stanford. The Aggies aren’t picked by many to make the FCS playoffs and won’t be able to compete physically with the Cardinal.

 

9. South Dakota at Oregon
10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Not to be confused with FCS playoff contenders South Dakota State and North Dakota State, the Coyotes of South Dakota (4-8 last year) don’t figure to be competitive longer than a few series. Look for Oregon to churn out yards and points while, most importantly, staying healthy for the visit from Michigan State looming in Week 2.

 

10. Weber St at Arizona St
Thurs., 10:30 p.m., Pac-12 Net

The Sun Devils — along with the Utes — picked two of the worst Big Sky teams to face in their season openers. The Wildcats of Weber State won just one conference game last year and will be little to no competition for ASU’s totally reworked defense. Look for Todd Graham to get a lot of looks for his new defensive unit.

 

11. Portland St at Oregon St
4 p.m., Pac-12 Net

There is one reason to tune in: Sean Mannion. Portland State isn’t a contender in the Big Sky this year so don’t expect a repeat of what Eastern Washington did in Corvallis a year ago. This Beavers' offense is worth watching anytime this unit takes the field, even if the score is extremely one-sided.

 

12. Idaho St at Utah
Thurs., 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Net

The Bengals of Idaho State won just one Big Sky game last year and that should basically guarantee a win for Kyle Whittingham. And for a head coach with quarterback questions and a seat warming beneath him, every win is critical.


Pac-12 Predictions:
 

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Fresno St (+21.5) at USCUSC, 34-13USC, 37-17USC, 42-17USC, 38-20
UCLA (-21) at VirginiaUCLA, 38-13UCLA, 33-14UCLA, 42-10UCLA, 34-13
Rutgers (+8) vs. WazzuWSU, 42-21WSU, 41-17WSU, 52-14WSU, 45-31
Colo. St (+3) vs. ColoradoColo., 28-24Colo., 21-17CSU, 24-17Colo., 31-27
Cal (+11) at N'WesternNW, 31-21NW, 31-24NW, 38-17NW, 34-24
UNLV (+23.5) at ArizonaZona, 45-17Zona, 48-24Zona, 35-14Zona, 40-20
Wash. (-17) at HawaiiWash., 42-7Wash., 51-10Wash., 49-7Wash., 45-13
UC Davis at StanfordStan., 38-3Stan., 41-0Stan., 35-7Stan., 45-7
S. Dakota at OregonOregon, 51-10Oregon, 58-7Oregon, 52-7Oregon, 60-10
Weber St at Ariz. StASU, 41-14ASU, 51-10ASU, 49-10ASU, 58-13
Portland St at Ore. StOSU, 41-20OSU, 44-17OSU, 52-14OSU, 45-17
Idaho St at UtahUtah, 31-7Utah, 41-0Utah, 49-6Utah, 44-7

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 2014 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-1-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Bob Stoops has been fighting the good fight all offseason long but the rubber meets the road now that the season is starting.

 

Both Oklahoma State and West Virginia played in BCS bowls in the last few seasons but both are heavy underdogs to their ACC and SEC foes in Week 1.

 

So while the league’s non-conference record may look bruised following season openers against Florida State and Alabama, the contenders in this league should begin the year with success.


Week 1 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 SEC

 

1. Florida St vs. Oklahoma St
8 p.m., ABC, Arlington

Mike Gundy has an excellent program rolling along in Stillwater. However, losing more than 30 players off your roster and facing a defending national champion that might actually be improved from a year ago isn’t a recipe for success. The Pokes are going to be hard pressed to stop the Noles in either facet of the game and their ongoing quarterback battle raises questions about Oklahoma State’s upside this fall. This was supposed to be a marquee season opener but could turn into a dud quickly.

 

2. North Texas at Texas
8 p.m., LHN

Charlie Strong makes his debut against an in-state opponent that won nine games a year ago. Does that mean the Mean Green will challenge the Longhorns? Unlikely. But the questions about David Ash’s health, the offensive line’s tenacity and the business culture behind the scenes are still hanging in the air down in Austin. A clean, dominant performance against North Texas would be a great way to begin to answer those questions. Especially, with BYU and UCLA looming.

 

3. West Virginia vs. Alabama
3:30 p.m., ABC, Atlanta

Much like Oklahoma State-Florida State, this game looked like a great season opener a few years ago. But like the Cowboys, the Mountaineers aren’t in a position to challenge one of the top two teams in the nation. Dana Holgorsen’s group could be improved and the secondary is good enough to challenge whichever signal-caller starts for Bama. That said, WVU's overall roster situation isn’t good enough to put Nick Saban’s squad into any danger whatsoever.

 

4. SMU at Baylor
Sun., 7:30 p.m., FS1

The Bears scored at least 69 points in each of their first four games last fall. Fans in Waco — the ones who will pack the newly minted McLane Stadium Sunday evening — should expect much of the same against the in-state Mustangs. June Jones’ squad returns six starters to a defense that allowed more than 33 points and 400 yards of offense a year ago. Baylor returns Bryce Petty and Art Briles. Enough said.

 

5. North Dakota St at Iowa St
Noon, FS1

The Bison don’t have their three-time national championship head coach any more (he’s at Wyoming) but they do have one of the longer FBS winning streaks in college football. Ninth-longest, to be exact. North Dakota State has won four straight against FBS opponents, including two against the Big 12 (Kansas, Kansas State). Paul Rhoads has improved Iowa State's roster to the point that this game should be a win for the Cyclones. But fans in Ames should be extremely wary of NDSU — the No. 2-ranked team in the FCS entering the season.

 

6. Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma
7 p.m.

After an offseason full of Bob Stoops one-liners and national roster headlines, the Sooners finally get back on the field. And will do so without Frank Shannon, Joe Mixon or Dorial Green-Beckham. Against the Bulldogs, however, Crimson and Cream fans shouldn’t be worried. Trevor Knight should have plenty of room to operate and the defense should be dominant. There is a reason OU is favored by 38 points.

 

7. Samford at TCU
7 p.m.

Gary Patterson has yet to decide on his starting quarterback as Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel are both expected to get plenty of snaps in the season opener. This battle is really the only reason to tune in to this one as the Frogs figure to pound the Bulldogs.

 

8. Central Arkansas at Texas Tech
7 p.m.

Davis Webb begins his first full season as the starting quarterback in Lubbock against lowly Central Arkansas. The Bears, who were 7-5 last fall, allowed 38 in a loss to Colorado last year so Kliff Kingsbury’s offense should have no issues cruising in Week 1.

 

9. Stephen F. Austin at Kansas St
7:10 p.m.

Bill Snyder is a genius and has an excellent team returning, including a proven starter at quarterback. Stephen F. Austin lost nine times last year (1-6 in the Southland Conference) and should pose little threat. Sorting out the Wildcats' running game and getting new defensive starters quality reps are adequate goals for this one-sided affair.

 

Off: Kansas
 

Listen to the Week 1 Cover 2 Podcast:

Big 12 Predictions:
 

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Florida St (-17.5) vs. Okla. StFSU, 44-17FSU, 41-17FSU, 49-10FSU, 48-17
N. Texas (+25) at TexasTexas, 34-10Texas, 27-10Texas, 31-14Texas, 34-13
W. Virginia (+26) vs. AlabamaBama, 31-13Bama, 30-13Bama, 38-7Bama, 38-10
SMU (+32.5) at BaylorBaylor, 51-20Baylor, 44-17Baylor, 63-10Baylor, 52-17
N. Dakota St at Iowa StISU, 24-21ISU, 21-17NDSU, 17-14ISU, 27-20
La. Tech (+38) at OklahomaOkla., 45-7Okla., 48-7Okla., 52-10Okla., 48-10
Samford at TCUTCU, 31-10TCU, 34-17TCU, 35-7TCU, 41-7
C. Arkansas at Texas TechTech, 49-10Tech, 55-20Tech, 49-6Tech, 60-17
SFA at Kansas StKSU, 34-7KSU, 48-0KSU, 28-17KSU, 44-7

 

Teaser:
Big 12 2014 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/2014-betting-against-spread-college-football-week-1-picks
Body:

Each week, Athlon Sports brings the fans a taste of Las Vegas with our panel picks against the spread for every top 25 game and Braden Gall’s top individual games of the week.

 

Here are his Week 1 picks:

 

Boise St (-10) vs. Ole Miss (Atlanta)

Normally the Broncos are excellent in season openers against high-level competition. Normally Ole Miss isn’t considered high-level competition. But Chris Petersen isn’t in Boise any longer and this isn’t your father’s Ole Miss squad. The Rebels are extremely talented and will dominate the line of scrimmage in Atlanta. Prediction: Ole Miss -10

 

Rutgers (+8) vs. Washington St (Seattle)

This is the tale of two programs heading in two totally different directions. Kyle Flood is in serious hot seat territory in New Jersey while Mike Leach returns a star quarterback and a deep receiving corps on a team that has bowl aspirations. The Cougars will put up a big number. Prediction: Washington State -8

 

Florida St (-17.5) vs. Okla. St (Arlington)

The Pokes are a solid program but this might be one of Mike Gundy’s worst rosters since taking over in Stillwater. Florida State is not only the defending champion but could actually be in improved this year. The Noles won games by an average of 40 points last year and this one could fall into that category as well. Prediction: Florida State -17.5

 

Penn State (+2) vs. UCF (Dublin)

I was almost shocked to see UCF as the favorite in this game. James Franklin is a proven sideline wizard and Christian Hackenberg is a special player. The Knights won this game last year but lost its catalyst in Blake Bortles (as well as eight other starters). It will be close but PSU will win outright… so take the points. Prediction: Penn State +2

 

Miami (+3.5) at Louisville

These aren’t close to being the same two teams that played in the lop-sided Russell Athletic Bowl to end last season. Gone is Teddy Bridgewater, Charlie Strong and numerous other stars from the UL roster. And back are Duke Johnson and a host of incoming talented freshmen for Miami. But Bobby Petrino is coaching the Cardinals who have a deep and talented running game to lean on. The Canes haven't closed the 27-point gap just yet. Prediction: Louisville -3.5

 

Washington (-17) at Hawaii

Norm Chow is on the hot seat for a reason at Hawaii. Chris Petersen is stepping into his debut performance at his shiny new gig in Seattle. The Huskies' defense will dominate the headlines in this one. Washington doesn’t need Cyler Miles to win this one in easy fashion. Prediction: Washington -17

 

Listen to the Week 1 Cover 2 podcast:

 

Top 25 Picks ATS:

 

Top 25Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Florida St (-17.5) vs. Okla. St
W. Virginia (+26) vs. Alabama
La. Tech (+38) at Okla.
Ohio St (-16) vs. Navy
Arkansas (+19.5) at Auburn
UCLA (-21) at Virginia
Texas A&M (+10.5) at S. Carolina
SMU (+32.5) at Baylor
Clemson (+7.5) at Georgia
Wisconsin (+5) vs. LSU
Fresno St (+21.5) at USC
Rice (+21) at Notre Dame
Boise St (+10) vs. Ole Miss
FAU (+21) at Nebraska
Wash. (-17) at Hawaii
YTD:0-00-00-00-0

 

Teaser:
2014 Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 1 Picks
Post date: Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/15-second-year-players-who-could-break-out-fantasy-football
Body:

Eddie Lacy led all rookies in fantasy points (Athlon Sports scoring) in 2013. He wasn't the only first-year player to shine either, as Keenan Allen topped all wide receivers and running backs Zac Stacy, Giovani Bernard and Le'Veon Bell each posted solid numbers for their respective teams. While these and others enjoyed strong debuts, here are 15 other members of the 2013 draft class that could break out in their second season in the NFL. And if that does happen, it could lead to good results for your fantasy team.

 

1. Montee Ball, RB, Denver

The Broncos’ rookie overcame fumble issues to develop into a solid contributor. Ball posted his three best yardage totals, including his lone 100-yard effort, in the final five weeks of the season. With Knowshon Moreno now in Miami, Ball should be an every-week fantasy starter.

 

2. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota

Few can match his freakish triple-threat athletic ability, so there should be little doubt about his enormous upside. Should he continue to polish his route-running skills and understanding of the position, Patterson should flourish in his second year — especially with a more stable quarterback situation.

 

3. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona

Very quietly, the Cardinals’ rookie topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage a year ago on just 157 offensive touches for an impressive 6.5 yards-per-touch. With improved offensive line play and a full season to gain regular touches, Ellington could develop into a must-start option.

 

4. Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas

Williams was hugely productive at Baylor and proved his NFL staying power as a rookie. His 736 receiving yards were third among all first-year players. He’s on a solid offense with a quality quarterback; all Williams needs to develop into a weekly fantasy starter is more consistency.

 

5. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington

Reed led all rookie tight ends a year ago in both receptions (45) and yards (499) despite missing seven games due to concussion problems. Reed could easily become a No. 1 fantasy tight end.

 

6. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston

There are quarterback concerns, but Hopkins is the heir apparent to Andre Johnson. The Texans’ second-year receiver should be able to improve on his impressive 52-catch, 802-yard rookie campaign.

