Articles By Steven Lassan
It’s another light slate of games in the ACC in Week 2. Virginia Tech-Ohio State is the only game with national appeal, but there’s intrigue in the Friday night matchup between Pittsburgh and Boston College.
Most of the ACC’s top teams should win big in Week 2, as Florida State takes on Citadel, Clemson hosts South Carolina State, Miami plays Florida A&M and Louisville meets Murray State on Saturday.
It’s hard to learn much from lopsided non-conference games, but Week 2 is all about getting better and finetuning some of the mistakes from Week 1 for the top teams in the conference.
Week 2 Previews and Predictions:
ACC Week 2 Game Power Rankings
1. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (-11)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s easy to overreact after one game. However, it’s also easy to see why Virginia Tech’s offense could be better in 2014. Quarterback Michael Brewer was steady in his Hokies’ debut (23 of 30, 251 yards and two scores), while freshmen running backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams and pass-catchers Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges played a key role in the gameplan. Of course, Saturday’s game against Ohio State will provide a much better barometer test for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ offensive line should have its hands full against the Buckeyes’ defensive line, which is arguably the best in the nation. With both teams breaking in a new starter at quarterback and youth at the skill positions, this one could be a low-scoring affair. When the Buckeyes have the ball, look for Virginia Tech’s defensive line to challenge Ohio State’s offensive line. The Buckeyes struggled up front in Week 1, and the Hokies recorded four sacks in the opener against William & Mary.
Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:
2. Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Boston College
7 p.m. ET, ESPN
This is the first meeting between these two schools as members of the ACC. Boston College and Pittsburgh are former Big East rivals but have not played since 2004. Both schools picked up victories in Week 1, but considering the opponents (UMass for Boston College and Delaware for Pittsburgh), it’s hard to take too much away from those games. Expect both teams to lean heavily on the ground in this one, as the Panthers gashed Delaware for 409 yards, and the Eagles recorded 338 against UMass. Neither team should find as much running room this week as they did last Saturday, which should put more emphasis which quarterback can make the most plays (and avoid the big mistake). This game is also a good test for both defenses, as Pittsburgh continues to search for the right mix up front without Aaron Donald, and Boston College has five new starters in the front seven.
3. Georgia Tech (-10) at Tulane
4 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
Three non-conference games to open the season is a good way for Georgia Tech to develop new quarterback Justin Thomas and find a few answers on the defensive line before ACC play starts. The Yellow Jackets averaged a whopping 8.6 yards per play in the opener against Wofford, with Thomas accounting for 353 total yards and two scores. Georgia Tech is a double-digit favorite in this one, but Tulane should be a tougher test than Wofford. The Green Wave is opening a new stadium on Saturday and averaged seven yards per play against Tulsa. The Yellow Jackets could be tested early, but Thomas’ playmaking ability will be too much for Tulane in the second half.
4. San Diego State at North Carolina (-15)
8 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
The Tar Heels had a sluggish first half against Liberty but scored 35 second-half points to win 56-29. North Carolina will need a better effort on Saturday, as San Diego State is one of the top teams in the Mountain West. Quarterback Marquise Williams will get the start over Mitch Trubisky, and Williams is hoping to bounce back after tossing two picks last week. The Aztecs won their opener 38-7 over Northern Arizona and feature a talented trio on offense, headlined by quarterback Quinn Kaehler and receiver Ezell Ruffin. San Diego State could hang around for a while, but North Carolina’s explosive offense should get on track after averaging only 4.8 yards per play in the opener.
5. Old Dominion at NC State (-16)
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Wolfpack narrowly avoided an upset in Week 1, scoring 21 points in the second half to beat Georgia Southern 24-23. Coach Dave Doeren’s team should be on upset alert once again, as Old Dominion’s passing offense – led by senior Taylor Heinicke – will be a tough matchup. Heinicke has passed for 11,764 yards in his career. The Monarchs allowed 50.4 points per game against FBS teams last season, which should allow the Wolfpack offense to build off their opening week performance (6.2 yards per play). Quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 28 of 40 passes for 291 yards and three scores last week and faces an Old Dominion secondary that allowed 407 passing yards to Hampton in Week 1.
6. Duke (-19) at Troy
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
After cruising to an easy 52-13 win over Elon in Week 1, Duke stays out of conference for another favorable matchup in Week 2. The Blue Devils make the nine-hour trek to Alabama to take on Troy – a team that’s reeling a bit after losing 48-10 to UAB last Saturday. The Trojans allowed 6.6 yards per play to the Blazers in Week 1, which should allow Duke’s offense to move the ball with ease on Saturday. Quarterback Anthony Boone was efficient in Week 1, completing 22 of 33 throws for 247 yards and four scores. The Blue Devils need Boone to play at that level to repeat as Coastal Division champions. Considering the injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown in the preseason, it’s important for Duke’s defense to build confidence before ACC play starts in late September. The Blue Devils shouldn’t have to sweat much in this one, and the focus for coach David Cutcliffe is keeping everyone healthy and likely playing as many players as possible.
7. Richmond at Virginia
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Virginia surprised most by hanging around against UCLA in Week 1, and coach Mike London may have found a quarterback in the process. Sophomore Matt Johns completed 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards and two scores against the Bruins and should be the Cavaliers’ starter on Saturday. If Johns plays well once again this week, it would be a huge boost for a program that has struggled to find consistent quarterback play under London. Richmond ranked as the No. 17 team in this week’s FCS poll and is coached by former Virginia assistant Danny Rocco. Quarterback Michael Strauss is a Virginia transfer and threw for 3,808 yards and 26 scores last year.
8. Citadel at Florida State
7:30 p.m. ET, RSN
The Seminoles can basically pick their final score in this one. Citadel went 5-7 last year was pounded 52-6 by Clemson last November. Florida State wasn’t as dominant in the opener as some expected, but this week’s game should give coach Jimbo Fisher an opportunity to work on a few things.
9. South Carolina State at Clemson
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
The Tigers should be an angry bunch on Saturday. Clemson was unable to contain Georgia’s rushing attack or generate any offense in the second half of last week’s loss in Athens, but Week 2’s matchup against South Carolina State should allow Dabo Swinney’s team to work out the kinks before ACC play begins against Florida State on Sept. 20. Senior Cole Stoudt is expected to start at quarterback, but true freshman Deshaun Watson will see plenty of snaps.
10. Florida A&M at Miami
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
After stumbling at Louisville on Monday night, Florida A&M is the perfect rebound opponent for Miami. The Rattlers went 3-9 last season and lost their opener to Jackson State. This game should be a good opportunity for freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya to gain experience after an inconsistent debut against the Cardinals. Kaaya completed 17 of 29 throws for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His development is critical to Miami’s hopes of contending for the Coastal Division title.
11. Murray State at Louisville
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
It’s a short turnaround for the Cardinals after playing on Monday night, but coach Bobby Petrino’s team shouldn’t have much trouble with the Racers. Quarterback Will Gardner was efficient (20 of 28) in his debut as Louisville’s starter, and the defense held Miami to just 4.4 yards per play. Gardner should have a huge performance against the Racers, and Petrino should be able to empty his bench on Saturday.
12. Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
As Thursday night’s loss to ULM showed, it’s going to be a long year for first-year coach Dave Clawson. Wake Forest managed only five first downs and 94 total yards against the Warhawks, with only one drive going more than 20 yards. Gardner-Webb opened its 2014 campaign with a loss to Furman and represents the Demon Deacons’ best shot at a win this year.
Week 2 ACC Predictions
|Va. Tech (+11) at Ohio St||OSU 24-14||OSU 24-13||OSU 31-17||OSU 21-17|
|Pitt (-4.5) at Boston College||Pitt 27-17||Pitt 33-21||Pitt 27-24||Pitt 31-17|
|Ga. Tech (-10) at Tulane||GT 35-21||GT 34-21||GT 34-20||GT 34-20|
|SDSU (+15) at UNC||UNC 28-17||UNC 41-28||UNC 38-24||UNC 30-20|
|ODU (+16) at NC State||State 28-21||State 34-21||State 41-30||State 38-28|
|Duke (-19) at Troy||Duke 42-21||Duke 41-21||Duke 45-17||Duke 37-17|
|Richmond at Virginia||UVA 24-10||UVA 27-10||UVA 31-13||UVA 21-20|
|Citadel at FSU||FSU 56-7||FSU 49-0||FSU 55-3||FSU 54-0|
|FAMU at Miami||Miami 28-10||Miami 38-10||Miami 45-7||Miami 38-10|
|Murray State at Louisville||Louisville 42-7||Louisville 34-7||Louisville 48-7||Louisville 44-7|
|SC State at Clemson||Clemson 35-14||Clemson 48-7||Clemson 52-10||Clemson 51-4|
|Gardner-Webb at Wake||Wake 21-10||Wake 24-13||Wake 30-13||Wake 17-7|
Week 1 of the 2014 college football season brought plenty of surprises and disappointments, and the ACC was a mixed bag of success. Florida State had to sweat more than expected against Oklahoma State but still managed to win 37-31. Despite the close call, the Seminoles are still the clear No. 1 team in the conference. Clemson fell on the road at Georgia, while Virginia impressed in a home loss to UCLA. Syracuse needed two overtimes to beat Villanova, while Wake Forest lost to ULM. It’s only Week 1, so it’s important not to overreact to just a single game. However, there are a few things to know from the conference after a week of action.
Key Takeaways from the ACC in Week 1
Cole Stoudt or Deshaun Watson for Clemson?
In Cole Stoudt’s first career start, the senior completed 15 of 28 passes for 130 yards and one interception. It’s unfair to blame Stoudt for all of Clemson’s problems in Week 1, especially since Georgia’s defense found a way to contain the Tigers’ high-powered attack in the second half. But how long of a leash will Stoudt have in Week 2? True freshman Deshaun Watson threw for 59 yards and one score on two completions against the Bulldogs. Watson is clearly more talented and represents the future of the program. Could he see more time over the next few weeks?
Did Virginia Find a Quarterback?
Going into Week 1, there was no doubt Virginia had a defense capable of contending for a bowl in 2014. However, significant question marks existed on an offense that averaged only 19.8 points per game last season. The Cavaliers’ offense started slow against UCLA, managing only 163 yards (3.8 yards per play) through the first eight drives. Greyson Lambert was benched in favor of Matt Johns, and the sophomore responded by completing 13 of 22 throws for 154 yards and two scores. Prior to Saturday, Johns did not have a career pass attempt. Johns should get the start against Richmond and could be the answer for an offense that has struggled to get consistent quarterback play in recent years.
Listen to the Cover 2 Week 1 recap podcast:
Florida State Needs a Little Work
It’s only Week 1, so there’s no reason to panic in Tallahassee. The defending champs had to sweat a little more than expected against Oklahoma State, holding on for a 37-31 victory. The Seminoles are a team with few flaws, but coach Jimbo Fisher’s team needs to address a few things in order to repeat. Oklahoma State’s defensive line held its own at the line of scrimmage, limiting Florida State to just 106 rushing yards (3.4 ypc). And we are being nitpicky here, but will the Seminoles find another receiver or two to take some of the pressure off of Rashad Greene? The Cowboys’ 31 points was only the fifth time in 29 games that Florida State allowed more than 30 points. Keep in mind: It’s game one and the Seminoles have new faces stepping into roles on both sides of the ball. Sure, this one was closer than expected, but Florida State is still the team to beat.
Pieces Starting to Come Together for Pittsburgh?
It’s hard to read too much into some of the results from Week 1, but Pittsburgh’s 62-0 blasting of Delaware was impressive. The Panthers held the Blue Hens to just five first downs and 57 total yards, while coach Paul Chryst’s offense recorded 501 yards and punted only twice. Again, the competition was questionable, but it seems the pieces are starting to fall into place for Pittsburgh. Quarterback Chad Voytik was efficient (10 of 13), and running back James Conner is poised to challenge for All-ACC honors in 2014 (14 carries for 153 yards and four scores versus Delaware). Friday’s game against Boston College will be a better barometer test, but the Panthers appear poised to improve off last year’s 7-6 mark.
