Heisman Watch 10/23/17

A lot has changed in college football in the last few weeks, so it is time for another Heisman Watch. Here are the players who are leading the way in the Heisman race:

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Michigan’s offense may not be very good, but there defense is. Saquon Barkley had another big game in prime time to enhance his case for the Heisman. Barkley totaled 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground with 53 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. He made highlight plays with a long touchdown catch that he bobbled then caught and a lot of good runs.

This was the performance that Barkley was missing last year to be in the Heisman race. He had a big game against a decent team that has a great defense. Now he has created an even bigger gap between him and the rest of the pack. Barkley could get to over 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards with a strong finish.

Barkley has two more tough games in a row to help his case even more. If Barkley can play well against Ohio State and Michigan State, he will virtually have the Heisman locked up.

Stats: 757 rushing yards, 448 receiving yards, 13 total touchdowns

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Heisman Watch

Bryce Love (Photo by: zimbio.com)

Love is still being overlooked, but one look at his stat line will make people see how historic his season has been so far. His last game came in week seven against Oregon, which was his worst performance of the season. He still managed to rush for 147 yards and two touchdowns. With some bad Pac-12 defenses still left to play, Love’s stats can get even better over the back stretch of the season.

Stanford losing two early games has hurt Love’s case, but they are coming on now. He needs to have some big games in prime time to close the gap on Barkley. Love will have a few big games to help his case, but is hard for any non-USC player to win the award from the west coast. Love has a chance to break the NCAA single season rushing record if he can have some big games down the stretch. Barry Sanders has the record at 2,628 rushing yards, so Love has to pick up the pace a little bit and have a few postseason games to reach the mark.

Washington State, Washington and Notre Dame should all be big games for Love to make his mark the rest of the way.

Stats: 1,387 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns

3. Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame

Adams was highlighted as a result of the Fighting Irish’s big win over the USC Trojans. He was able to put on a show with his 191 rushing yards and three touchdowns. A lot of credit needs to be given to the Notre Dame offensive line, which is one of the best in college football, but Adams is the guy benefiting from their great play.

This season Adams has averaged 9.2 yards per carry, which ranks second nationally behind Bryce Love. While many claim that Notre Dame gets too much publicity, Adams seems to still be flying under the radar. Adams does have a sub par performance already against Georgia, but will have plenty of opportunities to have big games against good teams.

Three of the last five games for the Fighting Irish are against ranked teams and Adams will need to continue running well to get Notre Dame some key wins.

Stats: 967 rushing yards, 84 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns

4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield (Photo by: usatoday.com)

Mayfield had another great game against Kansas State. He had his first game of the season of over 400 passing yards, finishing with 410. Mayfield added 69 rushing yards and two touchdowns to go along with two passing touchdowns. He has had a lot of big games, but has needed to in order to win a lot of close games.

His touchdown to interception ration is almost 10 to one, so Mayfield has found a way to be productive, while protecting the football. The game against Ohio State is still one of the biggest moments of the season, but he needs to continue to produce and have big games.

In the next few weeks Mayfield has chances to improve his case. Oklahoma still has to play Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia, which will give Mayfield plenty of opportunities to make his way up the list.

Stats: 2,347 passing yards, 170 rushing yards, 22 total touchdowns, 2 interceptions

5. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Mason Rudolph had a mundane game against Texas and the Cowboys were lucky to get out of Austin for a win. He threw for 282 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. Rudolph was able to complete 65.8% of his passes this game and he protected the football enough for the defense to hang on for the win.

Rudolph is throwing the ball further down the field this year and putting up huge numbers. He lacks a big win and a “Heisman moment” right now, so he will have to do better to garner more support from Heisman voters.

In the game against Oklahoma, Rudolph has to out-duel Mayfield to have any chance at the award.

Stats: 2,650 passing yards, 60 rushing yards, 25 total touchdowns

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Five things we learned from college football week 7

It was a great weekend of college football that really changed the College Football Playoff picture. It may not have looked like a great weekend going into it, but whenever that is the case, crazy things happen. Here are five things we learned from the wild weekend.

1. Never underestimate an opponent

College football week 7

Manny Wilkins (Photo by azcentral.com)

This was the first weekend this season of no matchups between ranked opponents. It looked like a lot of the teams were going to win big time, but that turned into a lot of big upsets. On Friday Clemson lost on the road to Syracuse, despite being over 20 point favorites. Washington State got absolutely decimated by Cal 37-34.

The craziness continued on Saturday. West Virginia beat a newly ranked Texas Tech team, while Memphis upset Navy. Weeks after questioning Ed Oregeron’s capabilities at LSU, he led the Tigers to an upset win over Auburn. San Diego State suffered their first loss of the season to Boise State. To cap things off, Arizona State upset the number five team in the country, Washington.

All in all, seven ranked teams lost, which included four teams that were ranked in the top 10. The chaos is just getting started.

2. Alabama is the best team in the country

While this isn’t too much of a surprise, this was a debate last week. With Clemson losing, Alabama stands alone as the best team in the country, without any team that is being touted as a great challenger.

The Crimson Tide struggled to get past Texas A&M last week, but this week was able to roll past Arkansas. The defense has been elite, while the running game has been dominant. On top of that Jalen Hurts has been protecting the football, which is all he needs to do to get Alabama wins. Hurts threw his first interception of the season against the Razorbacks, so if he can keep up his ability to not turn the ball over, the Crimson Tide will have a huge advantage in any game.

With the rest of the SEC West beating up on each other, it doesn’t look like Alabama will be tested too much in the regular season.

3. Baker Mayfield is tough and clutch

College football week 7

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

The Red River Rivalry was one of the best games of the weekend. Texas put up a good fight and had a fourth quarter lead behind a gutty performance from Sam Ehlinger at quarterback. Unfortunately for them it wasn’t enough as Baker Mayfield was able to lead the Sooners back to victory.

Mayfield was driven into the ground and hurt his throwing shoulder during the game. He had it worked on by the trainers and was able to play through the pain. It came to the point were Mayfield had to throw, as the Sooners were behind in the fourth quarter. He let a pass rip to Mark Andrews down the sideline, which turned into a game-winning score.

While Mayfield isn’t the leader for the Heisman right now, he certainly has had a lot of memorable moments.

4. Butch Jones is getting fired

Tennessee lost a close game at home to South Carolina. They failed to get the offense going, with offense being head coach Butch Jones’ specialty. The Volunteers were only able to manage to score nine points and they only needed 16 to win the game.