 

7. EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo

Both Geno Smith and Mike Glennon got more experience a year ago, but Manuel has the most upside and stability of all the second-year quarterbacks, and Buffalo has stockpiled weapons for him.

 

8. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Kenny Britt is gone, and Kendall Wright is in the slot, so that leaves Hunter to excel in new coach Ken Whisenhunt's vertical passing game. The deep threat should have a healthy quarterback and a much better grasp of the offense.

 

9. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia

Ertz was No. 2 to Reed in rookie receiving yards by a tight end (469) and tied for the rookie lead among tight ends with four touchdown grabs. There is plenty of action to go around in Chip Kelly’s offense.

 

10. Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo

The net difference between losing Stevie Johnson and gaining Sammy Watkins should be a positive for Woods. He should be in line to earn starter snaps and may even be the Bills’ top pass-catcher in 2014.

 

11. Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis

He’s not a big receiver, but he will always have big-play ability — as his 98-yard punt return touchdown proved a year ago. He is an all-purpose dynamo who can be used all over the field.

 

12. Markus Wheaton, WR, Pittsburgh

There is plenty of room on the Steelers’ depth chart for Wheaton to become a starter in his second year. He can do a little bit of everything, and he will have the first shot to replace Emmanuel Sanders.

 

13. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati

As the unquestioned starter on a team loaded with offensive weapons, Eifert has a chance to develop into a viable fantasy option in year No. 2.

 

14. Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans

He finished tied for second among rookie WRs in TDs (five). With Drew Brees running the show, there should be plenty to go around.

 

15. Aaron Dobson, WR, New England

He has to deal with a crowded (yet uncertain) receiving corps and get over a foot injury that impacted his rookie season, but Dobson's 6'3", 210-pound frame may may make him an inviting target for Tom Brady.

Teaser:
15 Second-Year Players Who Could Break Out in Fantasy Football
Post date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-biggest-potential-upsets-2014
Body:

Utah won just five games last season but somehow managed to topple mighty Stanford on a fourth quarter, goal-line stand in the waning minutes. It nearly cost the Cardinal a Pac-12 title and did cost Stanford a chance at a national title.

 

Tennessee has lost seven games four straight seasons but figured out a way to stop Connor Shaw and beat an 11-win South Carolina team last fall. That loss kept the Gamecocks from playing for an SEC title.

 

A five-loss Arizona team beat Oregon with a Pac-12 title on the line, knocking the Ducks out of the conference championship game.

 

Notre Dame, a middle-of-the-pack team that lost to Pitt and Michigan, was the only team capable of knocking off Michigan State a year ago. It cost Sparty a chance at a BCS title.

 

Monumental, championship-altering upsets are a part of college football as much as marching bands and tailgates. It’s part of what makes the game great. The 2014 season won’t be any different.

 

Here’s a tip: Look for well-coached teams at home against higher-ranked opponents.

 

Washington over UCLA (Nov. 8)

Many are on board the Bruins train because of all the key home games. Well, UCLA has to travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the physical Huskies in Seattle late in the year. Chris Petersen has all the talent and physicality to pull off the home upset with UCLA looking ahead to USC.

 

Texas Tech or TCU over Oklahoma

Part of why the Sooners have me doubting my College Football Playoff predictions is that this team wasn’t nearly as good as its 11-win, Big 12-title winning resume indicated from last year. The Sooners topped TCU and Texas Tech in Norman by a total of 11 points last year. Both games are on the road this fall and both the Frogs and Red Raiders could be better.

 

Missouri over Georgia (Oct. 11)

The Dawgs have averaged 4.6 losses per season over the last five years and a mid-season trip to Missouri could end their SEC East title hopes. The Tigers won in Athens last year with Maty Mauk playing quarterback and now they get Georgia at home. The Tigers will upset someone and odds are it’s UGA.

 

Maryland over Michigan State (Nov. 15)

The Spartans have more than one tough road trip this fall but only one will happen six days after beating (that’s right) Ohio State. A late-season road trip after toppling the mighty Buckeyes is prime “letdown alert” territory. If the Terps can stay healthy, they have the weapons on offense and the coaching to match up with Michigan State in a one-game showdown.

 

Florida over South Carolina (Nov. 15)

It may not be a big upset by the time the game rolls around (because the Gators will be markedly improved by that time) but Florida beating South Carolina could knock the Gamecocks out of the SEC title game. This was a 44-11 beatdown for Florida two years ago and was almost a Gators' win in Columbia last year (19-14).

 

Utah over Oregon (Nov. 8)

The more obvious upset picks for the Ducks are trips to Washington State and Oregon State — since both the Beavers and Cougars figure to be better than the Utes. But Utah plays extremely well at home, upsetting Stanford last year and nearly beating UCLA and Arizona State as well. Oregon will be coming off a home game with Stanford the week before and will be physically exhausted when it heads to Salt Lake City.

 

LSU over Alabama (Nov. 8)

I don’t see Alabama going undefeated and I don’t see Alabama losing to any school from the state of Mississippi. So where does Bama lose? Baton Rouge is the best bet. LSU could be out of the SEC West race by the time this game comes along and a win over Alabama would cast an entirely different light on the season. 

 

Northwestern over Wisconsin (Oct. 4)

The Wildcats have foiled a Badger season many times before and 2014 could be more of the same for Big Red faithful. A trip to Evanston to start Big Ten play is a dangerous way to begin for Wisconsin. Northwestern figures to be much improved and fired up to get B1G play underway.

 

Ole Miss or Mississippi State over Auburn

The Tigers' road schedule is arguably the worst in the nation and trips to Oxford and Starkville aren’t even the toughest trips facing Auburn (at Alabama). The trip to face Mississippi State is especially poorly placed between home games with LSU and South Carolina. The Ole Miss bout will come immediately after the home tilt with the Gamecocks. One of these trips to the Magnolia State will be costly.

 

Pitt over Virginia Tech (Oct. 16)

There are many believe the Panthers to be a sleeper pick to win the Coastal Division. While, I cannot go that far (yet), I will agree that Paul Chryst’s club is a dangerous one that will pull an upset (or two) this fall. Pitt could beat Iowa, both Virginia and Georgia Tech and Duke before it’s all said and done this fall.

Teaser:
College Football's 10 Biggest Potential Upsets of 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-1-preview
Body:

College football season is finally here and the guys preview the opening weekend of the season. Braden Gall, David Fox and Steven Lassan make picks, talk upsets, discuss Braxton Miller's injury and argue about fall weddings.

 

Have a question or comment? Contact us at podcast@athlonsports.com or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall, @DavidFox615 and @AthlonSteven

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 1 Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 16:54
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-50-games-watch-2014
Body:

You need to know which games you can’t miss in 2014? Here is a comprehensive list of the Top 50 must-see college football games of the year. Set the DVR now.

 

1. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 29)

Not only are in-state and conference bragging rights on the line for 364 days in the nation’s biggest event this year, but the winner of this one game also played in each of the final five BCS National Championship Games. And after the way last year’s clash ended, fans can bet the intensity will reach a fevered pitch by Rivalry Week — especially, if there is as much on the line in 2014 as there was last fall.

 

2. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)

The Pac-12 South has gotten much better and has its own elite battles but the top ticket in the Pac-12 this fall is still the Ducks and Cardinal. The winner of this game has won the last four Pac-12 titles and that is likely the case again this fall. A knee injury hampered Marcus Mariota last year and a fully healthy QB for Oregon could finally give the Ducks a win over the Cardinal with No. 8 under center.

 

3. Oregon at UCLA (Oct. 11)

There is no better quarterback matchup in the nation than when Mariota and the Ducks fly south to battle Brett Hundley and the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. This is likely a preview of the Pac-12 title game and could have divisional, conference and national championship implications. Loosen up the scoreboard operator for this one.

 

4. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. So Oregon cannot overlook the rebuilt Sparty defense early in the year or the Ducks could be knocked out of playoff contention by Week 2. The schematic chess match between Marcus Mariota and Mark Dantonio's defense should be fascinating to watch.

 

5. Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)

Some of the luster has certainly worn off this monumental showdown but these are still the two best teams in the Big Ten. The winner of this game is still likely the East Division champ, is still likely to win the Big Ten title and is still in line to snag the final playoff spot. This should still be a physical clash of top-ranked teams.

 

6. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)

The Bears have never won in 11 tries in Norman and the Big 12 title likely hangs in the balance on Nov. 8 when Art Briles brings his squad into Memorial Stadium. This was a 29-point blowout in favor of Baylor last year in Waco but both teams will be different this fall. Bryce Petty will have to be near perfect and the BU defense must develop before November if it wants to win this marquee showdown.

 

7. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 8)

The Tigers aren’t picked to finish first, second or third in the SEC West but that doesn’t take much away from what is a yearly battle between these two powerhouses. Bama doesn’t have too many tests this fall and a trip to Baton Rouge might be its toughest test (until the Iron Bowl). Nick Saban has won three straight overall in this series and has won two of the last three trips to the Bayou.

 

8. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Oct. 11, Dallas)

The Red River Shootout (no, I don’t call it the Rivalry) enters a new era with a new chapter as Charlie Strong takes part in his first Cotton Bowl showdown. Texas won this game inexplicably a year ago and the Sooners should be plenty motivated to get revenge against a first-year coach. For better or worse, Strong’s work with the offensive line will be on full display.

 

9. Georgia at South Carolina (Sept. 13)

The SEC East title could be on the line in Week 3 when these two tangle in Columbia. South Carolina lost narrowly in Athens last year after three straight relatively easy wins over the Dawgs from 2010-12. Georgia last won at South Carolina in 2008.

 

10. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 29)

Yes, this game may not have as much meaning to either team at the end of the season in terms of the standings but that didn’t stop last season’s meeting from being an instant classic. Brady Hoke desperately needs wins against a rival and Ohio State could still need this game to win the division. The bottom line is a winless Wolverines-Buckeyes matchup is still must-see TV.

 

11. LSU at Auburn (Oct. 4)

The battle of Tigers from Auburn and LSU is one of the yearly treats for SEC fans. Last fall, LSU was the only team to beat Auburn in the regular season and it wasn’t really competitive. Revenge will certainly be on the minds of Gus Malzahn and his squad. The right to challenge Alabama likely also hangs in the balance for this early October meeting as well.

 

12. USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)

This crosstown rivalry is getting some extra juice, as both programs appear to be surging in the right direction. Both teams are ranked in the preseason top 20 and both have elite starting rosters. Depth could be a big issue for the Trojans come late November but if they can stay healthy, USC could find itself in a winner-take-all South Division title match against one of its biggest rivals.

 

13. Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 28)

The Cardinal are the two-time defending champs but have to play all of its toughest games on the road, including a trip to UCLA on the final weekend of the regular season. These two played in back-to-back weeks two years ago and the Bruins haven’t forgotten. It could happen again this fall. Whether both divisions are already locked up or not, this game should be supremely entertaining.

 

14. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be one the biggest non-conference games of the year. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes.

 

15. Army vs. Navy (Dec. 13, Baltimore)

It has no bearing on the national landscape and neither team plays a “conference” schedule, but the annual bout between Army and Navy has to be recognized. The two have met 114 times with Navy holding a 58-49-7 edge in the all-time series, including a 12-game winning streak. There is a reason this game stands alone on its own weekend (Week 16, technically) and attending this patriotic and emotional contest should be on every fan’s sports bucket list.

 

16. Auburn at Ole Miss (Nov. 1)

With the recent influx of talent, Ole Miss finds itself closer to the top of the West Division than the bottom. That means home tests against conference front-runners become marquee showdowns. The Tigers have won eight of the last 10 against the Rebels but Ole Miss dominated Auburn the last time they visited (41-20 in 2012) and has won two out of three in Oxford.

 

17. Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 15)

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry offered fans one of the most remarkable games in SEC history last fall. While the 2014 edition will be hard pressed to match last year’s drama, the gravity of this year’s showdown could be much greater as both teams eye a College Football Playoff berth. Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005.

 

18. South Carolina at Auburn (Oct. 25)

Auburn got no favors this fall by having to face the top two contenders in the East in crossover play. The difference is the lack of history between these two SEC title contenders. The duo has played just 11 times and Auburn holds a commanding 9-1-1 lead in the series. The Gamecocks would have won the East had it not lost the last meeting in Columbia in 2011. South Carolina’s lone win over Auburn came way back in 1933.

 

19. Baylor at Texas (Oct. 4)

The Bears topped both Texas and Oklahoma at home last year but to repeat as Big 12 champs, Briles’ bunch must top both conference powers on the road this fall. The Bears have won in Austin before but this isn’t Mack Brown's Longhorns anymore. As far as early-season conference games go, this one is fascinating.

 

20. Wisconsin vs. LSU (Aug. 30, Houston)

From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the one to watch in '14. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, both of whom are expecting to compete for division titles in their respective conferences. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase for both.

 

22. UCLA vs. Texas (Sept. 13, Arlington)

UCLA has Pac-12 South Division title hopes and possibly more as Brett Hundley enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral" field in Dallas. Both teams have outside chances at landing a spot in the College Football Playoff and an early-season slip up must be avoided for both programs.