NC State is Still Developing Under Dave Doeren
After finishing 3-9 in coach Dave Doeren’s debut last season, the Wolfpack expected to use a favorable schedule to push for a bowl in 2014. That could still happen in Doeren’s second year, but it’s clear NC State is still a team under construction. The Wolfpack needed a late rally to defeat Georgia Southern 24-23, outscoring the Eagles 21-6 in the second half. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett started slow but completed 28 of 40 throws for 291 yards and three scores. The Florida transfer had plenty of help from freshman receiver Bo Hines (nine catches) and running back Shadrach Thornton (73 yards). Georgia Southern isn’t an easy team to prepare for, and the final result was closer than most expected. The Wolfpack are still under construction, but getting a victory in the opener is critical with a slim margin of error to get back to a bowl.
ACC Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
|Rank||Team||Record||Last Week||Week 2|
|1||1-0||W, 37-31, Okla. State||The Citadel|
|2||0-1||L, 45-21, Georgia||South Carolina State|
|3||1-0||W, 31-13, Miami||Murray State|
|4||1-0||W, 34-9, William & Mary||at Ohio State|
|5||1-0||W, 52-13, Elon||at Troy|
|6||1-0||W, 56-29, Liberty||San Diego State|
|7||1-0||W, 62-0, Delaware||at Boston College (Friday)|
|8||0-1||L, 31-13, Louisville||Florida A&M|
|9||0-1||L, 28-20, UCLA||Richmond|
|10||1-0||W, 38-19, Wofford||at Tulane|
|11||1-0||W, 30-7, UMass||Pittsburgh (Friday)|
|12||1-0||W, 27-26, Villanova||Bye Week|
|13||1-0||W, 24-23, Ga. Southern||Old Dominion|
|14||0-1||W, 17-10, Wake Forest||Gardner-Webb|
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty suffered two cracked transverse processes in his back against SMU and is listed as day-to-day.
Petty played against SMU but was clearly limited after suffering the injury in the first half. The senior finished the opener by completing 13 of 23 passes for 161 yards and two touchdown passes. Petty also rushed for 21 yards and one score on two attempts.
While the injury sounds bad, Petty could play in Saturday’s game against Northwestern State on Sept. 6.
However, with winnable games against Northwestern State and Buffalo before Big 12 play begins versus Iowa State on Sept. 27, Petty’s game snaps could be limited over the next few weeks.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 1
77.8: BYU QB Taysom Hill’s Completion Percentage vs. UConn
Without running back Jamaal Williams and the services of receiver Devon Blackmon, BYU’s offense needed a big effort from quarterback Taysom Hill. And the junior delivered by tying a career-best 77.8 in completion percentage, threw for 308 yards and three scores on 28 completions. Hill also added 97 yards on 12 carries. The junior’s numbers and film suggest he has made significant progress as a passer since the end of 2013. And with a manageable schedule, Hill’s development could equal a special season in Provo.
10-9: Record by New Coaches in 2014
Week 1 was a mixed bag of success for the new coaches. One coach (Todd Monken, Army) did not play, while 10 won their debuts at their new school. Penn State’s James Franklin picked up a big win in Ireland, and Washington’s Chris Petersen survived a trip to Hawaii to start his tenure 1-0. Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Bowling Green’s Dino Babers had disappointing debuts, but there’s plenty of time for both coaches to rebound. An under-the-radar debut: UAB’s Bill Clark. The Blazers thrashed in-state rival Troy 48-10.
422: Yards by Virginia Tech Newcomers Against William & Mary
The competition was weak, and we hate to put too much stock in total offense numbers, but it’s noteworthy how much of Virginia Tech’s offensive yardage came from newcomers. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer threw for 251 yards, while freshmen running backs Shai McKenzie (106 yards) and Marshawn Williams (41) impressed. Freshman receiver Isaiah Ford finished second on the team with 43 receiving yards. The Hokies have plenty of young talent on the roster, and several new faces are stepping into key roles this year.
1: Texas A&M Drive that Went Less than 20 Yards
We are tossing out the one-play drive at the end of the first half for this stat, but Texas A&M’s offense clearly had South Carolina’s number on Thursday night. With the exception of a three-play drive late in the third quarter, the Aggies went at least 20 yards on every drive against the Gamecocks. The first two drives by Kevin Sumlin’s offense went at least 67 yards. Overall, eight drives went for at least 60 yards.
15: Clemson’s Second-Half Yards Against Georgia
Clemson’s offense started Saturday’s matchup against Georgia by going 70 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown. And the Tigers closed the first half strong, recording at least three drives of at least 60 yards or more. However, the second half was a different story. New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt completely put the clamps on Clemson, holding Chad Morris’ offense to 15 yards in the final two quarters. The Tigers also did not have a drive of more than four plays in the second half.
32: Players Making Debut for Tennessee in Week 1
Of the 71 players that took a snap for Tennessee in its 38-7 victory over Utah State, 32 were making their debut for the Volunteers. And how’s this for a youth movement: 21 were true freshmen. Second-year coach Butch Jones is in the midst of a roster overhaul, so the significant amount of new faces seeing time isn’t a total surprise. With a tough schedule ahead, it’s a good idea for Jones and the Volunteers to get a few snaps under their belt before SEC play starts.
21.1: Notre Dame QB Everett Golson’s Average Yards Per Completion
After a year suspension, Golson showed no rust in Saturday’s 48-17 rout over Rice. Golson didn’t play a full game but completed 14 of 22 throws for 295 yards and two scores. He also added 41 yards and three scores on the ground. Most importantly, Golson averaged 21.1 yards per completion against the Owls. Even with top receiver DaVaris Daniels’ status still in limbo due to academics, Golson showed there was still plenty of big-play ability in this offense.
2: Teams that Ran At Least 100 Plays in Week 1
Northern Illinois and USC both eclipsed the 100-play mark in Week 1, as the Trojans ran 105 against Fresno State for an average of 6.9 yards per play. The Huskies led the nation with 109 plays against Presbyterian and recorded 5.8 yards per play. 11 teams ran at least 90 plays in Week 1, with 10 recording victories. The only team that ran more than 90 plays and lost was Hawaii (97).
2: Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon’s Carries in Second Half Against LSU
Until Monday, it was a mystery why Melvin Gordon only received two second-half carries against LSU. According to coach Gary Andersen, Gordon had a hip injury, which explains why one of the nation’s top running backs played sparingly in the second half of a winnable game. The junior recorded a 63-yard run on his first touch of the third quarter and was later stuffed on a first-down run at the end of the third. Gordon ended Saturday night’s game against the Tigers with 140 yards on 16 carries (8.8 ypc).
300: Alabama Allows Back-to-Back 300 Passing Yards for First Time Under Saban
Passing yards and total offense are often misleading, but it’s notable Alabama has allowed 300 passing yards in back-to-back games under coach Nick Saban. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett threw for 365 on Saturday, which comes on the heels of Trevor Knight throwing for 348 in the Sugar Bowl. The NCAA record book online goes back to 2001, and there’s not another instance of the Crimson Tide allowing 300 yards in back-to-back games. Again, these totals are often misleading, but Alabama appears vulnerable in its secondary once again.
Other Stats of Note:
* Wake Forest recorded only five first downs in its 17-10 loss to ULM. The Demon Deacons also managed only 1.9 yards per play.
* Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas threw for 282 yards in Saturday’s win over Wofford. That’s the most for the Yellow Jackets since throwing for 365 yards against Western Carolina in 2011.
* Arkansas recorded only 51 yards on six drives in the second half. The Razorbacks had four drives of at least 40 yards in the first half, including three that resulted in touchdowns.
* After turning the ball over on downs and punting to open the third quarter, Ole Miss finished its Thursday night win over Boise State by scoring on four consecutive drives. Three of quarterback Bo Wallace’s touchdown passes went for at least 30 yards.
* Four teams – Arizona, Nebraska, Western Kentucky and USC – recorded at least 700 yards in Week 1.
* Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty set a school-record with 569 passing yards against Bowling Green.
* Missouri receiver Darius White caught two passes for 83 yards against South Dakota State. Both passes went for scores (41.5 yards per catch average).
* Two teams – Michigan and Kentucky – averaged at least 10 yards per play in Week 1.
* Rashad Greene caught 11 of quarterback Jameis Winston’s 25 completions against Oklahoma State.
* Texas quarterback David Ash will miss Week 2’s matchup against BYU. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes is slated to replace Ash as the starter, with true freshman Jerrod Heard as the backup. Swoopes is just 5 of 13 for 26 yards in his career with the Longhorns.
* Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for a school-record 454 yards against UCF on Saturday.
* For the first time in school history, Penn State had two receivers (DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis) eclipse the 150 receiving yard mark. Hamilton recorded 165 yards on 11 receptions, and Lewis accounted for 173 yards on eight catches.
* LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings completed only nine of his 21 passes in the opener against Wisconsin. However, four of his completions accounted for 187 of his 239 yards, including two touchdowns (80 yards, 36 yards).
* USF ran for 294 yards in its 36-31 victory against Western Carolina. The 294 yards are the most in a game during the Willie Taggart era.
* Kentucky running back Braylon Heard recorded only two carries against Tennessee-Martin, but he made the most of his touches. Heard rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on two attempts.
* Temple defeated Vanderbilt 37-7, but the Owls greatly benefited from seven turnovers. Temple’s offense had only two drives of 50 or more yards. In contrast, the Commodores had only one drive that went more than 40 yards. Vanderbilt’s first three drives accounted for just one yard.
* All four of Baylor’s touchdown drives in the first half went four plays or less. Only two of the Bears’ drives in the first half went longer than 50 yards.
* Georgia recorded 201 of its 459 yards in the fourth quarter against Clemson.
* Rutgers averaged 7.1 yards per play against Washington State. That’s the first time the Scarlet Knights hit the seven-yard per play mark since last year’s opener against Fresno State.
* Arizona had three receivers (at least two receptions) average at least 25 yards per catch against UNLV. Austin Hill led the way with a 36.7 yards per catch average, while Samajie Grant caught four passes for 101 yards (25.3 ypc).
* Three teams finished Week 1 with negative rushing totals. Wake Forest recorded a -3 mark against ULM, SMU finished -24 in rushing offense against Baylor, while Houston was -26 against UTSA.
* Tulsa receiver Keevan Lucas caught 13 passes for 233 yards against Tulane. Lucas’ 233 yards are more than half of his 2013 total (442).
NC State got its 2014 season off to a good start with a victory over Georgia Southern. The Wolfpack had to rally to beat the Eagles but getting into the win column was critical for second-year coach Dave Doeren.
NC State is favored to win its second game of the year against Old Dominion, and the Wolfpack plan to play Week 2 with an alternate uniform.
Check out the “Pack in Black” uniforms that NC State will wear against the Monarchs this Saturday:
It’s Week 1 of the college football season, so it’s no surprise each team has a few kinks to work out. Of course, that also extends into the gameday operations workers, as well as cheerleaders, mascots or anyone else around a college football program.
New Mexico State’s mascot Pistol Pete and his horse (Keystone) had an unfortunate incident prior to Thursday’s kickoff versus Cal Poly.
While on Keystone, Pete clipped a New Mexico State student in the endzone, knocking her to the ground.
Luckily, the student (Zaina Atyani) wasn’t injured.
Illinois’ 28-17 victory over Youngstown State certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, but neither was this punt executed by the Penguins.
Youngstown State’s punter rolled to his right to punt, and instead of bombing the ball downfield, the punt hit one of his blockers right in the butt. Yes, that’s right – directly in the backside.
Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp made one of the best plays of Week 1 by making an acrobatic, behind-the-back catch.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s pass was on target to be intercepted, but deflected off the FAU defensive back and into the hands of Westerkamp – behind his back.
Check out Westerkamp’s crazy catch:
Penn State and UCF kicked off the first Saturday of action in the 2014 season with a thriller in Ireland. The Nittany Lions won 26-24 on a last-second field goal, but the game got off to an interesting start.
A skydiver was slated to land inside of the stadium with a UCF flag. Instead, the skydiver completely missed the stadium and landed outside of Croke Park.
Check out the video of the skydiver landing outside of the stadium:
It’s a classic Big Ten versus the SEC matchup on Saturday night, as Wisconsin and LSU meet in Houston for a neutral site kickoff for the 2014 season. The Badgers return just eight starters from last year’s 9-4 squad, but coach Gary Andersen should have this team in the thick of the Big Ten West Division race. LSU also had a significant amount of roster turnover from last year and several freshmen are expected to see time on Saturday night.
LSU owns a 2-0 series edge against Wisconsin. This is the first matchup between these two schools sine 1972. The Tigers and Badgers are slated to meet again in 2016 in Green Bay.
Wisconsin vs. LSU (Houston)
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Leonard Fournette
As mentioned above, LSU could play a handful of freshmen on Saturday night. And while several garnered national acclaim through recruiting, the one receiving the most hype is running back Leonard Fournette. The true freshman has everything coaches want in an every-down back. Fournette isn’t guaranteed to handle the full workload, as seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are slated for a big role in the offense. Fournette ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is running behind an offensive line that is considered among the best in the SEC. With Wisconsin replacing its entire front seven (in terms of starters), the Tigers should be able to use their offensive line to clear the way for Fournette to a big performance on Saturday night.
2. The Quarterbacks
Both teams enter Saturday night with question marks surrounding the quarterback position. LSU plans on using both sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris, while Wisconsin is slated to start Tanner McEvoy. Jennings played sparingly last year and completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards and one score. Harris ranked as the No. 3 dual-threat passer in the 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete with Jennings in spring practice. The gap between Jennings and Harris does not appear to be wide (if any at all), so expect to see both quarterbacks play a couple of drives. McEvoy beat out last year’s starter (Joel Stave) for the starting job this fall, and the former South Carolina passer is back under center after playing safety in 2013. McEvoy did not attempt a pass for Wisconsin last season, but he fits what coach Gary Andersen and coordinate Andy Ludwig want under center. McEvoy gives the Badgers’ offense more mobility, which could be an asset against a fast and athletic defense on the other side.
3. Melvin Gordon vs. LSU’s defense
LSU did not have a vintage shutdown defense last year, allowing 170.3 rushing yards per game in SEC contests. The Tigers allowed only 22 points per game, but there was room to improve in the yardage allowed. Coordinator John Chavis had personnel concerns to address in the offseason, starting up front at tackle. Last year’s starters (Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson) departed, leaving Frank Herron, Quentin Thomas, Christian LaCouture and Maquedius Bain as the top options in the middle. All four are talented, but there’s not a ton of experience returning from this group. Considering this is McEvoy’s first start, expect to see Wisconsin’s gameplan based on getting running back Melvin Gordon 25-30 carries. The Badgers own one of the Big Ten’s top offensive lines, and with the uncertainty up front for LSU, Gordon should be able to find running room. And when Gordon needs a break, expect to see talented sophomore Corey Clement in the backfield.
This matchup is perhaps the most intriguing game of Week 1. Both teams usually replace departed talent with few problems. Expect much of the same in 2014, as LSU and Wisconsin will both push for 10 wins. Both teams should have success running the ball, which is critical due to the inexperience at quarterback. The Tigers may not have a prolific day through the air, but a big offensive line and trio of backs – led by Fournette – eventually wears down the Wisconsin defense.
Prediction: LSU 30, Wisconsin 20
Week 1 isn’t full of outstanding matchups, but the Georgia-Clemson meeting on Saturday afternoon could be the best of the opening weekend. These two teams met last year, with the Tigers edging the Bulldogs 38-35. Both programs return a chunk of their core from last season’s squads, but there are new faces stepping into key roles. Clemson is breaking in a new quarterback to replace Tajh Boyd, while Georgia hands the keys to the offense to senior Hutson Mason. There’s plenty of intrigue in this matchup, and this is an early barometer test to see where Clemson and Georgia stack up after Week 1.
Clemson vs. Georgia
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Georgia -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. New Quarterbacks
Despite new quarterbacks taking over for both teams, there’s not much concern at Clemson or Georgia. Senior Cole Stoudt is slated to start for the Tigers, and talented true freshman Deshaun Watson will also factor into the mix for coordinator Chad Morris. On the Bulldogs’ sideline, senior Hutson Mason will get his third start. Mason gained valuable experience by starting the last two games of 2013 due to an injury to Aaron Murray and threw for 320 yards in the bowl loss to Nebraska and 299 in an overtime win over Georgia Tech. Although both Mason and Stoudt are expected to thrive in their starting roles, both quarterbacks will be under the spotlight on Saturday night. Georgia’s front seven is among the best in the SEC, while Clemson’s defensive line features four senior starters. Neither quarterback needs to throw for 300 yards for a win, but it’s critical for both to limit mistakes with a close game expected.
2. Clemson’s DL vs. Georgia’s OL
As we mentioned in the previous section, Clemson’s defensive line features four senior starters. End Vic Beasley – an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American – highlights the front group. On paper, an experienced defensive front for the Tigers should have an advantage on Georgia’s offensive line, which returns only two starters. But will that play out on the field? Can the Bulldogs’ revamped line hold its own and keep Mason upright in the pocket? How about clearing rushing lanes for running back Todd Gurley? Winning the battle in the trenches is critical to winning on Saturday afternoon, and the battle between Georgia’s offensive line and Clemson’s defensive line is a matchup to watch.
3. Georgia’s Defense
New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt played a key role in Florida State’s national championship last season, and coach Mark Richt hopes the former Seminoles’ play-caller is able to replicate that success for the Bulldogs in 2014. Talent in the front seven certainly isn’t an issue for Pruitt. Linebackers Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson each garnered some preseason All-SEC mention, and the defensive line should be solid once again. Despite the strength in the front seven, the secondary needs some work. Pruitt mixed and matched the personnel in the offseason, and this unit could be in flux early in the year. Can the pass defense hold up against a Clemson offense that averaged 332.9 passing yards per game last season? Even without Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, the Tigers aren't hurting for talent in the receiving corps.
New is the key word to remember in this matchup. Both teams have new quarterbacks and experienced and talented front sevens on defense. But Clemson and Georgia both have concerns in the secondary, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this one go well into the 30s for the final results. Of course, with all of the new faces and roster turnover on both sides, this could be a low-scoring affair as both teams acclimate starters to new roles. Much of this game’s outcome resides on the quarterbacks. Will it be Mason delivering with a quality performance? Or is it going to be Clemson’s Cole Stoudt (first career start)? With new faces stepping into big roles, it could be a lackluster defensive struggle, before UGA or Clemson takes control late.
Prediction: Georgia 27, Clemson 24
With 128 teams in the FBS and around 100 players on a roster, there are certainly some interesting names that pop-up throughout the course of production for Athlon's 2014 college football magazine.
We took a look through the rosters for the 128 teams and pulled out some of the funniest and more interesting names in college football for the 2014 season.
And yes, some reminded us of the famous Key & Peele college football skit.
Freedom Akinmoladun, TE, Nebraska
Geronimo Allison, WR, Illinois
Bozidar Antunovic, OL, SMU
Gage Batten, FB, Auburn
Faton Bauta, QB, Georgia
Bobo Beathard, WR, Appalachian State
Detric Bing-Dukes, FB, Georgia
Baylor Black, TE, Baylor
Jeb Blazevich, TE, Georgia
Cole Boozer, TE, Temple
Johnathan Boring, OL, Troy
Brandon Bourbon, RB, Kansas
Brandon Bridge, QB, South Alabama
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Evan Butts, TE, Virginia
Squally Canada, RB, Washington State
KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Freddy Canteen, WR, Michigan
B.J. Chitty, WR, Troy
Jazzmar Clax, FB, UConn
River Cracraft, WR, Washington State
Uneik Crumbley, OL, UAB
Tank Davis, OL, Texas A&M
Mak Djulbegovic, OL, USF
Centarius Donald, RB, ULM
Teven Eatmon-Nared, OL, Kentucky
Quinterrius Eatmon, OL, USF
Hoko Fanaika, OL, LSU
Tanner Farmer, OL, Nebraska
Bear Fenimore, QB, Houston
Daxx Garman, QB, Oklahoma State
Crusoe Gongbay, RB, New Mexico
John Gruenschlaeger, OG, Kentucky
Thor Jozwiak, OL, USF
Brynjar Gudmundsson, OL, USF
Justice Hansen, QB, Oklahoma
Nyiakki Height, WR, UAB
Rush Hendricks, TE, South Alabama
Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M
Gunnar Holcombe, QB, Marshall
Driphus Jackson, QB, Rice
Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati
Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati
Quantavius Leslie, WR, LSU
Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
Mikingson Marsaille, OL, FAU
I’Tavius Mathers, RB, Ole Miss
Storm McPherson, QB, West Virginia
Tommy Mister, RB, Indiana
Grayson Muehlstein, QB, TCU
Shug Oyegunle, WR, FIU
Rafe Peavey, QB, Arkansas
Ross Pierschbacher, OL, Alabama
Dalvin Populist, QB, ULL
Rich Queen, OL, UMass
Michiah Quick, WR, Oklahoma
Devine Redding, RB, Indiana
Deuce Robinson, DL, Appalachian State
Blaze Ryder, OL, Navy
Manrey Saint-Amour, OL, Georgia Southern
Harley Scioneaux, TE, ULM
Dreamius Smith, RB, West Virginia
Thaddeus Snodgrass, WR, Kentucky
Jack Snowball, RB, Miami (Ohio)
Shawn Stankavage, QB, Vanderbilt
Tyrin Stone-Davis, WR, Illinois
Tennessee Su’esu’e, OL, Boise State
Altee Tenpenny, RB, Alabama
Poet Thomas, OL, Texas Tech
Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, OL, New Mexico State
Stone Underwood, OL, WVU
Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
Lucky Whitehead, WR, FAU
Hosey Williams, RB, Cincinnati
T.V. Williams, WR, Kentucky
Ucambre Williams, OL, South Alabama
Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State
Bearooz Yacoobi, OL, Purdue
Gussie Busch, LB, Alabama
Imarjaye Albury, DL, FIU
Thurston Armbrister, LB, Miami
Micah Awe, LB, Texas Tech
Maquedius Bain, DT, LSU
Budda Baker, S, Washington
Will Barrow, CB, Tulsa
Zeek Bigger, LB, East Carolina
Jay-nard Bostick, DT, Florida
Bam Bradley, LB, Pittsburgh
Mookie Carlile, DB, UTEP
Destin Challenger, LB, UAB
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Wayland Coleman-Dancer, LB, Troy
Pudge Cotton, DB, Eastern Michigan
Blake Countess, DB, Michigan
Skyler Cracraft, DB, Washington State
Armonze Daniel, DL, Marshall
Prince Charles Iworah, DB, Western Kentucky
Step Durham, DB, Georgia Tech
Kingsley Ejike, DL/LB, UAB
Corn Elder, DB, Miami
Shattle Fenteng, DB, Georgia
Poona Ford, DT, Texas
Maxx Forde, DE, Idaho
Jack Gangwish, DL, Nebraska
Houston Glass, S, Buffalo
Sharrod Golightly, LB/S, South Carolina
Alanmichael Harkness, DL, Appalachian State
Vegas Harley, S, Georgia Southern
Brixx Hawthorne, S, Texas Tech
Zaycoven Henderson, DT, Texas Tech
K’Hadree Hooker, DL, East Carolina
Money Hunter, DB, Arkansas State
Great Ibe, LB, Eastern Michigan
Tank Jakes, LB, Memphis
Lion King, DL, Eastern Michigan
Abu Lamin, DL, South Carolina
Trey Lealaimatafao, DT, LSU
Nifae Lealao, DL, Vanderbilt
Dee Liner, DL, Alabama
Chaiziere Malbrue, LB, ULL
Marcus Mallet, LB, TCU
Praise Martin-Oguike, DL, Temple
Mercy Maston, CB, Boise State
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
SteveO Michel, LB, Colorado State
Finesse Middleton, DE, Louisville
Zelt Minor, DL, SMU
Wonderful Monds II, DE, FIU
Charmeachealle Moore, LB, Kansas State
Silverberry Mouhon, DL, Cincinnati
Chuka Ndulue, DL, Oklahoma
Picasso Nelson Jr., DB, Southern Miss
Noble Nwachukwu, DL, West Virginia
Tito Odenigbo, DL, Illinois
Leviticus Payne, DB, Cincinnati
Jock Petree, DL, UCF
Cody Poock, LB, Minnesota
Dad Poquie, DB, Penn State
Gimel President, DL, Auburn
Johnny Ragin III, LB, Oregon
Bruno Reagan, OL, Vanderbilt
Trevarris Saulsberry, DL, Tennessee
Gusty Schwartzmeier, DL, Buffalo
Patrick Sermersheim, DB, Kentucky
Aziz Shittu, DL, Stanford
Fish Smithson, S, Kansas
Breeland Speaks, DL, Ole Miss
Weston Steelhammer, DB, Air Force
Finis Stribling, DB, Missouri
Dwellie Striggles, DB, Buffalo
Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Wonderful Terry, DB, Western Kentucky
Toronto Thomas, LB, Appalachian State
Fudge Van Hooser, CB, Tulane
Sir Calvin Wallace, DT, North Texas
Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
Freedom Whitfield, LB, FAU
Tito Windham, CB, Oklahoma
Psalm Wooching, LB, Washington
DeJazz Woods, DL, Illinois
Carlutorbantu Zaramo, DL, Ball State
Moose Bingham, K, BYU
Chris Blewitt, K, Pittsburgh
Colby Delahoussaye, K, LSU
Younghoe Koo, K, Georgia Southern
Logan McElfresh, P, Minnesota
The ACC enters 2014 with momentum. The conference survived realignment, Louisville joined the league, and Florida State ended the SEC’s run of dominance by defeating Auburn in the national championship. 13 games dot the schedule for the ACC in Week 1, including the Seminoles taking on Oklahoma State in Arlington, Clemson traveling to Athens to take on Georgia, and Miami and Louisville meeting as the only conference game of the week on Labor Day night.
