Miami Hurricanes

It’s time to respect the Miami Hurricanes

It’s all about The U. The Miami Hurricanes are taking the NCAA by storm with their swagger and stellar defense.

The Hurricanes began the season ranked 18th in the AP poll, and now find themselves ranked third in the latest CFP poll, moving up four spots after several of the top ranked teams lost on Saturday.

Notre Dame, who was previously ranked No. 3, was the latest victim of The U. The matchup was one of the most anticipated of the week as the Catholics and Convicts were both ranked in the top 10 with a lot to prove.

If you tuned in Saturday night, it was a rather boring game. Miami blew out Notre Dame 41-8. Miami’s prized turnover chain also made four appearances throughout the night.

This was a statement win for Miami. As of late, nobody has been giving them much respect since they have had a few close calls against unranked opponents and supposedly have a weak strength of schedule. However, they kept moving up in the polls due to their undefeated record.

Now that they have blown out a top-10 team on national television, it is time to start respecting the Miami Hurricanes.

Strength of record

Some fans just can’t get around the fact that the Hurricanes haven’t played big-time competition like Clemson or Notre Dame. The Hurricanes currently rank 21st in strength of schedule, which is the fifth toughest amongst the top 10 teams in the CFP poll. The best teams they have played include Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Toledo.

Mark Richt knows what it’s all about. (Photo by Erum Kidwai // The Miami Hurricane)

However, their strength of record is first in the nation. Strength of record is a little more foreign to some fans, but it is not simply saying a 9-0 record is better than 8-1.

Strength of record reflects the chance of an average top 25 team having the same record or better as said team based on their schedule. Strength of record incorporates some strength of schedule in it. Basically what it is getting at is would the average top 25 team have an undefeated record like Miami if they played the same teams.

As far as strength of record goes, Miami is first followed by Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, Georgia and Wisconsin. Despite Clemson having the third hardest strength of schedule, it is still more impressive that Miami has gone undefeated given their schedule than Clemson going 9-1 with theirs.

If fans still want to complain about Miami’s “weak” schedule, they better really complain about Alabama, who ranks 38th and is the No. 1 team in the nation. Or maybe No. 5 Wisconsin, who currently ranks 67th in strength of schedule.

Hurricane Irma and injuries

It has been a while, but remember that Miami had a lot of conflict to deal with early on in the season due to Hurricane Irma.

Miami had to cancel their game against Arkansas State and also had to reschedule matchups against Florida State and Georgia Tech. Miami also struggled in those two games, winning at Florida State 24-20 and beating Georgia Tech at home 25-24 in back-to-back weeks. These two games are a big part of why Miami has not gained the respect of all college football fans.

After having five games scheduled for the month of September, Miami only played three.

Playing those early season games are important for a team to get into rhythm and get ready for conference play down the stretch. Sure, having a week off to rest later in the season is nice to give players a break, but how do you expect to get in shape when you don’t play a game for 21 days? That is what the Hurricanes were dealing with and explains why they were having struggles in the month of October.

Miami also lost their star running back Mark Walton for the rest of the season due to an ankle injury in the Florida State game. In the four games Walton played this season, he had 428 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per carry. He was already dealing with problems with his other ankle to begin with and still put up numbers like that. Imagine what Miami could be doing with a healthy Walton, who was a possible ACC player of the year candidate.

Along with Walton, one of the team’s top receivers, Ahmmon Richards, has also missed time due to injury, including the Georgia Tech game. Richards has been dealing with a hamstring problem and missed time due to an ankle injury. After being an All-American freshman last season, expectations for Richards were through the roof this year.

All of this can really put pressure on a quarterback to perform, but Malik Rosier doesn’t seem to be letting it bother him too much. After star quarterback Brad Kaaya took off for the NFL, fans weren’t really sure what to expect from Rosier. Throw in all the missed time due to Hurricane Irma and injuries to some of your star players and it makes it that much more difficult.

Despite his circumstances, Rosier has 2,410 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also has 339 rushing yards and four more scores.

Defense wins championships

While the offense has struggled at times this season, the defense has been keeping Miami competitive.