Butch Jones was already on the hot seat, but after another loss, he may be getting fired earlier than expected despite a huge buyout clause in his contract. Tennessee is now 3-3 as they head into a game with Alabama. Their back half of the schedule also has big games against LSU, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, so it will not be easy to get to bowl eligibility.

Watch the bottom ticker on your screens the next couple of weeks as Jones could be getting the ax at any moment from here on out.

5. UAB can get to a bowl

College football week 7

Bill Clark (Photo by cbssports.com)

In probably the craziest story of the year, UAB is having a very successful season in their first year back as a college football program. They program was cancelled after the 2014 season and after a few seasons off, have made it back to the highest level of college football.

The Blazers beat Middle Tennessee this weekend, as they were able to take advantage of a banged up Blue Raiders team. Now UAB sits at 4-2 with a couple easy games left on the schedule. If they can get two more wins, they will make their second bowl game in their history.

This season has already seen a lot of wacky results, but it would be such a wild story if a newly reinstated team was able to make a bowl game.

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Five things to watch for in college football week 7

College football is in week seven and here are some things to watch:

1. Can Big 12 teams break the scoreboard?

College football week 7

Nick Shimonek (Photo by zimbio.com)

This weekend Texas Tech takes on West Virginia in Morgantown. Both teams score a lot of points and aren’t great at playing defense. While these teams likely won’t do too much in terms of the national landscape, this will be a fun game to watch with a lot of passing and points scored.

Texas Tech has Nic Shimonek at quarterback who has already thrown for over 1,800 yards and looks like the next good Red Raider to put up a lot of stats. He has helped Texas Tech score 46.8 points per game. Kliff Kingsbury likes to throw it all around the field, having Shimonek average 39 passes per game.

The Mountaineers average 43.9 points per game and have scored at least 24 points in every single game. Will Grier has brought life to the team and has a few talented receivers to throw to in David Sills and Ka’Raughn White. They will be slinging the ball around trying to keep up with the Red Raiders.

2. How does Michigan bounce back?

Michigan lost to Michigan State this week for their first loss of the season. Despite that being their only loss, the Wolverines haven’t looked all that good in other games this season. They certainly don’t look like contenders for the Big Ten.

This week the Wolverines are taking on Indiana on the road. The Hoosiers are 3-2 and look like a decent team that will make a bowl game. John O’Korn will be starting for Michigan again and has to help the offense limit turnovers. The Wolverine defense is good enough to keep them in the game, the offense just has to score a few times.

While they don’t look good, Michigan should be able to beat Indiana. This game’s final score will be low, but Michigan’s defense is full of playmakers.

3. Red River Rivalry

College Football week 7

Baker Mayfield (Photo by usatoday.com)

Oklahoma and Texas play in their annual game in Dallas and this year it looks like it could be a good one for a variety of different reasons.

The Sooners are coming off of a loss to Iowa State. They will be mad and now have no margin for error. Baker Mayfield has 15 touchdowns and no interceptions this season and will be looking for blood. His Heisman campaign took a hit last week, but he can get it back on track this week.

Texas is a team that played well in their only big matchup this season, the game at USC. Tom Herman has a weird way of getting his team hyped up for big games. They have some talented NFL level talent on their defense, including Malik Jefferson and Poona Ford. At the very least watching these players go up against the Sooner offense will be entertaining.

4. San Diego State get a home test

Boise State travels to San Diego State for a Mountain West clash. The Aztecs are favored by seven and it should be a very entertaining game.

The Broncos may have lost to Virginia, but they are still a very solid Mountain West team and program. They are 3-2 and look like they should be able to still compete in the Mountain West.

San Diego State has been on a tear this season. They are already 6-0 with key wins over Stanford and Arizona State. If they keep this up, there is no doubt they will be playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. They also have a Heisman contender in Rashaad Penny. He is a long shot to win the award, but is still worth watching every game he plays.

5. Battle of the SEC West Tigers

College football week 7

Kerryon Johnson (Photo by al.com)

The Tigers of the SEC West are facing off this weekend and both teams are in very different places right now. Last year these teams played the losing coach, Les Miles, got fired because of it. If Gus Malzahn would have lost the game, he would’ve been fired, but things have changed now.

Ed Orgeron has gotten a lot of criticism for losing to Troy, but rebounded nicely with the road win over Florida. He still has some heat coming his way, but a win in this game would do a lot to ease that. LSU’s offense still isn’t great, but they have a lot of talent on the team.

Auburn looks like they have a good football team, but they lost their only big game this season to Clemson. Traveling to Death Valley is never easy though. The offense has the running game going behind a healthy Kerryon Johnson. The defense has been a dominant unit this season and has Auburn looking like the second best team in the SEC West.

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Heisman Watch 10/8/17

With six weeks in the books all the players vying for postseason awards have had a chance to build up their stats. Which players are currently leading the Heisman race? Here are the top five:

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley has been the talk of college football so far this season. He had some really big plays against Iowa to help the Nittany Lions escape with the win a few weeks ago. He has also been beating up on some sub par competition thus far. He might need some big games against some better competition to help finish off his Heisman campaign.

This week Northwestern bottled Barkley up for most of the game. He was able to get loose on a 53 yard run for a touchdown to go along with a one yard touchdown run. This ultimately would have hurt his case for the Heisman, but no other contenders made much of a statement.

James Franklin has allowed Barkley to do a little bit of everything this season and he has exceeded expectations.

Season stats: 649 rushing yards, 395 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Heisman Watch

Bryce Love (Photo by zimbio.com)

With Baker Mayfield losing to Iowa State, Bryce Love moves up the ranks. He has a great chance to steal the trophy from Barkley if Stanford can win at least eight games. With two losses already that will not be easy. His biggest reason for being this high on the list, and a good candidate to win the Heisman, is his 10.5 yards per carry.

The Cardinal played a physical Utah team this week and were able to get a close win. Love rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown in his worst game this season stats-wise. That is incredible.

He will surely slow down, but he is on pace to have over 2,000 yards this season.

Season stats: 1,240 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns

3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield may have lost this weekend, but has had a great season otherwise. He has one of the biggest “Heisman moments” of the season when he planted the flag at Ohio Stadium. Mayfield has been almost flawless this season with a completion percentage of just under 75% and no interceptions thrown.