ACC Week 1 Game Power Rankings
1. Clemson (-7.5) at Georgia
5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
In terms of overall intrigue and watchability, this is the premier game in the ACC for Week 1. Clemson has won at least 10 games in each of the last three years, while Georgia is hoping to rebound from an injury-filled 8-5 campaign. Both teams have new faces stepping into key roles, but none bigger than Tigers’ quarterback Cole Stoudt as he replaces Tajh Boyd. Stoudt faces a Georgia secondary that has been in flux throughout the offseason and needs help from a front seven that will be among the best in the SEC. A similar scenario will play out when the Bulldogs have the ball, as senior quarterback Hutson Mason is making his third career start. Mason and Georgia’s offensive line has a tough matchup against Clemson’s veteran defensive front, but the Tigers have concerns in the secondary. This one could go either way. A high-scoring affair or a low-scoring defensive struggle wouldn’t be surprise.
2. Miami at Louisville (-3.5)
Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The only game featuring two ACC opponents takes place on Labor Day night in Louisville. Miami and Louisville met in the Russell Athletic Bowl, with the Cardinals giving the Hurricanes a 36-9 whipping. But that was last season, and plenty has changed between the two programs. Louisville is now under the direction of Bobby Petrino, and Teddy Bridgewater left for the NFL. Miami returns a good chunk of last year’s roster (12 starters) but will start a true freshman under center (Brad Kaaya). Petrino and quarterback Will Gardner won’t have top receiver DeVante Parker at their disposal due to injury. Parker’s injury will create more opportunities for sophomore James Quick and seniors Eli Rogers and Kai De La Cruz in the passing game. This game also features the return of running back Duke Johnson for Miami, and it’s critical for the junior to get on track to take some of the pressure off of Kaaya in his first start. There’s a lot of new in both programs for this game. Has Miami closed the gap since last year’s bowl loss? Or is Louisville still the better program right now?
Listen to Athlon's Cover 2 Podcast: Week 1 Preview
3. Florida State (-17.5) vs. Oklahoma State (Arlington)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Florida State begins its national title defense in a neutral site environment against a rebuilding Oklahoma State team. The Seminoles are big – and for good reason – favorites in this matchup. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team returns 16 starters, including defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston. The Cowboys return just eight starters and must replace 28 seniors from last year’s squad. A rebuilt offensive line is the biggest concern for coach Mike Gundy, but quarterback J.W. Walsh also needs to play with more consistency. Even though Oklahoma State’s defense has a couple of All-Big 12 candidates, this should be a good opportunity for Winston and his revamped receiving corps (including true freshmen Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane) to gain valuable reps before a key ACC contest against Clemson on Sept. 20. Barring a sluggish performance by Florida State, it’s hard to see this one being close in the fourth quarter.
4. UCLA (-21) at Virginia
Noon ET, ESPN
With an 18-31 record in four years, 2014 is a make-or-break season for Virginia coach Mike London. But London’s future certainly isn’t helped by a schedule that features non-conference games against UCLA and BYU, combined with a crossover division matchup against Florida State and Louisville. The Bruins are one of the favorites in the Pac-12 and return 14 starters from last year’s 10-3 team. Virginia’s defense is a good matchup for UCLA’s young offensive line, but the Cavaliers need to find a way to generate points. Sophomore Greyson Lambert edged David Watford at quarterback this offseason, and he should have his hands full against a UCLA defense that finished No. 4 in the Pac-12 in fewest points allowed (conference-only games). It’s a long road trip from Los Angeles to Charlottesville, and a Noon ET start means an early wake-up call for the Bruins. A few early struggles are possible, but UCLA has too much talent for a Virginia team that’s still searching for answers on offense.
5. Wake Forest at ULM (-1.5)
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
The Dave Clawson era at Wake Forest opens with a tricky road trip. ULM has improved under fifth-year coach Todd Berry and returns 14 starters from a team that finished 6-6 last year. The Warhawks also have a familiar face at quarterback in NC State transfer Pete Thomas. The Demon Deacons are a young team and plan to start only seven seniors in the opener. True freshman John Wolford is slated to open under center, and Clawson needs to find new playmakers and develop an offensive line to help his young quarterback. Points could be at a premium on Thursday night.
6. Georgia Southern at NC State (-20.5)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
The Wolfpack enter 2014 riding an eight-game losing streak, but there’s hope for a turnaround in 2014 with the arrival of transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Georgia Southern joins the FBS ranks in 2014 and ended 2013 by winning its final three games last year, including a 26-20 upset over Florida. With a favorable non-conference schedule, it’s important for NC State to get off to a good start and have a 4-0 mark before playing Florida State on Sept. 27.
7. William & Mary at Virginia Tech
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS
An upset is unlikely here, but William & Mary could make Virginia Tech sweat for a while. The Tribe ranked No. 2 among FCS teams in scoring defense (14 ppg) and held opponents to just 118.1 rushing yards per game last season. It’s a good thing for William & Mary to have a good defense, especially with a new starter at quarterback (Steve Cluley) in a hostile environment. Virginia Tech’s offense is filled with unknowns, starting at quarterback with Michael Brewer and with talented, but unproven playmakers at running back and receiver. It may take a quarter or two for the Hokies’ offense to get on track, but the defense is enough for Frank Beamer’s team to pull away from the Tribe in the second half.
8. Boston College (-17) at UMass
3 p.m. ET, ESPN3
With a matchup against Pittsburgh next Friday, Boston College hopes to use UMass as a tune-up for its ACC opener. The Eagles have several new faces stepping into key roles on offense, including Florida transfer Tyler Murphy at quarterback, UConn transfer Shakim Phillips at receiver and sophomore Myles Willis replacing Andre Williams at running back. The Minutemen are 2-22 over the last two seasons and is under the direction of new coach Mark Whipple. UMass is slated to start Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel at quarterback.
9. Delaware at Pittsburgh
Noon ET, ESPN3
Openers have not been kind to Pittsburgh’s third-year coach Paul Chryst. The Panthers were upset by Youngstown State in 2012 and lost to Florida State last year. Chryst hopes the third time is a charm, taking on a Delaware team that just missed the first FCS top 25 poll. New Pittsburgh quarterback Chad Voytik looked sharp in limited action last year, and this will be his first taste of extended action. The Panthers’ rebuilding defense also figures to get a good test from a Blue Hens’ offense that averaged 32.8 points per game last year.
10. Villanova at Syracuse
Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3
The Orange finished 2013 with momentum on their side, winning four out of their last six games. With 13 starters back, second-year coach Scott Shafer has a chance to push Syracuse to eight wins in 2014. Shafer and coordinator George McDonald want to push the tempo on offense this season, which largely depends on the development of quarterback Terrel Hunt and the receiving corps. Villanova ranked as the No. 8 team in Athlon’s projected 2014 FCS top 25 and hope to bounce back after finishing 6-5 last year.
11. Liberty at North Carolina
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
All eyes in Chapel Hill will be at quarterback on Saturday night. North Carolina coach Larry Fedora won’t reveal his starter, as the battle between Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky continued into fall practice. In addition to the quarterbacks, the Tar Heels will play a handful of young players on defense, which could present a few headaches against a balanced Liberty offense. The Flames (led by coach Turner Gill) could hang around for a while, but North Carolina simply has too much firepower on offense.
12. Wofford at Georgia Tech
12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports South
Don’t expect the forward pass to be utilized much in this one. Georgia Tech averaged only 15.6 attempts per game and Wofford averaged 12.5 last season. This matchup against the Terriers will be the first start for new Yellow Jackets’ quarterback Justin Thomas. The sophomore’s development is critical for Georgia Tech’s Coastal Division title hopes. Paul Johnson has won five out of his six openers with the Yellow Jackets and should cruise to an easy victory.
13. Elon at Duke
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Duke shouldn’t have too much trouble in its season opener, as the defending Coastal Division champs host an Elon team that went 2-10 last year. The Blue Devils suffered season-ending injuries to tight end Braxton Deaver and linebacker Kelby Brown, and this game should allow coach David Cutcliffe a chance to play a few younger players to build depth.
Week 1 ACC Predictions
|Clemson (-7.5) at Georgia||UGA 24-14||UGA 24-21||UGA 27-24||UGA 31-24|
|Miami (+3.5) at Louisville||UL 21-14||UL 34-27||UL 31-24||UL 27-20|
|FSU (-17.5) vs. Okla. State||FSU 49-10||FSU 44-17||FSU 48-17||FSU 41-17|
|UCLA (-21) at Virginia||UCLA 42-10||UCLA 38-13||UCLA 34-13||UCLA 33-14|
|Wake Forest (+1.5) at ULM||ULM 17-14||ULM 31-28||ULM 24-20||ULM 34-24|
|Ga. Southern (+20.5) at NC State||State 21-13||State 34-17||State 38-10||State 34-17|
|William & Mary at Va. Tech||VT 35-3||VT 27-3||VT 34-10||VT 30-10|
|Boston College (-17) at UMass||BC 42-7||BC 34-17||BC 38-10||BC 37-14|
|Delaware at Pittsburgh||Pitt 31-7||Pitt 38-14||Pitt 40-20||Pitt 30-17|
|Villanova at Syracuse||SU 28-10||SU 34-17||SU 41-17||SU 33-17|
|Liberty at North Carolina||UNC 42-10||UNC 45-10||UNC 45-17||UNC 41-13|
|Wofford at Georgia Tech||GT 38-10||GT 38-17||GT 45-13||GT 41-13|
|Elon at Duke||Duke 35-13||Duke 38-10||Duke 41-13||Duke 33-14|
College football’s 2014 season officially gets underway on Thursday, as South Carolina hosts Texas A&M on the new SEC Network. The Gamecocks begin 2014 as a preseason top-10 team and should be one of the favorites to win the East Division. The Aggies are in rebuild mode without quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and offensive tackle Jake Matthews. But coach Kevin Sumlin's team features plenty of young talent, including freshmen receivers Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones. This matchup is also the first game on the new SEC Network.
