Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-2013-game-preview-and-prediction

Alabama begins its national title defense with a trip to a familiar destination – Atlanta. The Crimson Tide played and won two out of the last four SEC Championships in the Georgia Dome, including last year’s 32-28 thriller over Georgia.

Nick Saban’s team won’t be playing for a berth in the national championship in this trip to Atlanta, and the hype for this matchup has been a subdued. The Crimson Tide is a listed as a three-touchdown favorite in some locations, and Virginia Tech is dealing with a myriad of issues on offense.

The Hokies are coming off a 7-6 season but needed three wins in overtime to get bowl eligible. As a result of the lackluster record, coach Frank Beamer made some changes to his coaching staff. Former Auburn and Temple assistant Scot Loeffler was hired as Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator, Aaron Moorhead was brought aboard to coach the receivers and Jeff Grimes was appointed the new offensive line coach.

Virginia Tech and Alabama met in Atlanta to start the 2009 season, with the Crimson Tide earning a 34-24 victory. These two teams have played 12 times, and Alabama holds a commanding 11-1 series edge.

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

Three Things to Watch

A fresh start for Logan Thomas
After throwing for 3,013 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushing for 469 yards and 11 scores in 2011, Thomas was supposed to be the ACC’s next standout quarterback. Instead, Thomas regressed as a junior and finished with just 2,976 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The blame for the struggles on Virginia Tech’s offense doesn’t rest solely on Thomas’ shoulders, especially since the rushing attack, receiving corps and offensive line had their own issues. But if the Hokies want to hang around, the senior passer has to have a big game. Mobile quarterbacks have given a few headaches to Nick Saban’s defenses in recent years, and Thomas’ ability to move on the run could be crucial to keeping drives alive. Considering Virginia Tech’s small margin for error, the senior quarterback cannot afford any turnovers.

Alabama’s offensive line against Virginia Tech’s defensive front
If there’s one unit Alabama is concerned about, it has to be the offensive line. With Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack departing, it won’t be easy for the Crimson Tide to dominate opposing defenses like they did last year. However, this group should remain among the best in the nation, as left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a future first-round pick, and center Ryan Kelly played well in limited action last year. Virginia Tech’s defensive line is the strength of the team, led by senior end James Gayle and tackles Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy. With three new starters on the line, Alabama’s pass protection and run blocking will be tested by Virginia Tech’s active defensive line.

Who steps up at running back and wide receiver for the Hokies?
Although Logan Thomas needs to have a big game for Virginia Tech to pull off the upset, the performance of the running game and receiving corps is just as crucial. Last year’s leading rusher (J.C. Coleman) finished 2012 with just 492 yards and did not make the trip to Atlanta due to injury. With Coleman sidelined, the Hokies will turn to redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus on the ground. Redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford and sophomore Demitri Knowles are listed as the starters at receiver for Saturday’s game and the duo combined for 20 catches last year. Tight end Ryan Malleck was ruled out for the year this week due to a shoulder injury, which puts even more pressure on the three key players in the receiving corps: Knowles, Stanford and senior D.J. Coles.

Key Player: Jonathan McLaughlin, OT, Virginia Tech
Starting a true freshman at left tackle is usually enough to give any coach nightmares throughout game week. However, it’s an even bigger concern against a defense like Alabama. McLaughlin was rated as a three-star recruit by and secured the left tackle job this fall. Not only will the true freshman have his hands full against Alabama’s 3-4 defense, but he is also protecting quarterback Logan Thomas’ blindside.

Final Analysis

Even though this game has plenty of appeal in terms of name value, this is a huge mismatch. Virginia Tech just has too many new faces on offense to threaten Alabama. The Hokies could keep this one close in the first half, largely due to their advantage on the defensive line against the Crimson Tide’s offensive line. However, Virginia Tech’s offense will struggle to generate much production on the scoreboard, which allows Alabama to pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 13

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 10:01
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-georgia-bulldogs-2013-preview-and-prediction

It’s only Week 1 of the 2013 college football season, but the stakes are high for Georgia and Clemson in Death Valley on Saturday night. Both teams have national title aspirations, and while a loss won’t knock either out of the BCS Championship picture, it would be a pretty significant setback.

Clemson is a heavy favorite to win the ACC title, and the Tigers are coming off back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time since 1989-90. Coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in all of its ACC games in 2013, but the success of the season could rest with how the Tigers perform in matchups against the SEC – Georgia (Aug. 31) and at South Carolina (Nov. 30)

Georgia fell just short of playing for the national championship last year, and even with key personnel losses on defense, coach Mark Richt should have the Bulldogs back in the mix to win the SEC.

This is the first meeting between these two schools since 2003. Georgia has a five-game winning streak over Clemson, which includes a 30-0 win over the Tigers in 2003. These two teams have plenty of history on the gridiron, as they have met 62 overall times, with the first meeting in 1897.

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

Three Things to Watch

Georgia’s defense
The Bulldogs return only three starters on defense and will have their hands full against Clemson’s offense. Even though the front seven has been revamped and will miss linebacker Jarvis Jones and tackle John Jenkins, the secondary might be the biggest concern. Freshmen Brendan Langley and Tray Matthews are slated to start, while strong safety Connor Norman has played mostly on special teams over the last two years. After starting all 14 games in 2012, junior Damian Swann is the team’s most experienced defensive back and will be crucial to slowing down Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.

The Tigers averaged 41 points a game and 512.7 yards per contest last season, with the catalyst being senior quarterback (and Heisman Trophy contender) Tajh Boyd. The senior has four offensive line starters at his disposal, and senior Roderick McDowell lining up at running back. With Georgia’s defense in rebuild mode, the opportunity is there for Boyd to make a statement on Saturday night.

Clemson’s run defense against Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall
If you aren’t familiar with Georgia’s backfield, it’s time to take notice. Gurley and Marshall combined for 2,144 yards and 25 scores on the ground last season and will be running behind an offensive line that has all five starters back. Considering the question marks residing on the Bulldogs’ defense, controlling the clock and keeping Boyd on the sidelines might be Georgia’s best chance to win. Clemson allowed 155.9 yards per game on the ground last season. However, six starts are back in the front seven, and the line held their own against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. It’s impossible to control Gurley and Marshall for the full game. However, Clemson can’t afford to let the Bulldogs control the pace of the game by letting Gurley and Marshall chew up the clock.

Clemson’s cornerbacks
The Tigers finished fall practice without a definitive answer at cornerback. The depth chart indicates Garry Peters and Bashaud Breeland will share one spot, with Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins listed with an or on the other side. Clemson’s secondary ranked ninth in the ACC in pass efficiency defense and allowed 300 or more yards four times last year. Sophomore safety Travis Blanks is a future star, but the Tigers need more consistency from their cornerbacks. And this unit will be under fire on Saturday night, as Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray ranked second nationally in passing efficiency last year and will be throwing to a deep group of weapons, including Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Arthur Lynch.

Key Player: Roderick McDowell, RB, Clemson
Replacing Andre Ellington is no easy task, but Clemson feels confident in McDowell. The senior has waited his turn, spending the last three years as a backup and rushing for 674 yards on 129 carries. McDowell faces a rebuilt Georgia front seven on Saturday night, and with four starters back on Clemson’s offensive line, there should be running lanes for the senior to exploit. The Tigers don’t need 150 yards from McDowell, but with Georgia’s attacking 3-4 defense coming to Death Valley, his presence could be crucial on passes out of the backfield or blocking to keep defenders away from Boyd.

Final Analysis

There’s not much separating these two teams. Clemson’s home-field advantage should be a huge asset on Saturday night, but the Bulldogs can lean on the experience of quarterback Aaron Murray to navigate the crowd noise on offense. The Tigers’ passing attack will be tough for Georgia to stop, especially with the injuries the secondary has dealt with this fall. The Bulldogs have to find a way to disrupt Boyd’s timing, which will be difficult with the new faces in the front seven. One x-factor that could come into play is special teams. Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan may not play, which leaves junior Adam Erickson or sophomore Patrick Beless as the No. 1 kicker. And both players have yet to attempt a field goal in a game in their career.

This one is a tossup. But let’s give Georgia a slight edge, as the combination of Gurley and Marshall could be the difference in the fourth quarter.

Georgia 38, Clemson 34

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Big 12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
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Pac-12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
College Football's Pre-Week 1 Heisman Voting
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Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Bulldogs 2013 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-tcu-horned-frogs-2013-preview-and-prediction

Week 1 of the college football season doesn’t have a ton of marquee matchups, but there should be plenty of intrigue when LSU and TCU meet in Arlington, Texas on Saturday night.

Adding to the interest level for Saturday night’s game is a little gamesmanship between the two head coaches. LSU’s Les Miles has refused to indicate whether or not running back Jeremy Hill will be suspended for an off-the-field incident. And after announcing a two-game suspension for defensive end Devonte Fields earlier in the offseason, TCU coach Gary Patterson has indicated he will dress and appear on the sidelines during the game. Fields isn’t expected to play, but the mind games for a huge non-conference matchup were in full effect this week.

For the second time in three years, LSU opens a season with a neutral site affair in Arlington. The Tigers defeated Oregon 40-27 in 2011, which helped to key a run to the national championship.

These two teams have met eight times, with LSU owning a 5-2-1 series edge. The Horned Frogs and Tigers have not played since 1968.

