Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-toughest-college-football-schedules-2014
Body:

Will 2014 be the year the SEC is no longer considered the best conference in football?

 

If Larry Scott has anything to do with it, the answer is yes. The Pac-12, on the backs of elite quarterback play and a talented coaching roster, is poised to make a run at the SEC’s supremacy this fall.

 

If it doesn’t eat itself alive, that is. The Pac-12 schedules appear to be the most difficult in the country. Some of that is because the league west of the Rockies plays nine conference games and a championship game. Additionally, most of the heavy hitters in this league also will play a marquee non-conference game.

 

In trying to pick a champion — we settled on Oregon over UCLA after much deliberation — schedules play a huge role. Which Pac-12 schedule is the toughest?

 

1. Stanford

Road: Washington, Arizona St, Oregon, Cal, UCLA

Home: USC, Wazzu, Oregon St, Utah

Misses: Arizona, Colorado

Non-Con: UC Davis, Army, at Notre Dame

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 86-68 (55.8%, 42nd)

 

Road trips are going to be the name of the game for the Cardinal. Stanford has to face four of the Pac-12's six ranked teams (preseason Top 25) on the road, including the top two North Division challengers and Notre Dame. Not only does Stanford have to face each of the top three teams from the South but also it gets UCLA and Arizona State on the road. A perfect home record may not be able to overcome the difficulty of the away schedule this fall.

 

2. UCLA

Road: Arizona St, Cal, Colorado, Washington

Home: Utah, Oregon, Arizona, USC, Stanford

Misses: Oregon St, Wazzu

Non-Con: at Virginia, Memphis, Texas (Arlington)

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 82-72 (53.3%, 60th)

 

The Bruins, like Stanford, will play most of the other preseason-ranked teams in the league. Facing just two — Arizona State and Washington — from this quintet on the road is a small comfort as USC, Oregon and Stanford must all visit Pasadena. The trip to Arlington to play Texas is no joke either. This is a brutal schedule with very few breaks.

 

3. Utah

Road: UCLA, Oregon St, Arizona St, Stanford, Colorado

Home: Wazzu, USC, Oregon, Arizona

Misses: Cal, Washington

Non-Con: Idaho St, Fresno St, at Michigan

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 98-59 (62.4%, 11th)

 

Utah has to play both Stanford and Oregon to go along with the top four teams in the South. It also must visit Michigan on the road — even though the Utes won the last trip to the Big House. The road schedule is one of the toughest in the nation, as there are maybe two guaranteed wins on the slate. Missing Cal from the North really hurts Utah’s bowl chances.

 

4. Washington State

Road: Utah, Stanford, Oregon St, Arizona St

Home: Oregon, Cal, Arizona, USC, Washington

Misses: UCLA, Colorado

Non-Con: Rutgers, at Nevada, Portland St

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 88-67 (56.9%, 36th)

 

There are some wins to be had early for Mike Leach despite two “interesting” non-conference games with Rutgers and Nevada. Other than a visit from Oregon, Wazzu could easily win every other game until Oct. 10. Then the slate gives way to brutal tests each and every week. The final six include Stanford, Arizona, USC, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington.

 

5. Cal

Road: Arizona, Wazzu, Oregon St, USC

Home: Colorado, Washington, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford
Misses: Arizona St, Utah

Non-Con: at Northwestern, Sacramento St, BYU

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 94-61 (60.6%, 17th)

 

There is no marquee non-conference game but there are two tough ones instead of what should be three gimmies. Cal does get the top three teams in its division at home but unless the Bears pull off a major upset, fans might actually prefer those (almost guaranteed) losses come on the road. There aren’t many winnable games on this schedule.

 

6. Colorado

Road: Cal, USC, Arizona, Oregon

Home: Arizona St, Oregon St, UCLA, Washington, Utah

Misses: Stanford, Wazzu

Non-Con: Colorado St (Denver), at UMass, Hawaii

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 81-74 (52.3%, 66th)

 

The Buffs are slated to play five preseason-ranked conference foes, two of which will come on the road. The home schedule is full of marquee games, but can Colorado capitalize and pull an upset or two? Missing Stanford is a blessing and the non-conference slate isn’t overly taxing but this is still a schedule befitting a team picked last in the division.

 

7. Arizona State

Road: Colorado, USC, Washington, Oregon St, Arizona

Home: UCLA, Stanford, Utah, Wazzu

Misses: Cal, Oregon

Non-Con: Weber St, at New Mexico, Notre Dame

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 84-70 (54.6%, 52nd)

 

Missing Oregon is huge news for the Sun Devils but that is balanced by adding Notre Dame in the non-conference. The home slate is filled with three ranked teams and four bowl teams while the road slate features trips to two potential third-place teams (USC, Washington) and two really dangerous locales (Corvallis, Tucson).

 

8. Oregon State

Road: USC, Colorado, Stanford, Washington

Home: Utah, Cal, Wazzu, Arizona St, Oregon

Misses: Arizona, UCLA

Non-Con: Portland St, at Hawaii, San Diego St

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 82-72 (53.3%, 60th)

 

The non-conference slate should provide three wins for the Beavers and the second half of the schedule is very intriguing. The Beavers miss two great offenses from the South in Arizona and UCLA and will get four out of five games at home in Reser Stadium in the month of November. The road schedule isn’t helpful with trips to Stanford, USC and Washington on the slate.

 

9. USC

Road: Stanford, Arizona, Utah, Wazzu, UCLA

Home: Oregon St, Arizona St, Colorado, Cal

Misses: Washington, Oregon

Non-Con: Fresno St, at Boston College, Notre Dame

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 89-66 (57.4%, 29th)

 

Although Fresno State and Boston College aren’t as good as last year, this is one of the more difficult non-conference slates in the league. So it’s a good thing that USC misses both the Huskies and Ducks from the North. The home slate isn’t all that intriguing while the road schedule is full of speed bumps and showdowns.

 

10. Oregon

Road: Wazzu, UCLA, Cal, Utah, Oregon St

Home: Arizona, Washington, Stanford, Colorado

Misses: Arizona St, USC

Non-Con: S. Dakota, Michigan St, Wyoming

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 84-69 (54.9%, 49th)

 

Missing two of the top three teams from the South is a major positive. Getting to host the top two teams in the North — Washington and Stanford — is another huge plus. There are some tricky road trips to UCLA, Salt Lake City, Corvallis and Pullman, but this schedule sets up pretty well for the Ducks later in the year — despite having to play arguably the biggest non-conference game of the year.

 

11. Arizona

Road: Oregon, Wazzu, UCLA, Utah

Home: Cal, USC, Colorado, Washington, Arizona St

Misses: Oregon St, Stanford

Non-Con: UNLV, at UTSA, Nevada

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 84-69 (54.9%, 49th)

 

Rich Rodriguez should once again be perfect in the non-conference while five home games in league play in Tucson could be exciting. Missing Stanford and Oregon State from up North is a positive and having to face Oregon and UCLA — the two predicted winners and likely losses — on the road may actually be a blessing too. This is a manageable, albeit very testy, slate.

 

12. Washington

Road: Cal, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Wazzu

Home: Stanford, Arizona St, UCLA, Oregon St

Misses: Utah, USC

Non-Con: at Hawaii, E. Washington, Illinois, Georgia St

Opponents’ ’13 Record: 85-83 (50.6%, 77th)

 

Missing USC is going to be a blessing (for a variety of reasons) and both Arizona State and UCLA must come North to Seattle. So, too, does two-time defending champ Stanford. And the non-conference slate should provide four easy wins (yes, four). That said, the biggest game of the year could come at Oregon on Oct. 18. Unless U of W can close the gap on the Ducks, the rest of the schedule may not matter.

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/15-defensive-heisman-trophy-candidates-2014
Body:

When it comes to the Heisman Trophy, the little guy gets no respect.

 

And by the little guy, I don’t mean Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. I mean 300-pound defensive lineman or 6-foot-4 fire-breathing linebackers.

 

No, when it comes to the most prestigious trophy in sports, the entire defensive side of the ball has been largely ignored for the better part of a century. Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 is the only true defensive player to ever win the award.

 

Recent runs to New York by Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh in 2009 and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o in '12 may be a sign of things changing slowly, but odds are still heavily stacked against the defensive side of the ball.

 

Assuming that both halves of the field will get a fair shake this fall, who are the top defensive Heisman candidates for 2014?

 

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

Fans and experts all point to Myles Jack as the top defensive candidate to break through this fall but he isn’t expected to be used on offense. Thompson, on the other hand, could see more than spot duty for the Huskies' offense. He is a freak athlete, an All-American candidate and could be the next two-way star in college football.

 

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

The nation’s top returning sack master is the Tigers' star — who posted 13 sacks a year ago. For a defense that could be the best Clemson has had in years, Beasley’s explosive playmaking ability should make for national headlines.

 

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

The Big Ten’s top returning sack master (9.5), Gregory is hoping to restore the Nebraska defense to Blackshirt status. He should be able to build on his monster 2013 campaign that featured 65 tackles, 16 for a loss and 15 quarterback hurries. Like Calhoun, Gregory should perform like the projected first-round NFL Draft pick that he is.

 

Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma

The big-play linebacker shows up all over the field. He constantly disrupts the opposing backfield and regularly imposes his will with physicality and explosiveness. He should build on his stat line from last year: 50 tackles, 10.6 TFL, 6.5 sacks.

 

Listen to the latest Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Not many players earn first-team preseason All-American honors as a true sophomore but that is what VH3 has done. He might be the nation’s top pure cover corner and should only build on his excellent first season in Gainesville.

 

Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

He was the No. 1 recruit in the nation at his position for a reason. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete stepped into a starring role for Notre Dame and produced as just a freshman last fall. He posted 67 tackles (third on the team), 6.5 for a loss and made one freakish interception against USC. With a move to the inside, Smith should find himself around the ball on every play and the Irish have already proven that their middle linebacker can land in New York.

 

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

The massive (6-5, 260) defensive end was a star last year as just a sophomore (37 tackles, 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 3 defensive touchdowns). With much less help at linebacker, the Spartans' defensive line now takes center stage. Calhoun is the star of that bunch due to elite NFL upside.

 

Landon Collins, S, Alabama

He is one of the most gifted tacklers in the nation. When Collins arrives at the ball, the entire country knows about it. The lone returning starter in the Crimson Tide secondary could be the nation’s best safety. And he plays a position that has recently become a marquee spot with names like Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix excelling for the Tide.

 

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Jack made a huge name for himself last fall while playing two ways. Unfortunately, coach Jim Mora has talked openly about returning his star linebacker to an exclusively defensive role. Either way, he is a star athlete who will be a national award winner at some point.

 

Leonard Williams, DE, USC

The lanky defensive end is a projected top pick in the NFL Draft in the spring and should he dominate the line of scrimmage once again — he has 26 TFL and 13 sacks in two seasons — he should be in line for national acclaim.

 

Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State

Not many true freshmen start every game for a national champion but that is what the former five-star recruit did for the Noles a year ago. The lanky playmaker should develop into one of the best defenders in the nation and should be an All-American this fall.

 

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

The first-team All-American cornerback consistently makes highlight-reel plays on defense. He has seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles in the last two seasons while making 147 total stops. He could be the most high-profile member of a Pac-12 championship defense.

 

Su’a Cravens, S, USC

From a talent standpoint, few can match Cravens’ size and speed combination. He proved as a true freshman last year that he could be special, posting 53 tackles and four interceptions.

 

Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State

As a true freshman, Jones — who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds — made a much bigger impact than even his five-star status indicated. He posted 32 tackles, seven for a loss and three sacks and constantly disrupted the opposing backfield. He is a sure-fire future NFL star.

 

Cedric Reed, DE, Texas

He is a massive part of the Longhorns' rebuilding project on defense, figuratively and literally. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, Reed towers above the competition regularly and his numbers back it up as well. He posted 77 tackles, 16.5 TFL and 10 sacks last year and should only be better this year.