While the loss is never good for a Heisman resume, Mayfield passed for 306 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 57 yards and another touchdown. It doesn’t seem like Mayfield has all that much help on the offensive side of the ball and is doing the best he can. Avoiding more losses like this is crucial for his Heisman case.

There are still a lot of Big 12 games left, so that means Mayfield has a chance to put up some serious stats in his last seven regular season games.

Season stats: 1,635 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 74.6% completion, 74 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown

4. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

Heisman watch

Rashaad Penny (Photo by sdsu.edu)

He may not play for a Power Five school, but Penny has been dominant this season. In the Aztecs’ big upsets of Arizona State and Stanford, Penny stepped up big time. He is on pace for just under 2,000 yards.

San Diego State had an easy game against UNLV and Penny played well yet again. He rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn’t matter how good, or bad, the competition is, Penny is going to produce.

While he may not have too many marquee games left, if San Diego State can keep winning Penny will make his way to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

Season stats: 993 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 127 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

5. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Washington State is 6-0, which is a different site. Luke Falk has had a fantastic season, despite being benched for a while in the Boise State game before getting injured. He has helped the Cougars get a big win over USC, which has now helped them get into the top 10 in the polls. Falk already has 2,000 yards passing in the first six games of the season.

Falk didn’t have his best game of the season against Oregon, but was still solid. He threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns to keep on producing. With a good start to the season, Falk will continue to put up gaudy numbers in the Pac-12.

He has chances to make statements against Washington and Stanford later in the season as well as a possible Pac-12 Championship Game.

Season stats: 2,000 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 71.8% completion, -73 rushing yards,

 

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Five things we learned in college football week 6

Week six didn’t have the greatest slate of games, but that allowed for some crazy upsets that will shake things up. There are a lot of things that we learned, but here are five of the most relevant:

1. Iowa State is Baker Mayfield’s “Daddy”

College football week 6

Joel Lanning (Photo by newsok.com)

Iowa State got a big upset win in Norman over the number three rated Sooners. The Cyclones didn’t have their starting quarterback Jacob Park, who was on medical leave, but were still able to come away with the victory. This marks the biggest upset of the season and has made a lot of people rethink their CFP picks.

The real star of the game was Joel Lanning. He was a quarterback his first two years at Iowa State, but moved to linebacker, so that the Cyclones could start Jacob Park. With Park out, Lanning played his usual linebacker position, but also split time at quarterback. Lanning finished with eight tackles, a sack and a recovered fumble on defense and came in to help move the ball on offense.

After the big upset, the Cyclones decided to troll Baker Mayfield, much like Mayfield had done to previous opponents. They planted the state flage of Iowa at midfield and several players were caught on the microphones saying, “Who’s your daddy?”. After a home loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma doesn’t have much room for error the rest of the way.

2. Miami can beat Florida State

The Seminoles had won seven straight against Miami and had never lost the rivalry game with Jimbo Fisher as head coach. That all changed Saturday. Florida State has struggled without starting quarterback Deondre Francois, but Miami fans still had little hope that this would be the year they broke the streak.

Florida State scored a touchdown with just over a minute left and it looked dire for Miami. Malik Rosier, however, led the Hurricanes on a game winning touchdown drive that concluded with a 23 yard pass to Darrell Langham with six seconds left. In a series that commonly comes down to the final plays to decide the winner, Miami was able to score very late to stay unbeaten.

Miami now looks to be one of the biggest threats to Clemson in the ACC. If they can keep winning, they may face the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game.

3. Overreactions on Orgeron?

Last week LSU lost to Troy at home. Troy is a good football team, but LSU should’ve been able to defend their home turf a lot better, as they were physically dominated at the line of scrimmage. A lot of fans and media members were clamoring for LSU to fire head coach Ed Orgeron, but this week he came up with a big win over Florida.

The Tigers still didn’t look great in this game, but came away with the win in The Swamp. They were able to win the game because Florida missed an extra point, but in games like this it doesn’t matter how much you win by, just that you win. This isn’t the greatest win of all time, but it was a tough win on the road.

While Orgeron didn’t deserve a $12 million buyout in his contract and may have not even deserved the job in the first place, firing a coach so early in his tenure is a bit unfair. Orgeron isn’t out of the hot seat yet, but took a good step this weekend.

4. Michigan isn’t elite

College football week 6

Mark Dantonio (Photo by sbnation.com)

In a rainy game in Ann Arbor, Michigan lost a close game to their in-state rival, Michigan State, 14-10. The Wolverines turned the ball over five times, which allowed Michigan State to grind out the win. It is still unknown how good both these teams truly are, but Michigan isn’t an elite team.

The Wolverines were without starting quarterback Wilton Speight, but he wasn’t playing particularly well anyways this season. It is evident that Michigan just has had too replace too much talent from last year’s roster and needs some time to develop their young players. While Michigan may end up being a very good football team, it is not likely they will be able to compete with Ohio State or Penn State for the Big Ten East.

5. TCU is for real

With Oklahoma losing to Iowa State, TCU is currently the best team in the Big 12. This week the Horned Frogs were able to hold off West Virginia to win 31-24.

TCU now has wins over the Mountaineers and Oklahoma State, two of the biggest contenders in the Big 12. With the revamped Big 12 Championship Game this season, the Horned Frogs are in a great position to make it. The Horned Frogs could even be fortunate enough to afford a loss to Oklahoma later in the season and still make the Big 12 Championship Game. If they make it that far, there is a good possibility they can win and make the CFP.

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Five things we learned in college football week 3

The third week of college football has reminded fans why we love the sport. It is crazy, dramatic and unpredictable. In all of the football played, here are five things we learned:

1. Kelly Bryant is capable of leading Clemson to the ACC Championship

Clemson’s defensive line has gotten a lot of the press in the opening weeks and they continued their dominance with four sacks of Lamar Jackson. Really the whole team has played well, but there were some questions on whether quarterback Kelly Bryant could step up against good competition. On Saturday night he proved that he can.

Bryant threw for 316 yards and a touchdown, while running for two more scores. The most impressive thing about his performance was how he completed a lot of throws down the field. He utilized his offensive weapons, which he has a lot of. If he can continue his progression Clemson will be even tougher to beat.

The remaining schedule has a few tough games left, including matchups with Virginia Tech and Florida State. Even if the Tigers drop one or two of their games, they should still be able to make the ACC Championship Game and possibly the College Football Playoff.