 

22. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)

This historic rivalry has been elevated in recent years after a memorable overtime goal-line stand for Notre Dame in 2012 and a physical 27-20 victory for Stanford a year ago. Only four times have both teams been ranked at the time of the meeting (28 total games) and three of those have come in the last three years. A fourth straight meeting of two ranked teams is likely to happen again this year and a playoff berth could be on the line this time around.

 

23. Florida vs. Georgia (Nov. 1, Jacksonville)

This game is massive for both teams, but especially Gators head coach Will Muschamp. He’s 0-3 against UGA and will need a win in Jacksonville to stay in East contention. Despite winning three straight, Mark Richt’s squad was anything but dominating as it has won those three contests by a combined 15 points.

 

24. LSU at Florida (Oct. 11)

Looking for a midseason signature win for Florida to prove it's back in the SEC mix? This is the one Les Miles better be circling. The home team has won the Muschamp-Miles bout in each of the three years, including a 14-6 suffocating home win for the Gators in 2012. Miles is 1-3 in The Swamp.

 

25. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With two new quarterbacks for both teams, expect a sloppier performance from both offenses in the first week of the season — which could be equally as entertaining.

 

The Next 25:

 

26. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)
27. UCLA at Arizona State (Sept. 25)

28. Stanford at Washington (Sept. 27)

29. Florida at Alabama (Sept. 20)

30. Wisconsin at Iowa (Nov. 22)

31. Ole Miss at LSU (Oct. 25)

32. USC at Stanford (Sept. 6)

33. South Carolina at Florida (Nov. 15)

34. Alabama at Ole Miss (Oct. 4)

35. UCLA at Washington (Nov. 8)

36. Stanford at Arizona State (Oct. 18)

37. Michigan State at Penn State (Nov. 29)

38. Arizona State at USC (Oct. 4)

39. Clemson at Florida State (Sept. 20)

40. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

41. Florida State at Louisville (Oct. 30)

42. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)

43. Louisville at Clemson (Oct. 11)

44. Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 29)

45. Michigan at Michigan State (Oct. 25)

46. Washington at Oregon (Oct. 18)

47. Arizona State at Washington (Oct. 25)

48. Georgia at Missouri (Oct. 11)

49. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 25)

50. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

Teaser:
College Football's Top 50 Games to Watch in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 22, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-15-must-see-games-2014
Body:

Braxton Miller’s season-ending shoulder re-injury might be the biggest piece of offseason personnel news in all of college football this year.

 

It likely makes the Michigan State Spartans the team to beat in the Big Ten, and, when it comes to the B1G earning a College Football Playoff berth, all eyes now turn to Sparty’s trip to Oregon in Week 2. A win in Eugene might be a must if the Spartans want to get into the first-ever playoff.

 

Ohio State is still the most talented team in this league and still has a good shot to win the league title. But games at Michigan State, Penn State and Maryland are now magnified.

 

In the West Division, the three-team round robin at the top should be fun to track all season long until November rolls around when all three face each other in a three-week span.

 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. So Oregon cannot overlook the rebuilt Sparty defense early in the year or the Ducks could be knocked out of playoff contention by Week 2. The schematic chess match between Marcus Mariota and Mark Dantonio's defense should be fascinating to watch.

 

2. Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)

Some of the luster has certainly worn off this monumental showdown but these are still the two best teams in the Big Ten. The winner of this game is still likely the East Division champ, is still likely to win the Big Ten title and is still in line to snag the final playoff spot. This should still be a physical clash of top-ranked teams.

 

3. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 29)

Yes, this game may not have as much meaning to either team at the end of the season in terms of the standings but that didn’t stop last season’s meeting from being an instant classic. Brady Hoke desperately needs wins against a rival and Ohio State could still need this game to win the division. The bottom line is a winless Wolverines-Buckeyes matchup is still must-see TV.

 

4. Wisconsin at Iowa (Nov. 22)

These are the top two teams in the West Division entering the season and both schedules set up for two sterling records to be on the line late in November. These two traditional rivals have produced classic battles dating back to the 1800s and this meeting marks the third straight trip for UW to Iowa City. The Badgers have won the last two in the series, which is nearly dead even at 43-42-2 (UW).

 

5. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Houston)

From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the one to watch in '14. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, both of whom are expecting to compete for division titles in their respective leagues. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase for both.

 

6. Michigan at Michigan State (Oct. 25)

Hoke has snapped both long losing streaks to rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, but lost to both last fall. And the 29-6 drubbing at home to Sparty wasn’t pretty. Late in October, Hoke and his new-look offense will go on the road for a season-defining bout with their in-state rival and everyone will be watching.

 

7. Michigan State at Penn State (Nov. 29)

With the Spartans moving into the driver’s seat in the preseason Big Ten predictions, the season finale road trip to Happy Valley for the “coveted” Land Grant Trophy takes on more meaning. The Nittany Lions could be bruised and battered by that time or perhaps James Franklin will have developed his roster into a solid contender. Pat Narduzzi against Christian Hackenberg? Yes, please.

 

8. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 25)

The Lions host two huge games at home against the top two teams in the league and an upset over either for the first-year head coach would be huge. A win over Ohio State, Miller or no Miller, would be a signature moment for Franklin's PSU tenure. That said, Herb Hand and the OL will have to stay healthy and develop quickly to stop OSU’s defensive front.

 

9. Nebraska at Iowa (Nov. 29)

A week after Iowa hosts Wisconsin and two weeks after Nebraska visits Madison, the Cornhuskers have to travel to Iowa City. Big Red fans and Bo Pelini (nor the officials) have forgotten what happened in the season finale last fall in Lincoln where the Hawkeyes smoked the Huskers 38-17. A West Division crown could hang in the balance.

 

10. Nebraska at Wisconsin (Nov. 15)

The lesser of the three big round robin contests out West features the dairy-fed Big Red hosting the corn-fed Big Red. The two best running backs in the conference and two of the best in the nation will be on display when NU heads north to face UW.

 

11. Nebraska at Michigan State (Oct. 4)

This is one of the newly formed rivalries that fans should be excited about now that Nebraska is a Big Ten mainstay. Ameer Abdullah against the Spartans' defense is must-see TV. Even though this one takes place early in October, it could still serve as a Big Ten title elimination game.

 

12. Penn State at Michigan (Oct. 11)

Anytime these two brands get together, the Big Ten pays attention. The Lions and Wolverines have posted some seriously memorable matchups, including last year’s 43-40 overtime thriller in Happy Valley. Look for more fireworks between these two in 2014.

 

13. Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 6)

There is rich history and tradition between these two programs, and with the game going the way of the dodo bird, this meeting has more meaning. These two teams are breaking in three new coordinators, most importantly, Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. A win for Brady Hoke entering Big Ten play can’t be overvalued.

 

14. Michigan State at Maryland (Nov. 15)

If fans are looking for a sleeper team in the Big Ten this fall, look no further than College Park. Maryland has an excellent coaching staff, playmakers all over the offense and a stable quarterback situation. Are they good enough to topple the Big Ten champs? Maybe not, but MSU should be on upset alert late in November.

 

15. Ohio State at Maryland (Oct. 4)

One look at the home schedule for the Terps and it’s easy to see why Maryland made the jump to the Big Ten. Along with Michigan State, Randy Edsall’s bunch will host Ohio State, Iowa, West Virginia and Rutgers. Those are marquee brands coming to town this fall… and Rutgers.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

16. Minnesota at Wisconsin (Nov. 29)

17. Wisconsin at Northwestern (Oct. 4)

18. Nebraska at Northwestern (Oct. 18)

19. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

20. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

21. Northwestern at Notre Dame (Nov. 15)

22. Iowa at Minnesota (Nov. 8)

23. Michigan State at Indiana (Nov. 18)

24. Iowa at Maryland (Oct. 18)

25. Maryland at Penn State (Nov. 1)

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top 15 Must-See Games of 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 09:00
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Conferences don’t win championships, teams do.

 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the ACC. Florida State is so far ahead of the league that a good majority of the best games in this league won’t be conference games. Notre Dame faces five quality ACC teams and, of course, there are plenty of SEC rivalry games as well.

 

But within the league, there are very few marquee matchups because the Seminoles are head and shoulders (and legs and feet) above the rest of the ACC.

 

There are loads of intriguing games within the league once Florida State is removed from the equation but very few will register with a national audience.

 

1. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be one the biggest non-conference games of the year. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes.

 

2. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With two new quarterbacks for both teams, expect a sloppier performance from both offenses in the first week of the season — which could be equally as entertaining.

 

3. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

This was a blowout a year ago but Florida expects to be much improved and the historic Sunshine State rivalry could hold national championship implications for the Seminoles. Florida may have the best roster of any team Florida State will face in the regular season so fans should expect a much closer bout this time around — as long as the Gators' coaching staff is still intact by season's end.

 

4. Clemson at Florida State (Sept. 20)

Is this the most important ACC game of the year? Likely. Will it be the closest, most entertaining conference game in the ACC this year? Unlikely. Clemson was smoked at home and is rebuilding on offense while Florida State actually appears to be improving from 2013. Best of luck on the road in Week 4, Tigers.

 

5. Florida State at Louisville (Oct. 30)

It’s later in the year and on the road. That is why the Louisville game might actually be Florida State’s toughest conference test of the regular season. Look for Bobby Petrino’s offense to be in full swing by the end of October and playing in primetime on a Thursday night should make for a raucous atmosphere.

 

6. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)

Florida State’s toughest regular season test in 2014 may come from the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has the talent, gets its signal-caller back under center and could be on a roll by mid-October. Few games in the nation will feature two more powerful brands with more at stake than when Brian Kelly brings his team south to Tallahassee. These two have met seven times with FSU holding a 5-2 edge.

 

7. Louisville at Clemson (Oct. 11)

If the Cardinals and Tigers are the second- and third-best teams in the ACC, then this game should be a fantastic first edition. Chad Morris and Bobby Petrino are two of the top offensive minds in the game and Death Valley is as good a setting as there is in college football. This one should be fun for everyone.

 

8. Virginia Tech at North Carolina (Oct. 4)

Many believe that Tech and Carolina are the teams to beat in the Coastal Division. And while there are four or five other key divisional games in what could be a five-team Coastal round robin, this early October bout in Chapel Hill could be the deciding matchup. Who doesn’t want to see Larry Fedora and Bud Foster scheming against one another?

 

9. North Carolina at Clemson (Sept. 27)

The Tar Heels are the sexy pick in the Coastal right now and Clemson is widely regarded as the second-best team in the league. An early-season trip into Death Valley will provide clarity for those who are eagerly watching North Carolina’s surge this fall.

 

10a. North Carolina at Notre Dame (Oct.11)

Much like Louisville and Notre Dame, North Carolina has a shot at a headline-making, non-conference win if it can go into South Bend and pull the upset. The Tar Heels may not have the same talent as the Seminoles or the coaching of the Cardinals, but North Carolina should be fairly competitive in mid-October. The Heels are 2-16 all-time against the Irish but won the last meeting 29-24 in Chapel Hill in 2008.

 

10b. Louisville at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)

Bobby Petrino has a few marquee showdowns on his schedule this fall and the biggest one might be a trip to South Bend in late November. The meeting will mark the first time in history that these two programs have ever met despite being just four hours apart. The matching of offensive wits between Petrino and Brian Kelly will be a thing to behold and must-see TV.

 

12. Miami at Louisville (Sept. 1)

Some of the intrigue with this game is the timing. A Week 1, Labor Day night, conference game between two teams that played in a bowl game last year has plenty of sizzle. Especially, when the team hosting the bout is playing in its first-ever ACC league game. Miami has plenty of revenge to exact after the 36-9 drubbing to cap 2013.

 

13. Florida State at Miami (Nov. 15)

This was a 41-14 beatdown in Tallahassee a year ago despite Miami’s 7-0 record at the time. Miami appears to be getting better across the board, however, as Al Golden’s freshman class is expected to buoy the defense and the quarterback position. Can they win at home over their archrival late in the year? Anything is possible.

 

14. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

From an intrigue standpoint, few non-conference games in college football will feature two more powerful brands than this Week 4 meeting in Lincoln. These two have met in multiple national title situations, including four Orange Bowls and three national title games. The last two meetings were a Miami beatdown in the BCS title game in 2001 and a Nebraska national championship-clinching win in the 1995 Orange Bowl. And, of course, who could forget the 1984 Orange Bowl and the most infamous two-point conversion attempt in college football history?

 

15. Miami at Virginia Tech (Oct. 23)

It’s traditionally one of the better matchups in the Coastal Division and this one could carry title game implications. If Tech was visiting the Canes in Florida, this game would be a much bigger test for the Hokies and would rank higher on the list.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

16. Virginia Tech at Pitt (Oct. 16)

17. North Carolina at Miami (Nov. 1)

18. North Carolina at Duke (Nov. 20)

19. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

20. NC State at North Carolina (No. 29)

21. Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 30, Arlington)

22. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (Sept. 6)

23. Pitt at North Carolina (Nov. 15)

24. Pitt at Miami (Nov. 29)

25. Virginia Tech at Duke (Nov. 15)

Teaser:
The ACC's Top 15 Must-See Games of 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 08:30
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The SEC is still the nation’s best conference. No conference in the nation can match the week-in, week-out grind that the SEC offers from Aug. 28 through Championship Saturday on Dec. 6.