Teaser:
10 Defensive Heisman Trophy Candidates for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 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-state-college-football-steven-godfrey
Body:

The Athlon Sports Cover 2 college football podcast is finally back in Nashville after trips to SEC and Big Ten Media Days. 

 

To offer a complete media days recap and a general state of college football address, Braden Gall and David Fox are joined by SBNation's Steven Godfrey.

 

The guys break down autonomy, the future of scheduling, the impact of sweeping changes on the fans and much more.

 

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

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: State of College Football with Steven Godfrey
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 17:22
Path: /college-football/10-darkhorse-heisman-trophy-candidates-2014
Body:

Defining the term “dark horse” was actually the toughest part of this exercise.

 

Finding really talented players who could breakout into prominent roles is actually the easiest part of trying to pick Heisman Trophy sleepers. Part of what makes college football the greatest sport in the world is its volatility and unpredictability.

 

After debates with many trusted advisors within the Athlon Sports walls, I decided to let Las Vegas define dark horse for me. There are 24 names listed on Bovada’s Heisman Trophy season odds page (for those who enjoy gambling) and those 24 players are ineligible (according to me) to be included as dark horses.

 

This includes players who I would call "dark horses" like Alabama’s Derrick Henry, who isn’t even a true starter, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, who hasn’t played a single down of college football, or Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, who’s never started a full season.

 

Top Heisman Sleepers:

 

Taysom Hill, BYU

The BYU signal-caller has an elite combination of size, power and athleticism that most quarterbacks only dream about. His ability to embarrass defenses with his feet is obvious — try 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground — but it’s his continued development as a passer that makes him a Heisman contender. He finished eighth in the nation with 4,282 yards of total offense — ahead of names like Winston, Boyd, Bridgewater and Bortles. With a schedule filled with solid but not overly taxing games, Hill will post monster numbers for a team with double-digit wins.

 

Byron Marshall, Oregon

The Ducks have five starters back along the offensive line and an offense that has churned out Heisman candidates at running back. Marshall rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 168 carries last fall. If he can get upwards of 250 touches, he could lead the nation in rushing for Oregon. His only concern might be that backup Thomas Tyner is too good to keep off the field for very long.

 

Cole Stoudt, Clemson

The keys to one of the shiniest offenses in the nation have fallen in Stoudt’s lap and he deserves his opportunity. Stoudt has waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and all signs point to him being more than capable of running Chad Morris’ attack. He’s all about tempo and is a solid fit for an offense that consistently posts huge statistics. An early upset over Georgia or Florida State are almost a must, however, to get into the mix.

 

Davis Webb, Texas Tech

Captain Kliff believes in Webb so much that anyone else on the Lubbock campus who can throw a football left town this offseason. Webb proved enough as a freshman last fall to entrench himself as the star of the show at Texas Tech. He threw for over 300 yards five times in just six starts, including 385 yards against Oklahoma and 403 in Holiday Bowl upset win over Arizona State. The offense should provide huge numbers and a few upsets at home (like, say, against Texas or Oklahoma) could put Webb into national conversations.

 

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

There aren’t too many players with as many physical skills as Hackenberg. He is a sure-fire, first-round NFL Draft pick in two springs as he set 11 school records as a true freshman last year. The offensive line and overall depth is a major concern and keeps him from being mentioned alongside names like Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty and Braxton Miller, but Hackenberg is just as talented. Look for the PSU QB to continue to grow with no limits on his upside.

 

Maty Mauk, Missouri

The youngster is brimming with confidence and now has the keys to an offense known for producing big-time stars at quarterback. Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and James Franklin have all run Gary Pinkel’s offense to perfection. Mauk is just the next and might be the best pure passer in the SEC. 

 

Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

In 2012, Keeton was exceptional by throwing for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns with only nine picks while also rushing for 619 yards and eight touchdowns. The Aggies were 11-2. Last year, Keeton accounted for 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions with 1,629 yards of total offense in just six games before suffering a season-ending injury. Utah State also has some marquee games at Tennessee, BYU and Boise State which can help increase Keeton's profile.

 

Jeremy Langford, Michigan State

Ameer Abdullah led the league in rushing and Melvin Gordon got most of the accolades, but Langford was arguably the most important tailback in the Big Ten last year. He rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 scores on the year but 1,070 yards, 13 touchdowns and all eight of his 100-yard games came in conference play. Langford belongs being mentioned alongside the star runners of the B1G.

 

Buck Allen, USC

Javorius “Buck” Allen took control the starting tailback job at USC in the second half of last year and it has vaulted him into award conversations. Allen rushed for over 100 yards in four of the last six games and scored 12 times during that span. A full season workload could make Allen the top true workhorse back in the conference this year.

 

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

Who finished second to Johnny Manziel last year in the SEC in total offense? Not Aaron Murray, Nick Marshall, AJ McCarron or Connor Shaw. No, Wallace’s 3,701 yards were well ahead of third place (and well behind Manziel). Now fully healthy and with a developing young corps of supporting players, Wallace is in store for a monster final season.

 

Five Super Sleepers:

 

Stefon Diggs, Maryland

If he could just stay healthy, Diggs could make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver. He does special things with the ball in his hands but has missed seven games in his first two seasons. With a talented quarterback returning, Diggs has a chance to post a breakout season in College Park. The Big Ten will find out quickly how dangerous Diggs can be.

 

Marquise Williams, North Carolina

Williams flashed a lot of ability last fall and should only continue to develop. The Tar Heels went 6-1 over their final seven games and the offense averaged over 40 points per game due in large part to his play. With a full season of making plays, Williams has a chance to get into the national conversation.

 

Shock Linwood, Baylor

The Bears had the Big 12’s leading rusher last year in Lache Seastrunk but also boasted the No. 6 rusher too. Linwood, a freshman last year, rushed for 881 yards and eight TDs on just 128 carries. Imagine what he could do with a year of seasoning and a full workload?

 

Tyler Boyd, Pitt

Boyd is a special talent with rare ability. He has elite NFL upside and plays for a head coach who normally produces big numbers in the passing game. Look for Boyd, just a sophomore, to make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. Should that happen, landing in the Heisman conversation isn’t out of the question.

 

Will Gardner, Louisville

There are many things worse than betting on a Bobby Petrino quarterback. Gardner is a tall, pocket passer who fits his system perfectly. And with a gifted offensive line and deep supporting cast, it’s not unthinkable that Gardner becomes the second-best passer in the ACC.

Teaser:
10 Dark Horse Heisman Trophy Candidates in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-best-and-worst-logos-2014
Body:

Official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

Since Athlon Sports has been designing the best-looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we asked our senior graphic design guru to rank college football's best and worst logos.

 

Here is what Art Director Matt Taliaferro had to say about the Pac-12's football logos:

 

 SchoolLogoAnalysis
1.WashingtonSimple, tasteful, unchanging and very obvious. This emblem with its signature gold trim is one of the best in the nation and leaves little doubt as to what it represents.
2.USCThe interlocking "S-C" is as famous as any logo in the nation. The other logo with the script team nickname above the "SC" isn't needed for a major brand like USC.
3.UCLAThe script "UCLA" is one of the most well-known logos in all of sports much less college football. And the way the word Bruins is incorporated makes it one of the most informative in the nation while still being fairly simple.
4.StanfordMichigan State and NC State know exactly what the smart kids from Palo Alto were thinking when this logo was created. It's classic and simple with a touch of style in the stroked white/red trim. Stanford boasts one of the best brand logos in the nation.
5.OregonIt doesn't get any simpler than the Oregon "O." There is some subtle style to the font that makes it cooler than the average "O." The clean classic look works but some yellow trim might make it the best in the league.  
6.ColoradoThe Buffs' logo balances all of the key aspects to a company logo. It's simple and classic but with just enough style and flair while also being incredibly unique. 
7.ArizonaIt's a clean, classic logo that hasn't needed upgrading for years. The use of two fonts is a bit odd but the two-tone, two-layered "A" leaves little doubt as to what this logo represents.
8.Washington StateAnyone who has watched College Gameday knows about this logo. It is creative in an effort to combine the W-S-U with the Cougar head emblem. It is busy and complicated but very solid nonetheless.
9.Arizona StateThe pitchfork by itself is pretty solid looking with some edgy style. I'm glad the primary logo no longer includes the block "ASU" as it was too forced and busy.
10.UtahThe standard block U is great and the school did an excellent job to incorporate Ute Nation into the look. However, the circle has an outdated helmet feel to it. An upgrade could make this pop.
11.CalCal updated their football logo this offseason and it has been met with mixed reviews. The traditional script "Cal" was a smooth look that had been around for some time. The new Bear looks much edgier and more aggressive.
12.Oregon StateThe Beavers updated their look recently with a new edgier looking logo. And, frankly, they did a good job. This one is smoother and streamlined and is more aggressive. It's tough to make a beaver look mean, however.
Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Best and Worst Logos in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-25-heisman-trophy-candidates-2014
Body:

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, QBs have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the award.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated (Archie Griffin, 1974-75). Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference even won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10).

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the top 25 candidates to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 (with current Bovada odds):

 

1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (11/2)

He is arguably the most gifted athlete in the country and he is running one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Should he stay healthy, Oregon is also the front-runner to win the Pac-12 and play in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The talent, the numbers, the winning and championship could all be in Mariota’s corner.

 

2. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (7/1)

The dual-threat signal-caller is a perfect fit for his offensive system and he is leading a team picked by many to win the Big Ten and land in the playoff. Add to it dynamic, highlight-reel plays and huge numbers and fans in Columbus have themselves a Heisman Trophy candidate under center. Staying healthy and winning the Big Ten are keys for Miller this fall if he wants to get to New York (which he should).

 

3. Jameis Winston, Florida State (4/1)

The only reason Winston wouldn’t be the front-runner is because he won the award last year. He is the most talented player on what should be the best team and will likely have the best numbers on a championship squad. He is competing with himself.

 

4. Bryce Petty, Baylor (12/1)

There is no question regarding the top Heisman candidate in the Big 12. The guy who scored 46 times and threw just three interceptions while winning his school’s first-ever Big 12 championship. Petty won’t have the same supporting cast this year but Art Briles' system is a proven commodity. If Petty can do something that’s never been done — Baylor winning at Oklahoma — then his numbers and team success will be enough to get him to New York.

 

5. Brett Hundley, UCLA (16/1)

One of my favorite bets on this list, the UCLA quarterback is eyeing everything that Mariota is targeting. His numbers should be comparable and the Bruins will have a chance at home to knock off the Ducks late in the year. If UCLA makes a run at the playoff, Hundley could easily be in New York.

 

6. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (20/1)

From a talent standpoint, few in the nation can match Gordon’s speed, power and explosiveness. And few players are in a better situation to make a run at the Heisman than the Wisconsin tailback. James White is gone, the offensive line is stacked and he plays for an offense predicated on handing the ball off.

 

7. Todd Gurley, Georgia (12/1)

He is the most gifted player at his position in the nation and it’s one that has Heisman pedigree. On just 202 touches due to injuries, the 230-pounder rolled up 1,430 yards from scrimmage and scored 16 times. When healthy, he is unstoppable.

 

8. Nick Marshall, Auburn (10/1)

He is a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense — a unit that should be even better and more balanced this year. He should blow past last year’s passing totals (1,976 yds, 14 TDs) and could easily match last year’s rushing production (1,068 yds, 12 TDs). Add in another run at an SEC title and Marshall could wind up in New York by season's end.

 

9. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (18/1)

Alabama’s starting tailback has been in the Heisman conversation ever since Nick Saban arrived in 2007. Yeldon is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons and has scored at least 13 times in each of his first two years. Another big year could mean a berth in the playoff and a Heisman Trophy for Yeldon.

 

10. Taysom Hill, BYU (--)

The BYU signal caller has an elite combination of size, power and athleticism that most quarterbacks only dream about. His ability to embarrass defenses with his feet is obvious — try 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground — but it’s his continued development as a passer that makes him a Heisman contender. He finished eighth in the nation with 4,282 yards of total offense — ahead of names like Winston, Boyd, Bridgewater and Bortles. With a schedule filled with solid but not overly taxing games, Hill will post monster numbers for a team with double-digit wins.