This will be the first meeting between South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Texas A&M at South Carolina
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: South Carolina -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. South Carolina’s OL vs. Texas A&M’s Front Seven
South Carolina’s offensive line ranks as one of the best in the SEC and should have their way with Texas A&M’s front seven. The Aggies allowed 236.3 rushing yards per game last season (conference-only contests), and depth along the defensive front is a bigger concern after the departure of end Gavin Stansbury and the dismissal of tackle Isaiah Golden and linebacker Darian Claiborne. True freshman Myles Garrett is not listed as a starter on the first depth chart, but the five-star prospect is slated to play major snaps. Talent isn’t a problem on Texas A&M’s defensive front. However, how quickly can players like Garrett, true freshman Zaycoven Henderson and sophomore Daeshon Hall acclimate to life in the SEC? If the Aggies struggle to stop the run once again, South Carolina’s offensive line and rushing attack – led by All-SEC running back Mike Davis – will have its way up front.
2. Debut of New Quarterbacks
Thursday night’s game is the first for Texas A&M in the post-Johnny Manziel era. The Aggies will certainly miss Manziel, but this offense isn’t hurting for talent at the skill positions and on the offensive line. Sophomore Kenny Hill edged true freshman Kyle Allen for the starting job in the fall and Thursday night’s game is his first opportunity to start. Hill played limited snaps last year and finished with 183 passing yards on 16 completions and 37 rushing yards on seven attempts. On the other sideline, Dylan Thompson is no stranger to the starting lineup, as this will be his fourth start as a Gamecock. Thompson has been a capable fill-in for Connor Shaw over the last two years, but 2014 is his first chance to be the full-time starter. The South Carolina native is 3-0 as a starter and could have a huge debut against Texas A&M’s suspect defense.
3. South Carolina’s rebuilt defense
Texas A&M isn’t the only defense with concerns heading into the opener. South Carolina returns six starters on defense, but the Gamecocks suffered significant losses on the defensive line and in the secondary. Up front, end Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles depart, while three true freshman are slated for major snaps in the secondary (Wesley Green, Chris Lammons and Al Harris Jr.). Although the Aggies won’t have Johnny Manziel under center, this offense is still dangerous. New quarterback Kenny Hill has a deep group of receivers, and there’s options at running back with Trey Williams, Tra Carson and Brandon Williams. Coordinator Lorenzo Ward plans on mixing in more three-man fronts to take advantage of the depth at linebacker. Will this unit perform at a high level from the opening snap? Or will it take Ward a few games to find the right mix. Texas A&M should be a good barometer test.
Even with three first-round picks departing, Texas A&M’s offense will be dangerous. South Carolina’s defense has enough new pieces stepping into the lineup to keep this one close, as the Aggies should have success moving the ball. However, can Texas A&M get stops? If the defense continues to struggle, the Gamecocks will have no trouble moving the ball on the ground or through the air. Running back Mike Davis was injured in fall camp, but he is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday. Considering South Carolina’s strong offensive line and Davis leading the way on the ground, the Gamecocks will simply wear down the Aggies and open the year with a key conference victory.
Prediction: South Carolina 34, Texas A&M 24
Louisville’s offense suffered a significant setback on Monday, as top receiver DeVante Parker suffered a foot injury in fall camp and will miss 6-8 weeks.
Parker was expected to be the Cardinals’ top receiving threat after recording 55 catches for 885 yards and 12 scores last season. Parker was limited some by injury in the middle of the year but averaged 16.1 yards per reception in 2013.
The timetable for Parker’s return is uncertain, but if the 6-8 week span holds true, the senior could miss key ACC contests against Florida State and Clemson.
There’s no doubt Parker’s absence will be a huge loss for Louisville. However, coach Bobby Petrino is one of the best in the nation at maximizing the X’s and O’s. Expect to see more of sophomore James Quick and seniors Eli Rogers and Kai De La Cruz targeted in the passing game. And senior tight end Gerald Christian should be an even bigger part of the offense and should push for All-ACC honors in 2014.
Parker’s injury is a definite setback for Louisville, but the Cardinals could still be favored to win their first six games.
The quarterback position has been a revolving door for Miami this offseason, but coach Al Golden ended the carousel by naming true freshman Brad Kaaya the starter for the Week 1 matchup against Louisville.
While Golden’s decision to name Kaaya the starter was made easier due an injury to Ryan Williams (torn ACL), and a suspension for Kevin Olsen, this is the right move for Miami in 2014 and beyond.
Kaaya was competing with Jake Heaps for the starting job this fall, as both quarterbacks enrolled this summer to push for the starting job. Having a veteran like Heaps is beneficial, but he’s struggled in two previous stops (BYU and Kansas).
After throwing 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a true freshman at BYU in 2010, Heaps lost the starting job to Riley Nelson in 2011 and transferred to Kansas to start in 2012. However, Heaps was benched after a slow start, completing only 49 percent of his throws and tossing 10 picks on 261 attempts.
There’s no doubt Kaaya is going to make mistakes – he’s a true freshman after all. Starting a true freshman quarterback on the road in a hostile environment (Louisville) is tough, but the upside is worth the risk over Heaps. The senior is a known commodity, and he’s been limited some in fall camp due to an elbow injury. Maybe Heaps is a better quarterback than he showed at BYU or Kansas, but it's tough to envision the Washington native being the answer for Miami in 2014.
On the other side, Kaaya is a quarterback with enormous upside. The California native ranked as the No. 141 national recruit by 247Sports in the 2014 signing class and was considered a four-star prospect.
The bar has been set high by freshman quarterbacks in recent years (Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel), and it’s unfair to pin those expectations on Kaaya. However, the gamble and upside of starting Kaaya outweighs the risk.
Could Kaaya be the next star quarterback in Coral Gables? Perhaps. And knowing what Miami has in Heaps, it only makes sense to go with upside and Kaaya’s potential.
2014 isn’t a make or break year for Golden, but the Hurricanes need to take a step in the right direction. Step one is finding a quarterback. Maybe Kaaya is that guy. It’s better to find out now than next season.
Predicting the success of college football coaches on a year-to-year basis is nearly impossible. There’s a baseline of results and history to use, along with a program track record, but good coaches can raise the profile of a team in a short amount of time. Need evidence? How about James Franklin at Vanderbilt?
The group of first-year coaches in 2013 had a successful debut, starting with Gus Malzahn at Auburn and continuing through the rest of the FBS with Boston College’s Steve Addazio, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury and Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen.
But as the calendar flips to 2014, what are the reasonable expectations for coaches in their second year on the job? Let’s take a look at last season’s grade and explore what a reasonable expectation should be for these second-year coaches.
Steve Addazio, Boston College
2013 Record: 7-6 (4-4)
First Season Grade: A
2014 Expectation: 6-6
Addazio and the Eagles exceeded preseason expectations last season, finishing 7-6 and ending a two-year postseason drought with an appearance in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. Despite the quick turnaround last year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Boston College took a small step back in 2014. Several key players have expired their eligibility, including standout running back Andre Williams. The ground attack should be fine with Myles Willis and a solid offensive line leading the way, but quarterback Tyler Murphy has to play better than he did in his limited stint at Florida last season. With only nine returning starters, a successful season at Chestnut Hill would be another trip to a bowl game, with an eye on bigger things in 2015.
Scott Shafer, Syracuse
2013 Record: 7-6 (4-4)
First Season Grade: A
2014 Expectation: 8-4/7-5
After winning four out of their last six games in 2013, the Orange has momentum entering 2014. The schedule certainly isn’t easy, but non-conference games against Notre Dame and Maryland are winnable, and quarterback Terrel Hunt should be comfortable in his second year under center. Replacing defensive tackle Jay Bromley is Shafer’s biggest concern, especially on a defense that allowed 40 or more points in four out of the six losses. Beating Florida State or Clemson for one of the top two spots in the Atlantic Division is out of reach, but another bowl trip and a one or two-game improvement in regular season record should be expected.
Dave Doeren, NC State
2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8)
First Season Grade: C
2014 Expectation: 5-7/6-6
Last season’s 3-9 mark was a surprise for a program that won 24 games in the previous three years. However, Dave Doeren’s first year was marked by uncertainty at quarterback, largely due to a foot injury suffered by Brandon Mitchell in the opener against Louisiana Tech. The quarterback concerns in Raleigh should be eased by the arrival of Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, and the junior will have talent to work with at the skill positions. After averaging only 22.8 points per game last year, expect significant improvement on offense for NC State in 2014. Most of the roster is underclassmen, so this isn’t a team built to win big next season. With four winnable non-conference games to open the year, combined with home ACC swing games against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College, a bowl game is a very realistic goal for Doeren in Year 2.
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
2013 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
First Season Grade: B
2014 Expectation: 8-4
If Texas Tech’s final record in 2014 is 8-4, it would represent only a one-game improvement from last year’s 7-5 mark in the regular season. However, it’s tough to envision a significant jump for the Red Raiders in Kingsbury’s second year. But even if Texas Tech finishes 7-5, the future is bright in Lubbock for a program that is on the rise. Quarterback Davis Webb is a breakout candidate for 2014, and there’s talent at skill positions even with tight end Jace Amaro and receiver Eric Ward leaving. Offense shouldn’t be a problem, but the defense returns only three starters and new faces must emerge on the line and in the secondary. The middle of the Big 12 is open, and there’s room for a dark horse like Texas Tech to make the jump into a No. 5 finish in the conference. A small step forward should be anticipated, with even bigger things set to come in 2015.
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
2013 Record: 1-11 (0-8)
First Season Grade: D
2014 Expectation: 3-9/4-8
Hazell inherited a rebuilding project, but the Boilermakers struggled to be competitive in Big Ten games last year, and its 1-11 mark was the worst since a 1-10 record under Jim Colletto in 1993. Hazell needs time to rebuild, so another losing mark wouldn’t be a surprise in 2014 or 2015. With 12 returning starters, combined with the development of quarterback Danny Etling, the Boilermakers should be more competitive in the Big Ten. However, victories in conference play will be tough to come by, as Michigan State and a road trip to Indiana are the crossover games with the East Division, while potential swing matchups against Minnesota and Illinois are on the road.
Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
2013 Record: 9-4 (6-2)
First Season Grade: A
2014 Expectation: 10-2
Andersen was considered one of the top coaching hires of the 2013 carousel, and the former Utah State coach didn’t disappoint in his first year in Madison. The Badgers lost four games by 10 points or less, including a bizarre last-minute defeat to Arizona State. Even though Wisconsin’s front seven must be revamped on defense, and star receiver Jared Abbrederis has expired his eligibility, expectations are high in Madison. The Badgers have a favorable schedule, including a home date against Nebraska and no Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State in crossover play. Sure, there are personnel concerns. However, the schedule is too favorable to finish 8-4 or 7-5.