Miami Hurricanes

Trajan Bandy knows a thing or two about the turnover chain. (Photo by Associated Press)

Miami’s defense will wreck you. They rank second in tackles for loss per game (8.8), second in turnover margin (1.67), fourth in forced turnovers (24), fourth in interceptions (16), fifth in sacks (33) and 10th in points allowed per game (16.6). Keep in mind that Miami has had to cancel a game, making their season totals that much more impressive.

This defense held Notre Dame, who ranks 14th in points scored per game at 38, to just eight points. They held Virginia Tech, who is averaging 31.5 points per game, to just 10 points.

Everybody knows about Miami’s turnover chain by now. It’s pretty hard to miss if you have watched any Miami football games or any weekend highlights of any kind.

Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz came up with the idea and has his defense hungry for the football with it. It gives his players that much more reason to force turnovers and look like a boss on the sidelines wearing the prized possession.

Respect The U

It is time to give the Miami Hurricanes the respect they deserve. With the top ranked strength of record, hungry defense and the issues caused by Hurricane Irma and injuries, this Miami team is something special. After those struggles in October, they are playing their best football against their toughest competition.

The U will be facing off against Clemson for the ACC Championship game when the season is all said and done. With Clemson currently ranked No. 2 and Miami No. 3, the stage is set for a historic showdown. Miami is out to prove they are legit and Clemson is seeking their third straight championship game appearance. Get ready.

 

Featured image by Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

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J.T. Barrett Heisman

A look into J.T. Barrett’s comeback season

Last year on New Year’s Eve, Ohio State got embarrassed in the postseason by the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers. Embarrassed might be an understatement, as the Buckeyes were shutout 31-0.

The offense could get absolutely nothing going offensively. They had 215 total yards, three turnovers, just nine first downs and had the ball for about 12 less minutes than Clemson.

A big part of the struggle was quarterback J.T. Barrett. Barrett had been inconsistent all season long and laid an egg in one of the most important games of the season. Barrett finished the night with 127 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Barrett finished the season with 2,555 yards, 24 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a 135.3 rating and a 61.5 completion rate. Barrett also had five games where he completed less than 60 percent of his passes, including three where he didn’t even complete half of them. It was definitely nothing like his freshman year when he helped lead the Buckeyes to the playoffs.

This season

It appeared that some of that inconsistency came into this season as well when Barrett and the Buckeyes struggled early in their season opener against Indiana and then in their loss to Oklahoma in the following week. Fans and analysts were writing off Ohio State already, mostly due to Barrett’s play.

Whatever the reason was for Barrett’s forgettable junior season or his slow start to this season, all of those bad memories have been erased from his brain apparently. Barrett has been performing like his old self this season.

In his next five games after the Oklahoma loss, Barrett began to take off. Yes, those games were against Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska, who all have a combined record of 20-20. But Ohio State took advantage of the opportunity, winning all five games by a combined score of 266-56.

J.T. Barrett heisman

J.T. Barrett played one of his best games ever against Penn State last week. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Then came a test for the Buckeyes with their matchup against Penn State. It was also a test for the Nittany Lions, as the only rated team they had played all season up to that point was Michigan, who is not even ranked in the AP Poll anymore. Penn State got off to a great lead and appeared to have another win over the Buckeyes like they did last season.

Ohio State wasn’t finished though. They scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to beat Penn State 39-38. Barrett played arguably his best game ever. He finished with 328 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, completed 84.6 percent of his passes and also ran for another 95 yards. This game put Barrett in talks for the Heisman Trophy by some analysts.

Is this an overreaction to one good game? Think again.

Barrett’s numbers on the season have been spectacular. He has completed 69.5 percent of his passes, which is seventh in the NCAA. He has thrown for 2,166 yards, 25 touchdown passes (third), one interception (lowest for players with at least 70 attempts), and a 176.2 rating (third).

He also leads the Big Ten Conference in all of those categories, which is arguably the best conference in college football. Not too much of an overreaction after all.

Barrett now finds himself in the Heisman race with Penn State running back and Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley, Stanford running back Bryce Love, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Barrett’s case for the Heisman

It seems that it is Barkley’s award to lose. The guy has been doing it all for the Nittany Lions all season long.

Love has also had an amazing year, but has played a bunch of average teams. However, he is averaging over 10 yards per carry and has 1,387 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. That is impressive regardless of which power five conference you play in. But let me explain Barrett’s case.