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

Three Things to Watch

Casey Pachall’s return to the starting lineup
TCU coach Gary Patterson has remained coy on his choice to start at quarterback on Saturday night, but all signs point to Casey Pachall returning to the lineup. The senior missed most of last year due to a suspension and was pushed by backup Trevone Boykin for the No. 1 spot this offseason. Pachall is the better passer, but Boykin’s mobility could be an asset against LSU’s defense. How rusty will Pachall be in his return to the starting lineup? With plenty of talent at receiver and running back, Pachall doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards. But with a fast and athletic defense like LSU waiting to pounce, the senior has to be smart and efficient in his return to the lineup.

TCU’s pass rush
Although Fields will be on the sidelines for this game, the sophomore is not expected to play. And there’s no question TCU will miss his presence off the edge. Stansly Maponga left for the NFL after 2012, and with Fields suspended, defensive tackles Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter are the top returning sack men (3.5 last year) for the Horned Frogs. Senior Jon Koontz, junior Matt Anderson and sophomores James McFarland and Josh Carraway will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders as they try to generate a pass rush and replace Fields’ production for the first two games of 2013. 

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger
Mettenberger had his share of ups and downs in 2012, finishing the year with 2,609 passing yards and 12 scores. More is expected out of the senior in 2013, as former NFL coordinator Cam Cameron was brought aboard to improve the offense. Mettenberger showed signs of promise last year when he threw for 298 yards against Alabama but finished the year by throwing for just 120 yards in the bowl loss to Clemson. Mettenberger isn’t short on talent or capable playmakers at receiver, so there’s plenty of pressure on him to deliver in 2013. TCU’s pass rush will miss Fields, but the secondary is one of the nation’s best. Is Mettenberger ready to step up in 2013? Saturday night should give the LSU coaching staff a good idea of just how far along the senior has improved since last year. 

Key Player: TCU’s offensive line
We will cheat just a bit here and list an entire unit instead of one player. TCU’s offensive line was shaky at times last year, allowing 2.2 sacks a game. Only two starters are back this season, and starting tackle Tayo Fabuluje decided to leave the team in fall practice. LSU’s defensive line will have four new starters but isn’t short on talent. Tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson will be a handful, and ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter are athletic and fast off the edge. Can TCU’s offensive line give Pachall time to throw and open up lanes for its running backs?

Final Analysis

Despite the new faces stepping into the lineup, LSU is still one of the top 10-15 teams in college football. TCU is one of the frontrunners to win the Big 12, but the Horned Frogs might be a bigger mystery than the Tigers in Week 1. How will Pachall perform? Can the offensive line match up against LSU’s defense line? TCU’s defense will make life difficult for Mettenberger and the rest of the Tigers’ offense. However, LSU does just enough on that side of the ball to edge the Horned Frogs. 

Prediction: LSU 27, TCU 20

LSU Tigers vs. TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, August 31, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ucf-qb-blake-bortles-throws-crazy-td-pass-against-akron

UCF-Akron wasn’t much of a game on Thursday night, as the Knights rolled to an easy 38-7 win in the opener.

However, the game provided one of the weekend’s top plays, as UCF quarterback Blake Bortles had the ball slip out of his hand, then proceeded to throw a 39-yard touchdown to receiver J.J. Worton.


Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/unc-takes-cheap-shot-jadeveon-clowney

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney didn’t make a huge impact on the stat sheet on Thursday night (three tackles), but the junior was around the line of scrimmage most of the night. Clowney’s presence altered North Carolina’s gameplan from the first snap, as the Tar Heels did their best to avoid No. 7.

North Carolina’s offensive line did a decent job of keeping quarterback Bryn Renner upright, but the Tar Heels draw a negative grade for this cheap shot on Clowney. Kiaro Holts appears to be the lineman in the SB Nation gif, as he dives at Clowney’s knees well after Renner has thrown the pass. The junior defensive end did not suffer an injury and stayed in the game after the shot from Holts.


Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-start-baker-mayfield-qb-against-smu

With Michael Brewer nursing a back injury, Texas Tech had a difficult decision to make at quarterback with two inexperienced options vying for snaps. But according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter, Red Raiders have selected true freshman (and walk-on) Baker Mayfield to start on Friday night against SMU.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury had only two options to choose from, with neither quarterback having any experience on the FBS level. However, Webb and Mayfield had all fall to work with the top two units on offense, and both have impressive high school pedigrees.

Mayfield is a walk-on, but he led Lake Travis to a 25-2 mark as the school’s starting quarterback. The freshman threw for 3,788 yards and 45 scores in his first year as a starting quarterback in high school.

Webb joined the team in time for spring practice and completed 17 of 30 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown in Texas Tech’s spring game.

Brewer is out indefinitely with a back injury, so it will be Mayfield and Webb battling for snaps for the foreseeable future. Kingsbury is certainly capable of getting production from anyone under center, but the Red Raiders’ offense will be a work in progress with a freshman quarterback running the offense.

Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 10:50
Path: /college-football/washington-te-austin-seferian-jenkins-suspended-opener

Washington has a huge game against Boise State on Saturday night, and it appears the Huskies will be without one of their top weapons. According to Adam Jude of The Seattle Times, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be suspended for the opener.

The junior pled guilty to a drunk driving charge in July and was forced to pay a $695 fine and spend one night in jail. Seferian-Jenkins will be missed against Boise State, especially after he caught six passes for 61 yards and one touchdown in the bowl loss to the Broncos.

In his first two years at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins caught 110 passes for 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Seferian-Jenkins is the No. 1 tight end in college football, and his suspension is a huge blow to a Washington offense that hopes to get back on track after finishing ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring offense last year.


Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Suspended For Opener
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-29


Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, August 29th

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples says the NCAA would be better off letting Johnny Manziel play than enforce the letter of the law.

Texas A&M may turn to Kenny Hill as its starting quarterback (at least for a half) over Matt Joeckel. Here's an interesting backstory on the freshman quarterback.

The Wall Street Journal has an awesome graphic on college football's grid of shame.

Saturday Down South looks at the most-improved players in the SEC for 2013. And a look at the SEC's toughest venues.

Alex Collins has garnered plenty of preseason attention, but Jonathan Williams is still the starter for Arkansas.

Miami has some intriguing options to rush the passer this year.

Bryce Petty is ready for assume the reins for Baylor's offense.

James White will start at running back for Wisconsin, but Melvin Gordon is going to receive plenty of carries. Bucky's 5th Quarter also takes a look at the Badgers' defense in 2013. 

Nebraska plans to redshirt a running back that was in the mix for playing time this fall.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall isn't happy with his backup quarterbacks.

Ohio State has moved an offensive lineman to the defensive side to help with depth.

Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 14:20
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-unveils-new-white-helmets-week-1

Cincinnati opens the Tommy Tuberville era with a tough matchup against Purdue. But the Bearcats will break out a new helmet for Saturday’s game, choosing to ditch their traditional black scheme for a white version.

Check out the helmets Cincinnati will wear this Saturday:

Cincinnati Unveils New White Helmets for Week 1
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 13:43
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-unveils-new-helmets-week-1

Mississippi State has a tough opener in Houston against Oklahoma State this Saturday. The Bulldogs are a double-digit underdog for this week’s game and need a big game from quarterback Tyler Russell to beat the Cowboys.

Mississippi State will wear a new helmet for Saturday’s game, which was unveiled through coach Dan Mullen’s twitter account this week:


Mississippi State Unveils New Helmets for Week 1
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 13:06
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-ole-miss-rebels-2013-preview-and-prediction

The only conference game in the SEC for Week 1 takes place in Nashville. Vanderbilt hosts Ole Miss in a key early season matchup on Thursday night. The Commodores opened SEC play on Thursday night last year but lost 17-13 to South Carolina.

Both teams – for different reasons – have been in the spotlight this offseason. Vanderbilt is dealing with the fallout from an off-the-field scandal involving four former players and suspended receiver Chris Boyd.

In Oxford, the Rebels reeled in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and hope to make another jump in the SEC standings in 2013. Coach Hugh Freeze brought dramatic improvement to Ole Miss last year, and the addition of a top-10 recruiting class will immediately help address a lack of depth.

Vanderbilt has won five out of the last six meetings against Ole Miss, including a 27-26 thriller in Oxford last year. The Commodores also enter this game riding a four-game winning streak in SEC play.

Three Things to Watch

Quarterback play
Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels made one start last season, throwing for 195 yards and one touchdown in a win over Presbyterian. But the senior has attempted just three passes in SEC play, and won’t have the services of Boyd for this game. Carta-Samuels started two years at Wyoming before transferring to Vanderbilt, so he won’t be intimated by making a Thursday night debut in the SEC. With a solid defense and rushing attack, the Commodores won’t need Carta-Samuels to win the game. However, he has to avoid turnovers against an Ole Miss defense that generated 28 last year.

On the Ole Miss sideline, there’s plenty of anxiety about Bo Wallace. In his first season with the Rebels last year, Wallace threw for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 390 yards and eight scores. However, Wallace also tossed 17 picks and had shoulder surgery after the bowl win over Pittsburgh. Although all signs point to a full recovery by Wallace, Missouri’s James Franklin had shoulder surgery last year and was never 100 percent. Vanderbilt’s secondary is one of the best in the SEC, so this should be a good test for Wallace and his right shoulder.   

Stepping up at Receiver
Both teams will be without key pieces in the receiving corps. Boyd is suspended for Vanderbilt, while Ole Miss lost Vince Sanders to a collarbone injury in fall camp. Neither team has a standout option at tight end, but the Rebels have more depth at receiver. True freshman Laquon Treadwell was a huge catch on the recruiting trail and is expected to start on Thursday night. Ole Miss also has another proven option to fill Sanders’ role in senior Ja-Mes Logan.