Mark Helfrich, Oregon
2013 Record: 11-2 (7-2)
First Season Grade: B
2014 Expectation: Pac-12 title and a spot in CFB’s Playoff
Oregon has all of the necessary pieces to contend for a national championship in 2014. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the biggest challenger to Florida State’s Jameis Winston for the Heisman, and the Ducks are three deep with options at running back. The defense will be under the direction of a new coordinator (Don Pellum), but five starters are back, including senior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and talented defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. With Mariota likely headed to the NFL after 2014, Oregon has another window of opportunity to play for the national championship.
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
2013 Record: 4-8 (1-8)
First Season Grade: B
2014 Expectation: 4-8
Colorado won only one Pac-12 game last season, but there was clear improvement in Boulder. And if you need reinforcement of that, other Pac-12 coaches anonymously praised MacIntyre for the job he did last year. But as the 2014 season approaches, it’s easy to see why Colorado is probably a year away from contending for a bowl. The Buffaloes catch Oregon and Washington in crossover play with the North and must replace standout receiver Paul Richardson. Sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau is promising, and the depth on defense is getting better. An upset or two wouldn’t be a surprise in Pac-12 games. However, a 4-8 final record with a more competitive team in conference action is very likely for MacIntyre.
Sonny Dykes, California
2013 Record: 1-11 (0-9)
First Season Grade: D
2014 Expectation: 3-9
Thanks to a rash of injuries, new schemes on both sides of the ball, and a freshman quarterback, California slumped to a 1-11 mark in Dykes’ first year. While last year was brutal, there’s only one way to go - up - in 2014. California’s schedule is challenging, so drastic improvement in the win column is unlikely. But the Golden Bears are healthier, and the depth has improved due to the return of a few injured players on defense. Assuming Goff takes a step forward under center, California’s offense could average 30-35 points per game. Just being more competitive in conference play would be a step forward (and a victory) for Dykes in 2014.
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8)
First Season Grade: C
2014 Expectation: 4-8
Bielema’s debut wasn’t easy, as the Razorbacks went winless in conference play for the first time as a member of the SEC. Expectations were low in Fayetteville last season, but Arkansas lost its first six conference games by 10 or more points, including a 52-0 defeat at the hands of Alabama and a 52-7 loss to South Carolina. There were small signs of progress by the end of 2013, as the Razorbacks lost in overtime to Mississippi State and lost by four points at LSU. Bielema didn’t inherit much on the roster, so it will take time to rebuild. With one of the SEC’s top backfields, a promising sophomore tight end in Hunter Henry and two potential All-SEC linemen in Trey Flowers and Darius Philon, Arkansas should be more competitive in 2014. And a healthy year from quarterback Brandon Allen should help the offense improve after averaging only 20.7 points per game last season. After going winless in SEC play in 2013, a conference victory would be a reasonable expectation.
Butch Jones, Tennessee
2013 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
First Season Grade: B
2014 Expectation: 6-6
Considering the success of Tennessee in the 1990s, it seems odd to consider a 6-6 or 7-5 mark as a good year on Rocky Top. But that’s exactly the situation Jones finds himself in as the Volunteers are clearly in rebuild mode. Nine starters return from a Tennessee team that finished 5-7 last year and lost four out of its final five games. The Volunteers suffered massive personnel losses on the offensive and defensive lines, and both units could see a handful of freshmen taking major snaps. The personnel concerns are heavy, but the schedule is an even bigger hurdle. Tennessee plays Utah State and Oklahoma in non-conference play and catches Ole Miss and Alabama in crossover play. Just getting to a bowl would be a good season for Jones in Year 2.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
2013 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
First Season Grade: A
2014 Expectation: CFB Playoff
Malzahn set the bar high last season. The Tigers reached the national championship game after a 3-9 record under Gene Chizik in 2012 and lost to Florida State by only three points. Auburn certainly had good fortune on its side in 2013, using a returned missed field goal for a touchdown to beat Alabama, along with a tipped Hail Mary pass for a score to defeat Georgia. While the good fortune certainly helped, this team was certainly worthy of its No. 2 rank at the end of the season. A year after reaching the national title, Auburn’s goal is simple: Win it all in 2014. With 12 starters back, expect Malzahn’s team to be in the thick of the playoff race all season. One potential pitfall for the Tigers will be the lines of scrimmage, especially after injuries to end Carl Lawson and guard Alex Kozan. The schedule is challenging, but Auburn has the offensive firepower to win the SEC once again.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky
2013 Record: 2-10 (0-8)
First Season Grade: C
2014 Expectation: 4-8
Stoops is not an easy coach to grade, and an incomplete might be more appropriate than a C rating from 2013. The former Florida State defensive coordinator didn’t inherit much to work with, and the Wildcats finished winless in SEC play for the second consecutive year. But despite the 2-10 record, there are plenty of positives in Lexington headed into 2014. Stoops has upgraded the roster talent through recruiting, and a good chunk of the team’s core is set to return in 2015. Small gains in the win column should be expected. And don’t be surprised if Kentucky finds a way to steal a victory in SEC play.
Oklahoma and receiver Dorial Green-Beckham received some bad news on Friday, as the NCAA denied the former Missouri standout’s request for immediate eligibility in 2014.
Green-Beckham will sit out 2014 due to NCAA transfer rules and will be eligible to play for the Sooners in 2015.
Green-Beckham was dismissed from Missouri in mid-April after an off-the-field incident and was hoping to use the run-off rule to be eligible in 2014.
Even though there was some optimism about DGB’s hopes of getting a waiver to play in 2014, the standout receiver will be sidelined until 2015.
BREAKING: OU announces Dorial Green-Beckham's eligibility waiver has been denied by the NCAA. He won't play in 2014.— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) August 23, 2014
College football’s 2014 season is slated to begin on Wednesday, Aug. 27, and the first playoff format of the FBS concludes on Jan. 12 with the national championship game. And with kickoff right around the corner, it’s time to finalize predictions, picks and rankings for the upcoming year.
Athlon’s editors met before the preseason magazine was released to iron out the predictions for the upcoming year, but there wasn’t a consensus on every conference title race or top 25 rankings.
From the ACC to the Sun Belt, there was plenty of disagreement from the staff on conference winners or the predicted order of finish.
In addition to the predicted winners of the conferences, Athlon’s editors also project the four teams to make the playoff and a national champion.
* Indicates projected champion of league's conference title game.
Predicting CFB's Conferences, Playoff and National Champion
Listen to Athlon's Cover 2 Podcast: Predicting the 2014 season
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The Big Ten may have slipped slightly in terms of conference pecking order over the last couple of seasons, but there’s no shortage of talent returning to the league in 2014. Of course, the season-ending shoulder injury to Braxton Miller eliminates one of the league’s Heisman contenders, but Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is a first-team All-American by Athlon Sports, and there’s star power on defense with ends Shilique Calhoun and Randy Gregory.
In order to rank the top 15 players in the Big Ten for 2014, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2014 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2014.
A point system was assigned, giving 15 points for a player with a No. 1 vote, 14 points for a No. 2 vote, 13 points for a No. 3 vote and so on.
Joe Rexrode (@JoeRexrode), Detroit Free Press
Jeff Potrykus (@JayPo1961), JSOnline.com
Brandon Cavanaugh (@Eightlaces), HuskerCorner.com
Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke), MaizeNBrew.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch), AthlonSports.com
Mike Fiammetta (@B5Q), Bucky's 5th Quarter
Mike Babcock (@MDBabs), HailVarsity.com
Jim Weber (@JimMWeber), LostLettermen.com
Pete Volk (@Pete_Volk), TestudoTimes.com
Kevin Noon (@Kevin_Noon), BuckeyeGrove.com
Kevin Trahan (@K_Trahan), InsideNU.com
Ross Binder (@BHGP), BlackHeartGoldPants.com
Travis Miller (@HammerAndRails) HammerandRails.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
David Fox (@DavidFox615), AthlonSports.com
Ranking the Big Ten's Best Players for 2014 (Experts Poll)
|1||Melvin Gordon, RB||15||3||7||4||3||0||0||0||0||0||444|
|2||Shilique Calhoun, DE||5||7||3||7||8||1||1||0||0||0||405|
|3||Brandon Scherff, OT||4||8||4||5||4||2||1||2||0||1||397|
|4||Ameer Abdullah, RB||0||5||7||7||5||4||1||1||1||2||376|
|5||Randy Gregory, DE||6||4||8||3||3||3||1||2||0||0||374|
|6||Stefon Diggs, WR||2||1||2||1||2||7||6||1||2||5||301|
|7||Christian Hackenberg, QB||1||3||2||3||2||4||2||6||4||3||298|
|8||Michael Bennett, DT||0||1||0||1||1||6||4||2||2||2||204|
|9||Joey Bosa, DE||0||0||0||2||0||3||4||2||2||0||156|
|10||Kurtis Drummond, S||0||0||0||0||2||0||4||2||4||2||155|
|11||Connor Cook, QB||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||1||6||1||117|
|12||Devin Funchess, WR||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||3||3||114|
|13||Carl Davis, DT||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||3||73|
|14||Jake Ryan, LB||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||3||1||1||66|
|15||Jeremy Langford, RB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0||2||62|
|16||Trae Waynes, CB||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||1||1||2||60|
|17||Noah Spence, DE||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||1||0||50|
|18||Rob Havenstein, OT||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||41|
|19||Tevin Coleman, RB||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||37|
|20||Kenny Bell, WR||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||1||0||0||36|
|21||Shane Wynn, WR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||27|
|22||Blake Countess, CB||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||24|
|23||Jeff Heuerman, TE||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1||23|
|24||Devin Gardner, QB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||21|
|25||Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||18|
|26||Ibraheim Campbell, S||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||12|
|27||Jack Allen, OL||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||11|
|28||Taiwan Jones, LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7|
|29||Andre Monroe, DL||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7|
|30||David Cobb, RB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7|
|31||Jabrill Peppers, CB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5|
|32||Kyle Costigan, OL||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4|
|33||Corey Cooper, DB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4|
|34||Geno Lewis, WR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4|
|35||Jesse James, TE||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4|
|36||K. Martin-Manley, WR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|37||Darius Hamilton, DT||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|38||Maxx Williams, TE||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|39||Sean Davis, S||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|40||Mike Sadler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|41||Josh Ferguson, RB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|42||Matt Robinson, LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|43||Michael Geiger, K||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|44||Alex Lewis, OT||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|45||Maliek Collins, DT||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|46||Jordan Lucas, CB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
A Few Observations:
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had the most first-place votes (15), but the junior did not record a majority of No. 1 rankings among the voters. 18 other first-place votes were cast, including five for Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun.
* Nebraska claimed two of the top five players in the experts poll.
* Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs recorded two first-place votes and ranked the highest among players from the conference’s two new teams (Maryland and Rutgers).
* Three Ohio State defensive linemen ranked among the top 17 players.
* Four Michigan State defenders received votes, including two in the top 10.
* 13 teams had players receive votes. Purdue was the only team not to have a player receive a top 15 vote.
Florida State snapped the SEC’s reign of dominance by defeating Auburn 34-31 in the national championship last season, and the Seminoles are set for another run at the title in 2014. Quarterback Jameis Winston headlines a deep roster, including a secondary and offensive line that should be the best in the nation. Florida State’s top competition is likely Clemson, a team that features standout defensive end Vic Beasley and a track record of success on offense under coordinator Chad Morris.
In order to rank the top 15 players in the ACC for 2014, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2014 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2014.
A point system was assigned, giving 15 points for a player with a No. 1 vote, 14 points for a No. 2 vote, 13 points for a No. 3 vote and so on.