2. Baker Mayfield has a huge lead in the Heisman race

College football week 3

Baker Mayfield (Photo by usatoday.com)

Mayfield has the most signature moment of the season with his flag-plant at Ohio Stadium. He also has led his team to the best win of the season thus far. With 715 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions he is on the right track to make himself this year’s Heisman winner.

Against Tulane Mayfield threw for 331 yards and four touchdowns to continue his great pace. The Big 12 struggles with defense, so he will likely put up some ridiculous numbers in the next few weeks. He will have a chance to have more big moments against Oklahoma State later in the season.

Part of the reason why Mayfield is so far out ahead is because of Lamar Jackson’s loss to Clemson. There is still a lot of football to play and Jackson, along with others, have time to play catch up with Mayfield.

3. The SEC West is murky behind Alabama

Week 3 college football

Nick Fitzgerald (Photo by al.com)

Alabama is off to a great start to the season with a big win over Florida State. They also took care of business against Fresno State and Colorado State. There were some contenders for the SEC West, but they have all already lost. This doesn’t mean teams can’t improve and compete, but right now Alabama looks like a runaway favorite in the SEC West.

Last week, Auburn lost to Clemson and this week they struggled to pull away from Mercer. LSU was thought to be another one of Alabama’s contenders, but they got destroyed at Mississippi State this week. Arkansas lost to a good TCU team, but looked very bad doing so. Texas A&M lost to UCLA and had a horrendous first half against the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. The new trendy contender is Mississippi State, but only time will tell if they can hold up.

While many people predicted Alabama to win the SEC West and more, it is looking like it might be easier than expected. It is unlikely an SEC East team will be able to knock them off in the SEC Championship game either.

4. Don’t kick to Dante Pettis

Week 3 college football

Dante Pettis (Photo by seattletimes.com)

Dante Pettis is a dangerous wide receiver for the Washington Huskies, but is also a star in the return game. He returned a punt 77 yards against Fresno State for a touchdown and reminded everyone that they are better off kicking the ball out of bounds.

The punt return touchdown against Fresno State was the eighth of his career, which ties an NCAA record. Seeing how much success he has had, it would not be a surprise to see him break the record soon. While Washington hasn’t played anyone of note yet this season, his punt return ability could prove to be an x-factor in a much bigger game down the road.

Hopefully teams don’t learn and continue to kick to Pettis so that football fans get to see more highlight reel plays from the dynamic playmaker.

5. It’s going to be a wacky season

College football week 3

Chase McGrath (Photo by nbclosangeles.com)

Texas was supposed to lose by a lot, they took USC to overtime. Memphis beat UCLA in a thrilling game. Kansas State traveled to Nashville and lost to Vanderbilt. Stanford went to San Diego and lost to the Aztecs. Mississippi State upset LSU. Florida beat Tennessee on a last second bomb. Northern Illinois upset Nebraska in Lincoln. Are you not entertained?

This was seen as a rather mundane weekend going into it after two good weeks of football, but it turned out to have a lot of good games. More of this will go on as the season progresses. The main lesson is to be very careful of road games and who you schedule on the road.

With how crazy the football season has already been, watch out for a lot of surprises still to come.

 

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Week two college football recap

Week two of college football brought a fun filled slate of games. The College Football Playoff got a glimpse of teams that may be playing for it all in the winter. Without further ado, here are five things that stood out about this week in college football:

1. Clemson’s defensive line can carry the team

College football week two recap

Photo by sbnation.com

Clemson had their big time matchup with Auburn and came out with a win 14-6. When the game started, it looked as if Auburn wouldn’t have too much trouble moving the football against Clemson, but they ended up settling for field goals. That’s all they did on offense all night.

The defensive line of Clemson totaled 11 sacks and demonstrated not only how talented they are, but how deep they are. Auburn’s offense was supposed to have a break through season, but last night puts a big hole in their plans. They may still have a good season, Clemson’s defensive line might just be that good.

This also helped out the ACC, who struggled in week one in their nonconference games. Clemson can carry the torch for them, but has to avoid getting beat up in ACC play.

Last season Deshaun Watson and the offense got most of the love, but this season if Clemson succeeds the defense should get most of the credit.

2. It’s ok being a great college quarterback

college football week two recap

Lamar Jackson (Photo by 1src.com)

Everyone going into the season was talking about the quarterbacks with pro potential and leaving out guys like Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. Anyone who has paid attention to college football the past twenty seasons knows that sometimes the best college quarterbacks don’t work out in the NFL. Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, Trow Smith, Jason White and more have produced in college and not been too successful in the pros.

Just because these athletes may not work in the NFL, doesn’t mean they can’t be the best college quarterbacks. Mayfield had an incredible second half performance in Columbus against Ohio State and helped the Sooners come away with a victory. He threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns and has placed his name in the Heisman talk yet again.

Lamar Jackson on the other hand, looks to be carrying his team completely by himself. He is starting off hot, just like last season when he won the Heisman. Jackson had over 500 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in Louisville’s victory over North Carolina.

While these players may not get the love of pro scouts, they still might be able to define this college football season more than the better quarterback prospects. The only question there is to ask is: Does planting a flag at midfield of Ohio Stadium after a big road win count as a Heisman moment?

3. Sam Darnold is for real

week two college football recap

Sam Darnold (Photo by ocregister.com)

Sam Darnold still has a lot of things left to prove, especially after struggling against Western Michigan in week one, but he proved against Stanford that he can live up to the hype. He has the potential to not only be a great prospect, but a great college football player if he can keep USC in College Football Playoff contention.

In the game Darnold made plenty of NFL level throws and showed improvement over last season. Keeping that progression going is key for Darnold now.One area of his game he needs to cut down on is interceptions. If he doesn’t stop throwing them, he is making life harder on himself and his team. He still has mechanics to fix, but also has a lot of games to make his case to be the number one overall pick, but he is way ahead in the race in terms of quarterbacks, despite his interception problems.

If Darnold continues to play like this, the Trojans may get a chance to play a few extra games this season and bring home a championship to Los Angeles.

4. Georgia fans travel

Week 2 college football recap

Photo by onefootdown.com

In one of the biggest and unique games in South Bend, Indiana in recent memory, it had a lot more fans in red than anyone was expecting. No one doubts that Georgia fans can travel, but this was an amazing display of fandom that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Notre Dame fans took the money and ran, as the average ticket cost for this game was over $1,000.