J.T. Barrett Heisman

Could Barrett actually win the Heisman this season? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

First off, the numbers don’t lie. Don’t let the yards by Rudolph and Mayfield fool you. Yes, they may have more passing yards than Barrett, but look at their strength of schedule.

Rudolph has played just two teams with records over .500. They beat West Virginia, but lost to TCU. Mayfield has played just two as well, losing to Iowa State, but beating Ohio State. Barrett’s yards would probably be through the roof too if he was playing teams like Baylor and UTEP.

Barrett has played three teams over .500, including Oklahoma, Army and Penn State. The worst team he has played has a 3-5 record. Rudolph has played four teams with losing records, including 0-8 Baylor and 2-7 Tulsa. Mayfield has also 0-8 UTEP and 0-8 Baylor.

Despite Barrett’s schedule, he still has more touchdowns and less interceptions than both Rudolph and Mayfield. Not to mention he has more rushing yards than them and also a higher completion rate and rating than Rudolph.

The rest of the season

Barrett is going to have a few more tests before the season is all said and done. They will play at Iowa this week, who has always been a competitor in the Big Ten. Then they will host No. 24 Michigan State, who have been surprisingly successful so far this season. They will also end the season against their big rival Michigan at The Big House.

Barrett will get the chance to prove himself worthy of the Heisman against some of the best competition in the Big Ten. If you ask me, I think he can handle it and will prove to the doubters that he is legit.

If Ohio State wins out, they will be back in the playoffs, looking for redemption after their loss last season. You can bet these Buckeyes want nothing more than a shot at the National Title to make everybody forget about last season. It is going to be an exciting finish.

 

 

Featured image by USA TODAY Sports

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College football week 7 picks

Joe DiTullio and Rob Doerger continue their season long picks of every FBS college football game for week 7. Here are the picks:

Away Home Location Rob Joe
Texas State Louisiana Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA ULL ULL
#2 Clemson Syracuse Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY Clemson Clemson
#8 Washington State California Memorial Stadium , Berkeley, CA Wash St Washington State
#6 TCU Kansas State Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS TCU TCU
#17 Michigan Indiana Memorial Stadium , Bloomington, IN Michigan Michigan
#20 NC State Pittsburgh Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA NC State NC State
#24 Texas Tech West Virginia Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV Texas Tech West Virginia
Florida State Duke Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC FSU FSU
Rutgers Illinois Memorial Stadium , Champaign, IL Illini Illinois
Eastern Michigan Army Michie Stadium, West Point, NY Army Army
BYU Mississippi State Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS Miss St Miss State
South Carolina Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Tennessee South Carolina
Kansas Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA Iowa St Iowa State
Connecticut Temple Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA Temple Temple
Boston College Louisville Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, KY Louisville Louisville
UNLV Air Force Falcon Stadium, Usaf Academy, CO Air Force AF
Old Dominion Marshall Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, WV Marshall Marshall
Purdue #7 Wisconsin Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI Wisconsin Wisconsin
#10 Auburn LSU Tiger Stadium , Baton Rouge, LA Auburn Auburn
Georgia Tech #11 Miami Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL Miami Georgia Tech
#12 Oklahoma Texas Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX Oklahoma Oklahoma
Baylor #14 Oklahoma State Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK OK St Ok St
Virginia North Carolina Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC Uva UVA
Northwestern Maryland Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD Maryland Northwestern
Vanderbilt Ole Miss Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS Vandy Vandy
Akron Western Michigan Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI WMU WMU
Miami (OH) Kent State Dix Stadium, Kent, OH Miami (OH) Miami
Northern Illinois Buffalo UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY NIU NIU
Ohio Bowling Green Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, OH Ohio Ohio
Toledo Central Michigan Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, MI Toledo Toledo
#25 Navy Memphis Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN Memphis Memphis
Houston Tulsa Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK Houston Houston
Colorado Oregon State Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR Colorado Colorado
Charlotte Western Kentucky L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, KY WKU WKU
Wyoming Utah State Romney Stadium, Logan, UT Utah St Utah St
Georgia State Louisiana Monroe Malone Stadium, Monroe, LA ULM ULM
Appalachian State Idaho Kibbie Dome, Moscow, ID App St App St
New Mexico State Georgia Southern Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA NMSU NMSU
Middle Tennessee UAB Legion Field , Birmingham, AL MTSU MTSU
East Carolina #22 UCF Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL UCF UCF
Margin of victory 36 25
UT San Antonio North Texas Apogee Stadium, Denton, TX UNT UTSA
UTEP Southern Mississippi M. M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS USM USM
Tulane Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL Tulane Tulane
Texas A&M Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL Florida TAMU
Coastal Carolina Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Ark St Ark State
Arkansas #1 Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL Bama Bama
Missouri #4 Georgia Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA Georgia UGA
#9 Ohio State Nebraska Memorial Stadium , Lincoln, NE OSU OSU
Cincinnati #18 South Florida Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL USF USF
Utah #13 USC Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA USC USC
#21 Michigan State Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN Mich St Mich ST
UCLA Arizona Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ Arizona Arizona
New Mexico Fresno State Bulldog Stadium , Fresno, CA Fresno Fresno
Nevada Colorado State CSU Stadium, Fort Collins, CO Col St Col St
Boise State #19 San Diego State SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA SDSU SDSU
#5 Washington Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Washington Washington
Oregon #23 Stanford Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA Stanford Stanford
San José State Hawai’i Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI Hawaii Hawaii
Villanova James Madison James Madison James Madison
Gameday Guest Picker (Harrisonburg, VA) Lindsey Czarniak Phil Vassar