But who steps up for Vanderbilt? Is it senior Jonathan Krause or freshman Jordan Cunningham? Senior Jordan Matthews is one of the nation’s best receivers, but he will see plenty of extra attention from Ole Miss’ secondary unless Krause, Cunningham or someone else emerges as a reliable target.

Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche
The nation’s No. 1 recruit didn’t disappoint in fall practice, securing a starting spot for Thursday night’s game. Vanderbilt’s offensive line has made considerable progress over the last few seasons, with senior tackle Wesley Johnson one of the most underrated players in the SEC. And if Nkemdiche isn’t matched up against Johnson, he will likely face junior Andrew Bridges, who has 13 starts under his belt. It’s unrealistic to expect the true freshman to dominate the line of scrimmage in his first game. But Nkemdiche is a difference maker for Ole Miss and should play a key role in the outcome of Thursday night’s matchup.

Key Player: Wesley Tate, RB, Vanderbilt
Zac Stacy leaves behind big shoes to fill in the Vanderbilt backfield. Brian Kimbrow and Wesley Tate should be a solid one-two combination for coach James Franklin, but Tate is expected to be the workhorse this year. The senior has 542 yards and nine scores in his career and has 39 receptions for 328 yards. With Boyd suspended, Tate could play a key role in the passing attack. Even though Carta-Samuels has experience, Vanderbilt doesn’t want to ask too much of him in his first start in the SEC. Expect to see plenty of Tate on Thursday night. 

Final Analysis

These two teams are essentially a mirror image of each other. Thanks to home-run hires at head coach, both programs are on the rise in the SEC. Both coaching staffs have quarterback concerns heading into this game. And both offenses will be missing the No. 2 receiver from last year.

There’s not much separation between the Commodores and Rebels, but with the uncertainty over Wallace’s shoulder, and this game in Nashville, a slight edge goes to Vanderbilt. 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 24, Ole Miss 20

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Pac-12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
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Top 10 Games of Week 1

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Ole Miss Rebels 2013 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-tar-heels-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction

College football’s 2013 season kicks off with an ACC-SEC matchup between North Carolina and South Carolina. The Tar Heels were ineligible to play in the postseason last year but compiled an impressive 8-4 record in coach Larry Fedora’s first year. The Gamecocks went 11-2 in 2012, defeating Georgia and rival Clemson in impressive fashion.

Even though both teams are coming off a good season, the stakes are even higher in 2013. South Carolina’s schedule should allow it to be a factor in the national title conversation. North Carolina is one of the frontrunners to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and could improve on last year’s 8-4 mark.  

These two teams have played only once since 1992, with South Carolina winning 21-15 in 2007. The Tar Heels lost their last game against an SEC opponent, dropping a 30-24 contest to LSU in Atlanta in 2010.

Three Things to Watch

North Carolina’s offensive line
The Tar Heels had one of the ACC’s best offensive lines last season, allowing less than one sack per game and paving the way for running backs to average 5.1 yards per carry. However, three new starters will step into the lineup on Thursday night. Guard Jonathan Cooper was the biggest loss for North Carolina, but left tackle James Hurst is one of the ACC’s best linemen, and center Russell Bodine started all 12 games last year and was named to the Rimington watch list (nation’s best center) for 2013. Hurst and Bodine is a good place to start the rebuilding effort up front, but the rest of the line will be under pressure against South Carolina’s defensive line, which is arguably the best in college football with All-American Jadeveon Clowney leading the way off the edge. Guards Caleb Peterson (redshirt freshman) and Landon Turner (sophomore) have very little experience, and right tackle Jon Heck redshirted last year. North Carolina has good size in the trenches, but this is a huge test for a revamped line in the first game of the year.

Dylan Thompson or Connor Shaw?
South Carolina has two quarterbacks its feels comfortable with, and coach Steve Spurrier has hinted he plans on getting both on the field at the same time. Connor Shaw threw for 1,956 yards and 17 scores last season, while Dylan Thompson threw for 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns. Shaw is the better runner, recording 435 yards and three scores on 131 attempts. Whether it’s Shaw or Thompson at quarterback, South Carolina has to find a couple of reliable receivers. Bruce Ellington is questionable to play with a hamstring injury, which means Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland and Nick Jones needs to step up for the Gamecocks’ passing attack. There’s no question South Carolina can win with both quarterbacks. But it’s uncertain how this quarterback rotation or depth chart will play out in 2013. North Carolina’s defense struggled to stop the pass last year, and even if Ellington is sidelined, stopping Thompson and Shaw is a tough assignment.

Setting the tempo
One way for North Carolina to neutralize South Carolina’s advantage in the trenches is with tempo. The Tar Heels averaged 75 plays a game last season, which is 10 more than the Gamecocks averaged on offense in 2012. With another offseason to learn Fedora’s offense, North Carolina should pickup the tempo even more in 2013. And if the Tar Heels can keep South Carolina’s defense on the field, it should help to wear down some of the linemen, allowing Renner more time to throw in the pocket.

Key Player: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
South Carolina is deep and talented on the defensive line, but the linebacking corps will feature three new starters this year. Ebron’s ability to work the middle of the field to take advantage of the inexperienced defenders could be crucial in this matchup. The junior caught 40 passes for 625 yards and four scores last season, and the coaching staff wants him to be even more involved with the offense in 2013. Thursday night would be a good place for Ebron to deliver.

Final Analysis

If North Carolina can dictate the tempo and wear out South Carolina’s defense, then Fedora’s team will have a chance to win. However, the Gamecocks offense will present plenty of problems for the Tar Heels. Thompson and Shaw are capable of leading this offense on scoring drives, while running back Mike Davis is a rising star. Expect North Carolina to move the ball at times, but South Carolina’s defense will be too much in the end.

South Carolina 31, North Carolina 23

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North Carolina Tar Heels vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 09:32
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-week-1-upset-predictions

Week 1 of the college football season officially kicks off on Thursday night, headlined by an intriguing non-conference matchup between North Carolina and South Carolina, along with a key SEC contest in Nashville with Vanderbilt hosting Ole Miss. But that’s not all of the action this weekend. Clemson-Georgia, LSU-TCU and Virginia Tech-Alabama are just a few of the other big matchups for Week 1. The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.

College Football's Week 1 Upset Predictions

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Boise State (+3.5) over Washington
Considering the low spread, it’s hard to call this one an upset. But I’m short on other choices, so Boise State is the pick. The Broncos beat Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl, and Chris Petersen’s team returns a good chunk of its core from last year. The offense should be better in quarterback Joe Southwick’s second season, and the defense returns five starters from a unit that ranked 12th nationally in fewest yards allowed. This matchup is a huge game for both teams. A win by Boise State will put it in the driver’s seat to make another run at an at-large spot in a BCS bowl. For Washington, this will be the first game in the newly renovated Husky Stadium, and with a challenging schedule, the contest is a must-win if the Huskies want to win more than seven games. Boise State’s secondary is a concern, but Washington’s offensive line may not give quarterback Keith Price enough time to throw for the passing attack to exploit an inexperienced pass defense. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Louisiana-Lafayette over Arkansas (-10.5)
A disclaimer: When we do these upset picks each week, I’m going to be bold. We’re supposed to pick any upset, but where’s the risk (and fun) in picking two-point underdog to win? I’m going to try to focus on upsets with a point spread of at least a touchdown. Go big or go home, right? That’s why I’ve picked Louisiana-Lafayette over Arkansas. The Razorbacks won’t be the mess they were early last season under John L. Smith, but they won’t be that good either. Junior quarterback Terrence Broadway finished last season on a hot streak and could cause similar problems ULM’s Kolton Browning did for Arkansas last season. No one would say the Sun Belt is gaining on any major conference, but the good Sun Belt teams are beating the bad SEC teams at a rate we haven’t seen before. This is one the Sun Belt can win.

Mark Ross: North Carolina (+11.5) over South Carolina
Yes, this game is in Columbia, the home team hails from the SEC, has the one-man wrecking crew named Jadeveon Clowney and a pretty stout defense over all. However, I'm a little more skeptical of the Gamecocks' offense whereas North Carolina's attack is all about tempo. Unless SC just completely shuts down the Tar Heels, NC's pace and the number of plays the offense runs alone could be enough to wear down, or at least slow down, Clowney and the rest of the pass rush. Granted, the Tar Heels will need most, if not all, of the breaks and bounces to go their way, especially on defense, but what's not to say the Gamecocks aren't looking ahead to next Saturday's game? It's probably the fan in me more than anything, but I'll take Renner and the Heels to steal one away from the home team.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will go bold with the Fightin' Ragin' Hudspeths to go into Fayetteville and win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. UL Lafayette is the frontrunner to win the Sun Belt and has a nice nucleus returning for 2013. The Hogs have proven they can be beaten at home by a small school from Louisiana, as Monroe did just that last year. If Arkansas is too excited about the start of the Bret Bielema era — or too distracted by @JenBielema twitter pictures — and not focused entirely on beating a very good Ragin' Cajuns team, they could start the new regime's era in very disappointing fashion.

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Big 12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Big Ten Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
College Football's Pre-Week 1 Heisman Voting
Top 10 Games of Week 1

College Football 2013 Week 1 Upset Predictions
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 09:27
Path: /college-football/acc-2013-week-1-preview-and-predictions

Most of the ACC should have an easy Week 1 victory, but there are a few marquee matchups that will play a role in the national and conference title picture.