Being in the SEC, Georgia plays a lot of big games in big time venues,, but the game at Notre Dame offered a once in a lifetime opportunity for fans of the Bulldogs. They were playing one of the most historic programs of all time, the game was on national TV and Georgia rarely plays football in the north. This is the first time Georgia has played a game north of the Mason Dixon line since 1965.

Props to both schools for scheduling such a good game. The Georgia fans were rewarded for their travels and escaped Notre Dame Stadium with a 20-19 thrilling win.

5. Never Give Up

Week two college football recap

Jamal Morrow (Photo by seattletimes.com)

Most fans probably turned off their televisions to go out or go to bed when the games that started from 7-8:30 were over. That was a mistake, because there was a gem of a game taking place on ESPN. The lesson here is never give up on college football because it will never give up on you.

Washington State and Boise State were playing a game that was a rematch of last season. The home fans for Washington State showed their support and a lot stayed throughout the game. Both starting quarterbacks were knocked out of the game with injury, but this was just the start of the craziness.

With just under 11 minutes left to go in the game, Boise State scored to take their led to 21 points. Then Washington State went off. Tyler Hilinski, the back up quarterback, came to life and threw two touchdowns in the last eight minutes. Linebacker Peyton Pelleur also had an interception returned for a touchdown on Washington State’s 21 point run. In the third overtime, Boise State got held to a field goal, while James Morrow had a nice catch and run to win it for the Cougars.

So if your team lost or you thought about phoning it in and missing some of the wonderful games, get back on track. It’s still early in the season and there is a lot of football to be played.

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Five things to watch in week two of college football

We finally have a full week of college football in the books and are ready for week two, which features some big games. Four top 25 matchups will really show everyone who is pretend and who is for real. It is one of many separation Saturdays this fall. Here are five things to watch from the big weekend:

1. Stanford’s rushing attack vs. USC’s defense

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Bryce Love (Photo by zimbio.com)

This game will say a lot about both teams, but will highlight their differences. Sam Darnold will get a lot of attention after not playing his best against Western Michigan in the opener. The thing that may decide this game though is the physicality of Stanford and their ability to run the football.

Bryce Love is averaging a whopping 13.8 yards per carry after his first game against Rice. He looks ready to carry the load for the Cardinal offense and be the next star of the backfield. Love will be running against an experienced offensive line that helped gain Christian McCaffrey fame.

So why does this particular matchup mean so much? USC could not stop Western Michigan on the ground in their season opener. The Broncos rushed for 263 yards against the Trojans and are a shell of the rushing attack Stanford has. The Trojans lost the majority of their defensive front from last season and will need to slow Love and Stanford down in order to win the game.

If USC can stop the run they will win, but if they can’t they will have to win a shootout.

2. Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State’s secondary

Five things to watch for in week two of college football

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

Ohio State playing Oklahoma is drawing a lot of interest this week, because both teams are College Football Playoff contenders. Lincoln Reilly will also be tested in his first big game as head coach of the Sooners. His offense, which is led by Baker Mayfield will be going up against an Ohio State unit that struggled in their opener.

The Buckeyes lost three of four starters in the secondary to the NFL and it showed in their season opening win against Indiana. Ohio State allowed over 400 yards passing to the Hoosiers. Indiana is a good offensive team, but the Buckeyes need to improve if they have National Championship hopes.

Mayfield has two straight appearances as a Heisman Finalist, but has not won. He wants to avenge a loss to the Buckeyes from last year in Norman. He has over 10,000 career passing yards with a completion percentage of 95% in his first game this season. His efficiency is going to be key against Ohio State.

The secondary of Ohio State won’t be able to completely shut down Mayfield, or even play as well as last year, but need to get key stops in order to win.

3. Jake Fromm vs. Notre Dame’s defense

five things to watch for in week two of college football

Jake Fromm (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

The Fighting Irish will host Georgia for the first time in history. In a game involving teams with so much history, anything can happen. Both teams looked good in week one, but Georgia’s starting quarterback Jacob Eason got injured and had to be replaced by Jake Fromm. Now Fromm is getting thrown into a very tough road game at Notre Dame Stadium.

Fromm went 10 of 15 for 143 yards and a touchdown after relieving Eason in the Bulldogs opening game. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and the running game will have to take some pressure off Fromm, but he will need to make some key throws. Fromm is no slouch and is a former four star recruit by most websites and has the capability, he just needs to show composure.

Notre Dame’s defense was anemic last season. They allowed over 27 points per game and only return four starters. They looked much better against Temple in their first game, but Temple is a program that is likely rebuilding after the loss of head coach Matt Ruhle to Baylor.

With a bad defense and an inexperienced quarterback, something is going to give on Saturday night in South Bend.

4. Quarterback play in the battle of the Tigers

Five Things to watch in college football week two

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by reddit.com)

Both Clemson and Auburn had good defenses last season and should continue to have good ones this season. Where they need players to step up is at the quarterback position. This game will likely be decided by which quarterback plays better between the two teams.

Kelly Bryant got sporadic playing time throughout his first two years at Clemson, but now is the lead man. Against Kent State last week he threw for 236 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. He added 77 yards rushing on seven carries as well. His challenge will be tough, as Auburn had the seventh best scoring defense in the country last year.

Leading Auburn’s offense will be Jarrett Stidham, the Baylor transfer. Stidham played a little bit for Baylor two years ago, before deciding to transfer. He looked a little sloppy in his first game for Auburn, but has experience and production in his past. If he is efficient, Auburn has a chance to upset Clemson.

5. Boise State at 20 Washington State

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Luke Falk (Photo by usatoday.com)

One game that is not getting a lot of recognition features the Broncos and Cougars. Last season the two teams played and Boise State came out on top. This season, Washington State is looking for revenge and possibly to compete in the Pac-12 North.

Boise State may not be the same program that they were ten years ago, but they are still a very solid program. They won 10 games last year and have their quarterback Brett Rypien back for another season. The Broncos outlasted a good Troy team in week one and look like they will be solid again.

Mike Leach and the Cougars dodged their yearly loss to an FCS team in week one by beating Montana State. Luke Falk has already racked up 311 passing yards and thee touchdowns this season and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. His ability to chuck the ball all over the field will give Washington State a chance to be a very successful team.

This game should be a close one, especially since Boise State loves the role of the underdog.