 

The round robin in both divisions should be superb to watch every single week. Top that off with marquee non-conference showdowns with the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Kansas State), the Big Ten (Wisconsin) and ACC (Florida State, Clemson) and there are no breathers in this conference.

 

It makes for an extremely lengthy list of must-see games this fall.

 

1. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 29)

Not only are in-state and conference bragging rights on the line for 364 days in the nation’s biggest event this year, but the winner of this one game also played in each of the final five BCS National Championship Games. And after the way last year’s clash ended, fans can bet the intensity will reach a fevered pitch by Rivalry Week — especially, if there is as much on the line in 2014 as there was last fall.

 

2. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 8)

The Tigers aren’t picked to finish first, second or third in the SEC West but that doesn’t take much away from what is a yearly battle between these two powerhouses. Bama doesn’t have too many tests this fall and a trip to Baton Rouge might be its toughest test (until the Iron Bowl). Nick Saban has won three straight overall in this series and has won two of the last three trips to the Bayou.

 

3. Georgia at South Carolina (Sept. 13)

The SEC East title could be on the line in Week 3 when these two tangle in Columbia. South Carolina lost narrowly in Athens last year after three straight relatively easy wins over the Dawgs from 2010-12. Georgia last won at South Carolina in 2008.

 

4. LSU at Auburn (Oct. 4)

The battle of Tigers from Auburn and LSU is one of the yearly treats for SEC fans. Last fall, LSU was the only team to beat Auburn in the regular season and it wasn’t really competitive. Revenge will certainly be on the minds of Gus Malzahn and his squad. The right to challenge Alabama likely also hangs in the balance for this early October meeting as well.

 

5. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be one the biggest non-conference games of the year. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes.

 

6. Auburn at Ole Miss (Nov. 1)

With the recent influx of talent, Ole Miss finds itself closer to the top of the West Division than the bottom. That means home tests against conference front-runners become marquee showdowns. The Tigers have won eight of the last 10 against the Rebels but Ole Miss dominated Auburn the last time they visited (41-20 in 2012) and has won two out of three in Oxford.

 

7. Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 15)

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry offered fans one of the most remarkable games in SEC history last fall. While the 2014 edition will be hard pressed to match last year’s drama, the gravity of this year’s showdown could be much greater as both teams eye a College Football Playoff berth. Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005.

 

8. South Carolina at Auburn (Oct. 25)

Auburn got no favors this fall by having to face the top two contenders in the East in crossover play. The difference is the lack of history between these two SEC title contenders. The duo has played just 11 times and Auburn holds a commanding 9-1-1 lead in the series. The Gamecocks would have won the East had it not lost the last meeting in Columbia in 2011. South Carolina’s lone win over Auburn came way back in 1933.

 

9. Florida vs. Georgia (Nov. 1, Jacksonville)

This game is massive for both teams, but especially Gators head coach Will Muschamp. He’s 0-3 against UGA and will need a win in Jacksonville to stay in East contention. Despite winning three straight, Mark Richt’s squad was anything but dominating as it has won those three contests by a combined 15 points.

 

10. LSU at Florida (Oct. 11)

Looking for a midseason signature win for Florida to prove it's back in the SEC mix? This is the one Les Miles better be circling. The home team has won the Muschamp-Miles bout in each of the three years, including a 14-6 suffocating home win for the Gators in 2012. Miles is 1-3 in The Swamp.

 

11. Florida at Alabama (Sept. 20)

Don’t expect Florida to win the game but any time these two marquee southern brands step onto the same field, it’s must-see theatre. Should Florida acquit itself well early in the season — even in defeat — it could be a sign of much bigger things to come for both. Like a possible rematch in Atlanta where these two have staged monumental national title bouts in recent years.

 

12. Ole Miss at LSU (Oct. 25)

Ole Miss has won just three of the last 12 meetings between these two. But that includes last year’s 27-24 thriller in Oxford and an even 3-3 split in the last six bouts. Yet, Ole Miss has played surprisingly well in Baton Rouge. In their last nine trips to the Bayou, the Rebels have won four times. LSU needs to be on high alert when Colonel Reb comes to town for Halloween weekend.

 

13. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Houston)

From a pure entertainment standpoint, the Tigers-Badgers semi-neutral field battle in Houston might be the one to watch in '14. This game will feature what should be two equally matched opponents, both of whom are expecting to compete for division titles in their respective conferences. LSU and Wisconsin feature two of the best power running games in the land and this game will be a throwback showcase for both.

 

14. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

Last year's meeting was an epic offensive showdown that featured elite playmakers and provided a memorable experience for everyone. This year, Clemson's defense is its strength while Georgia returns nine starters on D. With two new quarterbacks for both teams, expect a sloppier performance from both offenses in the first week of the season — which could be equally as entertaining.

 

15. South Carolina at Florida (Nov. 15)

It may not be the prettiest game that is played in the SEC, but the East Division could hang in the balance when these two physical programs get together late in November. The Steve Spurrier Bowl is always quirky and the last time the Head Ball Coach visited the Swamp his team was smoked 44-11.

 

16. Alabama at Ole Miss (Oct. 4)

Much like Auburn, a division front-runner from the state of Alabama will have to win in Oxford if it wants to earn a trip to Atlanta. The Crimson Tide has won 10 straight over the Rebels and has outscored Ole Miss 155-34 over the last five. Nick Saban has never lost in Oxford going 5-0 with both Bama and LSU.

 

17. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

This was a blowout a year ago but Florida expects to be much improved and the historic Sunshine State rivalry could hold national championship implications for the Seminoles. Florida may have the best roster of any team Florida State will face in the regular season so fans should expect a much closer bout this time around — as long as the Gators' coaching staff is still intact by season's end.

 

18. Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 29)

Last season's Egg Bowl was one for the ages and the 2014 edition could be even better. Both programs are surging entering this season with eyes on finally contending in the West Division. Both have proven quarterbacks and respected coaches as well as defenses that are deeper and more talented than possibly ever before. MSU head coach Dan Mullen is 4-1 against Ole Miss.

 

19. Georgia at Missouri (Oct. 11)

If the Dawgs are the front-runner in the East then the trips to both Columbias might be the biggest games of the year in the division. Georgia knocked James Franklin out of this game last year and still couldn’t beat the Tigers at home. Now, UGA must head up to the Show Me State and show the SEC it is the top Dawg in the East.

 

20. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

Gus Malzahn's offense led by Nick Marshall and a deep receiving corps faces Bill Snyder's defensive wizardry on the road on a Thursday night. Both teams will have extra time to prepare for the primetime mid-week meeting and both will be contenders for their respective conference championships. From a coaching standpoint, it doesn't get much better than Malzahn vs. Snyder.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

21. Auburn at Mississippi State (Oct. 11)

22. Mississippi State at Alabama (Nov. 15)

23. Mississippi State at LSU (Sept. 20)

24. Texas A&M at Alabama (Oct. 18)

25. Missouri at South Carolina (Sept. 27)

26. Texas A&M at Auburn (Nov. 8)

27. Missouri at Florida (Oct. 18)

28. Missouri at Texas A&M (Nov. 15)

29. Texas A&M at Mississippi State

30. Texas A&M at South Carolina (Aug. 28)

31. LSU at Arkansas (Nov. 15)

32. Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (Aug. 6)

33. Florida at Vanderbilt (Nov. 8)

34. Tennessee at Vanderbilt (Nov. 29)

35. Florida at Tennessee (Oct. 4)

Teaser:
The SEC's Top 20 Must-See Games of 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 08:30
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Good luck figuring out the Pac-12 this fall.

 

At the top, many believe this league is college football’s best. And what separates it from every other league in the nation — including the mighty SEC — isn’t just the fact that two teams will play 10 conference games but that all of the preseason powers will face each other this fall.

 

While other leagues play eight-game schedules and only two crossovers, the Pac-12 plays four crossovers and nine conference games. It’s made for a long list of must-see matchups out West in 2014.

 

1. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)

The Pac-12 South has gotten much better and has its own elite battles but the top ticket in the Pac-12 this fall is still the Ducks and Cardinal. The winner of this game has won the last four Pac-12 titles and that is likely the case again this fall. A knee injury hampered Marcus Mariota last year and a fully healthy QB for Oregon could finally give the Ducks a win over the Cardinal with No. 8 under center.

 

2. Oregon at UCLA (Oct. 11)

There is no better quarterback matchup in the nation than when Mariota and the Ducks fly south to battle Brett Hundley and the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. This is likely a preview of the Pac-12 title game and could have divisional, conference and national championship implications. Loosen up the scoreboard operator for this one.

 

3. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. So Oregon cannot overlook the rebuilt Sparty defense early in the year or the Ducks could be knocked out of playoff contention by Week 2. The schematic chess match between Marcus Mariota and Mark Dantonio's defense should be fascinating to watch.

 

4. USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)

This crosstown rivalry is getting some extra juice, as both programs appear to be surging in the right direction. Both teams are ranked in the preseason top 20 and both have elite starting rosters. Depth could be a big issue for the Trojans come late November but if they can stay healthy, USC could find itself in a winner-take-all South Division title match against one of its biggest rivals.

 

5. Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 28)

The Cardinal are the two-time defending champs but have to play all of its toughest games on the road, including a trip to UCLA on the final weekend of the regular season. These two played in back-to-back weeks two years ago and the Bruins haven’t forgotten. It could happen again this fall. Whether both divisions are already locked up or not, this game should be supremely entertaining.

 

6. UCLA at Arizona State (Sept. 25)

These two have posted back-to-back high-scoring shootouts with the road team winning both matchups between coaches Jim Mora and Todd Graham. Arizona State won 38-33 last year in the Rose Bowl while UCLA won 45-43 in the desert two years ago. This is the first of a group of critical round-robin games in the Pac-12’s South Division.

 

7. Stanford at Washington (Sept. 27)

The last time Stanford visited Seattle, the Huskies pulled off a signature upset in primetime in physical and nail-biting fashion. With a new sheriff patrolling the Washington sidelines, this game figures to be a fascinating schematic chess match. The Huskies are more talented than they’ve been since 2000 and toppling Stanford early in the year could make UW the top challenger to Oregon.

 

8. Texas vs. UCLA (Sept. 13, Arlington)

UCLA has Pac-12 South Division title hopes and possibly more as Brett Hundley enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral" field in Dallas. Both teams have outside chances at landing a spot in the College Football Playoff and an early-season slip up must be avoided for both programs.

 

9. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)

This historic rivalry has been elevated in recent years after a memorable overtime goal-line stand for Notre Dame in 2012 and a physical 27-20 victory for Stanford a year ago. Only four times have both teams been ranked at the time of the meeting (28 total games) and three of those have come in the last three years. A fourth straight meeting of two ranked teams is likely to happen again this year and a playoff berth could be on the line this time around.

 

10. USC at Stanford (Sept. 6)

Ever since Jim Harbaugh upset Pete Carroll in shocking fashion back in the mid-2000s, this USC-Stanford crossover battle has been a must-see matchup. Both programs have their sights set on a Pac-12 title game in the Bay Area and there is some added juice between these two now that Steve Sarkisian — who upset David Shaw two years ago at Washington — is coaching in Los Angeles. This will be a battle.

 

11. UCLA at Washington (Nov. 8)

The Bruins will get upset somewhere along the way, most likely on the road. And a trip way up north to Seattle is a prime upset alert situation. Other than quarterback, these two rosters are extremely comparable and the Huskies will give Jim Mora’s team all it can handle late in the year.

 

12. Stanford at Arizona State (Oct. 18)

A rematch of last year’s title game will take place in mid-October. In fact, these two played twice last year with Stanford winning both games with relative ease. Todd Graham’s squad will be out for revenge in this preseason top 20 matchup.

 

13. Arizona State at USC (Oct. 4)

The round robin in the South features two early games for Arizona State, one of which will come in Los Angeles against the Men of Troy. This game cost Lane Kiffin his job last year when ASU blitzed the Trojans' defense. USC went on to win seven out of nine after getting smoked by the Sun Devils.

 

14. Washington at Oregon (Oct. 18)

The Ducks are the pick in the North but Washington could become the top challenger by the time Oct. 18 rolls around. The talent gap might be too great for UW to overcome on the road but don’t tell that to Chris Petersen and his Dawgs.