The showdown between Georgia and Clemson is easily one of the best games of the opening weekend. Both teams should have no trouble moving the ball on suspect defenses. The Bulldogs came up just a few yards short of playing for the national championship last year, and if the Tigers want to remain in the hunt for the 2013 BCS title, they need to beat Georgia. And this matchup, along with North Carolina-South Carolina is a chance for the ACC to gain conference bragging rights and respect.

The only conference game in the ACC takes place in Pittsburgh. Florida State travels to the Steel City to welcome the Panthers to the ACC on Labor Day. This game also features the much anticipated debut of quarterback Jameis Winston, while the Panthers will turn to former Rutgers’ passer Tom Savage to start under center.

More Week 1 Previews: Big 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC

ACC Week 1 Game Power Rankings

1. Georgia (-2) at Clemson (8 ET, ABC)
It’s only Week 1, but the Georgia-Clemson matchup should factor prominently into the national title picture. Georgia has one of the toughest two-game stretches of any FBS team to start the year, so the Bulldogs can’t afford to get off to a slow start. Clemson should be favored in all of its ACC games in 2013, with its two matchups against SEC opponents – Georgia and South Carolina – the toughest ones on the schedule. There should be plenty of fireworks on Saturday night in Death Valley, as both teams averaged over 35 points a game last year. Clemson will miss running back Andre Ellington and receiver DeAndre Hopkins, but quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins is still one of the best duos in the nation. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray needs five touchdown passes to reach 100 in his career, and the senior has the best backfield in the nation at his disposal with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. There’s no question both teams should score plenty of points. But which can make stops on defense? Georgia is returns only three starters on defense and has been dealing with a few injuries in its secondary this fall. Clemson is in better shape in terms of returning personnel on defense, but the Tigers’ secondary is also an issue. And that's a big concern against Murray and the Bulldogs’ receiving corps.

2. Florida State (-10.5) at Pittsburgh (Monday, 8 ET, ESPN)
The Steel City is home to the only conference game between ACC opponents this week. Pittsburgh makes its ACC debut against Florida State – a team it has not played since 1983. While the Panthers’ introduction to the ACC is a huge storyline, this game features the debut of quarterback Jameis Winston for the Seminoles. Winston was the No. 1 quarterback in the 2012 signing class by Athlon Sports and was impressive throughout the offseason. Winston redshirted last year, so his first snap of college experience will come on the road. Although Winston has enormous upside, he is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, which should allow coach Jimbo Fisher to ease him into the game. The Seminoles have a new defensive coordinator (Jeremy Pruitt) and will shift to more 3-4 looks for this game. Even with a rebuilt defense and scheme, Pittsburgh could have trouble moving the ball on Florida State. Quarterback Tom Savage hasn’t played in a game since 2010, and running back Isaac Bennett has been dealing with injuries in fall camp. The Panthers return eight starters on defense, and this unit needs to force a few turnovers to help its offense on Monday night.

3. North Carolina (+12.5) at South Carolina (Thursday, 6 ET, ESPN)
In a bit of a surprise, these two schools have played only once since 1992. South Carolina won the last meeting 21-15 in Chapel Hill. This year, the stakes are much higher. The Gamecocks are considered one of the top threats to win the national title, while North Carolina is positioned to make a run at the ACC Championship. South Carolina’s strength is on defense, where end Jadeveon Clowney is a legitimate top-five Heisman candidate this year. Stopping Clowney is a tough obstacle for the Tar Heels, especially on an offensive line that loses guard Jonathan Cooper and two other starters. But left tackle James Hurst is one of the ACC’s best, and he will be tasked with protecting the blindside of quarterback Bryn Renner. North Carolina likes to go fast on offense, and its tempo could help slow down the South Carolina pass rush. Even if the Tar Heels move the ball on offense, their defense will have its hands full on Thursday night. The Gamecocks have two quarterbacks that could start, and running back Mike Davis is a rising star. North Carolina’s offense should have success, but its defense may not be able to stop South Carolina.

4. Alabama (-20) vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta) (5:30 ET, ESPN)
In terms of name value, this game has plenty of appeal. However, this matchup is shaping up to be a huge mismatch. Alabama begins its national title defense with 14 returning starters, including quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley. Virginia Tech stumbled to a 7-6 mark last year, and the Hokies have several question marks entering this contest. The offensive line struggled throughout fall camp, and a true freshman (Jonathan McLaughlin) is slated to start at left tackle. But the Hokies’ problems extend to the rushing attack and receivers, and quarterback Logan Thomas is still trying to get comfortable in new coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense. Mobile quarterbacks have given Alabama trouble in recent years, so Thomas will have to take advantage of his legs when things break down in the pocket. Virginia Tech’s defense is its best chance at winning this game. The Hokies have one of the best defenses in the nation and will be going up against a Crimson Tide offensive line with three new starters. Expect McCarron and receivers Amari Cooper and Chris Black to test a secondary with two talented freshmen expected to see major snaps (Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson).

5. Penn State (-8) vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.) (3:30 ET, ABC)
The Nittany Lions and Orange have recently rekindled a rivalry that was played nearly every season from 1922-90. After a hiatus from 1990-2007, Penn State claimed victories in 2008 and 2009 over Syracuse. Both teams enter this matchup in transition, as the Orange will be entering the ACC this season and are under the direction of a new coach (Scott Shafer). The Nittany Lions lose a few key leaders from last year’s team, and coach Bill O’Brien has yet to name a quarterback. Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson or highly touted true freshman Christian Hackenberg will start on Saturday. And whichever quarterback wins the job will be surrounded by a solid supporting cast, including All-Big Ten receiver Allen Robinson and three starters on the line. Syracuse also has a quarterback question mark, with Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen and sophomore Terrel Hunt vying for time. The Orange’s rushing attack – led by junior Jerome Smith – will test a Penn State defensive line that is thin on depth and returns just three starters in its front seven. With two new starting quarterbacks, a low-scoring game wouldn’t be a surprise.

6. BYU (-1) at Virginia (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
One of the opening week’s most-intriguing non-conference affairs takes place in Charlottesville. The Cougars have a challenging schedule ahead in their third season of Independence, while Virginia has its sights set on a rebound after going 4-8 last year. The strength of both teams is clearly on defense. BYU returns All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy and three other starters on defense from a unit that allowed only 14 points a game in 2012. The Cavaliers return seven starters on a defense that ranked fourth in the ACC in yards allowed. Points could be at a premium on Saturday, and both offenses can’t afford the ill-timed turnover. David Watford topped Greyson Lambert for the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback spot, and the sophomore’s mobility will present a challenge for BYU’s defense. New Cougars’ quarterback Taysom Hill played in six games last year before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of 2012. Both teams have good skill players, so whichever quarterback plays the best game will be the difference in this too close to call matchup.

7. Louisiana Tech (+14) at NC State (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
The Bulldogs and Wolfpack share plenty of similarities going into this game. Both programs have a new coach (Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech and Dave Doeren, NC State). And both teams have a new starting quarterback that transferred from a BCS conference. Doeren has been coy with his quarterback choice, but Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell is expected to start this Saturday. The Bulldogs will turn to former Texas Tech passer Scotty Young. This is a dangerous spot for NC State, especially with a new quarterback and schemes on both sides of the ball. Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon (1,194 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012) will test a Wolfpack run defense that allowed 154.8 yards per game last year. Louisiana Tech has only five returning starters, so this is a drastically different team than the one that went 9-3 last year.

8. Villanova (+16.5) at Boston College (12 ET, ESPN3)
The Eagles open the Steve Addazio era with a dangerous FCS opponent. The Wildcats ranked No. 9 in the first FCS poll for 2013 and return quarterback John Robertson (2,986 total yards and 28 scores last year). These two teams have not met since 1980, with Boston College holding a 29-15-1 series edge. The Eagles return plenty of experience with 16 returning starters, and quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Alex Amidon should be one of the top pass-catch combinations in the ACC. Addazio wants the Eagles to establish the run more in 2013, and senior running back Andre Williams will test a Villanova defense that allowed 156.2 yards per game last year. Don Brown comes to Boston College after coordinating one of the nation’s top defenses at Connecticut. The Eagles should be more aggressive on defense in 2013 and will make for an intriguing matchup against Villanova’s offense. 

9. FAU (+32) at Miami (Friday 8 ET, ESPNU)
Less than 50 miles separate these two campuses, but this will be the first matchup between Miami and FAU. Although they have never played before, the Hurricanes and Owls have some history. Legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger played a key role in developing both programs, and this is the first meeting in a three-game series. The Hurricanes are still under a cloud of NCAA uncertainty, but the talent is in place to finally win the ACC Coastal. FAU has plenty of question marks surrounding its team entering the second year under coach Carl Pelini. The Owls won two out of their last five games and return 13 starters. However, replacing quarterback Graham Wilbert has been a chore for the coaching staff this offseason, and three quarterbacks could play on Friday night. Junior college transfer JaQuez Johnson is expected to start, but freshmen Greg Hankerson and D.J. Juste could play. The Hurricanes shouldn’t have to sweat too much in this one, and the Owls’ defense will be a good opportunity for quarterback Stephen Morris to get acclimated to new coordinator James Coley.