 

11. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma (16/1)

There were two Trevor Knights last year. The guy who played in the Sugar Bowl and the guy who played in every other game for Oklahoma. Knight has big-time, big-play ability and is leading the team who is clearly the front-runner to win the Big 12 and possibly land in the playoff. If he can stay healthy, he should post big numbers and win almost every game, making him an extremely viable Heisman candidate.

 

12. Mike Davis, South Carolina (28/1)

The situation around Davis is extremely conducive at a run for the Heisman. He plays for a top 15 team with marquee showdowns, has a shot at a playoff berth and his entire offensive line returns intact. If he can stay healthy, Davis — who posted six 100-yard games in his first seven last fall — could pace the SEC in rushing.

 

13. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (33/1)

Gordon gets all of the headlines in the Big Ten but it was Abdullah who actually led the Big Ten in rushing (1,690). The Nebraska ball-carrier is a special talent who can catch passes, constantly gets critical yards and has proven capable of a heavy workload. The key for Abdullah is team success, as the Huskers need to make a run at the Big Ten title for the Big Red runner to get into the Heisman mix.

 

14. Duke Johnson, Miami (33/1)

From a talent standpoint, Johnson is the only other option in the ACC who can compete with Winston. He has elite-level breakaway speed and explosiveness. The biggest speed bump in The Duke’s Heisman campaign will be staying healthy. The smallish back has dealt with injuries but if he can stay on the field and post 250 touches, his numbers could be ridiculously good.

 

15. Everett Golson, Notre Dame (14/1)

Irish fans are happy to welcome back their starting quarterback after a one-year hiatus. Golson took major strides during his one year as the starter, not only leading Notre Dame to the national championship game, but also proving to be a dynamic playmaker along the way. He is a perfect fit in the Brian Kelly system, a scheme that allows for big statistics from the QB position. Big numbers and lots of marquee wins at Notre Dame generally means national acclaim.

 

16. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State (66/1)

Not many players have thrown for at least 3,000 yards and rushed for at least 500 in the last two years but Kelly is one of them. He led ASU to the Pac-12 title game a year ago and another run at a league title — along with another 4,000-yard season — could get Kelly into the national discussion.

 

17. Byron Marshall, Oregon (--)

The Ducks have five starters back along the offensive line and an offense that has churned out Heisman candidates at running back. Marshall rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 168 carries last fall. If he can get upwards of 250 touches, he could lead the nation in rushing for Oregon. His only concern might be that backup Thomas Tyner is too good to keep off the field for very long.

 

18. Leonard Fournette, LSU (66/1)

He’s already been compared to Michael Jordan by his coach and to Adrian Peterson by his teammates. No pressure, young fella. Fournette is going to be great. The question is how quickly? And will the rest of his offense support him? The ground game will be electric in Baton Rouge but this unit needs balance to get the true freshman into the Heisman conversation.

 

19. Cole Stoudt, Clemson (--)

The keys to one of the shiniest offenses in the nation have fallen in Stoudt’s lap and he deserves his opportunity. Stoudt has waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and all signs point to him being more than capable of running Chad Morris’ attack. He’s all about tempo and is a solid fit for an offense that consistently posts huge statistics. An early upset over Georgia or Florida State is almost a must, however, to get into the mix.

 

20. Karlos Williams, Florida State (33/1)

By default, the starting tailback at Florida State should be a high-profile, highly productive position. And Williams has all the raw physical tools to become a star on the national level. He averaged over eight yards per carry and scored 11 times while splitting time with two other guys — both of whom have moved on. With a full workload, Williams could post Doak Walker Award-worthy numbers.

 

21. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (--)

There aren’t too many players with as many physical skills as Hackenberg. He is a sure-fire, first-round, NFL Draft pick in two springs, as he set 11 school records as a true freshman last year. The offensive line and overall depth is a major concern and keeps him from being mentioned alongside names like Hundley, Petty and Miller, but Hackenberg is just as talented. Look for the PSU QB to continue to grow with no limits on his upside.

 

22. Connor Cook, Michigan State (33/1)

Michigan State entered last fall with questions under center. By the time the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl were over, they had a star at quarterback. Cook posted back-to-back 300-yard games (setting career highs) in wins over Ohio State and Stanford. Look for more development from the underrated athlete in his second season as the starter.

 

23. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State (--)

In 2012, Keeton was exceptional by throwing for 3,373 yards and 27 touchdowns with only nine picks while also rushing for 619 yards and eight touchdowns. The Aggies were 11-2. Last year, Keeton accounted for 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions with 1,629 yards of total offense in just six games before getting hurt for the season. Utah State has some marquee games at Tennessee, BYU and Boise State.

 

24. Sean Mannion, Oregon State (50/1)

The Beavers quarterback threw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns last year, trailing only Derek Carr as the nation’s leading passer. If he can cut back on interceptions — he threw 12 in the last five games — and lead his team to a few more wins, Mannion should have the numbers to get to New York.

 

25. Rakeem Cato, Marshall (66/1)

Marshall could go undefeated and Cato should be able replicate his monster season from a year ago (4,210 yards of total offense and 45 total TDs). Should those two things happen, the Herd is likely to be ranked in the top 15 so the star QB (See: Blake Bortles) has a chance to get into the national conversation.

Teaser:
Top 25 Heisman Trophy Candidates for 2014
Post date: Monday, August 4, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-best-coordinator-duos-2014
Body:

Some coaches are great recruiters. Some are great talent developers. Some are great with the media and power boosters.

 

Some are simply great CEOs. Only a select few can say they can do it all.

 

So being able to identify your weaknesses and correct them by surrounding yourself with great personnel is a skill just like coaching defensive backs, luring recruits or glad-handing donors.

 

Some coaches don’t need to have a great offensive coordinator. Like, say, Steve Spurrier, Mike Leach, Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn or Bobby Petrino. Some don’t need a defensive coordinator like Gary Patterson, Bill Snyder, Charlie Strong or Todd Graham.

 

Removing the teams whose head coach acts largely as a full-time coordinator, which teams enter the season with the most dynamic duos of coordinators in the nation?

 

1. Clemson

OC: Chad Morris (3 yr)
DC: Brent Venables (2 yr)

 

Morris is widely considered the top offensive coordinator in the nation and the numbers bear that out, as Clemson has crushed opposing defenses for over 40 points per game in each of the last two years. Venables, who was brought to Death Valley in 2012, has improved the Tigers' defense in each of his two seasons. This unit gave up 29.3 points per game the year before he arrived. Clemson allowed 24.8 ppg in ’12, 22.2 ppg last fall and is poised to be even better this fall.

 

2. Alabama

OC: Lane Kiffin (--)
DC: Kirby Smart (6 yr)

 

Smart has been a hot head-coaching name for half a decade now and he continues to turn down overtures to stay with Nick Saban. His defenses are among the nation’s best every year he’s been in Tuscaloosa. Kiffin, for all of his faults, is overqualified to be “just” an offensive coordinator. As long as he isn’t handling CEO duties — which he has struggled with in the past — Kiffin could be one of the nation’s top offensive minds in 2014. There is no questioning his ability to coach quarterbacks and develop a passing game.

 

3. Oklahoma

OC: Josh Heupel (4 yr)
DC: Mike Stoops (2 yr)

 

Stoops returned to Norman two years ago (replacing Venables) after helping the Sooners win a national title in 2000. His unit showed marked improvement in his first two years and is poised for its best defensive season since that memorable '00 campaign. Heupel’s offenses have been ranked in the top 10 nationally in three of his four seasons and, with a healthy starter under center for a full season, should bounce back in a big way.

 

4. LSU

OC: Cam Cameron (1 yr)
DC: John Chavis (5 yr)

 

Cameron was brought in to instill a pro-style balanced attack and he turned Zach Mettenberger from SEC also-ran into an NFL Draft pick in just one season. He has his work cut out for him with the departures in the passing game but the ground attack should be one of the nation’s best. Chavis has a long standing history of SEC success but his unit has gotten worse three consecutive seasons since the 2011 BCS national title game. His squad should rebound in 2014.

 

5. Georgia

OC: Mike Bobo (8 yr)
DC: Jeremy Pruitt (--)

 

Pruitt comes to Athens after winning two national titles as the defensive backs coach at Alabama in 2011-12. Then he won a national title last year as the defensive coordinator at Florida State. Now, he takes over a Dawgs defense with loads of talent and upside. Bobo has had some tough(er) seasons but largely has produced efficient and effective offenses over a long period of time in the SEC. Georgia has averaged 6.4 yards per play over the last six seasons — which would’ve ranked 22nd nationally last fall.

 

6. Michigan State

OC: Dave Warner, Jim Bollman (1 yr)
DC: Pat Narduzzi (7 yr)

 

Narduzzi is the reigning top coordinator in the nation as the 2013 Frank Broyles Award winner for his work with the Spartans defense last fall. He is a proven commodity that carries this staff behind Mark Dantonio. Warner, who has been at MSU for seven seasons, joined Bollman, in his first season with Sparty, as co-offensive coordinators last fall. The unit showed steady improvement and was one of the most balanced attacks in the Big Ten by the end of the season.

 

7. USC

OC: Clay Helton (4 yr)
DC: Justin Wilcox (--)

 

Helton was one of the few hold overs from the previous staff and his offense took major strides as the season went along last fall despite three coaching changes. Wilcox heads to USC with head coach Steve Sarkisian after two seasons in Seattle. Wilcox has been a rising star for years and has proven his worth at Washington. He took a unit that was 108th in yards per play allowed the year before his arrival (6.43 ypp) and turned it into the 20th-ranked defense (4.98 ypp) in the same category in 2013.

 

8. Missouri

OC: Josh Henson (1 yr)
DC: Dave Steckel (5 yr)

 

Staff stability has been a staple for Gary Pinkel and his current coordinator duo is one of the most underrated tandems in the nation. Henson is largely regarded as the potential head coach in waiting and has the respect of everyone in Columbia. He has been on the Tigers staff for six years and showed in one year running the offense that he is totally capable. Steckel has been with Missouri since 2001 and has been running the defense since '09. He continues to overachieve with middle-of-the-pack recruits.

 

9. Virginia Tech

OC: Scott Loeffler (1 yr)
DC: Bud Foster (19 yr)

 

Foster is arguably the nation’s top defensive coordinator. He’s been at Tech since 1987 in some capacity and has produced some of the best defenses in the nation for nearly two decades. Loeffler is much more unproven and will have his work cut out for him after helping Logan Thomas set numerous career school records in his first season. He’s been at Michigan, Florida, Auburn and in the NFL, so clearly, Loeffler is well respected. Now, he needs to deliver in a tough situation.

 

10. Penn State

OC: John Donovan (1 yr)
DC: Bob Shoop (1 yr)

 

Both Donovan and Shoop have been James Franklin’s coordinators since taking his first head coaching job at Vanderbilt in 2011. Donovan has been with Franklin even longer, spending time with him at Maryland. Both guys were instrumental in developing the Vandy program but Shoop was the star of the show. The Dores won a lot of games on the defensive side of the ball over the last three years and, now, both guys have a power brand to work with in 2014.

 

The Best of the Rest:

 

11. Baylor: Philip Montgomery (OC), Phil Bennett (DC)

12. UCLA: Noel Mazzone (OC), Jeff Ulbrich (DC)

13. Notre Dame: Mike Denbrock (OC), Brian VanGorder (DC)

14. Michigan: Doug Nussmeier (OC), Greg Mattison (DC)

15. Maryland: Mike Locksley (OC), Brian Stewart (DC)

Teaser:
College Football's Best Coordinator Duos in 2014
Post date: Friday, August 1, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-best-line-scrimmage-2014
Body:

Each year, Athlon Sports produces conference and national unit rankings for all of the major position groups on the field.