 

15. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

The battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh will take place for the 86th time in 2014 with both teams eyeing a trip to the postseason. The Irish lead the series 45-35-5 — including the vacated 2005 USC victory — and Notre Dame has won two straight and three out of four overall. Both teams enter the season ranked in the top 15 and by season’s end, each could be positioned to play for a national championship.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

16. Arizona State at Washington (Oct. 25)

17. Arizona State at Arizona (Nov. 28)

18. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 29)

19. Washington at Washington State (Nov. 29)

20. Notre Dame at Arizona State (Nov. 8)

21. USC at Arizona (Oct. 11)

22. Arizona at UCLA (Nov. 1)

23. Oregon at Washington State (Sept. 20)

24. Oregon State at Washington (Nov. 22)

25. Washington at Arizona (Nov. 15)

Teaser:
The Pac-12's Top 15 Must-See Games of 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 09:30
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Rankings are a big part of any college football season, and even in the playoff format, the polls and projections are still an interesting exercise. For example: The AP Poll came out over the weekend, while the USA Today Coaches Poll came out a few weeks ago. And the Athlon Sports Top 25 has been out since May.

 

With a few small exceptions — Florida ranked in Athlon Sports, Texas being ranked by the Coaches and Nebraska by the AP — all three polls are extremely similar.

 

This doesn’t mean that all three are correct, however. It doesn’t mean that someone in the top 15 could end up missing a bowl game or that one team ranked No. 43 in the preseason couldn’t sneak into the top 10.

 

In fact, both are likely. With that in mind, which teams in college football need to lower their expectations in 2014?

 

UCLA

Most preseason polls have the Bruins are ranked in the top 10. And Jim Mora's team is a popular pick to win the Pac-12 South. While UCLA should win the division, the concept that the Bruins are deep enough and talented enough to go unbeaten or 11-1 in the regular season seems farfetched. The schedule is nasty and there is little to no support around Brett Hundley on offense. The defense could be excellent, and I’m still picking UCLA to win the South. However, they will head to Levi’s Stadium with two or three losses already in hand.

 

Notre Dame

Before the academic scandal, the Fighting Irish was a preseason top-15 caliber team. One that had an outside shot at pushing for a playoff spot and landing a top 10 ranking. With three starters and another key reserve not practicing or playing (mostly likely all season), the upside for the Irish takes a serious hit. This is now a fringe top 25 team that will struggle to win eight games this year.

 

USC

The schedule, like most in the Pac-12, is downright nasty. But this team is extremely talented and is buoyed by a new coaching staff. The issues for USC are still about depth. Key defenders Jabari Ruffin and Kenny Bigelow have already been lost for the season and the lack of scholarships is bound to hurt the Trojans once again this fall. There's no question the starting 22 is talented. However, three or four losses is a definite possibility.

 

Oklahoma State

This one is sort of a no-brainer since the Cowboys aren’t ranked anywhere on the internet. But this is a program accustomed to competing for Big 12 titles and it won’t be anywhere near the title race this fall. Mike Gundy is eyeing a return to prominence in 2015.

 

Texas A&M

The Aggies are going to be much better at the end of the year than they will be at the beginning. Or in the middle. But preseason Top 20 is way too high for this squad. This team is extremely talented on both sides of the ball, but the defense is still a major work in progress and a brutal final two months should drop TAMU to sixth in the West.

 

North Carolina

Are the Tar Heels ready to have a breakthrough season? Maybe so. Or it could be a year early for UNC to reach the ACC Championship. Larry Fedora has some serious talent to work with but it is mostly inexperienced and very young. I asked former OC (and current Arkansas State coach) Blake Anderson if this is the year UNC breaks through and wins the Coastal, and he quickly shot that down, pointing to 2015 as the breakout season in Chapel Hill.

 

LSU

The Tigers have an elite collection of players and are accustomed to competing for national championships. But LSU is missing important veteran pieces. There is no experience or proven talent at quarterback or wide receiver on offense and a true freshman (albeit a great one) is the talk of the running game. And LSU has major holes to fill on defense as well. This is still a great roster, but the SEC schedule is downright nasty with games against Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Texas A&M and Mississippi State.

 

Texas

Charlie Strong is going to be just fine in Austin, but he has a lot of work to do in making over the Texas program from the inside out. David Ash is healthy, for now, and there is still plenty of talent on the roster. But a brutal schedule and very competitive middle portion of the Big 12 makes Texas a fringe Big 12 contender at best. Best case is probably eight wins.

 

Nebraska

The Cornhuskers are in better shape on defense than they’ve been in years, while the offense has a star in Ameer Abdullah to build around. Despite the optimism about the personnel, expectations need to be lowered in Lincoln due to a tough schedule. Wisconsin and Iowa miss Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan in crossover play, while Nebraska must face Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Fresno State on the road. The schedule is why Nebraska won’t win the West.

 

Wisconsin

The Badgers have an elite offensive line, superstar tailback and excellent head coach. But the entire defensive front is being reworked, the quarterback position is far from settled and it starts the season facing LSU in Houston. This is a team who could easily win the Big Ten West but it’s not a team that should consider itself a playoff contender (or even someone who could win the Big Ten title).

 

Teaser:
10 College Football Teams That Need to Lower Expectations
Post date: Monday, August 18, 2014 - 10:48
Path: /college-football/big-12s-top-15-must-see-games-2014
Body:

Many believe that the Big 12 is a two-horse race in 2014.

 

While that is likely true, the rest of the conference is going to be extremely entertaining. Kansas State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State all believe they can step into that two-horse race and — because of the beauty of a true round-robin schedule — all five will get to face each other this fall.

 

It means that fans nationally should be paying attention to the Big 12 every Saturday. Here are the top 15 must-see Big 12 games in 2014.

 

1. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)

The Bears have never won in 11 tries in Norman and the Big 12 title likely hangs in the balance on Nov. 8 when Art Briles brings his squad into Memorial Stadium. This was a 29-point blowout in favor of Baylor last year in Waco but both teams will be different this fall. Bryce Petty will have to be near perfect and the BU defense must develop before November if it wants to win this marquee showdown.

 

2. Texas vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 11, Dallas)

The Red River Shootout (no, I don’t call it the Rivalry) enters a new era with a new chapter as Charlie Strong takes part in his first Cotton Bowl showdown. Texas won this game inexplicably a year ago and the Sooners should be plenty motivated to get revenge against a first-year coach. For better or worse, Strong’s work with the offensive line will be on full display.

 

3. Baylor at Texas (Oct. 4)

The Bears topped both Texas and Oklahoma at home last year but to repeat as Big 12 champs, Briles’ bunch must top both conference powers on the road this fall. The Bears have won in Austin before but this isn’t Mack Brown's Longhorns anymore. As far as early-season conference games go, this one is fascinating.

 

4. UCLA vs. Texas (Sept. 13, Arlington)

UCLA has Pac-12 South Division title hopes and possibly more as Brett Hundley enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral" field in Dallas. Both teams have outside chances at landing a spot the College Football Playoff and an early-season slip up must be avoided for both programs.

 

5. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

Gus Malzahn's offense led by Nick Marshall and a deep receiving corps faces Bill Snyder's defensive wizardry on the road on a Thursday night. Both teams will have extra time to prepare for the primetime mid-week meeting and both will be contenders for their respective conference championships. From a coaching standpoint, it doesn't get much better than Malzahn vs. Snyder.

 

6. Kansas State at Oklahoma (Oct. 18)

Many people believe that Kansas State could be the top challenger to the Sooners and Bears. However, the Wildcats must face both on the road. This was a 41-31 home loss for Bill Snyder a year ago and it was KSU’s only loss in the final seven games of the season. Going on the road will be even more difficult.

 

7. Kansas State at Baylor (Dec. 6)

Everything written above about KSU at Oklahoma applies to the trip to Waco as well. Kansas State had the Bears beat through three quarters but allowed Bryce Petty to bring Baylor back in the final period and secure a key road victory (35-25). Again, Snyder will have to be at his best to win on the road against Briles.

 

8. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Dec. 6)

This was a fantastic game a year ago and normally is one of the best in the league. With Oklahoma State taking a small step back into rebuilding mode this fall, the Bedlam Series doesn’t carry the same national weight as usual. But this is still an intense in-state rivalry and Mike Gundy would love nothing more than to knock the Sooners out of playoff contention with a road win over Bob Stoops.

 

9. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 25)

The Wildcats were more than just a thorn in Mack Brown’s side, Kansas State owned the Longhorns. Before last year’s 31-21 win in Austin, the Wildcats had won five straight and seven out of nine against mighty Texas. So going to Manhattan, Kan., in October will be a huge moment in Strong’s first season.

 

10. Oklahoma at Texas Tech (No. 15)

The Red Raiders host both Texas and Oklahoma this fall and Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch is more than capable of pulling off an upset (or two). This offense is electric and nearly beat the Sooners in Norman last fall. Expect plenty of fireworks late in the season out in Lubbock.

 

11. BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)

A revenge opportunity for the Burnt Orange players and a chance for Strong to land his first big win as the head coach. Especially, the way quarterback Taysom Hill and the Cougars abused the Longhorns' rushing defense a year ago.

 

12. Oklahoma at TCU (Oct. 4)

The Horned Frogs played in a lot of close games last season, including a narrow loss to the Sooners in Norman. Now, Oklahoma has to come to Fort Worth to face a much-improved TCU squad.

 

13. Texas at Texas Tech (Nov. 1)

Just like Oklahoma, Texas must travel to Lubbock in November to take on what could be the league’s top passing attack. This has upset alert written all over it.

 

14. Oklahoma State at Baylor (Nov. 22)

Revenge should be on the mind of Baylor when they welcome the Pokes to new McLane Stadium in the penultimate game of the year. Ok-State won 49-17 over Baylor last fall.

 

15. Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Nov. 29, Arlington)

If you like points and passing games, then look no further than this late-season matchup in Arlington. Davis Webb and Bryce Petty will be on full display. These two scored 97 points last meeting.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

16. TCU at Baylor (Oct. 11)

17. Kansas State at TCU (Nov. 8)

18. Oklahoma State at Kansas State (Nov. 1)

19. Arkansas at Texas Tech (Sept. 13)

20. TCU at Texas (Nov. 27)

21. Texas Tech at Kansas State (Oct. 4)

22. Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (Sept. 25)

23. Oklahoma State at TCU (Oct. 18)

24. Texas Tech at TCU (Oct. 25)

25. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 13)

Teaser:
The Big 12's Top 15 Must-See Games of 2014
Post date: Monday, August 18, 2014 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/top-40-impact-freshman-watch-2014
Body:

The beauty of college football lies in its unpredictability and volatility.

 

Roster turnover is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of variability from year to year within the sport. Key graduations, early entries into the NFL Draft, dismissals and a massive influx of tomorrow's stars in the form of bright-eyed freshmen create more personnel turnover in college football than any other major sport in the country.

 

It's these (relatively) unknown commodities that offer fans a renewed hope of future success. Who are the top freshmen to watch this fall?

 

1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The conversation about 2014's top freshmen not only in the SEC but in the nation begins with the No. 1 prospect in the class. From a power and speed standpoint, Fournette might be the closest thing college football has seen Adrian Peterson began his career at Oklahoma over a decade ago. He is a 6-foot-1, 230-pound sure thing and is likely a front-runner for national freshman of the year.

 

2. Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama

The mammoth 6-foot-6 freshman from West Monroe (La.) High School was the No. 1 offensive line prospect in the nation. He enrolled early and has already been working with the first team offense for most of the summer. How many national title contenders will have a true freshman anchoring the left tackle position?

 

3. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

The uber-recruit from Immokalee (Fla.) High redshirted a year ago and is ready to fulfill his lofty recruiting expectations. He’s gained some weight and will be charged with protecting the back end of a defense littered with seniors.

 

4. Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

After experiencing some speed bumps in the recruiting process, Thomas is finally ready to contribute in Tallahassee. He has freakish ability and is slated to start alongside Terrance Smith. Jimbo Fisher has proven he will ask big things of first-year starters and Thomas is the next in line.

 

5. Adoree Jackson, ATH, USC

For lack of a better term, Coach Steve Sarkisian adores his true freshman, do-everything dynamo. Jackson is penciled in as the star kick returner but will also get carries as a running back, catch passes as a receiver and could even get reps as a defensive back. Coach Sark will use Jackson in any and all ways this fall because it looks like the freshman can handle it.

 

6. Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan

This list has to begin with the Charles Woodson clone in Ann Arbor. He will begin his career as the nickelback but could easily work into a starting role on defense. Peppers, in true Woodson fashion, is a dynamic return specialist and don’t be surprised if he gets some snaps on offense as well. He was the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2014 class for a reason.

 

7. Khaliel Rodgers, OL, USC

Rodgers, a four-star member of the 2013 class, has been through two springs and was considered the best center in the nation two years ago. He is penciled in at the pivot currently. Toa Lobendahn was a four-star early enrollee this spring and is currently holding the starting left guard position. The Trojans' front line is extremely talented, but also extremely inexperienced.

 

8. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia

The five-star safety from Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside is slotted to start the moment he steps onto a college field for the first time. He has veterans to learn from but the 6-foot-4, 210-pound dynamo could be a savior at the back end of the Cavaliers' defense.

 

9. Ricky Seals-Jones | Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M

Seals-Jones was a five-star top 25 prospect in the 2013 class. He redshirted last year after catching three passes in two games early in the year. His massive frame is a mismatch nightmare for most SEC defenses. Packaged with the smaller, more explosive and versatile Noil, this duo could easily develop into one of the SEC's best.