10. FIU (+22) at Maryland (12:30 ET, FSN)
After a season filled with quarterback injuries, the Terrapins are hoping for better luck in the injury department in 2013. C.J. Brown will assume the No. 1 role after missing all of last year with a torn ACL, and the senior will be throwing to one of the nation’s top receivers in Stefon Diggs. Maryland’s defense ranked third in the ACC in yards allowed  in 2012, but only four starters return this season. While the defense will be a work in progress in 2013, FIU’s offense shouldn’t provide much of a test for the Terrapins. New FIU coach Ron Turner does have a solid quarterback to work with (Jake Medlock), but running back Kedrick Rhodes was dismissed from the team this offseason. The Panthers also return only two starters on defense. Maryland had a close call against William & Mary in last year’s opener, but Randy Edsall’s team shouldn’t struggle to beat FIU.

11. Elon (+46) at Georgia Tech (12 ET, ESPN3)
The Yellow Jackets have a light start to the 2013 season. Paul Johnson’s team hosts an Elon team coming off a 3-8 record last year and then has a bye week next Saturday. The Phoenix are led by former NC State assistant Jason Swepson and are 0-5 in previous matchups against FBS opponents. Elon’s rush defense allowed 229.6 yards per game last season and will have a difficult assignment trying to slow down Georgia Tech’s option attack. Quarterback Vad Lee will make his first start for the Yellow Jackets, and the sophomore is in for a breakout year after rushing for 544 yards and nine scores in a backup role last year. With Elon breaking in a new starting quarterback and struggling to stop the run on defense, Georgia Tech should have no trouble putting away the Phoenix early on Saturday.

12. North Carolina Central (+33) at Duke (3 ET, ESPN3)
The Blue Devils enter 2013 with momentum on their side. Duke is coming off its first bowl appearance since 1994, and the program is positioned to close the gap on the rest of the ACC. The Blue Devils open with a FCS opponent for the fifth time in six seasons. Quarterback Anthony Boone performed well in limited action last year, throwing for 212 yards and four touchdowns in a win against Virginia. The junior will make his second career start against North Carolina Central on Saturday night, a team Duke defeated 54-17 in 2012. The Eagles are coming off their first winning season (6-5) since 2007 but return only eight starters. North Carolina Central is also dealing with some offseason controversy, as Henry Frazier was fired in late August after an arrest for violating a domestic violence protective order. Duke should be able to have this one in control by halftime.

13. Presbyterian (+38) at Wake Forest (Thursday, 6:30 ET, ESPN3)
Injuries and youth played a role in the Demon Deacons’ struggles last year, so there’s plenty of optimism in Winston-Salem about returning to a bowl game in 2013. Wake Forest has 15 returning starters, and the offense received good news in the offseason when running back Josh Harris won an appeal to play his senior year. Presbyterian is one of the nation’s smallest colleges with an enrollment of 1,200, and the Blue Hose are just 8-36 over their last four years. It’s tough for Wake Forest to glean much from this game, especially after Presbyterian allowed 502.5 yards per game last season. However, the Demon Deacons are hoping to see progress from their offensive line after allowing 2.3 sacks a game in 2012. With an ACC game next week against Boston College, this should be a good tune-up for Wake Forest.

ACC Week 1 Pivotal Players

Clemson’s secondary
The Tigers’ depth chart didn’t give much clarity to the cornerback situation for the opener against Georgia. Both cornerback spots had a designed or between two players. Juniors Garry Peters, Bashaud Breeland and Martin Jenkins, along with senior Darius Robinson will be under fire on Saturday night. Georgia’s offense is led by senior quarterback Aaron Murray, and receiver Malcolm Mitchell is one of the best in the SEC. The Tigers gave up 240.3 yards per game through the air last year, and the secondary is one of the team’s biggest concerns for the opener.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
In order for the Tar Heels to hang around on Thursday night, Ebron needs to have a big game. As a sophomore last year, he grabbed 40 receptions for 625 yards and four touchdowns. Ebron will be matched up against a South Carolina defense that has three new starters at linebacker. Considering quarterback Bryn Renner will be under pressure from the Gamecocks’ defensive line, Ebron is a nice safety valve to have in the middle of the field. 

Jonathan McLaughlin, OT, Virginia Tech
A true freshman starting at left tackle is never a good feeling for any head coach. But that task is an even bigger nightmare when Alabama is the Week 1 opponent. McLaughlin won the starting left tackle job this fall and is tasked with protecting the blindside of quarterback Logan Thomas. Expect the Crimson Tide to use plenty of different looks to confuse McLaughlin on Saturday night.

Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
Regardless of whether it’s Drew Allen or Terrel Hunt at quarterback on Saturday, Syracuse should plan on a heavy dose of Smith. The junior rushed for 1,171 yards and three scores last season and will test a Penn State defensive line that is thin on proven depth. If Smith can keep the chains moving, he will take some of the pressure off of Syracuse’s inexperienced quarterbacks.

David Watford, QB, Virginia
There’s not much separating Virginia and BYU this Saturday, but both teams have some uncertainty at quarterback. Watford redshirted after throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman in 2011. BYU ranked third nationally in total defense last season and should be solid up front once again in 2013. However, the secondary has been hit hard by injuries and could be vulnerable to the Cavaliers’ passing attack.

ACC Week 1 Predictions

GameDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
UNC (+12) at South CarolinaSo. Carolina 24-14So. Carolina 28-13So. Carolina 31-23So. Carolina 28-15
Presbyterian (+38) at Wake ForestWake Forest 42-7Wake Forest 34-7Wake Forest 45-7Wake Forest 40-10
FAU (+32.5) at MiamiMiami 49-10Miami 41-17Miami 45-13Miami 43-10
Villanova (+16.5) at Boston CollegeBC 34-10BC 20-7BC 27-13BC 31-10
Elon (+46) at Georgia TechGa. Tech 52-10Ga. Tech 51-10Ga. Tech 51-10Ga. Tech 53-12
La. Tech (+14) at NC StateNC State 28-10NC State 30-17NC State 34-20NC State 31-14
FIU (+22) at MarylandMaryland 31-13Maryland 31-7Maryland 38-13Maryland 31-7
Penn State (-8) vs. SyracusePenn State 17-7Penn State 24-17Penn State 24-17Penn State 20-10
BYU (-1) at VirginiaBYU 21-10BYU 17-14BYU 27-24BYU 23-20
N.C. Central (+33) at DukeDuke 35-17Duke 34-13Duke 45-7Duke 34-10
Alabama (-20) vs. Virginia TechAlabama 41-14Alabama 41-14Alabama 34-13Alabama 34-14
Georgia (-2) at ClemsonClemson 38-35Georgia 34-31Georgia 38-34Georgia 34-27
FSU (-10.5) at PittsburghFSU 38-10FSU 31-14FSU 27-13FSU 24-7


ACC Week 1 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/johnny-manziel-suspended-half-against-rice-autograph-scandal

The autograph scandal involving Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is over. After meeting with the defending Heisman winner and reviewing the facts in the case, Manziel will only be suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Rice.

In addition to missing the first half of Saturday’s contest, Manziel will have to address the team about the lessons learned from this situation, and Texas A&M will have to revise its education about student-athlete autographs. Seriously, we aren’t making that up.

Manziel is expected to play in the second half against the Owls, but most importantly, the sophomore’s status isn’t in question for the huge SEC West showdown against Alabama on Sept. 14.

Texas A&M and NCAA released a joint statement concerning Manziel and the investigation surrounding his status:

Statement from Texas A&M University System Chancellor, John Sharp:

“I am proud of the way both Coach Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty. We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.”

Statement from Texas A&M Director of Athletics Eric Hyman:

“Texas A&M University would like to thank the NCAA staff, not only for its fairness and professionalism throughout this process, but also for the expediency of its actions.  Texas A&M is a proud member of the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference and, as such, we will continue to abide by the rules governing the association and the conference.  Texas A&M is committed to competing with integrity and sportsmanship, and we will continue to ensure strict compliance guidelines for our student-athletes, coaches and supporters.” 

Statement from NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon:

“Student-athletes are often asked for autographs from fans, but unfortunately, some individuals’ sole motivation in seeking an autograph is for resale. It is important that schools are cognizant and educate student-athletes about situations in which there is a strong likelihood that the autograph seeker plans to resell the items.”

Texas A&M and the NCAA will have no further comment on this matter.


Johnny Manziel Suspended for a Half Against Rice for Autograph Scandal
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 17:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-28

One more day until kickoff.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, August 28th

Oklahoma State's starting left tackle Devin Davis has been lost for the year due to a torn ACL. And here are some freshmen to watch from the Cowboys in 2013.

The Sporting News' Matt Hayes goes around the nation with his first-and-10 column. Also, some good insight in the Sporting News' weekly exit poll.

Lost Lettermen takes a look at five crazy Alabama fans.

The quarterback battle between Andrew Maxwell and Connor Cook is just beginning at Michigan State.

Louisville defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin was injured in a hit-and-run accident. 

USC athletic director Pat Haden thinks Lane Kiffin will pick a quarterback after the first or second game of 2013.

Georgia's secondary will be littered with inexperience against Clemson.

Boston College gained the services of a transfer this week.

Northern Illinois will be without its starting running back against Iowa.

West Virginia has decided to redshirt running back Andrew Buie in 2013.

Syracuse wants Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen to be ready to play against Penn State.

Two Georgia Tech receivers are suspended for the season opener.

Austyn Carta-Samuels took an interesting path to Vanderbilt.

Here are 10 coordinators to watch in 2013.

Pittsburgh may be without running back Isaac Bennett for its opener against Florida State.

Texas defensive tackle Ashton Dorsey has decided to transfer.

The Big Ten Network takes a look at some freshmen to watch in 2013.