 

Who has the best receiving corps — both wide receivers and tight ends — in the nation? Who has the best set of linebackers — both inside and out, 4-3 or 3-4?

 

It’s a fun and illuminating exercise that can help provide clarity when it comes to making predictions. Sure, wide receivers, running backs and safeties are important players but what defines a truly great football team — one that can compete for a national championship — is the line of scrimmage.

 

A great offensive line can mask issues at tailback or even quarterback. A stout defensive line can make linebackers look like superstars. The game is still played in the trenches and being strong along both lines of scrimmage is generally a calling card for most championship teams.

 

So, as fall camp is set to open across the nation, which teams have the best combination of offensive and defensive lines in the nation?

 

Note: There are 17 teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in both offensive and defensive line unit rankings.

 

1. Alabama

OL Rank: 2 | DL Rank: 7

 

Alabama’s strength doesn’t lie in the elite upside of starters (which is excellent) but the astounding depth along both sides of the ball. A’Shawn Robinson on defense and Cam Robinson on offense could blossom into superstars as just underclassmen and neither was a starter last fall. Steady veterans like Brandon Ivory at nose guard and both Ryan Kelly and Austin Shepard on offense give Nick Saban the best combination of linemen in the nation.

 

2. Florida State

OL Rank: 1 | DL Rank: 9

 

The Noles boast five senior starters along the offensive line, including three preseason first- or second-team All-Americans and four returning starters. Only Austin Barron is a new face up front for Jameis Winston. Losing Timmy Jernigan hurts the D-line but Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Chris Casher form one of the nastiest groups in the nation.

 

3. Oklahoma

OL Rank: 8 | DL Rank: 6

 

All three starters return along the D-line for the Stoops brothers and two of them (Jordan Wade and Chuka Ndulue) might not even start for the Sooners. The defense will be the best the Sooners have seen in a decade while the O-line continues to churn out big-time players. This unit is going to feature five upperclassmen, including four returning starters, and two bookend seniors at left and right tackle (Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams).

 

4. LSU

OL Rank: 4 | DL Rank: 14

 

The offensive line in Baton Rouge has been great since Nick Saban got to town and La’El Collins and Jerald Hawkins form one of the best tackle duos in the nation. There are no holes up front on offense. Defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco could also be one of the best duos in the nation, but Les Miles must replace both interior tackles on defense. The overall talent and depth of these two units should give LSU a chance to win every game this fall. 

 

5. Ohio State

OL Rank: 20 | DL Rank: 1

 

Michael Bennett, an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American, is the only non-five-star starter along the defensive line for Ohio State. In fact, every member of the OSU two-deep on defense returns. The offense isn’t as lucky but is very talented in its own right. This group doesn’t have the star power it had last fall but it’s a veteran group headlined by Taylor Decker and former Alabama blocker Chad Lindsay.

 

6. Michigan State

OL Rank: 19 | DL Rank: 3

 

The defensive line is a proven commodity with national award candidate Shilique Calhoun anchoring things at defensive end. His counterpart Marcus Rush is another stellar edge rusher, giving Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi an elite pass rush. Center Jack Allen and left tackle Jack Conklin headline a veteran O-line that is one of the Big Ten’s best once again.

 

7. Auburn

OL Rank: 2 | DL Rank: 17*

 

Auburn would have been fifth on this list if not for the crushing injury to Carl Lawson — who might be the Tigers' best defensive lineman. Even without Lawson and first-round pick Greg Robinson, Auburn returns four starters along the O-line and three out of four on the other side. 

 

* - Before Carl Lawson’s injury. Auburn would have been No. 5 on this list if Lawson had been healthy.

 

8. Clemson

OL Rank: 21 | DL Rank: 4

 

Vic Beasley and Corey Crawford bookend one of the nastiest defensive lines in the nation while three returning interior starters highlight the offensive line. The Tigers' O-line will feature five upperclassmen while the D-line is projected to boast four senior starters. From a talent and experience standpoint, few teams can match what Clemson returns to the trenches.

 

9. Stanford

OL Rank: 6 | DL Rank: 20

 

How could a unit with one returning starter on offense be one of the nation’s best? Because David Shaw has recruited at an elite level up front along the line and that one starter, left tackle Andrus Peat, might be the nation’s best player at his position. Defensively, Henry Anderson and David Parry return to action with big-time names like Blake Lueders and Aziz Shittu poised to breakout for new coordinator Lance Anderson.

 

10t. Baylor

OL Rank: 17 | DL Rank: 13

 

The Bears lost some star power along both lines of scrimmage but Art Briles has recruited so well that Baylor still figures to be one of the toughest teams up front this fall. Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings form a dynamic inside-outside tandem on defense while left tackle Spencer Drango is a budding superstar on offense. This ranking is a major testament to the job Briles and Baylor have done restocking the cupboard in the trenches.

 

10t. Texas

OL Rank: 23 | DL Rank: 7

 

End Cedric Reed and tackle Malcolm Brown form one of the best defensive line duos in the nation. And while the offensive line has struggled of late, new O-line coach Joe Wickline is sure to develop some toughness and tenacity on a line that returns a lot of big-time recruits. A kick in the pants is just what these two lines need in Austin.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

11. Washington (OL: 16, DL: 16)

12. UCLA (OL: 22, DL: 10)

13. Kansas State (OL: 14, DL: 21)

14. South Carolina (OL: 5, DL: UR)

15. USC (OL: UR, DL: 5)

Teaser:
College Football's Best Line of Scrimmage in 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-nebraska-cornhuskers-special
Body:

Big Ten Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Chicago, Ill., to talk all things Big Ten with coaches, players and writers alike. 

 

Athlon Sports' Braden Gall and David Fox discuss all things Nebraska with Huskers head coach Bo Pelini himself as well as HuskerOnline's Sean Callahan. The guys break down Ameer Abdullah's Big Ten speech, the chances Nebraska has to win the West Division, Bo Pelini's transformation and more. 

 

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

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Nebraska Cornhuskers Special
Post date: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 15:05
Path: /college-football/national-college-football-awards-predictions-2014
Body:

Walk into any major college football facility and you will likely be greeted by some sort of massive trophy case.

 

Some are bigger than others, some are more stocked than others and some are featured more prominently than others. But every school has one.

 

Largely, they are used to show off former exploits and accomplishments on the field to future recruits. “Come to State U and you can win a Heisman Trophy.”

 

Yes, there are also bowl trophies in those same cases but the BBVA Compass Bowl championship trophy doesn’t resonate with a star athlete like an individual award can.

 

Who are the front-runners to win those esteemed and coveted national awards in 2014? Here are Athlon Sports’ preseason predictions for each of the major individual awards:

 

Heisman: Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The odds are stacked against Jameis Winston repeating and the safest bet, should he stay healthy, is the Ducks' superstar signal-caller. Mariota has the numbers, the stats, the highlight-reel plays and a potential run at a national championship. Finalists: Jameis Winston, Braxton Miller, Brett Hundley

 

Maxwell: Jameis Winston, Florida State

The Heisman Trophy winner rarely gets the nod as “Player of the Year.” Tim Tebow was the last player to win both and only one defensive player since Hugh Green in 1980 has won it (Manti Te’o). The Maxwell is a nice consolation prize for Winston. Finalists: Melvin Gordon, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley

 

Davey O’Brien: Jameis Winston, Florida State

Part of the reason Mariota is the pick to win the Heisman is his athletic ability. While Winston may not repeat as the stiff-armed champion, he is still likely to be the best passer in the game this fall. Again, a nice consolation prize for the Noles' quarterback. Finalists: Bryce Petty, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley

 

Doak Walker: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

This class of tailbacks is absolutely loaded and a dozen of them have a legit case to be the Doak Walker winner. Gordon, who posted over 1,600 yards in a timeshare situation last fall, is the star of the show for an offense known for producing elite running backs. The outstanding O-line, easy schedule and Todd Gurley’s penchant for missing time pushes Gordon to the top of the list. Finalists: Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah, Mike Davis

 

Biletnikoff: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

This is certainly a bit of a projection but there is little doubting Treadwell’s overall ability. He is a sure-fire, first-round NFL talent who is playing in an up-tempo offense in the nation’s toughest league with a senior quarterback. The production is there and one or two upsets over, say, Alabama or Auburn would only increase Treadwell's profile nationally. Finalists: Nelson Agholor, Amari Cooper, Tyler Boyd

 

Mackey: O.J. Howard, Alabama

Bama wideout Christion Jones told me at SEC Media Days that Howard was the best and most important player on the Tide roster. He is a freakish athlete, both physically and mentally, and he might be the best blocker on a team picked to play in the national championship game. Finalists: Nick O’Leary, Jeff Heuerman

 

Outland: Andrus Peat, Stanford

This team is known for producing elite offensive lineman and Peat might be the best of the bunch. He has the size, athleticism, production, team success and every other aspect to a resume deserving of being labeled the best in the nation. Finalists: Cameron Erving, Brandon Scherff, Cedric Ogbuehi

 

Rimington: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon

Grasu plays for one of the best offenses in the nation, one picked to win the Pac-12 championship. He was named first-team All-American in the preseason this summer and that makes him the front-runner to claim the honor of best pivot in the land. Finalists: Reese Dismukes, B.J. Finney

 

Johnny Rodgers: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Lockett has elite speed, quickness, burst and has proven to be extremely dangerous in the return game. The first-team preseason All-American return man will have many chances to post highlight-reel plays against top-10 teams Auburn, Oklahoma and Baylor. Finalists: Ty Montgomery, Nelson Agholor

 

Bednarik/Nagurski: Shaq Thompson, Washington

Thompson is in a great situation to excel in 2014. After shifting to linebacker, Thompson may actually add running back to his already impressive resume. The Huskies' star tackler will post huge numbers for a team that could very easily be the story of the Pac-12 by season’s end. He has elite physical ability and won’t disappoint this fall. Finalists: Shilique Calhoun, Vic Beasley, Eric Striker

 

Lombardi: Chris Jones, Mississippi State

As just a true freshman, Jones proved he was worthy of his lofty five-star recruiting status. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder appears to be a lock as a future NFL star and should be virtually unmovable in the SEC West this fall. Watch for the Bulldogs to surprise some people based on Jones and a very stout defensive front seven. Finalists: Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory

 

Hendricks: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State

There are a lot of great defensive ends around the nation but Calhoun could be the best. He makes game-changing plays (see three defensive TDs last fall) and he will be the star of what should once again be one of the nation’s elite defenses. A win over Ohio State and another Big Ten title would supplant Calhoun as the nation’s top DE. Finalists: Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley, Randy Gregory

 

Butkus: Shaq Thompson, Washington

Thompson is a tackling machine who uses superior physical ability to fly all over the field. He will be in most national defensive award races all season long and should the Huskies upset the cart in the Pac-12 North, it will be because of guys like Thompson. Finalists: Jaylon Smith, Eric Striker, Myles Jack

 

Thorpe: Vernon Hargreaves, Florida

Much like Jones at Mississippi State, Hargreaves quickly established himself as a superstar as just a freshman last fall. He is the nation’s top pure coverman and he could play for one of the most improved teams in the nation in Gainesville. Finalists: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Landon Collins, Jalen Ramsey

 

Coach of the Year: Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

This one is nearly impossible, as the Coach of the Year is rarely the guy who is picked to win the league or national title. Names like Chris Petersen, Gary Pinkel, Todd Graham, Dan Mullen and Bill Snyder could dramatically overachieve this fall. Freeze, should he lead Ole Miss to a nine- or 10-win season, would certainly fall into that category. Finalists: Chris Petersen, Gary Andersen, Dan Mullen

 

Freshman of the Year: Leonard Fournette, LSU

There are few names on this list I feel better about getting correct than Fournette at LSU. The superstar No. 1 running back in the nation will be running behind a great veteran O-line and there is little doubt he will burst onto the national scene in just his first year. Finalists: Jabrill Peppers, Kyle Allen, Joe Mixon

 

Frank Broyles: Chad Morris, Clemson

The top offensive assistant in the land has his work cut out for him as stars Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Roderick McDowell have all departed. Despite all of this turnover, look for Morris to turn Cole Stoudt into an All-ACC passer and for the Tigers to push for 10 wins again this fall. Finalists: Pat Narduzzi, Mike Stoops, Justin Wilcox

Teaser:
National College Football Awards Predictions for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-big-ten-players-special
Body:

Big Ten Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Chicago, Ill., to talk all things Big Ten with coaches, players and writers alike. 