 

10. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

A man among boys, McDowell has rare size (6-6, 295) and quickness for such a young player. With an injury to Damon Knox, Pat Narduzzi needs McDowell to be ready to start sooner rather than later. He may not start the opener but he will be major factor for the Spartans this fall.

 

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11. Dravon Henry, S, West Virginia

There was a reason Henry was the No. 1-rated player in the state of Pennyslvania last year. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound safety has been working with the starters at free safety before camp even opened. He can cover a lot of ground and has proven he should be on the field as much as possible early on in his career.

 

12. Myles Garrett | Justin Manning, DL, Texas A&M

The only player rated ahead of Garrett in the national recruiting rankings was Fournette. The freakish 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is set to carve out a critical role for a defensive line in desperate need of development. Garrett and former four-star redshirt freshman Justin Manning are two names who should establish themselves as future All-SEC types in 2014.

 

13. Damian Prince | Derwin Gray, OL, Maryland

Both Prince and Gray are in the heat of two position battles for starting time up front for the Terps. Prince (6-5, 295) was recently moved to guard and is the odds-on favorite to earn the starting job. Gray (6-5, 295) is battling Ryan Doyle for the starting right tackle spot. Both Prince and Gray are dramatically more talented options but need to catch on quickly to start all year.


14. Ermon Lane | Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State

There is plenty of space in the offense behind senior Rashad Greene and both Lane (6-3, 205) and Rudolph (6-2, 185) have been exceptional in fall camp. Greene and quarterback Jameis Winston have had glowing things to say about the two tall playmakers.

 

15. Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M

The No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation is a tall, pocket passer from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain. The 6-foot-3 signal-caller is a student of the game and is battling Kenny Hill for full-time starting duties in College Station. Many believe Allen is the future and will eventually wrestle the starting job away from Hill permanently.

 

16. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

The star tailback from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom is currently sitting on the sidelines in Norman but was the top-rated recruit in the Big 12 for a reason. He has special ability and would figure into the starting running back situation if he can get onto the field. He has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into an altercation that took place in late July.

 

17. Jamal Adams, S, LSU

In just a few trips to the practice field, Adams already has Les Miles raving about his overall ability. The big-time defensive back prospect is already working with the starting defensive unit for coordinator John Chavis and is set to become the next in a ridiculously impressive run of elite secondary players for LSU.

 

18. Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee

The Nashville product is every bit of 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and he stands out on Tennessee's practice field. He's dealt with some health issues during his outstanding prep career, but if he can stay on the field, his rare combination of size and speed makes him an instant impact player for Butch Jones — both as a runner and pass-catcher.

 

19. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

The No. 2-rated recruit in the Big Ten was the top inside linebacker in the nation and he is already pressing for starting reps in Columbus. The 242-pounder is breathing down Curtis Grant’s neck at MLB and should see plenty of snaps all year long. The early enrollee is the next great tackling star for Ohio State.

 

20. Jermaine Kelly, DB, Washington

Baker is the highest-rated member of the 2014 Husky class and has already earned a spot in the two-deep at safety. Kelly, a redshirt freshman, is slotted to start at cornerback for new coach Chris Petersen and his reworked secondary. Look for both Kelly and true freshman Budda Baker to lead a group of defensive backs that could feature half a dozen young contributors.

 

21. Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina

Arkansas State head coach and former UNC assistant Blake Anderson told me last week that Hood is as ready made as any true freshman in the ACC. There is a crowded backfield in Chapel Hill but the 220-pounder might be the most talented of the bunch.

 

22. Jalen Tabor, DB, Florida

Both enrolled early in January and both will compete for the starting spot opposite All-American Vernon Hargreaves III. The loser of that battle will likely be the top nickelback — a position that is almost a starter in the modern SEC. Tabor is slightly more talented and fits better as a corner, while the more physical Duke Dawson has the ability to make plays around the line of scrimmage. Florida is the LSU of the East in terms of producing defensive backs.

 

23. Chikwe Obasih | Alec James, DL, Wisconsin

The Badgers could feature two redshirt freshman starting defensive ends in Week 1 against LSU. Obasih (6-2, 245) and James (6-3, 239) are undersized but both bring a quickness off the edge Wisconsin hasn’t had in years. Obasih was the starter throughout spring camp and James, a converted outside backer, has risen quickly into a starting role. There will be a rotation up front this fall but expect both Obasih and James to finish the year as the starters.

 

24. JuJu Smith, ATH, USC

Who knows what side of the ball it will be on but Smith appears to be earmarked for a large role as just a true freshman. He’s already gotten rave reviews as a wide receiver but rumors are swirling about the electric player switching to defensive back to start at nickelback. Wherever he lines up, keep an eye on the explosive youngster.

 

25. D.J. Calhoun, LB, Arizona State

One of three ASU early enrollees, Calhoun has shot up the depth chart to earn a potential starting spot at outside linebacker. His quickness and size allows him to be moved all over the formation. He will battle all fall camp to hold onto that starting spot and will undoubtedly be a long-term contributor for Todd Graham.

 

26. Oren Burks, S, Vanderbilt

The redshirt freshman moved from linebacker to safety when new coach Derek Mason took over. Mason wants his size (6-2, 215) at the back end of his defense. He has a chance to be one of the most imposing playmakers in a totally rebuilt secondary.

 

27. Brandon Harris, QB, LSU

He is battling with Anthony Jennings but the 6-foot-2, 195-pound dual-threat signal-caller brings a new dimension to LSU's offense. He may not win the starting job right away but all signs are pointing to this dynamic freshman as the future for Cam Cameron and Les Miles in Baton Rouge.

 

28. Matt Elam, DT, Kentucky

The massive 6-foot-7, 350-pounder (depending on the time of day) is already entrenched as a starter for Mark Stoops' defensive line. The head coach can barely hide his excitement about injecting this talented in-state product into the heart of his developing defensive front. Elam will go through growing pains but has the astounding quickness and agility that NFL scouts drool over when it comes to guys his size.

 

29. Gyasi Akem, LB, Oklahoma State

The Pokes are thin at linebacker after the departure of Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey but Akem figures to help fill the void. The quick but undersized (6-1, 201) freshman is eyeing a starting spot right out of the gate alongside veteran Ryan Simmons. He uses his speed well both as a pass rusher and dropping into coverage. Look for Akem to see time very early and possibly start against Florida State.

 

30. Andrew Nelson, OL, Penn State

One of the biggest question marks in the Big Ten this fall is the Nittany Lions' O-line. Herb Hand is going to try everything to counteract the concerning lack of depth and that likely means a lot of young players getting reps this fall. Nelson is already slotted to start at right tackle and pretty much any other player on the roster should expect to see time for the depleted Lions.

 

31. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State

He is one of (if not the) highest rated players to ever sign with Iowa State and apparently he is worthy of the hype. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound wideout is already working with the second unit and will undoubtedly be a starter in no time. His talent is obvious and he could be a historic player for the Cyclones.

 

32. Ranthony Texada, CB, TCU

The Horned Frogs normally are known for having tenacious and talented defensive backs and this redshirt freshmen fit that bill. Texada is already penciled in as the starter opposite All-Big 12 pick Kevin White while fellow redshirt Cyd Calvin is listed as the top backup to both. Look for Gary Patterson to develop these talented youngsters into the next wave of great TCU cornerbacks.

 

33. KC McDermott, OL, Miami

The Hurricanes have plenty of holes to fill and one should be plugged by the monster (6-6, 315) in-state blocker. He has been worked at right tackle with the first team and he could be just one of a few first-year blockers who contribute in a big way for Miami.

 

34. Wesley Green, CB, South Carolina

Few teams took a bigger hit at one position like the Gamecocks did at cornerback. Which is why Steve Spurrier signed five defensive backs in this class. Green and fellow freshman Chris Lammons will get every opportunity to land starting roles in Lorenzo Ward's secondary.

 

35. Chad Thomas, DL, Miami

It’s hard to hide Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s excitement about having Thomas on the roster. The local product checks in at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds with excellent burst and great agility. He is the type of South Florida defender the Canes have been sorely lacking.

 

36. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona

The former standout from famed Bishop Gorman High School has been taking most of the first-team reps and appears to have a leg up on Jerrard Randall and Jesse Scroggins. His skill set fits Rich Rodriguez’ offense perfectly and he’s had a year to sit and learn the playbook. He was a big-time winner in high school and is one of the highest-rated QB recruits to ever sign at Arizona.

 

37. Tony Brown | Marlon Humphrey, DB, Alabama

One of the few weaknesses for Alabama is at cornerback where graduation and the NFL Draft have finally caught up with Nick Saban. Brown (6-fooot, 190) enrolled early and will be fighting for one of two open corner sports all camp long. He was the top defensive back signee in the SEC and was considered the No. 9 overall prospect in the nation. Humphrey is no less talented and he brings an equally impressive 6-foot-1 frame to a secondary in need of quick help (relatively speaking).

 

38. Curtis Samuel, AP, Ohio State

Fans have been pointing to Dontre Wilson as a guy who could fill the Percy Harvin role for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. And while Wilson is going to have an excellent sophomore season, it’s actually Samuel who is drawing the brightest reviews. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is listed as a wideout but has been getting plenty of carries out of the backfield. Look for Samuel to play a lot in a variety of roles this fall.

 

39. Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon

While twin brother Tyrell will be suiting up for Fresno State after being dismissed from Oregon, Tyree is set to take over as the starting strong safety. The long, rangy athlete has put in the work this offseason and is in line to become a breakout defender in his redshirt freshman season in Eugene.

 

40. Sean Welsh, OL, Iowa

The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder recently was moved into the starting lineup at left guard for Kirk Ferentz. Surrounded by seniors and juniors, the Ohio native is proving quickly that he belongs on the field for Iowa.

Teaser:
Top 35 Impact Freshman to Watch in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 15, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/10-shows-wed-see-sec-network
Body:

The SEC Network will be in 91 million homes.

 

It will be the fourth-most accessible sports cable network (ESPN, ESPN2, FOX Sports 1) and will dwarf the launch of every other college sports channel.

 

The list of personalities is impressive. The ESPN-driven documentary-style programming will be second to none. There will be 45 live football games broadcast in the first four months of the channel’s debut alone.

 

Needless to say, the SEC Network is going to be a rousing success.

 

That doesn’t mean we don’t have a few suggestions. Here are some of our favorite new show concepts we’d like to see developed on the SEC Network:

 

Real World SEC

What happens when you throw one lunatic fringe fan from all 14 SEC teams — seven men and seven women — into a house for the entire football season with nothing but booze and flat screens and lock the door? No jobs, no responsibility, no holds barred.

 

Hard Knocks: SEC

This one is pretty straight forward. Both the Big Ten Network (The Journey) and the Pac-12 Network (The Drive) have done something similar, and, generally, fans can’t get enough of behind the scenes stuff when it comes to their favorite team. Rotate to a different team every year and turn the cameras loose on practice, training camp, gameday and more.

 

Spurrier’s Foursome

Each Sunday afternoon, cameras will follow Steve Spurrier’s foursome around whatever golf course he's playing that day. The Head Ball Coach reading menus would be hilarious so I can’t imagine what fun would ensue on the links with his buddies after a big win (or, better yet, a loss).

 

Les Miles Reads the News

The big broadcast networks get their nightly newscast and so too does the SEC Network. Every evening at five o'clock, LSU head coach Les Miles will deliver the world news to SEC fans. It could be the Gaza Strip, a U.S.-Mexico border crisis or Kim-K's latest marriage fiasco. Frankly, it doesn't matter what the topic is because Miles will have something extraordinary to say about it. It might be the highest rated show on the network.

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

10 Seconds or Less

The newest and hottest game show on television hosted by Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn where contestants have 10 seconds or less to answer SEC trivia questions. The winner gets tickets to an SEC game against an FCS opponent and an autographed copy of “The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle: An Offensive Philosophy.”

 

Huntin' For Croots

Guns and high school football. That's what Texas does. Modeled after the late great Steve Irwin, this reality show docu-drama features Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin taking the viewer deep into the infested waters of Texas High School recruiting. The biggest croc on the block shows fans from across the Southeast what luring talent is all about. Think Hard Knocks meets Crocadile Hunter.

 

Iron Bowl Fan Cave

Similar to the MLB Fan Cave, an Alabama fan and an Auburn fan are locked in a room for Iron Bowl week and forced to watched the Iron Bowl on the same couch. They will be provided all the drinks and food they want and are only allowed to watch Iron Bowl reruns until the kickoff of the big game. In a perfect world, it would be Harvey Updyke and Charles Barkley.

 

Friday Nights with Mark

On Friday nights — when the SEC takes a breather — the Georgia head coach will sit down in front of his fireplace, chardonnay in hand, and read parables to the fans of the SEC. He will speak to their soul. Occasionally, good friend Hugh Freeze stops by.

 

Hog vs. Food

The SEC has some of the best BBQ and down-home country cooking in the world and most of us enjoy large quantities of it — just like Adam Richman. In this Man vs. Food spin-off, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema tries to achieve digestive success at some of the Southeast’s hottest and most delicious eateries.