College Football's Link Roundup: August 28
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 15:03
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-sticks-andrew-maxwell-qb

Michigan State’s offense ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring and total yards per game last season, so it was no surprise when coach Mark Dantonio opened up the quarterback battle this spring.

However, Andrew Maxwell held onto the starting job and will open the year as the No. 1 quarterback against Western Michigan.

Although Maxwell is the starter, Dantonio plans to play Connor Cook against the Broncos. Tyler O’Conner and true freshman Damion Terry may play this season, but both are behind Maxwell and Cook for now.

Andrew Maxwell started all 13 games last season but finished with just 2,606 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also tossed nine picks and did not play well in the bowl game against TCU.

Michigan State’s defense should be one of the best in the Big Ten this year. But if the Spartans are going to make another trip to Indianapolis, the offense has to show big improvement.

Michigan State Sticks With Andrew Maxwell at QB
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:49
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-conference-and-national-title-predictions

With kickoff for the 2013 college football season just around the corner, there’s just enough time for one more set of predictions.

Athlon’s editors met before the preseason magazine was released to iron out the predictions after spring practice was completed. But there wasn’t a consensus on every conference title race or the top 25 rankings.

Louisville, Ohio State and Tulsa were the only unanimous conference title predictions, and there was plenty of disagreement in the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and even the SEC.

Alabama is widely considered the favorite to claim the 2013 BCS title, but the Crimson Tide wasn’t selected by all four editors to play for the national championship. Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford also drew mentions in the BCS title predictions. 

Will the SEC's title run continue in 2013? Or will Ohio State, Oregon or Stanford end the SEC's dominance? 

College Football's 2013 Conference and National Title Predictions

 Steven LassanMark RossBraden GallDavid Fox
ACC Coastal:
ACC Atlantic:
ACC Champion:
American Athletic: 
Big 12: 
Big Ten Leaders:
Big Ten Legends:
Big Ten Champion:
C-USA East: 
C-USA West:
C-USA Champion:
MAC East:
MAC West:
MAC Champion:
MW Mountain:
MW West:
MW Champion:
Pac-12 North:
Pac-12 South:
Pac-12 Champion:
SEC East:
SEC West:
SEC Champion:
Sun Belt:
National Title: Alabama over Ohio StateOregon over Ohio StateAlabama over StanfordAlabama over Stanford

Related College Football Content

College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
10 Players That Will Decide the National Title in 2013
College Football's Top 35 Breakout Players for 2013
Top 10 Darkhorses to Win the National Title
The Top 100 Players of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Wide Receiver Corps for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Lines for 2013
College Football's All-Name Team for 2013

College Football 2013 Conference and National Title Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-all-125-college-football-coaches-hot-seat-2013

Coaches are always a hot topic during any college football season. And once the calendar turns to late October, replacements and potential firings will dominate the headlines even more.

There’s a difference between a coach on the hot seat and the overall pressure surrounding a coach. And it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two categories. But Athlon Sports has tried to come up with a ranking of all 125 coaches with hot seat and overall pressure on the program in mind.

UNLV’s Bobby Hauck and USC’s Lane Kiffin are clearly on the hot seat entering 2013. Hauck has won just two games in each of his three seasons with the Rebels, while Kiffin – even though he received a vote of confidence from athletic director Pat Haden – can’t afford to have another 7-6 season. Connecticut’s Paul Pasqualoni and Eastern Michigan’s Ron English are also two coaches that need to show progress in order to stick around for 2013.

When it comes to pressure on a head coach from on a down year, look no further than Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. Both coaches rank inside of the top 50 of the preseason 125 hot seat rankings, but neither coach is in any danger of losing their job. The ranking for those two coaches is more about the pressure on surrounding the program after a down year.

Ranking all 125 coaches when it comes to hot seat/pressure surrounding the program is an impossible task. Keep in mind, just because a coach ranks high on the list doesn’t mean we think he will be fired at the end of the year. Also, there’s really no separation from No. 28-100 on this list. So don’t get too caught up in the No. 55 or No. 76 ranked coach.

Ranking All 125 CFB Coaches on Hot Seat/Pressure on Program to Win in 2013

1Bobby Hauck6-32 (3 years)Hauck has won just two games in each of UNLV's three seasons.
2Lane Kiffin25-13 (3 years)Kiffin got the vote of confidence from AD Pat Haden.
3Paul Pasqualoni10-14 (2 years)Defense has been good, but offense has struggled mightily.
4Ron English10-38 (4 years)EMU is one of the toughest jobs in college football.
5Mack Brown150-43 (15 years)Pieces are in place for Texas to make a Big 12 title run.
6Tim Beckman2-10 (1 year)Could he survive another 2-10 or 3-9 record?
7Dan Enos13-24 (3 years)Easy late season schedule helped CMU get bowl eligible last year.
8Don Treadwell8-16 (2 years)RedHawks haven't made much progress under Treadwell.
9Tony Levine6-7 (1+ year)With new stadium opening in 2014, Levine needs to show progress.
10Gary Pinkel90-61 (12 years)Good coach, but is Missouri falling too far behind rest of SEC?
11Jeff Quinn9-27 (3 years)Bulls won 3 out of last 4 games last year.
12Doc Holliday17-20 (3 years)Thundering Herd has talent to win C-USA in 2013.
13Steve Sarkisian26-25 (4 years)Huskies have three consecutive 7-6 seasons.
14Mike London16-21 (3 years)Recruiting well but has two losing seasons in three years.
15Kirk Ferentz100-74 (14 years)Huge buyout - in no danger of getting fired. 
16Randy Edsall6-18 (2 years)Terps need to show more progress for upcoming move to the Big Ten.
17Rich Ellerson17-32 (4 years)Went 12-13 in first two years. 5-19 in next two.
18Dave Christensen22-28 (4 years)Has two bowl appearances in four years.
19Norm Chow3-9 (1 year)Warriors have a ways to go under Chow.
20Charlie Weis1-11 (1 year)Talent improving thanks to addition of transfers.
21Charley Molnar1-11 (1 year)Tough job. Minutemen should show progress in 2013.
22Jim Grobe73-74 (12 years)No danger of getting fired but just 1 bowl game in last 4 years.
23Ron Turner1st yearQuestionable hire.
24Joey Jones25-15 (4 years)Will take some time for USA to compete for Sun Belt titles.
25Carl Pelini3-9 (1 year) 
26Skip Holtz1st yearWhich Holtz is Louisiana Tech getting? East Carolina or USF?
27Rick Stockstill43-44 (7 years)Rebounded last year after rough 2011.
28Kyle Whittingham71-32 (8 years)No danger of getting fired. But pressure to rebound after 5-7 record. 
29Bo Pelini49-20 (5 years)Nebraska is always a high pressure job. 
30Dan McCarney9-15 (2 years)McCarney should get UNT competitive in C-USA.
31Mike Leach3-9 (1 year)Cougars should be better in Leach's second year. 
32Dana Holgorsen17-9 (2 years) 
33David Bailiff30-44 (6 years)Rewarded with contract extension after 2012.
34Dan Mullen29-22 (4 years)Not an easy job. But needs to close gap with top teams in West.
35Kevin Wilson5-19 (2 years) 
36Larry Blakeney169-98-1 (22 years)Back-to-back losing records for first time at Troy.
37Mark Helfrich1st yearIs he the right choice to succeed Chip Kelly?
38June Jones31-34 (5 years)No danger of being fired. Four straight bowl games.
39George O'Leary60-55 (9 years) 
40Rod Carey0-1 (1st year)Can Carey build off what Dave Doeren leaves behind?
41Dave Clawson22-28 (4 years)Falcons will be in hunt for MAC East title this year.
42Kyle Flood9-4 (1 year) 
43Ruffin McNeill19-19 (3 years) 
44Garrick McGee3-9 (1 year) 
45Tommy Tuberville1st year 
46Paul Chryst6-7 (1 year)Up and down 2012. Should get better in next few years.
47Frank Beamer216-104-2 (26 years)Pressure to rebound after 7-6 mark in2 012.
48Bobby Petrino1st year 
49Terry Bowden1-11 (1 year)Struggled last year, but Zips should be improved in '13.
50Jim McElwain4-8 (1 year) 
51Dennis Franchoine23-24 (4 years)Has Texas State on the right track.
52Bryan Harsin1st yearA solid hire for the Red Wolves.
53Brian Polian1st yearReplacing a legend like Chris Ault won't be easy.
54Ron Caragher1st year 
55Matt Wells1st year 
56Paul Haynes1st year 
57Scott Shafer1st yearHas to guide Syracuse through ACC transition. 
58Sean Kugler1st year 
59Curtis Johnson2-10 (1 year)Green Wave on the right track.
60Bronco Mendenhall74-29 (8 years)Cougars play a challenging schedule this year. 
61Bob Davie4-9 (1 year) 
62Matt Rhule1st year 
63Rocky Long17-9 (2 years) 
64Al Golden13-11 (2 years)Will Miami finally win the Coastal this year?
65Todd Monken1st yearShould make USM fans forget Ellis Johnson. 
66Brady Hoke19-7 (2 years)Always pressure to win big at Michigan. 
67Ken Niumatalolo40-26 (5 years) 
68Mark Richt118-40 (12 years) 
69Dabo Swinney40-21 (4+ years) 
70Jimbo Fisher31-10 (3 years)Seminoles back on the rise under Fisher. 
71Bob Stoops149-37 (14 years)Has won at least 10 games in 6 out of last 7 years.
72Mark Dantonio51-28 (6 years) 
73Paul Johnson41-26 (5 years) 
74Frank Solich59-44 (8 years) 
75Jerry Kill9-16 (2 years) 
76Tim DeRuyter9-4 (1 year)Bulldogs should push Boise State for MW title. 
77P.J. Fleck1st yearMaking a splash on the recruiting trail. 
78Butch Jones1st yearCan Jones return Tennessee to SEC title contender status?
79Bret Bielema1st year 
80Mark Stoops1st yearStoops is doing a great job on the recruiting trail. 
81Gus Malzahn1st yearGreat fit at Auburn. 
82Mike MacIntyre1st yearNeeds time to rebuild roster.
83Matt Campbell10-4 (1+ year)One of the rising stars in the coaching ranks.
84Jim Mora9-5 (1 year) 
85Darrell Hazell1st yearCan he work a quick turnaround?
86Steve Addazio1st yearOff to a good start on the recruiting trail. 
87Larry Fedora8-4 (1 year) 
88Dave Doeren1st year 
89Sonny Dykes1st year 
90Rich Rodriguez8-5 (1 year) 
91Todd Graham8-5 (1 year) 
92Mike Riley81-67 (12 years) 
93Larry Coker12-10 (2 years) 
94Bill Blankenship19-8 (2 years) 
95Les Miles85-21 (8 years) 
96Pete Lembo15-10 (2 years)Another rising star to watch in 2013. 
97Todd Berry17-20 (3 years) 
98Justin Fuente4-8 (1 year)Tigers won three in a row to finish 2012.
99Brian Kelly28-11 (3 years) 
100Trent Miles1st yearGeorgia State made a great hire in Miles. 
101Gary Andersen1st year 
102David Cutcliffe21-40 (5 years)Will the Blue Devils become an annual bowl team?
103Will Muschamp18-8 (2 years) 
104Hugh Freeze7-6 (1 year) 
105Troy Calhoun47-31 (6 years) 
106Willie Taggart1st yearBest hire of the offseason. 
107Kliff Kingsbury1st yearFormer Texas Tech QB has returned to Lubbock.
108Paul Rhoads24-27 (4 years) 
109Doug Martin1st yearNo pressure as a FBS Independent this year. 
110Paul Petrino1st yearNo pressure as a FBS Independent this year. 
111Mark Hudspeth18-8 (2 years) 
112Kevin Sumlin11-2 (1 year) 
113James Franklin15-11 (2 years) 
114Charlie Strong25-14 (3 years) 
115Mike Gundy67-35 (8 years) 
116Gary Patterson116-36 (12 years) 
117Art Briles33-30 (5 years) 
118Bill O'Brien8-4 (1 year) 
119Steve Spurrier66-37 (8 years) 
120David Shaw23-4 (2 years) 
121Pat Fitzgerald50-39 (7 years) 
122Bill Snyder170-85-1 (21 years) 
123Chris Petersen84-8 (7 years) 
124Urban Meyer12-0 (1 year) 
125Nick Saban68-13 (6 years)Three championships (and counting) at Alabama