 

Braden Gall visited with Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

 

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

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Big Ten Players Special
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 18:35
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-big-ten-media-days-2014
Body:

Big Ten Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Chicago, Ill., to talk all things Big Ten with coaches, players and writers alike. 

 

Braden Gall and David Fox were joined by Big Ten Network studio host and author Dave Revsine as well as Big Ten Network reporter Tom Deinhart. Order Revsine's book, The Opening Kickoff, here.

 

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

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Big Ten Media Days 2014
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 17:38
Path: /college-football/taysom-hill-everett-golson-lead-independent-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the top Independent Heisman Trophy candidates in 2014:

 

1. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

The BYU signal-caller has an elite combination of size, power and athleticism that most quarterbacks only dream about. His ability to embarrass defenses with his feet is obvious — try 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground — but it’s his continued development as a passer that makes him a Heisman contender. After three games last year, Hill was completing less than 40 percent of his passes but as the season progressed, so too did his accuracy and efficiency. He finished eighth in the nation with 4,282 yards of total offense — ahead of names like Winston, Boyd, Bridgewater and Bortles. With a schedule filled with solid but not overly taxing games, Hill could post monster numbers for a team with double-digit wins. And that should get him into Heisman conversations.

 

2. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame

Irish fans are happy to welcome back their starting quarterback after a one-year hiatus. From all accounts, Golson spent his year away from campus honing his skills as a passer and it should allow him to slide back into college football with relative ease. Golson took major strides during his one year as the starter, not only leading Notre Dame to the national championship game, but also proving to be a dynamic playmaker along the way. He is a perfect fit in Brian Kelly's system, a scheme that allows for big statistics from the QB position. Big numbers and lots of marquee wins at Notre Dame generally means national acclaim.

 

3. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

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 to go with 1,057 yards passing, eight more touchdowns and only two interceptions. This team has increased its win total three straight years and a jump again in 2014 would likely mean All-American consideration for Reynolds. Few people are better suited to run the triple option than the current Navy quarterback.

 

4. Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

As just a sophomore, Williams broke onto the scene with a very productive 1,233-yard, 7-TD season. He averaged nearly six yards per carry (5.7) and posted his biggest games late in the year in important moments. He rushed for 219 yards on the road against Nevada and rolled up 107 yards against Boise State — both wins for the Cougars. He struggled against elite competition (Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Washington) but so did most tailbacks against those three defenses. Look for a jump in production and another big year from the Cougars' rushing attack.

 

5. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

He was the No. 1 recruit in the nation at his position for a reason. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound athlete stepped into a starring role for Notre Dame and produced as just a freshman last fall. He posted 67 tackles (third on the team), 6.5 for a loss and made one freakish interception against USC. With a move to the inside, Smith should find himself around the ball on every play and the Irish have proven that their middle linebacker can land in New York.

Teaser:
Taysom Hill, Everett Golson Lead Independent Heisman Candidates in 2014
Post date: Monday, July 28, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the Big Ten’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 (with current Bovada odds):

 

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (7/1)

For a league many are down on currently, the Big Ten boasts some serious star power at both quarterback and running back. And Miller is the brightest star of the bunch. The dual-threat is a perfect fit for his offensive system and he is leading a team picked by many to win the league and land in the College Football Playoff. Add to it dynamic, highlight-reel plays and huge numbers, and fans in Columbus have themselves a Heisman Trophy candidate under center. Staying healthy and winning the Big Ten are key for Miller this fall if he wants to get to New York (which he should).

 

2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (20/1)

From a talent standpoint, few in the nation can match Gordon’s speed, power and explosiveness. And few players are in a better situation to make a run at the Heisman than the Wisconsin tailback. James White is gone, the offensive line is stacked and he plays in a system predicated on handing the ball off. Look for Gordon to build on his 1,600-yard, 12-TD season from last fall.

 

3. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (33/1)

Gordon got all of the headlines and Jeremy Langford got a lot of press down the stretch last year but it was Abdullah who actually led the Big Ten in rushing (1,690). The Nebraska ball-carrier is a special talent who can catch passes, constantly gets critical yards and has proven capable of a heavy workload. The key for Abdullah is team success as the Huskers need to make a run at the Big Ten title for the Big Red runner to get into the Heisman mix.

 

4. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

There aren’t too many players with as many physical skills as Hackenberg. He is a sure-fire, first-round pick in two springs as he set 11 school records as a true freshman last year. The offensive line and overall depth is a major concern and keeps him from being mentioned alongside Miller, but Hackenberg is just as talented. Look for the PSU QB to continue to grow with no limits on his upside.

 

5. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (33/1)

Michigan State entered last fall with questions under center. By the time the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl were over, they had a star at quarterback. Cook posted back-to-back 300-yard games (setting career highs) in wins over Ohio State and Stanford. Look for more development from the underrated athlete in his second season as the starter.

 

6. Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

Abdullah led the league in rushing and Gordon get most of the accolades, but Langford was arguably the most important tailback in the Big Ten last year. He rushed for 1,422 yards and 18 scores on the year but 1,070 yards, 13 touchdowns and all eight of his 100-yard games came in conference play. Langford belongs being mentioned alongside the star runners of the B1G.

 

7. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

If he could just stay healthy, Diggs could make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver. He does special things with the ball in his hands but has missed seven games in his first two seasons. With a talented quarterback returning, Diggs has a chance to post a breakout season in College Park. The Big Ten will find out quickly how dangerous Diggs can be.

 

8. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

The talented and versatile Wildcats tailback played just three games last fall but fans in the Big Ten better not forget about him. He can make big plays as a receiver and return man as well as a runner. He posted 2,166 all-purpose yards two seasons ago and anything approaching that mark (no pun intended) again this fall likely puts him into the national conversation.

 

9. Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana

The junior quarterback is the leader of the best passing offense in the Big Ten and now the keys to the unit are his alone. With Tre Roberson leaving campus, Sudfeld is poised for a huge season in Bloomington. Look for him to build on his 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns from a year ago.

 

10. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan

He was wildly inconsistent and turned the ball over entirely too much but Gardner still was No. 2 in the Big Ten in total offense (3,443 yards) and No. 2 in passing yards (2,960) in 2013. This is his final season and if there is going to be a redemption story in the Big Ten, the Michigan quarterback is the best bet. This team still has talent but running the ball better would go a long way to making Gardner’s job easier.

 

Others to consider: C.J. Brown, QB, Maryland; Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana; David Cobb, RB, Minnesota; Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern; Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan; Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska

 

Five defensive players who should but won’t be in the mix:

 

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

The massive (6-5, 260) defensive end was a star last year as just a sophomore (37 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 3 defensive touchdowns). With much less help at linebacker, the Spartans' defensive line now takes center stage. Calhoun is the star of that bunch due to elite NFL upside.

 

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

The Big Ten’s top returning sack master (9.5), Gregory is hoping to restore the Nebraska defense to Blackshirt status. He should be able to build on his monster 2013 campaign that featured 65 tackles, 16 for a loss and 15 quarterback hurries. Like Calhoun, Gregory should perform like the projected first-round NFL draft pick that he is.

 

Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern

The senior Wildcat tackler is the top returning tackler in the Big Ten and a preseason first-team All-Big Ten pick. He posted 106 tackles, six for a loss, four interceptions and two sacks. With Northwestern projected to bounce back in a big way, Ariguzo should find himself on national award lists.

 

Kurtis Drummond, S, Michigan State

One of the top defensive backs in the nation, Drummond returns as a team leader to a defense that is rebuilding to some degree. He registered 91 tackles and four interceptions for the nation’s best defense a year ago. Look for more from Drummond and Sparty in 2014.

 

Mike Hull, LB, Penn State

There is a long and distinguished list of Penn State linebackers. Dan Connor, Sean Lee, NaVorro Bowman, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti, Glenn Carson and now Hull. Hull posted 78 tackles last season and steps into a more prominent role with Carson moving on. Look for yet another elite season from a PSU tackler.

Teaser:
The Big Ten's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 25, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/accs-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the ACC’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014:
 

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St (4/1)

The only reason Winston wouldn’t be the front-runner in the ACC is because he won the award last year. He is the most talented player on the best team and will likely have the best numbers on a championship team. Picking anyone else is just being cute here.

 

2. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (33/1)

From a talent standpoint, Johnson is the only other option in the ACC who can compete with Winston. He has elite-level, breakaway speed and explosiveness. The biggest speed bump in The Duke’s Heisman campaign will be staying healthy. The smallish back has dealt with injuries but if he can stay on the field and post 250 touches, his numbers could be ridiculously good.

 

3. Cole Stoudt, QB, Clemson

The keys to one of the shiniest offenses in the nation have fallen in Stoudt’s lap and he deserves his opportunity. Stoudt has waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and all signs point to him being more than capable of running the Chad Morris attack. He is all about tempo and is a solid fit for an offense that consistently posted huge statistics. An early upset over Georgia or Florida State are almost a must, however, to get into the Heisman mix.

 

4. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida St (33/1)

By default, the starting tailback at Florida State should be a high-profile, highly productive position. And Karlos Williams has all the raw physical tools to become a star on the national level. He averaged over eight yards per carry and scored 11 times while splitting time with two other guys — both of whom have moved on. With a full workload, Williams could post Doak Walker-type numbers.

 

5. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina

Williams flashed a lot of ability last fall and should only continue to develop. The Tar Heels went 6-1 over their final seven games and the offense averaged over 40 points per game due in large part to his play. With a full season of making plays, Williams has a chance to get into the national conversation.

 

6. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt

No wide receiver belongs this high on Heisman lists — normally — but Boyd is a special talent with rare ability. He has elite NFL upside and plays for a head coach who normally produces big numbers in the passing game. Look for Boyd, just a sophomore, to make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. Should that happen, landing in the Heisman conversation isn’t out of the question.

 

7. Will Gardner, QB, Louisville

This is a bit of a leap but there are many things worse than betting on a Bobby Petrino quarterback. Gardner is a tall, pocket passer who fits his system perfectly. And with a gifted offensive line and deep supporting cast, it’s not unthinkable that Gardner becomes the second-best passer in the ACC.

 

8. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State

The star wideout for the Noles could have gone pro but decided to return for his fourth year in Tallahassee. He has scored 22 receiving touchdowns and is coming off his best season. With Winston still throwing passes and the best OL in the nation, there is no reason Greene won’t be an All-America candidate.

 

9. Dominique Brown/Michael Dyer, RB, Louisville

While the QB gets all of the attention, Petrino's running backs have been nationally acclaimed as well. Michael Bush scored 24 times in 2005 and Knile Davis was a star in the SEC in '10. With a solid veteran offensive line returning, both Cardinal tailbacks could find themselves in All-ACC territory this fall.

 

10. Chad Voytik, QB, Pitt

Looking for a longshot breakout star in the ACC? Look no further than Pitt’s Chad Voytik. The first-year starter has a superstar wideout to throw to, a mad scientist designing the passing offense in Paul Chryst and plays in a league devoid of star power under center. Look for Voytik and Pitt to make some waves this fall in the ACC.

 

Others to consider: Nick O’Leary, TE, Florida State; Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke; Devante Parker, WR, Louisville; Shadrach Thornton, RB, NC State; Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia

 

Five defensive players who should but won't be in the mix:

 

Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

The nation’s top returning sack master is the Tigers star — who posted 13 a year ago. For a defense that could be the best Clemson has had in years, Beasley’s explosive playmaking ability should make for national headlines.