 

Hotel Tuscaloosa

Every Wednesday night, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Eagles frontman Don Henley breakdown a different Eagles track. From the writing to the vocals to the live performances, Saban critically analyzes each classic Eagles jam throughout their five-decade run of "rock stardom."

Teaser:
The 10 Shows We'd Like to See on the SEC Network
Post date: Friday, August 15, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-toughest-college-football-schedules-2014
Body:

The ACC preseason talking points were pretty clear.

 

“We are the champions and we broke a record by sending 11 teams to a bowl game.”

 

Unfortunately, conferences don’t win championships, teams do. So while Florida State is the defending champ, it means very little for the rest of the ACC. The rest of the league needs to win marquee non-conference games against both the SEC and Notre Dame to start bragging during the offseason.

 

Within the league, however, there are more than half-a-dozen (mostly, from the Coastal Division) teams who feel like they have a shot to reach Charlotte. So crossover play and home-and-road splits will play a huge role in shaping the ACC Championship Game matchup.

 

So which ACC team has the toughest schedule in 2014?

 

1. Virginia

Crossover: Louisville, at Florida St

Non-con: UCLA, Richmond, at BYU, Kent St

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 102-54 (65.4%, 2nd)

 

Not only does Virginia play the toughest schedule in the Coastal (because they don’t get to face themselves) but it will also play two elite non-conference games and two of the top three teams in the Atlantic Division as well. Mike London is squarely on the hot seat and this schedule is one of the worst in the nation.

 

2. Miami

Crossover: at Louisville, Florida State

Non-con: Florida A&M, Arkansas St, at Nebraska, Cincinnati

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 96-60 (61.5%, 14th)

 

Sort of like Virginia, Miami plays two really tough non-conference games and two nasty crossovers in ACC play with the Seminoles and Cardinals. The divisional schedule is slightly easier with the Wahoos on the slate, but Miami has the toughest path to the Coastal championship of any contender in the division.

 

3. Boston College

Crossover: Pitt, at Virginia Tech

Non-con: at UMass, USC, Maine, Colorado St

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 95-61 (60.9%, 15th)

 

USC and Colorado State won’t be easy non-conference tilts but at least both come at home and a split is likely. In fact, BC should get halfway to a bowl (3-1) in the non-con. Facing the Hokies on the road and Pitt at home is going to be tough in crossover and the trio of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville within the division doesn’t offer too many chances for wins. This team will need to sweep the bottom half of the Atlantic to reach the postseason.

 

4. Syracuse

Crossover: Duke, at Pitt

Non-con: Villanova, at CMU, Maryland, Notre Dame

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 96-57 (62.8%, 8th)

 

Maryland and Notre Dame in the non-conference is going to be very tricky for the Cuse and living in the same division with Clemson, Florida State and Louisville will always be extremely tough. And while most aren’t facing any of the top three picks in crossover play, facing the defending Coastal champs in Duke and a trendy sleeper pick in Pitt won’t be easy. 

 

5. Clemson

Crossover: North Carolina, at Georgia Tech

Non-con: at Georgia, S. Carolina St, Georgia St, South Carolina

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 89-65 (57.8%, 28th)

 

Clemson should face at least three top 15 opponents this fall, two of which bookend the season against the top two teams in the SEC East. Toss in road trips to always pesky Georgia Tech and the defending national champs and the Tigers have one of the tougher slates in the league.

 

6. Wake Forest

Crossover: Virginia Tech, at Duke

Non-con: at UL Monroe, Gardner-Webb, at Utah St, Army

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 97-58 (62.6%, 9th)

 

The non-conference slate may not look like much but a road trip out to Utah State is likely a loss. Crossover with Virginia Tech and Duke won’t be easy either. And being the worst team in the Atlantic Division always means facing the toughest schedule within that half of the ACC. Missing Notre Dame is huge but the Demon Deacons will likely face at least nine bowl teams this fall.

 

7. North Carolina

Crossover: at Clemson, NC State

Non-con: Liberty, San Diego St, at ECU, at Notre Dame

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 92-62 (59.7%, 20th)

 

Having to face an in-state “mid-major” program that regularly upsets quality ACC teams is no easy task. And visiting South Bend could be ugly as well. Crossover play features a road game against the second-best team in the division and a much-improved in-state rival. That said, the key for the Heels is navigating a mid-to-late season stretch from Oct. 18 to Nov. 20 that features five straight divisional foes (three on the road).

 

8. NC State

Crossover: Georgia Tech, at North Carolina

Non-con: Ga. Southern, Old Dominion, at USF, Presbyterian

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 89-61 (59.3%, 23rd)

 

The non-conference should feature plenty of wins with the toughest test coming on the road against a team that lost 10 games last fall (USF). Crossover play is tough at UNC and Georgia Tech at home but could be worse. Road trips to Clemson and Louisville will be nasty but important swing games — ones key for bowl eligibility — against Wake Forest, Boston College and Georgia Tech will come at home.

 

9. Louisville

Crossover: Miami, at Virginia

Non-con: Murray St, at FIU, at Notre Dame, Kentucky

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 75-76 (49.7%, 80th)

 

In two odd twists, Louisville will play both crossover games with the Coastal Division by Week 3 with six straight divisional games to end ACC play. Then the Cardinals will play back-to-back non-conference games against Big 5 opponents to end the season. And in between, Bobby Petrino will have to face Clemson (road) and Florida State (home) in a four-week span to end October. There are wins to be had but some marquee showdowns as well.

 

10. Georgia Tech

Crossover: at NC State, Clemson

Non-con: Wofford, at Tulane, Ga. Southern, at Georgia

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 84-67 (55.6%, 43rd)

 

Playing at Georgia has been a miserable way to end the season for the Jackets for more than a decade but a 3-1 record in non-conference play feels like a low-water mark. Having to face Pitt, Virginia Tech and both UNC and NC State on the road is pretty tough in conference. In fact, crossover play will feature two of the top four teams from the Atlantic Division. This is a manageable but tricky slate for Paul Johnson in an important season.

 

11. Florida State

Crossover: Virginia, at Miami

Non-con: Oklahoma St, Citadel, Notre Dame, Florida

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 83-68 (54.9%, 47th)

 

First, it’s pretty clear FSU will be a double-digit favorite in probably every game it plays this fall. But Notre Dame, Clemson, Louisville and Florida will all make for interesting matchups. The non-conference slate is among the best in the nation but both Florida and Oklahoma State have seen better days. Crossover shouldn’t be an issue despite a road trip to archrival Miami. Look for another 13-0 mark from the Noles.

 

12. Virginia Tech

Crossover: Boston College, at Wake Forest

Non-con: William & Mary, at Ohio St, ECU, W. Michigan

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 83-71 (53.9%, 55th)

 

Facing BC and Wake Forest is one huge reason the Hokies are picked to win the Coastal by Athlon Sports. A road trip to Ohio State will be brutal but a great test for Frank Beamer's squad before three straight home games. Back-to-back road trips to North Carolina and Pitt to begin October might be the most important stretch of action. The final month could be a breeze for Virginia Tech.

 

13. Pitt

Crossover: at Boston College, Syracuse

Non-con: Delaware, at FIU, Iowa, Akron

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 78-75 (50.9%, 74th)

 

A win over Iowa at home would be a nice feather in the cap for Paul Chryst’s squad, which should finish non-conference play no worse than 3-1 (if not 4-0). Crossover games with BC and Cuse features two bowl teams but neither is as good as it was last fall. The key for Pitt will be the final six games — all of which feature bowl teams and the five other Coastal contenders.

 

14. Duke

Crossover: at Syracuse, Wake Forest

Non-con: Elon, at Troy, Kansas, Tulane

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 69-82 (45.7%, 101st)

 

The Blue Devils got one of the few likely 4-0 non-conference slates and are facing two teams it should be beat in crossover play. That leaves road trips to Miami, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Cuse in a five-game span as November arrives that will define Duke’s Coastal title defense. If the Blue Devils survive, the two best teams in the Coastal will have to come to Durham (Virginia Tech, North Carolina) late in November.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 15, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/big-12s-top-freshmen-watch-2014
Body:

The beauty of college football lies in its unpredictability and volatility.

 

Roster turnover is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of variability from year to year within the sport. Key graduations, early entries into the NFL Draft, dismissals and a massive influx of tomorrow's stars in the form of bright-eyed freshmen create more personnel turnover in college football than any other major sport in the country.

 

It's these (relatively) unknown commodities that offer fans a renewed hope of future success. Who are the top freshmen to watch in the Big 12 this fall?

 

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State

He is one of (if not the) highest rated players to ever sign with Iowa State and apparently he is worthy of the hype. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound wideout is already working with the second unit and will undoubtedly be a starter in no time. His talent is obvious and he could be a historic player for the Cyclones.

 

Steven Parker | Jordan Thomas, DB, Oklahoma

Thomas has received rave reviews from Bob Stoops and the coaching staff for his work in camp thus far. He is in a battle with Julian Wilson for a starting cornerback spot. Parker, meanwhile, is also getting positive grades for his work at safety. He is trying to earn playing time opposite Quentin Hayes. Neither may start but both will play a huge role this fall.

 

Dravon Henry, S, West Virginia

There was a reason Henry was the No. 1-rated player in the state of Pennyslvania last year. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound safety has been working with the starters at free safety before camp even opened. He can cover a lot of ground and has proven he should be on the field as much as possible early on in his career.

 

Derick Roberson, DL, Texas

After Cedric Reed, Charlie Strong has little in the way of pass rushers on his roster. This is why fans in Austin should expect prized recruit Roberson to get plenty of snaps this fall. He isn’t likely to start and needs to bulk up (6-3, 235) but has elite up the field ability that this team desperately needs.

 

Ranthony Texada | Cyd Calvin, CB, TCU

The Horned Frogs normally are known for having tenacious and talented defensive backs and these redshirt freshmen fit that bill. Texada is already penciled in as the starter opposite All-Big 12 pick Kevin White while Calvin is listed as the top backup to both. Look for Gary Patterson to develop these talented youngsters into the next wave of great TCU cornerbacks.

 

Gyasi Akem, LB, Oklahoma State

The Pokes are thin at linebacker after the departure of Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey but Akem figures to help fill the void. The quick but undersized (6-1, 201) freshman is eyeing a starting spot right out of the gate alongside veteran Ryan Simmons. He uses his speed well both as a pass rusher and dropping into coverage. Look for Akem to see time very early and possibly start against Florida State.

 

KD Cannon | Davion Hall, WR, Baylor

He doesn’t have the same skillset or size of Lazard — he stands just six-feet tall and weighs under 170 pounds — but Cannon could have a similar impact on Baylor. The state 4A 100-m champion in Texas brings elite speed to a position that has developed into a marquee role. It shouldn’t shock anyone if Cannon, as well as equally touted wideout Davion Hall (6-3, 186), gets plenty of early playing time. This duo compliments each other extremely well.

 

Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

The star tailback from Oakley (Calif.) Freedom is currently sitting on the sidelines in Norman but was the top-rated recruit in the Big 12 for a reason. He has special ability and would figure into the starting running back situation if he can get onto the field. He has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into an altercation that took place in late July.

 

James Washington | Ra’Shaad Samples, WR, Oklahoma State

There is one name drawing the headlines in Cowboys camp when it comes to freshman and Washington is the guy. Coaches and players are raving daily about his raw physical talent. He and the smallish redshirted Samples are on a team that runs four wide receivers regularly and should find their way onto the field this fall.

 

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The South Carolina native enrolled at Oklahoma State early and has developed enough confidence with the coaches to earn 25-percent of the reps in fall camp. Odds are J.W. Walsh is the starter for the first half of the season but fans can bet on a quick hook should he struggle. If that happens, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder may have a chance to steal the starting job.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Jah’Shawn Johnson, DB, Texas Tech

Darius James, OL, Texas

Dalvin Warmack, RB, Kansas State

Kyron Watson, LB, Kansas

Kamari Cotton-Moya, S, Iowa State

Nigel Bethel II, CB, Texas Tech

Colin Dowling, P, Iowa State

Justin Stockton, RB, Texas Tech

Foster Sawyer | Grayson Muehlstein, QB, TCU

Jerrod Heard, QB, Texas

Teaser:
The Big 12's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 15, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-official-2014-predictions
Body:

The 2014 season is upon us and the guys make all of their official predictions for each of the Big 5 conferences as well as who will win the first College Football Playoff.

 

Managing Editor Mitch Light joins Braden Gall, David Fox and Steven Lassan to make picks, conduct a Coaching Hot Seat fantasy draft, discuss bathroom etiquette and remember a legendary comedian.

 

Have a question or comment? Contact us at podcast@athlonsports.com or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 and @AthlonSteven and @AthlonMitch

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Official 2014 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 16:25
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-freshmen-watch-2014
Body:

The beauty of college football lies in its unpredictability and volatility.

 

Roster turnover is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of variability from year to year within the sport. Key graduations, early entries into the NFL Draft, dismissals and a massive influx of tomorrow's stars in the form of bright-eyed freshmen create more personnel turnover in college football than any other major sport in the country.