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Ten best non-conference games for college football in 2017

The college football season is just about to start and most teams will start with non-conference games to start their seasons. There are some great non-conference games this season that not only feature matchups of teams with a lot of history, but also games that will impact the College Football Playoff. Here are the ten best non-conference games for the 2017 college football season:

10. 22 West Virginia vs. 21 Virginia Tech (Landover,MD), Sep. 3

Best Non-conference games

(Photo by manhattanhokies.com)

This is on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend to help kick off the college football season. There will be no NFL games to compete against, so this game will have a lot of viewers.

Both teams came out in the AP Top 25 poll that was recently released. This game may be a little overshadowed by some other big games in the opening weekend, but it will have a huge impact on the college football season.

West Virginia finished last season with a 10-3 record and get new life at the quarterback position in Will Grier. In the first year of the new Big 12 Championship Game, the Mountaineers could beat out Oklahoma or Oklahoma State for a spot. With a win in the non-conference against a good team like Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers can catapult their way to the College Football Playoff if a lot of things go their way.

Virginia Tech won the ACC Coastal Division last season and will likely do so again this season. They have a great back seven of the defense, which will be challenged by Grier. The offense will give us the first view of Josh Jackson who will be a good dual-threat quarterback for the Hokies.

9. Notre Dame at 14 Stanford, nov. 25

Best Non-conference games

One of many close games in the Stanford-ND rivalry happened two season ago. (Photo by youtube.com)

Notre Dame may have missed out on the AP Poll for the Preseason, but have a lot of intriguing games considering their history and talent. They still received 65 votes, which means if they win in week one they will be in the top 25. This rivalry game happens on the last weekend of the regular season, so Notre Dame will have to win some games to help earn this spot on the list.

It is a make it or break it year for Brian Kelly. If the season is going poorly this could be his last game at Notre Dame. If the Fighting Irish can play up to their potential and only have two or so losses heading into this game, a win in this game could get them into a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. For Stanford they could be in a position where they have won the Pac-12 North and this game comes before the Pac-12 Championship game, or they could be trying to make their resume look better because they lost the Pac-12 North.

This game features a good offensive line at Notre Dame against a very good Stanford defense, that ranked 18th in the country in scoring last season. If all goes as planned for both schools, some of the bigger names on the team could be fighting for draft position or for postseason awards. Mike McGlinchey can cement his status as a top tackle in the NFL Draft, while Bryce Love of Stanford can rack up more rushing yards.

8. 15 Georgia at Notre Dame, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Notre Dame Stadium will be packed for the Georgia game. (Photo by und.com)

SEC teams don’t often play Notre Dame, but two staffers met at a seminar and now we have two historic teams playing once this year and once in 2019 in Athens. If both teams win in week one, this will be a game between ranked opponents, making it even bigger.

Georgia is on a quest to win the SEC East and doing so is very possible. If they get to the SEC Championship with only a loss or two they could be in a “win and you are in” situation for the College Football Playoff. That is easier said than done, but a win at Notre Dame would be a nice feather in their caps. Jacob Eason, Nick Chubb and the Georgia offense will have a chance to light up a Notre Dame defense that struggled last season. The defense can help set the tone on what could be a great season.

The Fighting Irish will likely be in the AP poll in the second week and be tested with a very good Georgia team. Brandon Wimbush will be thrown into the fire against a Bulldog defense that returns 10 starters. The matchups to watch in this game are endless for a variety of different reasons: How many yards can the Georgia offense get? How will Wimbush fair against a good Georgia defense? How will the NFL talent on the Notre Dame offensive line do against the NFL talent in the Georgia front seven?

Even if this game becomes a blowout for one side or another, it will give fans a good idea of where each program is headed this season.

7. 4 USC at Notre Dame, oct. 21

best non-conference games

No matter what side you root for, everyone remembers the “Bush Push”. (photo by insidesocal.com)

USC will take a break from their Pac-12 schedule to play this rivalry game with Notre Dame. Yes, Notre Dame is in a third straight game on this list, but they do play a great non-conference schedule with their 12 games to fill.

The Trojans want to make the College Football Playoff this season, that is for sure. Sam Darnold could be the next in a long line of Heisman Trophy winners out of USC. He has a chance to light up the scoreboard at Notre Dame Stadium and do it in front of a national audience.

After the Georgia game, the Fighting Irish have a chance to go on a win streak. They play Boston College, Michigan State, Miami (OH) and North Carolina before their two weeks to prepare for USC. Optimally they would be 6-0 at that point, but they have more talent than everyone, but Georgia. If they are 5-1 with a loss to Georgia this game would have huge implications. If their record is anything less than 4-2 at this point of the season, Kelly is likely looking at a new job.

One interesting battle to watch from this game is Iman Marshall and Jack Jones covering Equanimeous St. Brown of Notre Dame. All will be playing on Sundays in a few years and will like the challenge of playing against one another.

6. 23 Texas at 4 USC, Sep. 16

USC certainly didn’t take it easy in the non-conference schedule. They get a rematch of the BCS National Championship Game, arguably the greatest one of all time, when Vince Young ran in the game-winning touchdown and unofficially ended the USC dynasty under Pete Carroll.

The Trojans are a little bit ahead of the Longhorns right now in terms of getting back to a National Championship, but this game will be big nonetheless. With their aspirations to make it to the College Football Playoff, USC needs to take care of business out of conference. A key to this game is that they play Texas a week after Stanford and will likely be banged up from a physical game.

Texas has hired Tom Herman to get them back to their winning ways. They have the talent on the roster, but needed a man in charge to get them where they want to go. Shane Buechele will get a chance to show his improvement against a USC defense that should be pretty solid. Malik Jefferson is a star at linebacker for the Longhorns and will want to play well against a good offensive unit like USC to improve his NFL Draft stock.

5. 17 Florida vs. 11 Michigan (Arlington, Texas), Sep. 2

Best non-conference games

Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain will square off in week one. (photo by youtube.com)

The second best game of the opening weekend features two teams that finished with nine wins last season and two teams that struggled on offense. Both will try to have their defenses lead them to victory again in 2017.

Florida made the SEC Championship Game last year and have the capability to do it this year as well. They have talented players on their defense, but only four returning starters, so new stars will get their chance in a big game. The offensive line returns four starters, but the thing that they have lacked is a quarterback as Feleipe Franks tries to give them one. They will have to deal with seven players being suspended for the misuse of financial aid, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

The Wolverines have problems of their own to worry about. They only have one returning starter on defense and four on offense, which struggled against good competition last year anyways. Their hope is that Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting pans out. Wilton Speight needs to take a step forward on offense, while the defense needs star recruits like Rashan Gary to step up.