Ryan Tice, (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
Ariya Massoudi, (@AriyaMassoudi), TomahawkNation.com
John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), NunesMagician.com
David Fox, (@DavidFox615), AthlonSports.com
Brian Favat, (@BCInterruption), BCInterruption.com
Ranking the ACC's Best Players for 2014 (Experts Poll)
|1||Jameis Winston, QB||31||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||465|
|2||Vic Beasley, DE||0||19||8||1||2||0||0||1||0||0||412|
|3||Duke Johnson, RB||0||7||9||5||5||2||0||1||1||0||367|
|4||Cameron Erving, OT||0||4||2||7||5||3||3||1||2||0||312|
|5||Kendall Fuller, CB||0||1||0||2||2||7||3||3||3||2||235|
|6||Rashad Greene, WR||0||0||1||3||3||2||2||5||2||1||232|
|7||Jamison Crowder, WR||0||0||5||4||3||2||1||2||0||1||225|
|8||Tyler Boyd, WR||0||0||1||1||0||1||4||4||2||2||170|
|9||Mario Edwards Jr., DE||0||0||1||2||2||1||1||2||2||2||161|
|10||Tre Jackson, OG||0||0||1||1||1||2||3||1||3||2||146|
|11||DeVante Parker, WR||0||0||1||1||1||0||2||2||0||3||135|
|12||Denzel Perryman, LB||0||0||0||1||1||1||4||0||3||2||129|
|13||P.J. Williams, CB||0||0||0||0||1||6||1||3||1||2||127|
|14||Anthony Harris, S||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||1||0||2||81|
|15||Luther Maddy, DT||0||0||0||0||1||1||1||0||1||4||77|
|16||Jalen Ramsey, S||0||0||0||1||0||1||1||1||1||2||74|
|17||Karlos Williams, RB||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||4||0||65|
|18||Nick O'Leary, TE||0||0||1||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||58|
|19||Ryan Switzer, WR||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||41|
|20||Ronald Darby, CB||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||1||33|
|21||Stephone Anthony, LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||32|
|22||Grady Jarrett, DT||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||1||1||31|
|23||Jeremy Cash, S||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||28|
|24||Laken Tomlinson, OG||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||13|
|25||Anthony Boone, QB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||11|
|26||Lorenzo Mauldin, DL/LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||10|
|27||Terrance Smith, LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7|
|28||Quayshawn Nealy, LB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||7|
|29||Josue Matias, OG||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||6|
|30||Kevin Parks, RB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5|
|31||Bobby Hart, OT||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5|
|32||Trey Edmunds, RB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4|
|33||Isaiah Johnson, S||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4|
|34||Marquise Williams, QB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|35||Andy Gallik, C||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|36||Jake Smith, OL||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|37||Jacoby Brissett, QB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|38||Charles Gaines, CB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|39||Kevin Johnson, CB||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|40||Shaq Mason, OG||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|41||Travis Rudolph, WR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
A Few Observations
* This poll reinforces just how loaded Florida State’s roster is for 2014. Jameis Winston is a clear No. 1 in the voting and five of the top 10 also represent the Seminoles.
* The Seminoles had 14 players receive votes in this experts poll.
* Four different Coastal teams had a player ranked in the top 10: Duke, Pittsburgh, Miami and Virginia Tech.
* There’s a clear drop in quarterback play for the ACC after Jameis Winston. Duke’s Anthony Boone recorded only 11 points, while North Carolina’s Marquise Williams received only three points.
* Four of the top 11 players were wide receivers: Rashad Greene, Jamison Crowder, Tyler Boyd and DeVante Parker.
Ranking the best college football players in the nation is an impossible task, but that’s exactly what Athlon Sports has set out to do with the start of the 2014 season less than 10 days away.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston takes the No. 1 spot in the player rankings, with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota a close No. 2. Winston and Mariota headline a deep group of quarterbacks in 2014, while there’s also a strong cast of options returning at defensive end, including USC’s Leonard Williams, Nebraska’s Randy Gregory and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun.
The criteria for the top 50 player rankings includes a variety of factors. Performance from previous years, pro potential, recruiting rankings, projection on 2014 and value to a team. While running backs are a key part of any team, they are not as important as a standout quarterback, left tackle, defensive end or shutdown cornerback.
With the variety of factors in mind, it’s also important to consider what’s ahead in 2014. Every year is a different case study. Expecting a player to replicate his output from one year to the next is unlikely, as each team has personnel losses, scheme changes or new coaches on the staff.
As with any list, there will be plenty of disagreement about Athlon’s top 50 players for 2014. However, keep in mind, the criteria includes a variety of factors and is not strictly based on last year’s stats. Projecting what’s ahead in 2014, position importance and pro potential should be weighed more than stats from previous years.
Projecting CFB's Top 50 Players for 2014
|1||Jameis Winston, QB||Tough to repeat '13 stats, but Winston the No. 1 QB in nation.|
|2||Marcus Mariota, QB||Back to full strength after late-season knee injury.|
|3||Todd Gurley, RB||Needs to stay healthy after limited 2013 season.|
|4||Andrus Peat, OT||Anchors rebuilt Stanford OL - top OL in CFB.|
|5||Leonard Williams, DL||Has 14 sacks over the last two seasons.|
|6||Bryce Petty, QB||Threw only 3 picks on 403 attempts last year.|
|7||Brett Hundley, QB||Still developing as passer, best yet to come.|
|8||Melvin Gordon, RB||Averaged nearly eight ypc on 206 carries in 2013.|
|9||Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB||Has earned back-to-back 1st team All-Pac-12 honors.|
|10||Vernon Hargreaves III, CB||Bright spot on Florida's disappointing 4-8 2013 season.|
|11||Cedric Ogbuehi, OT||Third straight A&M LT to be selected in first round of draft?|
|12||Brandon Scherff, OT||Expected to be a first-round pick in 2015.|
|13||Vic Beasley, DE||Last year's 23 TFL is No. 1 among returning defenders.|
|14||Randy Gregory, DE||Led Big Ten with 9.5 sacks last season.|
|15||Shilique Calhoun, DE||Earned Big Ten DL of the Year honors last year.|
|16||Christian Hackenberg, QB||Rising star in Happy Valley.|
|17||Myles Jack, LB||Expected to focus mostly on defense in 2014.|
|18||Amari Cooper, WR||Expected to bounce back after quiet 2013.|
|19||Landon Collins, S||Key presence with inexperienced Alabama CBs.|
|20||Ameer Abdullah, RB||Topped 100 yards in 11 out of 13 games last year.|
|21||Nelson Agholor, WR||Should have big season under new coach Steve Sarkisian.|
|22||Mario Edwards Jr., DE||The nation's most underrated defender?|
|23||Duke Johnson, RB||Suffered broken leg in early November last season.|
|24||Chris Jones, DL||Settled at DT last year and got better as year progressed.|
|25||Nick Marshall, QB||Expected to improve as a passer in second year under Malzahn.|
|26||Cameron Erving, OT||Converted DL is one of top offensive tackles in nation.|
|27||Eric Striker, LB||Primed for big season after recording three sacks vs. Alabama.|
|28||T.J. Yeldon, RB||No question about talent. Expect more Derrick Henry in '14.|
|29||Derrick Henry, RB||Expect a bigger role for Henry in 2014.|
|30||Kendall Fuller, CB||Intercepted six passes as true freshman.|
|31||Michael Bennett, DT||One of three potential All-Americans on OSU's DL.|
|32||Mike Davis, RB||Rushed for 100 yards in 6 out of first 7 games in 2013.|
|33||Jaylon Smith, LB||Started all 13 games as true freshman in 2013.|
|34||Robert Nkemdiche, DT||Ole Miss expecting big things from Nkemdiche this year.|
|35||Taylor Kelly, QB||Accounted for 4,243 total yards last season.|
|36||Stefon Diggs, WR||Electric all-purpose threat for Terps.|
|37||Tyler Boyd, WR||Caught 85 passes in standout freshman campaign.|
|38||Shaq Thompson, LB||Already All-Pac-12 LB. Could see time at RB.|
|39||P.J. Williams, CB||Nation's No. 1 secondary resides in Tallahassee.|
|40||Nick O'Leary, TE||Should see more passes his way in 2014.|
|41||O.J. Howard, TE||Averaged 19.2 yards per catch in 2013.|
|42||A'Shawn Robinson, DL||Versatile lineman coming off breakout freshman year.|
|43||Joey Bosa, DE||Teams with Noah Spence to form dynamic DE combo.|
|44||Tre Jackson, OG||Started 28 career games for Noles.|
|45||Tyler Lockett, WR||All-purpose threat is No. 1 WR in Big 12.|
|46||Rashad Greene, WR||Should be Winston's favorite target once again.|
|47||Antwan Goodley, WR||Averaged whopping 18.9 ypc in 2013.|
|48||Taysom Hill, QB||Dangerous dual-threat, improving passer.|
|49||Leonard Fournette, RB||Could have huge season behind stellar OL.|
|50||Rakeem Cato, QB||Has 91 TD tosses in three seasons.|
Next Up: Florida State CB Ronald Darby, Florida State S Jalen Ramsey, Oregon C Hroniss Grasu, Texas DE Cedric Reed, Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, Oregon State QB Sean Mannion, South Carolina OG A.J. Cann, Michigan State QB Connor Cook, Auburn C Reese Dismukes, LSU OT La'El Collins
Every college football team has personnel issues heading into the 2014 season. But some teams have roster concerns with national title implications. Whether it’s a quarterback battle, an open spot at defensive tackle or cornerback, every personnel concern is magnified in the race to win a national championship.
Florida State is college football’s defending national champion, and the Seminoles have few holes on a roster that might be the best in the nation this year. Replacing Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin at receiver is a tough task for coach Jimbo Fisher, but true freshman Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane look like future stars in Tallahassee. Finding replacements for defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan appears to be Fisher’s biggest task this fall.
And the personnel concerns among national title contenders aren’t just limited to Florida State. Alabama needs to settle its secondary and find a quarterback, while Auburn has concerns on both lines of scrimmage after preseason injuries. Oregon lost left tackle Tyler Johnstone due to injury this fall, and Michigan State must replace both starters at defensive tackle from last season.
What players could play a huge role in college football’s national championship picture? Athlon examined 10 key players to watch – some well-known names, as well as a few under-the-radar players at key positions for 2014.
10 Players Who Will Decide CFB’s National Title in 2014
Jacob Coker, QB, Alabama
Alabama’s biggest personnel concern could be its secondary, but this team needs to have stability under center to win another national title. Coker transferred from Florida State after spring practice and is eligible immediately after graduating in three years. The Alabama native completed 21 of 41 passes for 295 yards and one touchdown in two seasons of game action with the Seminoles and is being pushed by Blake Sims for the starting job this fall. Coker doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards every week, but in key games against Ole Miss, LSU and Auburn, can he make the necessary throws to lead Alabama to victory? With a strong defense and rushing attack, Coker won’t be asked to do much. However, his performance in key SEC contests could be the difference in Alabama winning the SEC or missing out on the college football playoff.
Shon Coleman, OT/LaDarius Owens, DE, Auburn
Auburn has been hit hard by the injury bug in the trenches this offseason. Defensive end Carl Lawson suffered an ACL injury in the spring and is expected to miss a significant chunk of the 2014 season. Guard Alex Kozan suffered a back injury and has been ruled out for the year. Kozan’s absence means Auburn will have a revamped left side of the line after tackle Greg Robinson left for the NFL. Kozan and Lawson are huge losses, as both players were slated to be All-SEC performers. Coleman is expected to win the left tackle job to replace Robinson, but he’s under extra scrutiny with the lost of Kozan. On the defensive side, Owens is the Tigers’ most experienced option at end, with sophomore Elijah Daniel and junior college recruits DaVonte Lambert and Devaroe Lawrence also factoring into the mix. In 14 games last season, Owens recorded 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The senior will be asked to increase his production in 2014, especially as the defense could be without Lawson (a top pass-rusher) for most of the season. Auburn's defense made key stops on third downs and inside the redzone last season, but this unit has to take a step forward in its development to ensure the Tigers reach the SEC title game once again.