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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/will-johnny-manziel-repeat-heisman-winner-2013

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has been in the spotlight this offseason for his various off-the-field activities. While the sophomore has garnered some bad publicity since the Cotton Bowl, the season opener is just a few days away, and he is one of the frontrunners to claim the Heisman Trophy.

Although it’s uncertain if Manziel will be forced to miss any games due to the recent autograph scandal, he will have his hands full repeating as the Heisman Trophy winner. This is one of the deepest groups of contenders for the award in recent memory, and Manziel will have a difficult task repeating last year’s numbers.

Athlon’s editors debate Manziel's Heisman chances, along with the frontrunner for the ward in 2013. 

Will Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel Repeat as the Heisman Winner in 2013?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even before the ongoing investigation into the autograph scandal, I thought it was going to be very difficult for Johnny Manziel to repeat as the Heisman winner. Manziel simply set the bar too high as a true freshman, throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, while adding 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Repeating those numbers without receiver Ryan Swope and left tackle Luke Joeckel wasn’t going to be easy. And after entering 2012 with low expectations, Texas A&M was going into 2013 with a bullseye on its back. Also, plenty of SEC coaches spent the offseason trying to figure out a way to stop Manziel, and the rest of the SEC will be more prepared for the Aggies in 2013. Even if Manziel doesn’t repeat as the Heisman winner, he should still have an outstanding year and will be in the mix for first-team All-SEC honors once again.

As for my frontrunner, I have to go with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. In the first season under coach Urban Meyer last year, Miller threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,271 yards and 13 scores. With a better supporting cast in place, look for the junior to see a significant increase in his passing yards. Miller should benefit from another offseason to grasp Meyer’s offense, and his Heisman campaign will certainly be helped by the Buckeyes’ run at a national title. But let’s not forget about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The junior is college football’s best player, but will he get enough support as a defensive player to win the Heisman? 

Mark Ross
Even if Manziel had not been the subject of so many headlines, scrutiny and criticism during the spring and summer, I would not pick him to win the Heisman again. The not-so positive media coverage aside, the odds are pretty much stacked against Manziel to repeat. For starters, only one man has ever done so, and Archie Griffin accomplished this feat nearly 40 years ago. More recently, Tim Tebow had a shot at the rare repeat in 2008, and while he didn't have a horrible season by any means (42 total touchdowns), he still finished third in the Heisman voting.

Just like Tebow in 2008, this season Manziel not only has to, in essence, beat every other FBS player to win another Heisman, he also has to beat himself. Regardless of how gaudy the Texas A&M quarterback's statistics are this fall, if he doesn't top last year's record-breaking numbers (5,116 total yards of offense, responsible for 47 touchdowns), then it's hard for me to see him generating the same level of support from the Heisman voters. And unlike last year when be burst on the scene as a redshirt freshman, every one knows who Johnny Football is, which makes his job as a starting quarterback in the SEC — also known as the nation's toughest conference — that much harder.

Just because we won't see Manziel win back-to-back Heismans, that doesn't mean a dual-threat sophomore quarterback won't claim the famous stiff-armed trophy in 2013. Come December, I am picking Oregon's Marcus Mariota to finish ahead of Alabama's AJ McCarron and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Manziel doesn't even finish in the top five.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The odds are stacked heavily against Johnathan Manziel's favor. Sam Bradford, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram couldn't repeat, leaving just one winner in nearly 80 years as a two-timer. There is a reason Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner and that is because it is virtually and literally impossible. Defenses have more film to study and are focused more on stopping No. 2 and his supporting cast isn't nearly as experienced and capable. Johnny Football is wired to handle distractions and will be a pleasure to watch once again in 2013, but his off-the-field issues have to impact the rest of team somehow. The bottom line is Manziel produced one of, if not the, greatest statistical season in college football history. By definition, he won't be able to replicate that this fall. He will have a big season and maybe get back to New York. Give me Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to win the stiff-armed trophy in 2013.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If Tim Tebow couldn’t become the first two-time Heisman winner since Archie Griffin, I doubt many players could. Reigning Heisman winners not only have to be better than the field in a give season, they have to be demonstrably better than they were a season earlier. Johnny Manziel’s season was historic in 2012, nearly 90 yards of total offense better than Cam Newton’s 2010 season. And even if Manziel approaches his 400 yards of total offense per game and 47 total touchdowns, his offseason behavior and so-what demeanor will cause some voters to look for plausible alternatives — I don’t agree with this, but it’s a sentiment that’s out there. And plausible alternatives will be out there, unlike they were last season. Imagine if the Heisman vote were taken after the bowl games last season: How many would be voting for Manti Te’o and Collin Klein then? So that brings me to this season’s Heisman pick. The field is simply too crowded to feel strongly about anyone, especially how the last few Heisman winners were far from the preseason favorites. Braxton Miller is an easy preseason pick, though. Like recent Heisman winners, Miller is the clear focal point of his offense in the air and on the ground. He’ll play for a title contender and a name team, and he’ll have a chance for a late-season push against Michigan and probably a Big Ten title game.

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Will Johnny Manziel Repeat as the Heisman Winner?
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:13
Path: /college-football/justin-worley-named-tennessees-starting-qb

The Butch Jones era at Tennessee will kickoff this Saturday against FCS opponent Austin Peay. And Jones ended the offseason speculation by picking junior Justin Worley as his starting quarterback against the Governors.

With the departure of quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter to the NFL, Tennessee’s offense is expected to lean heavily on its ground attack and offensive line to win games in 2013.

Worley started three games in 2011 and has thrown for 738 yards and one touchdown during his nine career appearances. The junior has good size at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, but Jones prefers to have some mobility from his quarterbacks, and Worley has -22 rushing yards in his career.

With a cast of new receivers stepping into playing time, it will take Tennessee’s offense some time to jell.

If Worley stumbles, redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is expected to be the backup, while true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson are No. 3 and No. 4 on the depth chart.

Tennessee Picks Justin Worley as its Starting QB
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-rb-silas-redd-wont-play-against-hawaii

USC opens its 2013 season with a road trip to Hawaii on Thursday night. But it appears the Trojans won’t have one of their key offensive players in action.

According to the tweet below, USC running back Silas Redd won’t play in Thursday night’s game. Redd suffered a knee injury in the spring and isn’t quite 100 percent.

Although Redd is USC’s best running back, he won’t be missed against Hawaii. With Redd sidelined, sophomore Tre Madden and freshmen Justin Davis and Ty Isaac will pickup the slack on the ground.

USC RB Silas Redd Won't Play Against Hawaii
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-picks-sean-mannion-its-starting-qb

Oregon State coach Mike Riley let Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz compete for the starting job this offseason, and both players didn’t make it easy on their head coach. However, Riley has picked Mannion as the Beavers’ starting quarterback, with Vaz expected to serve in the backup role.