 

Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State

Not many true freshmen start every game for a national champion but that is what the former five-star recruit did for the Noles a year ago. The lanky playmaker should develop into one of the best players in the nation and should be an All-American this fall.

 

Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Much like Ramsey, Fuller is a big-time, five-star recruit who delivered in a big way as just a true freshman in 2013. Fuller picked off six passes and posted 58 tackles and is in store for a breakout season for the Hokies this fall.

 

Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson

Finally delivering on his elite recruiting potential, Anthony posted his best season last fall. He registered career highs in tackles (86), tackles for a loss (15.0) and sacks (4.5). He simply makes plays and with another big season, could find himself attending postseason award ceremonies.

 

Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami

The veteran All-ACC performer has racked up 240 tackles in the last three years, including 108 in 2013. Miami’s defense must improve and it falls to leaders like Perryman to transform the unit. If it does improve, the Canes could easily win the Coastal Division. 

Teaser:
The ACC's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-12s-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the Big 12’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 (with current Bovada odds):

 

1. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (12/1)

There is no questioning who is the top Heisman candidate in the Big 12. The guy who scored 46 times and threw just three interceptions while winning his school’s first-ever Big 12 championship is the only place to start. Petty won’t have the same supporting cast this year but Art Briles' system is a proven commodity. If he can do something that’s never been done — Baylor winning at Oklahoma — then his numbers and team success will be enough to get him to New York.

 

2. Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma (16/1)

There were two Trevor Knights last year. The guy who played in the Sugar Bowl and the guy who played in every other game for Oklahoma. Knight has big-time, big-play ability and is leading the team who is clearly the front-runner to win the league and possibly land in the inaugural College Football Playoff. If he can stay healthy, he should post big numbers and win almost every game, making him an extremely viable Heisman candidate.

 

3. Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech

He only played in 10 games but he finished No. 2 in yards (2,718) and touchdowns (20) as just a freshman in the Big 12 last year. Since every other person on campus who is capable of throwing a football has left Lubbock, Webb is now the star of the Kliff Kingsbury show. Look for massive numbers from the Tech QB and if he can pull a marquee upset (like, say, Texas or Oklahoma at home), Webb could find himself in national awards circles at season’s end.

 

4. Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor

The Bears had the Big 12’s leading rusher last year in Lache Seastrunk but also boasted the No. 6 rusher too. Linwood, a freshman last year, rushed for 881 yards and eight TDs on just 128 carries. Imagine what he could do with a year of seasoning and a full workload?

 

5. Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State

Waters really settled into the role of starter in the second half of last season, prompting a switch from Daniel Sams. Waters went 6-1 as a starter while throwing 14 of his 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions over the final seven games. If Kansas State makes a push for a Big 12 title and Waters builds on his quietly impressive 2013 campaign, he could find himself in the national conversation come season’s end.

 

6. Desmond Roland, RB, Oklahoma State

Roland led all Big 12 players with 13 rushing touchdowns last year. It was his first season as the starter for a team that has a track record of producing big numbers in the running game. Look for Roland to take another step this fall, as he will likely will become the focal point of the Pokes' normally very solid offense.

 

7. Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor

The leading returning receiver in the Big 12 in terms of yards (1,339) and touchdowns (13) is Goodley. Those numbers were among the best in the league last fall and with Petty back and Tevin Reese gone, Goodley could be in for another monster season. Obviously, wideouts have a tough time gaining Heisman notoriety (especially, with a bona fide contender under center as a teammate) but he has the goods to be a national star in Waco.

 

8. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State

One of the most explosive players in the nation returns to Manhattan for another year of long touchdowns and All-American production. He led the league at 105.2 yards per game last year as well as averaging 26.5 yards per kickoff return. He is Waters' favorite target and don’t be surprised if he is incorporated into a more versatile role this fall in an effort to utilize his unique skill set.

 

9. Keith Ford, RB, Oklahoma

The Sooners have had a long tradition of producing elite tailbacks and many in Norman are excited to hand the ball to Ford in a full-time capacity this season. He has the power, explosiveness, quickness and toughness to be a star in this league. He plays for a national front-runner and will have multiple shots in marquee showdowns to prove himself to the national audience. Look for big things from Ford this fall — as long as uber recruit Joe Mixon doesn’t steal too many carries.

 

10. Nick O’Toole’s Mustache

I can't do the West Virginia punter's facial hair justice so I will let the pictures do the talking. I mean, who wouldn't vote for this?

 

Others to consider: Aaron Wimbley, RB, Iowa State; Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas; E.J. Bibbs, TE, Iowa State; Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

 

Five defensive players who should but won’t be in the mix:

 

Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma

The big-play linebacker plays all over the field. He constantly disrupts the opposing backfield and regularly imposes his will with physicality and explosiveness. He should build on his stat line from last year: 50 tackles, 10.6 TFL, 6.5 sacks.

 

Cedric Reed, DE, Texas

He is a massive part of the Longhorns' rebuilding project on defense, figuratively and literally. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, Reed towers above the competition regularly and his numbers back it up as well. He posted 77 tackles, 16.5 TFL and 10.0 sacks last year and should only be better this year.

 

Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State

Mueller is the top returning sack artist in the league after posting an impressive 11.5 QB takedowns last fall. On a loaded defensive line, Mueller should be able to gain national acclaim for his performance.

 

Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas

Fans in Austin have been waiting for Diggs to develop into the superstar many believed he’d become. He has all of the tools and some explosive ability to make big plays, he just needs to put it all together in his final season at Texas.

 

Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia

He posted 102 tackles as a freshman starter and added 68 stops last year as a sophomore. With two full seasons under his belt as a starter and a chance to be on the field ALL OF THE TIME, Joseph has a chance to make a name for himself nationally in 2014.

 

Teaser:
The Big 12's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the Pac-12’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 (with current Bovada odds):

 

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (11/2)

He is arguably the most gifted athlete in the country and he is running one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Should he stay healthy, Oregon is also the front-runner to win the Pac-12 and play in the playoff. The talent, the numbers, the winning and championship coattails could all be in Mariota’s corner.

 

2. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (16/1)

One of my favorite bets, the UCLA quarterback is eyeing everything that Mariota is targeting. His numbers should be comparable and Hundley will have a chance at home to knock off the Ducks late in the year. If UCLA makes a run at the Playoff, Hundley could easily be in New York.

 

3. Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State (66/1)

Not many players have thrown for at least 3,000 yards and rushed for at least 500 in the last two years but Kelly is one of them. He led ASU to the Pac-12 title game a year ago and another run at a league title — along with another 4,000-yard season — could get Kelly into the national discussion.

 

4. Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon (N/A)

The Ducks have five starters back along the offensive line and an offense that has churned out Heisman candidates at running back. Marshall rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 168 carries last fall. If he can get upwards of 250 touches, he could lead the nation in rushing for Oregon. His only concern might be that backup Thomas Tyner might actually be the better player.

 

5. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (50/1)

The Beavers quarterback threw for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns last year, trailing only Derek Carr as the nation’s leading passer. If he can cut back on interceptions — he threw 12 in the last five games — and lead his team to a few more wins, Mannion should have the numbers to get to New York.

 

6. D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State (N/A)

Marion Grice scored 20 touchdowns last year so Foster could flourish in his expanded role as top running back. While he won’t be a true workhorse, Foster has shown he can be used all over the field. In his two-year career, Foster has rushed for 994 yards on 195 carries while posting 1,186 yards on 101 receptions. If he can get more than 200 touches, the Sun Devils' smallish star will be on national radars.

 

7. Buck Allen, RB, USC (N/A)

Javorius “Buck” Allen took control the starting tailback job at USC in the second half of last year and it has vaulted him into award conversations. Allen rushed for over 100 yards in four of the last six games and scored 12 times during that span. A full season workload could make Allen the top true workhorse back in the conference this year.

 

8. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC (N/A)

The first-team All-American is dynamic enough and versatile enough to get onto Heisman ballots. He scored twice on punt returns last fall while excelling as a No. 2 wideout for USC. Now, Agholor is the top target for an offense that will be much improved. He will get the ball in a lot of different ways and that could mean a monster season.

 

9. Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State (N/A)

The numbers will be there for the Mike Leach-coached quarterback. Halliday was third in the nation with 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns last year while getting Washington State back into the postseason. Much like Mannion, a few more wins and a few less turnovers would do wonders for Halliday.

 

10. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington (N/A)

Fans and experts all point to Myles Jack as the top defensive candidate to break through this fall but he isn’t expected to be used on offense this fall. Thompson, on the other hand, could see more than spot duty for the Huskies. He is a freak athlete, an All-American candidate and could be the next two-way star.

 

Others to consider: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State; Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford; Cody Kessler, QB, USC; Austin Hill, WR, Arizona; Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon

 

Five defensive players who should but won’t be in the mix:

 

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (33/1)

Jack made a huge name for himself last fall while playing two ways. Unfortunately, Jim Mora has talked openly about returning his star linebacker to an exclusively defensive role. Either way, he is a star athlete who will be a national award winner at some point.

 

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

See above.

 

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

The first-team All-American cornerback consistently makes highlight-reel plays on defense. He has seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles in the last two seasons while making 147 total stops. He could be the most high-profile member of a Pac-12 championship defense.

 

Leonard Williams, DE, USC

The lanky defensive end is a projected top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and should he dominate the line of scrimmage once again — he has 26.0 TFL and 13.0 sacks in two seasons — he should be in line for national acclaim.

 

Su’a Cravens, S, USC

From a talent standpoint, few can match Cravens’ size and speed combination. He proved as a true freshman last year that he could be special, posting 53 tackles and four interceptions.

Teaser:
The Pac-12's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/secs-top-10-heisman-candidates-2014
Body:

Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.

 

There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.

 

First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.

 

Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.

 

Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.

 

With this in mind, here are the SEC’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 (with current Bovada odds):

 

1. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (12/1)

He is the most gifted player at his position in the nation and it’s one that has Heisman pedigree. On just 202 touches due to injuries, the 230-pounder rolled up 1,430 yards from scrimmage and scored 16 times. When healthy, he is unstoppable.

 

2. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn (10/1)

He is a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense — a unit that should be even better and more balanced this year. He should blow past last year’s passing totals (1,976 yds, 14 TDs) and could easily match last year’s rushing production (1,068 yds, 12 TDs). And another run at an SEC title could put Marshall back in New York.

 

3. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama (18/1)

Alabama’s starting tailback has been in the Heisman conversation ever since Nick Saban arrived in 2007. Yeldon is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons and has scored at least 13 times in each of his first two years. Another big year could mean a berth in the College Football Playoff and a Heisman Trophy for Yeldon.

 

4. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina (28/1)

The situation around Davis is extremely conducive at a run for the Heisman. He plays for a top-15 team with marquee showdowns, has a shot at a playoff berth and his entire offensive line returns intact. If he can stay healthy, Davis — who posted six 100-yard games in his first seven last fall — could pace the SEC in rushing.

 

5. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (N/A)

He’s already been compared to Michael Jordan by his coach and to Adrian Peterson by his teammates. No pressure, young fella. Fournette is going to be great. The question is how quickly? And will the rest of his offense support him? The ground game will be electric in Baton Rouge but this unit needs balance to get the true freshman into the Heisman conversation.

 

6. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss (N/A)

Who finished second to Johnny Manziel last year in the SEC in total offense? Not Aaron Murray, Nick Marshall, A.J. McCarron or Connor Shaw. No, Wallace’s 3,701 yards were well ahead of third place (and well behind Manziel). Now fully healthy and with a developing young corps of supporting players, Wallace is in store for a monster final season.

 

7. Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri (N/A)

The youngster is brimming with confidence and now has the keys to an offense known for producing big-time stars at quarterback. Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and James Franklin have all run Gary Pinkel’s offense to perfection. Mauk is just the next and might be the best pure passer in the SEC.

 

8. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (40/1)

State is dying for a star at quarterback and Prescott could be the guy. He posted big numbers in the second half of the season, topping 300 yards of total offense in four of his last five games. With another year of seasoning, Prescott could become State’s first 3,000-yard passer.