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Quinton Flowers

Quinton Flowers overcomes tragedy through football and faith

South Florida’s football team is making noise this season, but they haven’t always been this dominant. From 2011-14, the Bulls finished with a record of 14-34.

The Bulls’ turnaround centers around quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers has been winning ever since he was named the starting quarterback. Now a senior, Flowers has the Bulls looking better than ever.

The path to stardom was not easy for Flowers. In fact, he almost quit football entirely in high school. Most people have a difficult time with one death in their family. Flowers has had four, the most recent being his aunt before the Bulls’ game against Stony Brook last month. How has Flowers made it this far?

“Faith in God,” Flowers said. “Just trying to go day by day, one at a time, not trying to move too fast.”

Early years

Flowers made a name for himself at Miami Jackson High School (FL). He was known as one of the top athletes in Florida as a four-star recruit who had a 4.4-40 time.

As a sophomore, Flowers threw for 2,151 yards and ran for another 562. In his junior year, he passed for 1,712 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns. Things were looking good for Flowers. Then later in January, he received some awful news.

Flowers lost his mother to cancer. He had already lost his father when he was 7 in a drive-by shooting. Now an orphan, he moved in with his uncle’s family and decided to quit football.

Quinton Flowers

(Photo by AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

When his coach, Antonio Brown, heard Flowers’ decision, he challenged him to reconsider quitting.

“If your mom and dad were here,” Brown said, “Would you quit? Would you give up?” Flowers said no. “So why give up now? You know your mom is still watching down on you. She’s watching every move that you make.”

Those comments stuck in Flowers’ head. He returned to the team and finished his high school career on a high note. He threw for 1,349 yards and ran for 641 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Flowers passed for 6,042 yards and rushed for another 2,002 yards and 32 touchdowns in his high school years. He had offers from plenty of prestigious schools, including Alabama, Nebraska, Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Texas. Despite having the opportunity to play at a power five school, Flowers decided he was going to be the guy at South Florida.

“Everybody always wants to go to Alabama or LSU to just be another guy,” Flowers said. “Why not be that guy? That’s the reason I came to the University of South Florida, just to be that guy and make a change.”

Flowers already changed Miami Jackson and took them to the state semifinals, which is the farthest they have ever gotten. He turned their program around and wanted to do the same at South Florida.

“I like to be a difference maker,” he said. “I don’t like to be a follower. I set my own path and try to start my own legacy no matter what I do.”

South Florida turnaround

Flowers arrived at South Florida after the Bulls finished 2-10, the worst season in school history. Flowers and head coach Willie Taggart definitely had their work cut out for them.

It was a rough first season for Flowers. He had limited action his freshman year, appearing in five games with one start. His brother also died in a shooting just days before his first start, the third death in his family.

The Bulls finished 4-8. It was slightly better than the year before, but Flowers definitely had bigger plans for this team than four wins.