Mannion was Oregon State’s quarterback through the first four games of last season but was sidelined due to injury. In the first four games, Mannion had seven touchdowns and four interceptions and threw for 433 yards in a 38-35 win at Arizona.

Vaz started while Mannion was out, leading the Beavers to a road win at BYU and against Utah, but he also missed time later in the year due to injury.

The coaching staff let Mannion and Vaz compete for the starting job in the bowl game, with Vaz eventually getting the starting job. However, Vaz struggled against Texas’ defense, completing 15 of 28 passes for 194 yards and two interceptions.

Mannion needs to cut down on his mistakes, but the junior is the right answer for Oregon State’s offense. Mannion has more talent than Vaz was off to a good start prior to his injury last year.

But if Mannion struggles, the Beavers know Vaz is a capable option.

Oregon State Picks Sean Mannion as its Starting QB
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-qb-johnny-manziel-questioned-ncaa

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s busy offseason continued with a visit from the NCAA on Sunday. is reporting Manziel interviewed for six hours with the NCAA, and it’s not clear if it will have any effect on his playing status for Saturday’s game against Rice.

Needless to say, this story isn’t going away anytime soon. Here's some more info from writer Travis Haney on the latest surrounding Manziel.


Johnny Manziel Questioned by the NCAA
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:55
Path: /college-football/10-players-who-will-decide-college-footballs-2013-national-title

Every college football team has personnel issues that will be a question mark going into the 2013 season. But some have national title implications.

Alabama has the nation’s best roster, but the Crimson Tide is replacing a couple of key starters on the offensive line. Ohio State’s defensive line lost all four starters from last season and will be relying on two sophomores to start at defensive end. Stanford won the Pac-12 title last year, but the Cardinal is picked behind Oregon in most preseason polls. If Stanford wants to win the national championship, it has to get more production from its passing attack.

What players could play a huge role in college football’s national championship picture? Athlon examined 10 key players to watch, along with a few extras to keep on the radar this year.

10 Players Who Will Decide College Football's 2013 National Title

1. Noah Spence/Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State
The Buckeyes are considered by most to be the top threat to Alabama this season. There are few questions about an offense that returns nine starters, but the defense will be a work in progress to start the year. The line was hit hardest by offseason departures, as the top four players from last season – John Simon, Nathan Willliams, Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel – are gone. While it will be difficult for Ohio State to match last year’s production from the line, there’s no shortage of talent. Sophomore ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington were two of the top defensive linemen in the 2012 signing class and played sparingly last year. Spence recorded 12 stops in 11 games, while Washington had three sacks and nine tackles in 10 contests. The Buckeyes also need a big season from tackles Joel Hale and Michael Bennett, but Spence and Washington will be the key pieces in Ohio State’s chances of ranking in the top 15 of rush defense and averaging 2.5 sacks a game once again.

2. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
It’s no secret the Cardinal has one of the best defenses and offensive lines in college football. But the passing game is a concern, especially after the departure of tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo to the NFL. Quarterback Kevin Hogan should be better in his second year as a starter, but Stanford needs to find a few playmakers on the outside. Is Montgomery that player? After catching 24 passes (13 receptions over the final two games) in 2011, Montgomery appeared poised for a breakout year in 2012. However, injuries prevented the Texas native from getting on track, finishing with 26 catches for 213 yards. If Montgomery can stay healthy, he can be the threat Hogan needs on the outside to stretch opposing defenses. The Cardinal could also play a few young players at receiver, including Francis Owusu and sophomores Kodi Whitfield and Devon Cajuste.

3. Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame
After the summer departure of Everett Golson, Rees is set to be Notre Dame’s No. 1 quarterback once again. The senior has experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout his career in South Bend, throwing for 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman and then 2,871 yards and 20 scores in 2011. Rees lost the starting job to Golson last year but played relatively well in relief, throwing for 436 yards and two scores. With one of the nation’s best defenses at his disposal, Rees doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards each week. However, the senior needs to limit his mistakes (24 interceptions on 634 career passes). If Rees is solid and cuts down on the turnovers, the Fighting Irish will be back in the hunt for the national title once again.

4. Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
Entering the second offseason under coordinator Mark Snyder, the Aggies should have a better grasp of the defensive scheme for 2013. But the front seven is undergoing a little bit of renovation, as end Damontre Moore and interior players Jonathan Mathis and Spencer Nealy are gone. Texas A&M has recruited well, so there’s plenty of talent ready to step into the lineup. However, Snyder may have to rely on some true freshmen – Justin Manning, Isaiah Golden and Daeshon Hall – to contribute significant snaps. But all eyes will be on Obioha to star the year, especially with a year of experience under his belt. Last season, Obioha started 12 games and recorded 25 tackles and one sack. Replacing Damontre Moore’s 12.5 sacks is no easy task, but the Aggies hope Obioha spends a lot of time in opposing backfields this fall. 

5. LG Arie Kouandjio and RT Austin Shepherd, Alabama
The Crimson Tide coach staff should feel pretty good about three spots on their offensive line. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a future NFL first-round draft pick, guard Anthony Steen has 25 starts in his career, and center Ryan Kelly impressed in limited action last year. But the other two spots were a concern this fall. Arie Kouandjio eventually settled at left guard and Austin Shepherd won the job at right tackle. Matching the dominance of last year’s offensive line will be difficult, and there’s a ton of pressure on the two new starters to perform at a high level right away. If Kouandjio and Shepherd are up to the task, Alabama’s offensive line will clear plenty of holes for the running backs, along with keeping quarterback AJ McCarron upright in the pocket. But if it struggles, Alabama becomes more vulnerable in key games against Texas A&M and LSU.

6. Mike Thornton, DT, Georgia
We could list a few defensive players here for Georgia, but the success of any 3-4 defense starts in the trenches at nose tackle. The Bulldogs have a huge void with the departure of John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers on the interior, and Thornton is slated to start at nose tackle in the season opener at Clemson. The junior checks in at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds, which is a stark difference to the 6-foot-3 and 358-pound frame of Jenkins last year. However, Thornton is capable of holding down the middle of the line, and his quickness will allow him to create problems off the snap for opposing quarterbacks. If Thornton struggles, Georgia has plenty of linemen ready to rotate into the game. However, the coaching staff would like to see the junior anchor the line this year and lead a rush defense that needs to improve after allowing 182.1 yards per game on the ground last season.  

7. Tony Washington, DE/LB, Oregon
The Ducks return a loaded roster, so it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness for 2013. The defense does have a few holes to fill in the front seven, especially at linebacker/rush end where Dion Jordan is off to the NFL. Washington is slated to fill Jordan’s role, and the junior recorded 20 tackles in 13 contests last year. The junior isn’t as dynamic or athletic as Jordan is, but he is more than capable of keeping Oregon’s defense among the best in the Pac-12. 

8. Bashaud Breeland/Darius Robinson, CB, Clemson
The Tigers’ first depth chart of 2013 didn’t reveal much about the cornerback position. Garry Peters and Bashaud Breeland are listed as co-starters at one spot, while Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins share the other side. Clemson’s pass defense is a concern heading into 2013, especially after finishing sixth in the conference last year. Sophomore safety Travis Blanks is a rising star, but the Tigers are still searching for the right mix at cornerback. True freshman Mackensie Alexander was slowed in fall camp due to an injury, so it may be a few weeks before he makes a significant impact. Whether it’s Breeland, Robinson, Jenkins or Peters, Clemson has to find two players it feels comfortable with to start at cornerback, especially with a huge test against Georgia in Week 1.

9. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
The Gamecocks finished 2012 ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing offense, and their leading rusher – running back Marcus Lattimore – left for the NFL after a season-ending injury against Tennessee. Quarterback Connor Shaw ranked second on the team with 435 rushing yards, while Davis finished last season with 275 yards and two touchdowns. Although Shaw has good mobility, South Carolina would like to keep him healthy for a full season, which means one of the running backs needs to step up. Davis was a big-time recruit for the Gamecocks in the 2012 signing class, ranking as a four-star prospect and the No. 63 overall player in the nation according to Brandon Wilds will also see plenty of carries, but South Carolina needs Davis to be a go-to back that can handle 25 touches a game and take some of the pressure off of Shaw or Dylan Thompson at quarterback.

10. Big 12 Quarterbacks
Yes, we are cheating just a bit with this selection. However, most of the Big 12 is dealing with uncertainty at quarterback this year. Will Clint Chelf hold off J.W. Walsh for the starting job at Oklahoma State ? Is it Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin at TCU? Is Trevor Knight ready for the spotlight at Oklahoma? What about David Ash at Texas? There are question marks abound at the quarterback position in this conference, which is a big reason why no Big 12 team was picked in the top 15 of Athlon’s projected 125 for the 2013 season. If Knight, Chelf or Pachall has a big season, the Big 12 could have a team in the national title hunt.

Others to Watch

Dan Hicks/Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State
Hicks and Edwards will be tasked with replacing Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner.

Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU
Will Mettenberger thrive under new coordinator Cam Cameron?

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Can Florida find a go-to target for quarterback Jeff Driskel?

Jake Smith, C, Louisville
Smith has the tough task of replacing Mario Benavides at center this year.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
Toussaint held off freshman Derrick Green for the starting job, but the senior is coming off a significant leg injury suffered late in the 2012 season.

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10 Players Who Will Decide College Football's 2013 National Title
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:15