 

9. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (25/1)

He’s a load to tackle and has all the ability in the world. As fans should expect from the nation’s most prolific high school running back in history. He got just 35 carries last fall but eight of them (and 100 yards) came in the Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma. Look for a breakout campaign from Henry this fall even if he has to share carries with Yeldon.

 

10. LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss (N/A)

From a talent standpoint, few are as gifted as Treadwell. He has the size, speed, power and agility to be a star in the NFL. With his quarterback healthy and a move to his more natural outside position, Treadwell could blossom into one of the nation’s elite pass catchers.

 

Others to consider: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama; Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas; Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama; Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia; Jerron Seymour, RB, Vanderbilt

 

Five defensive players who should but won’t be in the mix:

 

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Not many players earn first-team preseason All-American honors as a true sophomore but that is what VH3 has done. He might be the nation’s top pure cover corner and should only build on his excellent first season in Gainesville.

 

A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee

He is a big-time playmaker on defense. But what could give him some national notoriety would be his contributions on offense. If Butch Jones (which is unlikely) decides to use him like Derek Dooley did in 2012 (6 rush TDs), Johnson would be a household name nationally in no time.

 

Landon Collins, S, Alabama

He is one of the most gifted tacklers in the nation. When Collins arrives at the ball, the entire country knows about it. The lone returning starter in the secondary could be the nation’s best safety. And he plays a position that has recently become a marquee spot with names like Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix excelling for the Tide.

 

Dante Fowler, DE, Florida

Fowler is a beast and can simply take over games but he will need to improve his consistency in order to get mentions for national awards. Physically, he is nearly impossible to stop and he should lead the Gators in sacks and plays made behind the line of scrimmage.

 

Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State

As a true freshman, Jones — who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds — made a much bigger impact than even his five-star status indicated. He posted 32 tackles, 7.0 for a loss, 3.0 sacks and constantly disrupted the opposing backfield. He is a sure-fire future NFL star.

Teaser:
The SEC's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-alabama-georgia-ole-miss-and-kentucky-media-days
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SEC Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Hoover, Ala., to talk every team around the league. Day 4 featured Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Kentucky.

 

Day 4 was highlighted by the king of the SEC, Alabama's Nick Saban, a very brash Mark Richt, Kentucky's Mark Stoops and a surging Ole Miss program.

 

Braden Gall and David Fox were joined by SiriusXM's Greg McElroy, the Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson and Alabama wide receiver Christion Jones.

 

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

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Kentucky from Media Days
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 14:23
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-complete-sec-network-preview
Body:

 

 

SEC Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Hoover, Ala., to talk every team around the league. With the launch of the much-anticipated SEC Network right around the corner, the guys caught up with some of the biggest names involved in the launch. 

 

Braden Gall and David Fox were joined by lead sideline reporter Maria Taylor, studio host extraordinaire Dari Nowkhah and Mr. College Football himself Tony Barnhart to talk all things SEC Network and the upcoming season.

 

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

 

Related: Day 1 Cover 2 Podcast Recap with Edgar Thompson and Brandon Marcello


Related: Day 2 Cover 2 Podcast Recap with Billy Liucci, Josh Ward and Josh Kendall 


Related: Day 3 Cover 2 Podcast Recap with Allie LaForce, Dave Matter and Ron Higgins

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Complete SEC Network Preview
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 09:17
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-lsu-missouri-arkansas-and-playoff-media-days
Body:

 

SEC Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Hoover, Ala., to talk every team around the league. Day 3 featured the College Football Playoff, LSU, Missouri and Arkansas. 

 

Day 3 was highlighted by a Playoff presentation from Bill Hancock, a visit with Les Miles, an entertaining Bret Bielema and Missouri's Gary Pinkel.

 

Braden Gall and David Fox were joined by CBS' Allie LaForce, Dave Matter of the St. Louis-Post Dispatch and NOLA.com's Ron Higgins.

 

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

 

Related: Day 1 Cover 2 Podcast Recap with Edgar Thompson and Brandon Marcello

Related: Day 2 Cover 2 Podcast Recap with Billy Liucci, Josh Ward and Josh Kendall 

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: LSU, Missouri, Arkansas and The Playoff
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 18:46
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-south-carolina-tennessee-texas-am-and-mississippi
Body:

SEC Media Days are here, and Athlon Sports is live from Hoover, Ala., to talk every team around the league. Day 2 featured South Carolina, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Tennessee. 

 

Day 2 was highlighted by a visit with Steve Spurrier, Kevin Sumlin deflecting Johnny Manziel questions, a very confident Dan Mullen and Tennessee's Butch Jones. 

 

Braden Gall and David Fox were joined by Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com, Josh Ward of Mr. SEC and The Sports Animal in Knoxville as well as Josh Kendall of The State covering the Gamecocks.

 

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

 

Related: Day 1 Cover 2 Podcast Recap with Edgar Thompson and Brandon Marcello

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Mississippi State from Media Days
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 18:19
Path: /college-football/10-most-important-terrible-qb-matchups-2014
Body:

Sure, we are all looking forward to Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota battling it out for a potential playoff spot in mid-October. How about Bryce Petty visiting Trevor Knight for a Big 12 championship? I can’t wait for Braxton Miller’s shot at revenge against Connor Cook in East Lansing.

 

Fans can only hope to get a Mariota-Jameis Winston quarterback matchup in the national championship game. Or Miller vs. Winston. Or Miller vs. Mariota. Or Hundley vs. any of them.

 

There are plenty of elite quarterback matchups set to take place in 2014. But what about the best, most important matchups of the year that could feature seriously questionable quarterback play?

 

Here are the most anticipated matchups of the year that will likely feature less than stellar play under center:

 

LSU at Florida (Oct. 11)

Brandon Harris could eventually be a star in the SEC but he will go through lots of growing pains in 2014 should he earn the starting spot. Florida welcomes back Jeff Driskel to the starting lineup as well as a new offensive coordinator for the third time in four seasons.  Both teams have aspirations of competing within their respective divisions but QB play will be a huge storyline to track for both traditional SEC powers.

 

Miami at Virginia Tech (Oct. 23)

The Hokies are picked first in the Coastal Division and the Hurricanes are picked second. Both will feature a transfer under center and neither team has any idea what it will get from the QB position this fall. Michael Brewer comes to Blacksburg from Texas Tech and has lots of ability while Miami could turn to former BYU and Kansas signal-caller Jake Heaps.

 

LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30)

LSU figures to get improved QB play as the year goes along from either Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris. Wisconsin has an incumbent in Joel Stave but Gary Andersen has made it known the starting spot is up for grabs. So in Week 1 and with two of the best running games in the nation, this Big Ten-SEC showdown could feature upwards of 100 handoffs.

 

Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

Both the Huskers and Hurricanes feel like they have a shot to win their respective conference's division this year and both will have question marks under center. Tommy Armstrong got plenty of experience last year and has upside but needs to prove it as just a sophomore. Miami is in much worse shape as Kansas transfer Jake Heaps could take over the reins. Expectations are high for both teams and an early-season, non-conference matchup in Lincoln should be fun to watch. Especially, considering the national title history between these two.

 

Florida vs. SEC East

Jeff Driskel has a chance to redeem himself in 2014 and many expect Florida to be much better this fall. But Driskel has to prove he can stay healthy and be consistent for that to happen. The good news is the rest of the SEC East is also dealing with unknowns at the QB position. Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri feel confident in the guy they will be running out there but none have ever been a starter. And Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky could be using first-year starters.

 

LSU at Texas A&M (Nov. 27)

LSU once again makes an appearance and odds are that both the Aggies and Tigers have much better QB play on Thanksgiving than they will early in the year. Kyle Allen looks to be the heir apparent to Johnny Manziel but will be just a true freshman — albeit an extremely highly-touted freshman. Should problems persist for both teams under center, this season finale could end up defining either's 2014 campaign.

 

Nebraska at Wisconsin (Nov. 15)

Fans of both teams should expect growth at the QB position throughout the course of the season but there is no guarantee that either Armstrong or Stave is still the starter by mid-November. With a potential trip to the Big Ten title game on the line, quarterback play will become imperative for both squads by the time these two meet near the end of the year.

 

Washington at Arizona (Nov. 15)

The Huskies are not only breaking in a new head coach in Chris Petersen but also a new quarterback after Keith Price departed. Cyler Miles looks the part of a future star but has yet to prove it on the field. Rich Rodriguez has plenty of options (maybe, too many) and will have to settle on either a guy who doesn't fit his system (Jesse Scroggins) or a very inexperienced player (Anu Solomon). For two popular sleeper teams in the Pac-12, quarterback play will be a huge storyline all season long.

 

TCU at Texas (Nov. 27)

Both teams look to be improved this year and both are eyeing the postseason. But both could have major quarterback questions all season. The questions for David Ash aren't talent-related. There is no telling how long he can stay healthy. Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, Matt Joeckel transfers in from Texas A&M and tries to stabilize a position that has flustered Gary Patterson since the departure of Andy Dalton. Pecking order in the Big 12 figures to hang in the balance when these two developing Lone Star rivals get together on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Duke vs. Miami/Virginia Tech

The defending champs of the ACC's Coastal Division return Anthony Boone but the Duke starter struggled at times last year. With Brandon Connette gone to Fresno State, all of David Cutcliffe's eggs are in Boone's basket. And when the Blue Devils play Miami (Sept. 27) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 15), the Coastal title could be on the line. All three teams have concerns at the position entering the year.

Teaser:
10 Most Important Terrible QB Matchups of 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-must-see-quarterback-matchups-2014
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Ali-Frazier. Manning-Brady. Magic-Bird. Mariota-Hundley?

 

Okay, maybe I’m over doing it a bit. But as far as college football fans are concerned, there will be no bigger quarterback matchup in 2014 than when UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota battle it out on the same field.

 

College football entered the “super quarterback” era when Michael Vick ran around on the Superdome floor in the 2000 Sugar Bowl nearly bringing Virginia Tech what would have been one of the most improbable national championships in college football history. And it’s never looked back since. Names like Hundley and Mariota now regularly wow fans with precision passing, electric athletic ability and spotlight showcases.

 

Since Vick took the football world by storm, names like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel have stolen the college football headlines. There is no reason to think this season won’t be any different.

 

Here are the most anticipated quarterback battles of the 2014 college football season:

 

1. Marcus Mariota at Brett Hundley

Oregon at UCLA, Oct. 11

 

It would take UCLA or Oregon reaching the national title game against Florida State for there to be a better QB matchup than when Brett Hundley welcomes Marcus Mariota to town in mid-October. Division, conference and national championship implications are on the line for two players who could be top-10 draft picks next May. Each has unique dual-threat and leadership abilities for two top-10 teams. Every fan of every team should kick back and enjoy this one.

 

2. Bryce Petty at Trevor Knight

Baylor at Oklahoma, Nov. 8

 

The Big 12 title could very well hang in the balance when Baylor visits Oklahoma on Nov. 8. Petty, who accounted for 46 touchdowns and just three interceptions last year, put a 41-12 beatdown on the Sooners last year. Knight, fresh off an immaculate Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama, is looking for revenge in what should be a breakout season. Petty is more experienced, more of a passer, runs an offense as good as any in the land and is a defending Big 12 champ. Knight is a superstar in the making who can drop jaws and is leading the team picked to win the Big 12.

 

3. Braxton Miller at Christian Hackenberg

Ohio State at Penn State, Oct. 25

 

Penn State could have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft under center and Urban Meyer could have a Heisman Trophy candidate running his offense. The Buckeyes will face two difficult road tests en route to what many believe will be a playoff berth and visiting Happy Valley will be one of them.

 

4. Brett Hundley at Taylor Kelly

UCLA at Arizona State, Sept. 25

 

These two quarterbacks will square off for the third time in three years. Hundley and UCLA won 45-43 in Tempe in 2012 while Kelly and Arizona State knocked off the Bruins in the Rose Bowl 38-33 last fall. The fireworks should continue in what could be a de facto Pac-12 South Division championship game.