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Florida State’s roster is arguably the best in the nation in 2014 and it’s hard to establish a (is there one?) glaring weaknesses. The receiving corps needs new targets to emerge with the departure of Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, and the punting situation is a concern. However, the defensive tackle position is the one position to watch this year. The Seminoles must replace standout Timmy Jernigan (left early for the NFL Draft), while Jacobbi McDaniel and Demonte McAllister expired their eligibility. Jernigan anchored the run defense in 2013, which limited opponents to just 118.7 yards per game in ACC contests last year. Goldman is slated to move from the outside to the interior to help replace Jernigan, and the junior has the size (320 pounds) to hold the point of the attack against opposing run offenses. The former five-star recruit has big shoes to fill in Jernigan’s place, and with little in the way of proven depth behind him, new coordinator Charles Kelly needs a big season from the Washington, D.C. native.
Wesley Green/Al Harris Jr./Carlos Lammons, CB, South Carolina
Even though the Gamecocks’ defensive line must be revamped due to the departures of Jadeveon Clowney, Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles, the biggest concern for coordinator Lorenzo Ward has to be the secondary. South Carolina lacks proven options at cornerback, and three incoming freshmen could see major snaps in 2014. Al Harris Jr., Wesley Green and Carlos Lammons were key pickups on the recruiting trail for Ward and coach Steve Spurrier, and it wouldn’t be a surprise for all three to make starts this year. With Texas A&M, East Carolina and Georgia through the first three weeks, South Carolina’s secondary and young defensive backs will be tested.
Joel Heath/Damon Knox, DT, Michigan State
The Spartans should have one of the nation’s top trios at defensive end with junior Shilique Calhoun, senior Marcus Rush and redshirt freshman Demetrius Cooper. Calhoun anchors a pass rush that recorded 22 sacks in Big Ten games last year but replicating that total in 2014 could largely depend on the development at defensive tackle. Tyler Hoover and Micajah Reynolds were unsung cogs on the defensive front in 2013 and are slated to be replaced by Knox and Heath in 2014. Heath played in nine games last season, while Knox recorded 22 tackles and one sack in 14 appearances. True freshmen Enoch Smith and Malik McDowell will push for time, but all four players will be needed in the rotation up front. In order to keep Calhoun attacking off the edge, the tackles have to hold their own and prevent teams from keying too much on the ends. If Heath and Knox can successfully replace Reynolds and Hoover, Michigan State’s defensive line should be among the best in the nation once again.
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
Baylor’s explosive offense garnered most of the headlines last season, but the turnaround on defense was just as critical to winning the Big 12 championship. The Bears allowed only 4.8 yards per play in conference games in 2013 and held league opponents to 25.7 points per game. Only four starters return for 2013, and coordinator Phil Bennett has to fill three spots in the secondary. Howard played in 13 games as a reserve last season and recorded five tackles and one interception. The sophomore has good size (6-foot-2) and speed to become a shutdown corner for the Bears. Baylor’s front seven should be solid, but Howard’s (and other new starters in secondary) development will be critical to keeping the Bears in the mix for a spot in the playoff. With quarterback play expected to improve in the Big 12 this year, it’s even more critical for Howard to assert himself as the team’s No. 1 cover option.
Jordon James, RB, UCLA
With 14 returning starters from a team that went 10-3 last season, the expectations are high for UCLA entering 2014. The Bruins are picked by some to win the Pac-12 and should be in the mix for a playoff spot if they can claim a conference title. UCLA isn’t without flaws, as its offensive line needs to play better, and the defense must find a replacement for standout linebacker Anthony Barr. Quarterback Brett Hundley led the team with 160 rushing attempts last season, while James ranked third with 101 carries. Keeping Hundley healthy is critical to UCLA’s title hopes, and coordinator Noel Mazzone needs to find more playmakers to take the pressure off of his junior quarterback. James opened 2013 with three consecutive 100-yard efforts but suffered an ankle injury early in the year and never appeared to be at full strength the rest of the way. If James is capable of handling 20-25 carries per game, it will allow Mazzone to save Hundley from unnecessary wear and tear.
Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma
Was Knight’s standout performance against Alabama a sign of things to come? In Oklahoma’s 45-31 upset win over the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl, Knight gashed Alabama’s secondary for 348 yards and four scores. Prior to the bowl, Knight had just five touchdown passes over his previous seven appearances. While Knight’s one-game performance is gaining all of the offseason headlines, let’s not overlook his output against Kansas State (171 passing yards, 82 rushing yards) from Nov. 23. The sophomore certainly has room to develop and will benefit from having a clear path to the starting job after battling with Blake Bell last season. With Oklahoma possessing one of the Big 12’s top defenses, Knight doesn’t have to throw for 300 yards every week for the Sooners to reach the college football playoff. However, if Oklahoma is to make the leap from fringe contender to national champion, Knight has to take a take step forward in his development over the course of the season.
Damian Swann, CB, Georgia
Senior quarterback Hutson Mason also deserves a mention in this space, but Georgia’s secondary is the bigger concern heading into 2014. This unit ranked No. 84 nationally in pass efficiency defense and intercepted a SEC-low two passes in conference games in 2013. New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is revamping the defensive backfield and plans to play a handful of young players in 2014. Swann is the team’s most experienced option at cornerback with 28 career starts under his belt. The senior will have a handful of new faces surrounding him this year, which means Swann has to be a leader for the secondary and handle most of the duties against opposing team’s top receivers. With a front seven that should be one of the best in the SEC, Georgia’s secondary has plenty of help. However, Swann and his defensive backfield mates have to rebound after a tough 2014 season.
Andre Yruretagoyena, OT, Oregon
Yruretagoyena was slated to work as a backup tackle this year, but an injury to left tackle Tyler Johnstone pressed the junior into the starting lineup. Johnstone’s absence is a huge blow for Oregon’s offense, as the Arizona native started 26 games from 2012-13 and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection for 2014 by Athlon Sports. The Ducks were slated to have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines this year, especially if the play of guards Hamani Stevens and Cameron Hunt improved after an inconsistent 2013. Yruretagoyena does not have a career start but played in eight games last season. The Arizona native was considered a four-star recruit in the 2011 signing class and ranked as the No. 85 prospect in the 247Sports Composite. Yruretagoyena will be thrown into the fire right away in 2014, as Oregon has a huge test against Michigan State – and All-America defensive end Shilique Calhoun – in Week 2. Protecting the blindside of Mariota is crucial to the Ducks’ Pac-12 title hopes.
Notre Dame’s uniforms haven’t changed much in its program history, but the Fighting Irish break out an alternate look for the Shamrock Series every year.
On Tuesday, the program unveiled its 2014 Shamrock Series uniforms for its Sept. 13 date against Purdue.
The special edition uniforms feature a helmet with the “ND” logo and alterations to the jersey and pants.
Here’s a look at Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series uniforms:
Notre Dame will wear interlocking "ND" on helmet for 1st time in its history on 9/13 pic.twitter.com/wGHgQ8XgGL— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) August 19, 2014
Ohio State’s playoff and Big Ten title hopes suffered a significant blow on Tuesday, as quarterback Braxton Miller was ruled out for the 2014 season as a result of a shoulder injury suffered at practice on Monday, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy.
Miller reportedly suffered the shoulder injury in a non-contact drill Monday. The senior had shoulder surgery during the spring and was slow to return to full work in Ohio State’s offense due to his recovery. Prior to his injury, Miller was being eased into a full workload for the opener against Navy.
The Buckeyes were projected to finish No. 3 by Athlon in the 2014 preseason magazine, but Miller’s injury will have a profound effect on the upcoming year.
Here’s a look at how Miller’s injury impacts the Big Ten, Ohio State, college football playoff and who is up next under center in Columbus.
What’s Next for Ohio State
The No. 1 priority for coach Urban Meyer and coordinator Tom Herman over the next 10 days is to get J.T. Barrett ready to play. The redshirt freshman recently passed Cardale Jones for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart and spent some time with the No. 1 offense due to Miller’s limited workload.
Barrett brings a similar skill set to the offense that Meyer and Herman were able to use with Miller. The Texas native is a dangerous runner and is regarded for his quick release in the passing game.
While Miller’s impact — one of the best quarterbacks in the nation — will be felt, Barrett is a talented option, and Ohio State isn’t short on skill talent. Barrett ranked as the No. 137 recruit in the 247Sports Composite in the 2013 signing class and spent 2013 learning under Miller and Kenny Guiton.
With Barrett likely to suffer a few growing pains in his first season under center, expect the Buckeyes to lean more on their defense and running backs. The back seven on defense needs to take a step forward under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, but the defensive line could be the best in the nation. And even though Carlos Hyde is no longer at running back, Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn are capable options on the ground.
Barrett’s mobility will be valuable with an offensive line that must replace four starters. Left tackle Taylor Decker is an All-Big Ten candidate, and guard Pat Elflein is a rising star after playing well against Michigan State in the conference title game.
Ohio State Can Still Contend
Yes, losing Miller is a huge loss. However, Ohio State’s Big Ten title hopes aren’t over. The Buckeyes own the Big Ten’s No. 1 roster (according to recruiting rankings), and coach Urban Meyer ranks as Athlon’s No. 2 coach. The two toughest games on Ohio State’s schedule — at Michigan State and at Penn State — are both past the midway point of the 2014 season.
With time for Barrett to develop until the showdown against Michigan State, along with an elite defensive line and crop of skill players, Ohio State is still slated to be a factor in the Big Ten. Prior to Miller’s injury, the Buckeyes were considered by most to be the favorites. But with Miller sidelined, the expectation only drops the No. 2 spot in the East Division and 10-11 wins is still a realistic goal.
Impact on Big Ten East
Michigan State is now the favorite in the East. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship last year and return 10 starters from a team that finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll. An offense that features quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford is set to improve after finishing No. 7 in the Big Ten in scoring last season. The defense allowed only 13.2 points per game in 2013 and returns a standout at each level.
While Miller’s injury would seem to benefit Michigan State the most in preseason predictions, this should allow Michigan and Penn State to close the gap in the division.
Impact on CFB Playoff
Ohio State was a popular pick for the college football playoff, but Miller’s injury adds another element of uncertainty to the new format. Florida State is a heavy favorite to claim one of the four spots, and the SEC champion — projected by Athlon to be Alabama — is expected to be a lock for the playoff. But what happens outside of those two spots? Can a 12-1 Michigan State team with a loss to Oregon rank in the top four? Assuming the Spartans beat Ohio State, how does Miller’s injury impact how the committee views the Buckeyes? Regardless of how much talent is still in Columbus, this is not the same team. How the committee will determine and view strength of schedule is up for debate, but Michigan State’s playoff hopes could take a hit without a win over a top-five (and Braxton Miller-led) Ohio State team.
If the Big Ten doesn’t have a playoff contender, this would help the odds of a two-loss Pac-12 team (with a strong schedule) or a second SEC team making it into the new four-team format.
What Happens Next for Braxton Miller?
With a redshirt year available, Miller could spend this season rehabbing his shoulder in Columbus for a chance to lead Ohio State into the playoff in 2015. However, Miller could choose to forego one more year in college and enter the 2015 draft.
Considering the slow recovery from shoulder surgery and the significant injury this fall, the odds of a return to Ohio State seem likely for the Ohio native.
If Miller returns in 2015, the Buckeyes would be one of the favorites once again for a spot in the playoffs. Ohio State could start only three seniors on defense and five on offense this year. A good chunk of the roster talent is in the sophomore and junior ranks in 2014, including skill talent at receiver and in the back seven on defense.
Even if Miller doesn’t return, Ohio State would be in good shape in 2015 with Barrett having a full year of starting experience.
While this injury is a significant setback to the Buckeyes’ national title hopes in 2014, whether it’s Miller or Barrett under center next year, Ohio State will be a factor for the top spot in 2015.