This game will provide the chance to get to know a lot of the new faces on both of these teams and also allow fans to see if these teams have what it takes to win their divisions.

4. 3 Florida State at 17 Florida, Nov. 25

Best non-conference games

Florida State celebrating after a victory over Florida (Photo by cbssports.com)

At this point in the season, Florida State may be trying to stay in contention for the College Football Playoff, while Florida may be getting ready as the SEC East representative in the SEC Championship Game. Whether this rivalry game has as much riding on it as we expect is unknown, but it will be a good way to cap off the regular season for both teams.

The Seminoles may have one or two losses at this point in the season, but could still make the College Football Playoff. Deondre Francois will have already been tested by the defenses of Alabama, Clemson and Louisville, so this will provide him with another opportunity to see what he can do.

Florida lost to Florida State last year in this game and then had to prepare for the SEC Championship the next week. They will have a good defense again, but will need Franks to step up in this game especially. The Gators will need him to have a career day against the likes of Tarvarus McFadden and Derwin James.

This game will likely have a lot riding on it, as it did last season and will also feature a lot of talented players going up against each other once again.

3. 12 Auburn at 5 Clemson, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Gus Malzahn and Dabo Swinney will square off again. (Photo by seccountry.com)

Clemson’s first big test as reigning champs is taking on Auburn, a team that has a lot of high expectations themselves. Auburn is looking to get back in the National Championship picture and can use this game to show people that they are for real.

The Clemson defense will likely be very good again with seven returning starters and a lot of good recruits waiting to fill in. Offensively Deshaun Watson will be replaced by Kelly Bryant (or Hunter Johnson), an this will be the first time to shine for a new quarterback. It won’t be an easy task for the new quarterback because Auburn was seventh best scoring defense in the country in 2016 and returns eight starters.

Auburn looks to Jarrett Stidham to get them back to their high-scoring ways on offense. He was successful at Baylor before transferring. With six starters on offense back, he should have a lot of the tools he needs to make things happen. The defense will be good again and will be trying to force an inexperience quarterback into turnovers.

The fun part of this game to watch is Stidham and the Auburn offense against the talented Clemson defense. If Stidham can live up to the hype, it could be a great game.

2. 7 Oklahoma at 2 Ohio State, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett will go head to head a second time. (Photo by thefootballbraniacs.com)

This game last year featured a lot of trash talk leading up to it, but Ohio State escaped Norman victorious, 45-24. With both teams having legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations, it makes it easy to call it one of the top two non-conference games of 2017. This will give fans a chance to see how Lincoln Reilly does in his first big game as head coach of the Sooners.

Ohio State lost a lot of talent to the NFL, but returns 15 starters and a lot of talent. J.T. Barrett will try to get back on track with new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. He had a great game against the Sooners last year and will likely do so again in 2017. The defense has an inexperienced secondary that will be tested by Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield should put up points, but needs new weapons to step it up after losing a lot of key players to the NFL and graduation. His offensive line returns to protect him, which is a huge factor in this game. Defensively, Oklahoma isn’t great and needs that to improve for this game in particular. They have talented players, but because they can’t stop that many teams, they need to force turnovers.

The players to watch in this game are the ones in the trenches. Oklahoma features a good offensive line, including Orlando Brown. Ohio State has a good defensive line with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa. A lot of NFL talent will be going at it in this game.

While this game doesn’t rule a team out of College Football Playoff contention, Ohio State’s margin for error would be less and Oklahoma would have a lot of help needed with a loss.

1. 3. Florida State vs. 1 Alabama (Atlanta,GA), Sep. 2

Best non-conference games

Deondre Francois and Jalen Hurts. (photo by sbnation.com)

This is a game that we could be seeing again in the College Football Playoff. Both teams are that good. It is the perfect way to kick-off the season and both teams will be trying to make a statement.

Alabama is coming off of a loss to an ACC team in the National Championship Game. Nick Saban is going to try to make the ACC pay in this one. Jalen Hurts is back, but won’t be able to run as much on this very athletic Florida State defense. He will have to use his arm, which was average at best last year. He will have help from Calvin Ridley on the outside. The defense will continue to plug in players like they do every season and will once again be elite.

Florida State has a lot of tough games this season, so winning this one would be a huge relief and give them a chance to make a mistake later on in the season. The offensive line will be tested by the good Alabama defense. They have to protect Deondre Francois long enough for him to make good throws. On defense the Seminoles will try to make Hurts beat them with his arm, which will be tough with McFadden and James in the secondary.

Watching Calvin Ridley and the Alabama receivers try to get separation from the Florida State secondary will be fun to watch in this game.

Thank the football gods for this game. It is a great game in week one and should get everyone hyped for a great season.

 

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 10-6

The football season is right around the corner so let’s dive into more rankings. This installment will go over top ten teams that will be vying for a title. For a spot on this list, teams need to have a lot of talent on their rosters.

To look at the previous list of teams, go here.

10. Georgia Bulldogs

College football top 25

Jacob Eason (Photo by 247sports.com)

Kirby Smart had a decent first season as head coach of the Bulldogs and helped them finish 8-5. They won the Liberty Bowl to finish last season, beating TCU 31-23. Smart will have 15 returning starters to work with, which includes 10 on the defensive side of the ball. This season the Bulldogs look to take a step forward and win the SEC East.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are set in the backfield. Jacob Eason will be entering his second season and there are high hopes for his career. He was a highly-touted prospect that threw for 2,430 yards as a freshman. He will have two good running backs in Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel. They will get the bulk of the carries and have amassed almost 6,000 yards on the ground during their time in Athens. Chubb is the lead man and averages 6.4 yards per carry over his career.

The offensive line returns two starters and will be the key to the Georgia attack. There isn’t too much experience returning at the receiver position, but tight end Isaac Nauta is getting a lot of hype. At 6’4″ 246 pounds he provides a good target for Eason, while the receiving unit as a whole needs to step up.

There may not be a weak point on the defense with how much experience they have returning. John Atkins returns in the middle of the defensive line, while Trenton Thompson returns at defensive end. Thompson had five sacks last season. The linebackers might be the most talented unit on the defense. Lorenzo Carter is a good pass rusher from outside linebacker, while Roquan Smith is a good run stopper from his inside linebacker position.

Dominick Sanders is the most talented out of the secondary players and has the most interceptions returning to the team from last year with three. Georgia’s defense was good last year and now must take the step forward to become elite.