 

5. Braxton Miller at Connor Cook

Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 8

 

The first meeting between these two signal-callers was an epic battle in the Big Ten title game that won’t soon be forgotten by either. Miller rushed for 142 yards, threw for 101 and scored three times in the loss. Cook had his coming out party, throwing for a career-high 304 yards and made clutch plays down the stretch to lead the Spartans to their first Big Ten crown in nearly three decades. And a trip back to the Big Ten title game will likely be on the line in this contest.

 

6. Everett Golson at Jameis Winston

Notre Dame at Florida State, Oct. 18

 

Golson returns after sitting out last year with a nearly perfect record as a starter. The Irish could be the best team on the Seminoles' schedule and Golson makes them a playoff contender now that he is back in control. Winston’s resume speaks for itself and his best matchup under center comes against Notre Dame.

 

7. Connor Cook at Marcus Mariota

Michigan State at Oregon, Sept. 6

 

It’s the biggest marquee non-conference showdown in college football and it will feature two quarterbacks eyeing a trip to the college football playoff. Cook set career highs with 300 yards passing in both the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl. Mariota, now fully healthy, might be the nation’s best player. The X's and O's on both sides of the ball will be fascinating to watch, as both teams will likely be ranked in the Top 10 when they meet in Week 2.

 

8. Chuckie Keeton at Taysom Hill

Utah State at BYU, Oct. 3

 

When it comes to pure athletic ability, few players in the nation can match Hill’s speed and size. He is a must-watch player every time the ball is in his hands. Keeton, arguably Utah State’s greatest football player, returns to the team after missing the entire second half of last season because of injury. Add popcorn and beer, shake well and enjoy.

 

9. Nick Marshall at Bo Wallace

Auburn at Ole Miss, Nov. 1

 

Last year, Wallace threw for 336 yards as Ole Miss significantly out-gained Auburn (464 to 375) but lost at home to the Marshall-led Tigers. The Auburn quarterback threw for just 93 yards but ran for 140 on the ground and scored two touchdowns in the thrilling and critical SEC West win. Both teams have eyes on getting to Atlanta in 2014.

 

10. Connor Cook at Christian Hackenberg

Michigan State at Penn State, Nov. 29

 

There is a good chance Michigan State is still in playoff contention when the season finale in Happy Valley rolls around. Hackenberg will be finishing his second full season and will have a chance to make an early Heisman statement for 2016, especially if Penn State doesn’t have a bowl game to go to again. Just ask Wisconsin fans what it’s like to face Hackenberg in a season finale.

 

Best of the rest:

 

Texas Tech vs. Baylor: Davis Webb vs. Bryce Petty

Notre Dame at Arizona State: Everett Golson vs. Taylor Kelly

Oregon at Oregon State: Marcus Mariota vs. Sean Mannion

Oklahoma at Texas Tech: Trevor Knight vs. Davis Webb

Auburn at Mississippi State: Nick Marshall vs. Dak Prescott

Stanford at Oregon: Kevin Hogan vs. Marcus Mariota

Oregon at Washington State: Marcus Mariota vs. Connor Halliday

Stanford at UCLA: Kevin Hogan vs. Brett Hundley

Auburn at Kansas State: Nick Marshall vs. Jake Waters

Mississippi State at Ole Miss: Dak Prescott vs. Bo Wallace

 

Football Nerds Unite!

 

Keenan Reynolds vs. Braxton Miller

Navy vs. Ohio State, Aug. 30

This duo combined for 2,414 yards rushing and a staggering 43 scores on the ground last year.

 

Cody Fajardo at Taysom Hill

Nevada at BYU, Oct. 18

Two of the most explosive athletes in the nation go at it in mid-October.

 

Rakeem Cato at Taylor Heinicke

Marshall at Old Dominion, Oct. 4

The top two QBs in C-USA combined for 7,938 yards and 72 passing TDs last year.

 

Terrance Broadway at Fredi Knighten

UL Lafayette at Arkansas State, Oct. 21

The top two signal callers in the Sun Belt battle for a potential league title.

 

Nate Sudfeld at Matt Johnson
Indiana at Bowling Green, Sept. 13

This could be a shootout pitting two elite passing attacks early in the year.

Teaser:
10 Must-See Quarterback Matchups of 2014
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/secs-best-college-football-traditions
Body:

SEC Media Days kicks off today in Hoover, Alabama.

 

While it can be quite burdensome to cover and navigate for the novice journalist — and is probably too big for its own good — SEC Media Days has become a tradition in and of itself down South.

 

No real news happens in Hoover. Coaches aren’t ripping apart the Playoff Committee or honestly explaining why they are so vehemently opposed to the nine-game schedule. More than 1,300 credentialed media folks gather to listen to coaches and players say nothing of real importance.

 

But it signifies the start of the college football season. That camps are opening up across the nation. That football is back.

 

Part of what makes the SEC the best league in America is the passion of the fans and the interwoven nature of the community with their favorite team. It’s these traditions that make college football the best sport in the land and the SEC the best conference in the sport.

 

Here are our favorite SEC football traditions every fan needs to add to their bucket list of sports experiences:

 

The 12th Man

Born in January 1922, the phrase and tradition stemmed from one particular game with the nation’s top team at the time, Centre College. Because the team was so battered and injured, head coach Dana Bible had to call for E. King Gill, a basketball player at the time, from the stands to join the team. Texas A&M went on to win 22-14 and although Gill never made it into the game, he was the last and only man standing on the sideline. He answered the call to help his team and no one has ever forgotten about it.

 

The Grove

It just might be the best place on Earth. This beautiful collection of oak, elm and magnolia trees surrounds a 10-acre plot adjacent to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. The party in The Grove has been going on since football began at Ole Miss, but became the Holy Grail of Tailgating by the 1950s. The gorgeous, um, scenery is second to none and the setting is historic. Everyone is undefeated in The Grove.

 

Death Valley, La.

There is no singular way to describe a night home game in Tiger Stadium. The variety and flavor of an LSU tailgate is second to none with a wide-ranging menu from some of the best chefs in college football. And the stadium is arguably the loudest in the nation, especially when the Bayou Bengal fans have had all day to marinate.

 

Toomer’s Corner

May it rest in peace… for now. The Harvey Updyke saga is one of the most bizarre tales of fandom gone wrong in history. At the corner of Magnolia Avenue and College Street in front of 130-year-old Toomer’s Drug store, Auburn fans have rolled the two massive southern live oaks for roughly six decades. While those trees have been poisoned and subsequently cut down, there is hope that the new entryway to campus and new trees will continue one of the SEC’s greatest traditions.

 

Cockaboose Railroad

Since 1990, 22 immovable cabooses have sat dormant on an unused railroad track behind the south end of Williams-Brice Stadium. Each caboose is privately owned and features running water, restrooms, working television, air condition and heat. The set up offers a perfect way to tailgate in style before each Gamecocks home game and provides a cool resting spot afterwards while traffic clears out. Packaged with the "2001: A Space Odyssey" entrance, the pre-game rituals in Columbia are second to none.

 

The Vol Navy

It isn’t nearly as picturesque as Sailgating on Lake Washington, but Tennessee has its own fan flotilla every Saturday. The tradition of floating to the game instead of driving actually began when former broadcaster George Mooney didn’t want to sit in traffic and instead traveled by boat down the Tennessee River to Neyland Stadium.

 

The Cheers:

 

Midnight Yell

Originally an impromptu post-dinner get-together to “learn heartily the old time pep,” Midnight Yell Practice at Texas A&M didn’t officially start until 1931. Today, the tradition is held on Friday nights before home games at Kyle Field and Thursday before road games at The Arches. It is a fairly self-explanatory tradition as fans and cadets gather to practice cheering for the Aggies — and making out some too.

 

Rocky Top

It might be the most recognizable fight song in the nation. Yes, visiting teams and fans get tired of the jingle after the 30th or 40th rendition on any given Saturday but Big Orange Nation never tires of the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song written back in 1967.

 

Woo Pig Sooie

There isn’t a clear story as to when or how this one came about, but since at least the 1920s, Arkansas fans have been Calling the Hogs. The high-pitched chant echoes throughout the hills of Arkansas over and over and over again every Saturday.

 

Hotty Toddy

Supposedly, the origin of Ole Miss’ famous chant remains unknown only adding to its mystique. Some claim it was taken from Virginia Tech’s “Highty Tighties,” which was an old World War II cheer about, appropriately, an alcoholic beverage.

 

Rammer Jammer

Combine The Rammer-Jammer, the University of Alabama's student newspaper and a Yellowhammer, the state bird, and you get this unique and signature cry, which dates back to the '20s. And generally speaking, it is at its best at the end of the game when Bama just “beat the hell out of you!”

 

Cowbells

Like many of the older SEC traditions, no one is quite sure when or why or how Mississippi State started bringing cowbells to football games. However they got there, the cowbells were so effective that the SEC had to ban artificial noisemakers in 1974 — before reversing course on the decision in 2010.

 

Gator Chomp

Stemming from Mississippi State’s band’s version of "Jaws" in 1981, some Florida band members modified the tune slightly and added the famous vertical chomping motion. It eventually spread across the stadium and is now synonymous with Gators football.

 

The Mascots:

 

War Eagle

Possibly the best pre-game, live mascot ritual in all of college football, Auburn’s Golden Eagle “Nova” performs the War Eagle Flight down through the rabid home crowd and onto its perch. Nova is officially the eighth such bird to grace Jordan-Hare Stadium as War Eagle I is said to have started the timeless tradition in 1892.

 

Smokey the Dog

Dating back to 1953, the Tennessee Vols have played with Smokey the Blue Tick Hound at their side. The Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity cares for him and currently Smokey X, who made his debut last fall, will be standing on the sidelines in Neyland Stadium each Saturday.

 

Mike the Tiger

In 1934 some LSU powers that be decided they wanted a live Bengal tiger on the field in Death Valley. Conveniently placed near the visitors’ entrance to the field, Mike the Tiger has been striking fear into opposing players and coaches for over nearly 80 years. Few mascots embody their school like Mike does.

 

Uga

Nine different English Bulldogs have stood on the Georgia sideline dating back to 1956 with Uga I. However, this pup gets the royal treatment between the hedges, residing in his own air-conditioned dog house. The marble mausoleum near the entrance of the Southwest corner of Sanford Stadium is the resting place for Ugas of yesteryear.

 

Reveille

The “First Lady of Aggieland” is the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets, as she is technically a Five-Star General. She showed up at games in 1931 for the first time and the full-blooded Collie is cared for by Company E-2.

 

The Rivalries:

 

World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party

This rivalry is so great that these two SEC East powers won’t even agree on how many times they have played. Georgia claims 92 meetings while Florida claims 91 (1904 is in dispute) and all but two since 1933 — when the SEC was created — have come in Jacksonville, Fla. When thousands of fans from both teams pour onto St. Simon’s Island East Beach the Friday before the game, the term Outdoor Cocktail Party comes to life.

 

The Iron Bowl

The state of Alabama is the most territorial in the nation when it comes to college football. Just ask Paul Finebaum or Mr. Updyke or Chris Davis. And many times, the in-state season finale carries great importance in the SEC standings. The name stems from Birmingham’s historic role in the steel industry, as up until the mid-'90s the state's biggest game hosted the game.

 

The Egg Bowl

It may not carry the national importance of other famous rivalries but this Magnolia State showdown is as heated as any in the land. Mississippi State and Ole Miss have met 110 times dating back to 1901 and it's the longest continuous rivalry game in the nation.

 

The Third Saturday In October

Each year on the third weekend in October, Alabama and Tennessee get together one more time. These two have met 95 times and Alabama holds the edge 51-37-8.

 

Deep South's Oldest Rivalry

Georgia and Auburn began playing in 1892 and have met 117 times with the series standing nearly deadlocked at 55-54-8 (Auburn).

Teaser:
The SEC's Best College Football Traditions
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 07:15

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