 

It's these (relatively) unknown commodities that offer fans a renewed hope of future success. Who are the top freshmen to watch in the Big Ten this fall?

 

Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan

This list has to begin with the Charles Woodson clone in Ann Arbor. He will begin his career as the nickelback but could easily work into a starting role on defense. Peppers, in true Woodson fashion, is a dynamic return specialist and don’t be surprised if he gets some snaps on offense as well. He was the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2014 class for a reason.

 

Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

The No. 2-rated recruit in the Big Ten was the top inside linebacker in the nation and he is already pressing for starting reps in Columbus. The 242-pounder is breathing down Curtis Grant’s neck at MLB and should see plenty of snaps all year long. The early enrollee is the next great tackling star for Ohio State.

 

Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

A man among boys, McDowell has rare size (6-6, 295) and quickness for such a young player. With an injury to Damon Knox, Pat Narduzzi needs McDowell to be ready to start sooner rather than later. He may not start the opener but he will be major factor for the Spartans this fall.

 

Damian Prince | Derwin Gray, OL, Maryland

Both Prince and Gray are in the heat of two position battles for starting time up front for the Terps. Prince (6-5, 295) was recently moved to guard and is the odds-on favorite to earn the starting job. Gray (6-5, 295) is battling Ryan Doyle for the starting right tackle spot. Both Prince and Gray are dramatically more talented options but need to catch on quickly to start all year.

 

Chikwe Obasih | Alec James, DL, Wisconsin

The Badgers could feature two redshirt freshman starting defensive ends in Week 1 against LSU. Obasih (6-2, 245) and James (6-3, 239) are undersized but both bring a quickness off the edge Wisconsin hasn’t had in years. Obasih was the starter throughout spring camp and James, a converted outside backer, has risen quickly into a starting role. There will be a rotation up front this fall but expect both Obasih and James to finish the year as the starters.

 

Mason Cole, OL, Michigan

Most offensive linemen need to time to develop but Cole is proving he is ready to play right out of the gate. The Florida native checks in at 6-foot-5 and a slighter 285 pounds but has great athleticism and is already working with the first team in camp. Both David Dawson and Logan Tuley-Tillman could see playing time as well up front for a team in desperate need of stability on the O-line.

 

Gelen Robinson, DE/LB, Purdue

The hybrid Purdue freshman has already been moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder was an end in high school and is at his best coming off the edge. The physical player should force his way into the starting lineup by the end of September.

 

Andrew Nelson, OL, Penn State

One of the biggest question marks in the Big Ten this fall is the Nittany Lions' O-line. Herb Hand is going to try everything to counteract the concerning lack of depth and that likely means a lot of young players getting reps this fall. Nelson is already slotted to start at right tackle and pretty much any other player on the roster should expect to see time for the depleted Lions.

 

Freddy Canteen, WR, Michigan

Canteen has already earned high marks from quarterback Devin Gardner and figures to be a big contributor in the slot this fall. He had an excellent spring and has outplayed more highly touted freshman and plenty of upperclassmen. Once Drake Harris is healthy, he also figures to play a role this fall as well.

 

Chris Goodwin | De’Andre Thompkins, WR, Penn State

James Franklin and his staff attacked depth at the wide receiver position on the recruiting trail and landed a quartet of athletic playmakers. Goodwin and Thompkins are the two names that continue to stand out. Thompkins (6-0, 175) is the speedster who can fly while Goodwin (6-2, 205) brings a physical frame and maturity to the position. Both Troy Apke and Saeed Blacknall could see playing time as well.

 

Sean Welsh, OL, Iowa

The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder recently was moved into the starting lineup at left guard for Kirk Ferentz. Surrounded by seniors and juniors, the Ohio native is proving quickly that he belongs on the field for Iowa.

 

Curtis Samuel, AP, Ohio State

Fans have been pointing to Dontre Wilson as a guy who could fill the Percy Harvin role for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. And while Wilson is going to have an excellent sophomore season, it’s actually Samuel who is drawing the brightest reviews. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is listed as a wideout but has been getting plenty of carries out of the backfield. Look for Samuel to play a lot in a variety of roles this fall.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Demetrius Cooper, DE, Michigan State

Dominique Booth, WR, Indiana

Jeff Jones | Berkley Edwards, RB, Minnesota

Corey Clements, OL, Purdue

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

George Rushing | Natrell Jamerson, WR, Wisconsin

Derrick Willies, WR, Iowa

Enoch Smith, DL, Michigan State
Shane Jones | Jon Reschke, LB, Michigan State
Sebastian Joseph, DL, Rutgers
Myles Nash, LB, Rutgers

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2014
Post date: Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/accs-top-freshmen-watch-2014
Body:

The beauty of college football lies in its unpredictability and volatility.

 

Roster turnover is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of variability from year to year within the sport. Key graduations, early entries into the NFL Draft, dismissals and a massive influx of tomorrow's stars in the form of bright-eyed freshmen create more personnel turnover in college football than any other major sport in the country.

 

It's these (relatively) unknown commodities that offer fans a renewed hope of future success. Who are the top freshmen to watch in the ACC this fall?

 

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

The uber-recruit from Immokalee (Fla.) High redshirted a year ago and is ready to fulfill his lofty recruiting expectations. He’s gained some weight and will be charged with protecting the back end of a defense littered with seniors.

 

Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

After experiencing some speed bumps in the recruiting process, Thomas is finally ready to contribute in Tallahassee. He has freakish ability and is slated to start alongside Terrance Smith. Jimbo Fisher has proven he will ask big things of first-year starters and Thomas is the next in line.

 

Quin Blanding, S, Virginia

The five-star safety from Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside is slotted to start the moment he steps onto a college field for the first time. He has veterans to learn from but the 6-foot-4, 210-pound dynamo could be a savior at the back end of the Cavaliers' defense.

 

Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina

Arkansas State head coach and former UNC assistant Blake Anderson told me last week that Hood is as ready made as any true freshman in the ACC. There is a crowded backfield in Chapel Hill but the 220-pounder might be the most talented of the bunch.

 

KC McDermott, OL, Miami

The Hurricanes have plenty of holes to fill and one should be plugged by the monster (6-6, 315) in-state blocker. He has been worked at right tackle with the first team and he could be just one of a few first-year blockers who contribute in a big way for Miami.

 

Ermon Lane | Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State

There is plenty of space in the offense behind senior Rashad Greene and both Lane (6-3, 205) and Rudolph (6-2, 185) have been exceptional in fall camp. Greene and quarterback Jameis Winston have had glowing things to say about the two tall playmakers.

 

Wyatt Teller, OL, Virginia Tech

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound redshirt freshman has moved from defensive line to offensive tackle to offensive guard and hasn’t played a down yet. But he looks and acts the part of an interior mauler already. His weight lifting records are a testament to that. He will fight to keep his job but the future is extremely bright for Teller in Blacksburg.

 

Andrew Brown, DL, Virginia

A turf toe injury resulted in surgery at the beginning of fall camp and that has slowed the expectations for the five-star nose guard. The coaching staff still believes the big 300-pounder will be a major contributor this fall but they will ease their prized freshman back into action.

 

Chad Thomas, DL, Miami

It’s hard to hide Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s excitement about having Thomas on the roster. The local product checks in at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds with excellent burst and great agility. He is the type of South Florida defender the Canes have been sorely lacking.

 

Bo Hines, WR, NC State

Dave Doeren’s offense will be much improved in Year Two with Jacoby Brissett under center. Hines was impressive in spring camp after enrolling early and there is plenty of space on the depth chart for a talented pass-catcher like Hines to flourish in 2014.

 

Quarterbacks to Watch:

 

Deshaun Watson, Clemson

The talented dual-threat early enrollee needs to stay healthy but should already be entrenched as Cole Stoudt’s backup and the QB of the future.

 

Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

Marquise Williams is the starter but Trubisky brings pocket talent that Larry Fedora brought in for a reason. He is the future in Chapel Hill.

 

Kevin Olsen, Miami

He’s suspended for at least the opener against Louisville but this situation could be so dire that Olsen could get plenty of reps once he’s out of the doghouse. True freshman Brad Kaaya is also getting a look.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Bentley Spain | R.J. Prince, OL, North Carolina

Keith Bryant | Derrick Nnadi, DL, Florida State

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson

Wayne Gallman | Tyshon Dye, RB, Clemson

Zach Challingsworth | Jester Weah, WR, Pitt

Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami

Kentavius Street, DL, NC State

Chris Griffin, OL, Georgia Tech

Teaser:
The ACC's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/top-10-most-underrated-college-football-quarterbacks-2014
Body:

Do most SEC fans know who Taylor Kelly is? That he is the only other player in the nation other than the great Johnny Manziel to throw for at least 3,000 yards and rush for at least 500 in each of the last two seasons?

 

Because if not, they should. Which is why Kelly is ranked by Athlon Sports as the No. 8 quarterback in college football heading into the 2014 campaign.

 

So using that list of the best quarterbacks in the nation to determine exactly what “underrated” is — for this exercise, anyone not ranked in the top 15 — here are the most underrated signal-callers in college football this fall.

 

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Jr.)

The Bulldogs are one of just three teams from the Big 5 conferences that have never had a QB drafted in the modern era (1977). But with great leadership, poise, toughness and a special blend of size (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) and athleticism (829 yards rushing last year), Prescott could be the first. He should also be the first 3,000-yard passer in school history. Dan Mullen has built a deep roster in Starkville and now he has the quarterback to go along with it. Look for Prescott and the Bulldogs to make plenty of noise this fall.

 

Davis Webb, Texas Tech (So.)

There are few players in the nation who are safer bets to reach 4,000 yards and/or 30 touchdown passes this year than Webb. He proved himself as a freshman last year, throwing for over 300 yards five times in just six starts — including his marquee, 385-yard performance in the upset of Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Look for monster numbers from Tech’s quarterback this fall.

 

Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion (Sr.)

He’s started 33 straight games for ODU and is one of the most decorated and prolific passers in college football history. He is one of just 18 Division I quarterbacks to throw at least 100 touchdowns (102) and is 29th all-time in NCAA history with 11,483 yards entering his senior season. The Monarchs will have chances to showcase Heinicke against the ACC (NC State), the SEC (Vanderbilt) and Marshall.

 

Keenan Reynolds, Navy (Jr.)

The Navy quarterback won’t ever make headlines for passing the football but Reynolds certainly made a statement as a runner last fall. Reynolds set the single season TD record for a quarterback with 31 rushing scores. He finished with 1,346 yards on 300 carries. Few players are better suited to run the triple option than the Nashville native.

 

Nate Sudfeld, Indiana (Jr.)

In two seasons splitting time under center, Sudfeld has helped Indiana lead the Big Ten in passing offense twice. He posted numbers comparable to most Big Ten starters last fall (2,523 yards, 21 TDs, 9 INTs) despite sharing the field with Tre Roberson. He now has sole control of Kevin Wilson’s prolific offense and should flourish with huge numbers — and, who knows, maybe a bowl berth for the Hoosiers.

 

C.J. Brown, Maryland (Sr.)

If fans are looking for someone else who could join Kelly as a 3,000-500 guy, look no further than Maryland’s Brown. Finally healthy, the Terps' signal-caller threw for 2,242 yards, ran for 576 and accounted for 25 total touchdowns. All without two potential NFL wideouts in Deon Long and Stefon Diggs. Look for Brown (if healthy) to be one of the surprises in the Big Ten this fall.

 

Cody Kessler, USC (Jr.)

He isn’t a star like most of his Pac-12 brethren, but make no mistake, Kessler has plenty of talent. The Trojans' signal-caller finally grasped Clay Helton’s offense following Lane Kiffin’s firing. He threw 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions while winning seven of nine games following the regime change. This includes a very impressive 288-yard, TD performance in the marquee win over Stanford. He threw just seven interceptions in 362 attempts and posted career highs (344 yds, 4 TDs) in the season finale bowl win over Fresno State.

 

Cole Stoudt, Clemson (Sr.)

His story isn’t told all that often any longer in college football. Most players don’t sit and wait their turn like Stoudt has done at Clemson. Now, he is given the reins to one of the most prolific offensive systems in the nation. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder completed 79.3 percent of his passes last year in mop-up duty but has the tempo and quick release coordinator Chad Morris is looking for in 2014.

 

Will Gardner, Louisville (So.)

The 6-foot-5 pocket passer from Douglas (Ga.) Coffee turned down a scholarship offer from Alabama to attend Louisville. Now, he falls into a Bobby Petrino offense in which his skill set should flourish. A great offensive line, a superstar wide receiver (DeVante Parker) and a talented running game could make this as potent a Petrino offense as any. And it all starts with the 230-pound sophomore.

 

Marquise Williams, North Carolina (Jr.)

Forced into action when Bryn Renner was injured, Williams acquitted himself admirably in his first chance as a starting college quarterback. Over the final seven games of the season, he rushed for 441 yards, threw for 1,308 yards, scored 17 total touchdowns and led the Tar Heels to a 6-1 record. The offense averaged over 40 points per game during that span and he should only continue to get better this fall.

Teaser:
The Top 10 Most Underrated College Football Quarterbacks in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 08:00

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