Quinton Flowers

(Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)

The next season, Flowers took control as the starting quarterback and did not disappoint. He passed for 2,296 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for another 991 yards and 12 touchdowns. Better yet, the Bulls finished with a winning record of 8-5 and made it to the Miami Beach Bowl. They ended up losing 45-35 to Western Kentucky, but Flowers had 381 total yards and three touchdowns in that game.

What exactly changed for the Bulls? Flowers believes it was a matter of wanting to compete and giving it their all.

“I want to win. I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Flowers said. “I felt like there was more that I could do, there was more that I could give. I felt like I was giving it all, but we still didn’t come out on top.”

Flowers decided to put more time in the film room to study opponents and figure out how the offense was going to score every chance they got. Flowers felt like they could get to another bowl the next season and wanted to guarantee a victory.

The Bulls continued winning, finishing 11-2. Flowers had his best season yet with 2,812 passing yards and 24 touchdowns and also rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Bulls also made it to another bowl, this time the Birmingham Bowl to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. Flowers didn’t plan on losing this one.

“Every time we got the ball, the only thing that was going through my mind was we have to score every time we get on the field,” Flowers said. “You have to come away with some points. You can’t leave the field punting the ball.”

The Bulls put up 39 points in regulation, but so did the Gamecocks. Flowers threw a touchdown pass on the first play in overtime to give the Bulls a 46-39 lead. The defense forced a fourth down and came up with a sack to end the game with a win.

Senior year

Taggart left after the season to take the head coaching job at Oregon. The Bulls got a great replacement with Charlie Strong though. Strong was very familiar with Flowers as he was recruited him when he coached at Louisville.

The Bulls are off to a 5-0 start this season and look better than ever. Flowers has some ideas for how he’d like to finish out this season.

Quinton Flowers

(Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images North America)

“My ideal way would be going undefeated, make sure we beat UCF, get into a bowl game, win, go to the senior bowl, meet new people, just the whole nine yards. Everything you want to do as a senior,” Flowers said. “There’s a lot of things that I want for my senior year. I got it all out there in front of me, I just have to take it one day at a time.”

Flowers will also be leaving the Bulls after this season with his name all over the record books. He has set the school records for career rushing and total touchdowns and the single season record for passing touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, total offensive yards and total touchdowns. And there is still time to set more.

A winning football program, a bowl win, broken records, just as Flowers had planned it.

“It was the reason I came to the University of South Florida, to put the school back on the map and put it back where it is supposed to be,” Flowers said.

Nobody would have blamed Flowers had he quit playing football back in high school. Losing one family member is hard enough. Those tragedies forced him to mature faster than other kids. Flowers gets through life by doing what he believes his parents would want him to.

“It’s a lot of tragedy that I go through,” he said. “I just think about what would they want me to be doing? What would they be doing if they were here? What would they tell me? I just try to go by that everyday and try to stay focused.”

Flowers understands not all is right with the world, but has learned to have faith in the difficult times that things will work out.

“Everything is not going to go your way,” he said. “Everything is not going to be right because that is the way our world is. But at the end of the day, just pray to God and have faith, and he will figure everything out for you.”

 

Featured image by Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

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Five things to watch in week 4 of college football

There have already been a lot of good games in college football with more coming. This week features the start of a lot of conference schedules for teams, which leads to a lot of competitive games and familiarity. Here are the five things to watch for this week:

1. Jalen Hurts vs. Vanderbilt’s defense

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Charles Wright (Photo by vucommodores.com)

As crazy as it sounds, Vanderbilt deserves to be in the top 25 right now. Preseason rankings are keeping some teams in that shouldn’t be, while the Commodores got snubbed. The reason that Vanderbilt has been so good this season is their defense. They have given up only 13 points on the season to some decent competition in Middle Tennessee and Kansas State.

Not only do the Commodores have the number one scoring defense in the country, they also have the ability to get after the quarterback. Charles Wright is tied for the lead in the country with 6.5 sacks. They also were able to limit Jesse Ertz’s effectiveness when they played Kansas State. Both he and Jalen Hurts are running threats, albeit different types of running threats.