Tough non-conference games will be had against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Their games that could give them trouble in conference are Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. Georgia has the talent on their roster to win every game on the schedule. They will likely drop two of the tough games on the schedule and go 10-2 on the season, with a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

9. Clemson Tigers

College football top 25

Christian Wilkins (Photo by si.com)

The Tigers lost a lot from the team that won the National Championship last season, but some respect has to be shown to the fantastic job Dabo Swinney has done recruiting. They do still return 12 starters from last year’s team and will be looking to get back to the College Football Playoff.

Clemson will win a lot of games because of the play of their offensive line, which returns four starters. This includes Mitch Hyatt, who is a 2018 NFL Draft Prospect. The running backs getting carries behind this offensive line will change a lot, but C.J. Fuller looks to be the lead man.

Kelly Bryant has to fill some big shoes that were left by Deshaun Watson. The junior was a good prospect himself out of high school and has all the tools to be successful. If he does end up struggling, Clemson has recruited freshman Hunter Johnson to step in. Deon Cain is a good receiver that now gets his chance to shine without Mike Williams on the team. Hunter Renfroe will continue to do work and make clutch plays from the slot.

The defensive line will be stacked with talent, with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence returning. All three were highly productive for the team last year, with Ferrell leading them all with six sacks. Kendall Joseph leads the linebackers now after the departure of Ben Boulware, but is pretty accomplished himself with 124 tackles last season.

Van Smith is the leader of the secondary from his safety position and has the most interceptions returning with two. The pass defense will likely take a slight step back, while the run defense will stay about the same.

The schedule is tough and will be tougher with the fact that now Clemson will have a target on their back. They have games that will challenge them in Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. For the most part Clemson should be able to manage these tough games, but will likely drop two or three of them.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

College football top 25

Baker Mayfield (photo by usatoday.com)

Oklahoma’s ranking would’ve been higher had Bob Stoops still been the head coach. Lincoln Reilly takes over now and will have a good team to work with. They went 11-2 last season and beat Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. With a lot of talent returning, the Sooners will be looking to make the College Football Playoff.

The offense will start with Heisman Trophy Finalist Baker Mayfield. He has had a storied career so far for Oklahoma and will continue to put up big numbers this season. The problem is that he doesn’t have all the weapons he had in previous years. Jeff Badet transferred in from Kentucky and should provide a spark to a receiving core that only returns one starter, Jeffrey Mead.

There is good news for Oklahoma fans: The offensive line returns every starter. Orlando Brown is getting looks from the NFL and is a dominant force. The bad news is that there isn’t much experience returning at running back and Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson will fight for carries.

Defense for the Sooners was average at best in 2016. The secondary gave up a lot of passing yards, but does return some good players. Jordan Thomas is a good college corner, but teams find a way to throw around him and pick up a lot of yardage.

Ogbonnia Okronkwo returns at linebacker and leads the pass rush with nine sacks last season. The Sooners will be inexperienced up front, with no returning starters on the defensive line.

Oklahoma gets to play Ohio State, Texas (neutral), Kansas State and Oklahoma State all away from home. West Virginia travels to Norman to give them plenty to focus on for this year. The Sooners’ offense will be high-powered enough to get them 10 wins this season and a spot in the new Big 12 Championship Game.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football top 25

Mason Rudolph (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Cowboys finished 10-3 last season and blew Colorado out in the Alamo Bowl. Mike Gundy has one of his most talented teams ever. His team is good enough to win the Big 12 and get to the College Football Playoff, but they have a long road a head and a lot of history to overcome.

Mason Rudolph returns at quarterback, after flirting with the idea of going pro. He will put up big numbers while protecting the football, which makes him an elite college quarterback. The good news for him was that his teammate and top target James Washington also chose to return to school. Tyron Johnson, an LSU transfer, will be eligible to play this season and will provide another good target for Rudolph.

Three offensive linemen return, but the unit will be more than capable of protecting Mason Rudolph. Oklahoma State found their running back of the future last season in Justice Hill. Hill ran for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman last season. He will be asked to put up similar numbers in 2017.

In terms of scoring defense, Oklahoma State ranked third in the Big 12, but that isn’t saying too much. Essentially they were an average defense. Five starters return including two in the secondary. Ramon Richards and Tre Flowers will be starting again at safety, while new corners are broken in.

Chad Whittener returns to the linebackers and will be asked to step up his production this season after finishing with 71 tackles a year ago. The Cowboys don’t have much returning in the middle of the defensive line, but do have a lot of experience at defensive end. Both starters return as well as Trelund Webber, who comes off the bench to rush the passer. He returns as the team leader in sacks in 2016 with six.

The schedule features games against Pittsburgh, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. Oklahoma State will win at least nine games, but probably finish at 10-2, getting them a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.

6. USC Trojans

College football top 25

Sam Darnold (photo by dailynews.com)

The Trojans went on a magical run to the Rose Bowl last season and beat Penn State in a thriller. Clay Helton did a fine job last year as head coach, but has a new challenge this year. Only 10 starters return, meaning a lot of players will need to step up to help USC win the Pac-12.

Sam Darnold is the potential number one overall pick in the 2018 draft. He still has a lot to prove, but finished the season with 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t start the first few games of last season. Darnold won’t have an elite receiver to throw to this season, unless someone really improves, but Deontay Burnett is the leading returning receiver with 670 yards in 2016.

Ronald Jones II is overlooked because of how well Darnold played last year, but he can flat out run the football. His 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns will be improved upon this season. Just two offensive linemen return this season. If the newcomers don’t step in and do their jobs the whole offense will suffer.

The linebackers return the most experience, with three of four starters returning. Porter Gustin and Cameron Smith are both playmakers. Smith had 83 tackles last season. Only one of three returns on the defensive line, Rasheem Green. Green had six sacks last season and will need to improve production to lead the pass rush.

Iman Marshall returns at corner and will now be asked to shut down the other teams’ best receivers, as Adoree Jackson is now in the NFL. He has a chance to be drafted early, like Jackson was, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Marveil Tell is back at safety and Chris Hawkins will be solid at the other starting safety spot in 2017. The defense was good last year and if they want to get to the College Football Playoff, need to improve this year.

USC has a tough schedule, which includes games against Stanford, Texas, Washington State, Notre Dame and UCLA. While they should have their fair share of struggles, they will have at least 10 wins entering the Pac-12 Championship Game. At that point it may be a play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

 

Featured image by usatoday.com.

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