Hurts can run with a little more speed than any quarterback Vanderbilt has played this season. He will have to be sure to not turn the ball over in this game and have to make a few plays with his arm. He was unable to do much with his arm against Florida State in the opener and this will be his second test against a solid defense. He will need to get the ball to Calvin Ridley as fast and often as possible, because he is a match-up nightmare.

While Hurts may win this matchup, it might be closer than a lot of people think.

2. Oklahoma State and TCU will light up the scoreboard

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Kenny Hill (Photo by wholehogsports.com)

In one of the best games of the weekend Oklahoma State and TCU will play in their first Big 12 game of their seasons. This has huge Big 12 Championship implications as the winner is in the front seat to lead one of the two championship spots.

Oklahoma State has rolled through its early season competition, putting up 54 points per game. Mason Rudolph looks like one of the few Heisman contenders who are living up to the hype. Their dynamic passing attack will be tough to slow down, especially with Rudolph throwing for 497 yards and five touchdowns against Pittsburgh.

Kenny Hill and the TCU offense may not be as good as Oklahoma State, but they are still averaging 49 points per game. Their attack is a little more balanced, which could create some problems for the Cowboy defense. Can Kenny Hill thrive against good competition? He’ll have a chance to outscore a great offense in this one and get TCU on the right path.

The over/under on this game is 71, but it could end up going way over if both offenses remain efficient.

3. Mississippi State’s offensive line vs. Georgia’s Front

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Martinas Rankin (Photo by twitter.com)

Another one of the big games of the weekend is Mississippi State vs. Georgia. A lot of questions about both teams will be answered like: Is Georgia really the best team in the SEC East? Can Mississippi State contend in the SEC West?

Martinas Rankin has had a wonderful season that includes a 99.9 pass block efficiency (according to CFB film room). The line is a solid unit overall, but the right side of the line has had some struggles. They will need to keep Nick Fitzgerald upright to allow him to scramble or find a receiver downfield.

Georgia’s defense is loaded with talent and looks like they can take over games. Lorenzo Carter is a great pass rusher, who has already accrued 14 quarterback pressures on the season. The task of slowing down Fitzgerald will be tougher than any other they have experienced this year, but they have a veteran defense that should be up for the challenge.

Although the skill position players may be more exciting to watch, the battle will be won or lost in the trenches.

4. Can a 31 year streak be broken?

Five things to watch in college football week 4

Feleipe Franks (Photo by alligatorarmy.com)

The Kentucky Wildcats have not beaten Florida in 31 years. While it’s apparent that Kentucky is more of a basketball school, they have built a solid team under Mark Stoops. Last year they got blown out, but the two previous years they were right in the game until the end. With Florida having a lot of things going on (suspensions, felonies, hurricanes, new quarterback, etc.), this may be the year that Kentucky ends the streak and contends for the SEC East.

In their first two games the Wildcats looked sluggish. They beat Southern Miss and Eastern Kentucky (FCS) by a combined 18 points. Kentucky did look much better on the road against South Carolina, winning by ten and controlling most of the game. There theme has been winning the turnover battle, something they will need to continue in order to get the win Saturday night.

Florida has had two tough games to start the season, with one being cancelled in between due to a hurricane. They lost to Michigan and beat Tennessee on a last second bomb of a touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland. While they are 1-1 they have shown they have flaws (mainly on offense) that can be exploited.

The Gators will likely extend the streak for another year at least, but this might be the best opportunity Kentucky has had.

5. The ending of Michigan State and Notre Dame

Michigan State vs. Notre Dame

Photo by isportsweb.com

It might still be too early to tell how good these teams are this season after both struggled last year. Both teams should be better this season. This game one that seemingly always goes down to the wire. Since 2005, six of the ten games have been decided by one possession. Those games include two overtime games, a fake field goal for a win and much more.

Notre Dame was close to beating Georgia at home, but came up just short. That was the theme of last season for the Irish: losing games by one possession. This year they have half the amount of wins they had last year, by beating Boston College and Temple. The rushing part of the offense is working, while the passing game needs some work. The defense is much improved over last year, but that isn’t saying much.

The Spartans are 2-0 and beat a decent Western Michigan team that put up a good fight against USC. The offense hasn’t played a quality defense yet, but has put up over 30 points per game. They need to find some playmakers for this game. Defensively they have allowed more points than they would’ve liked so far, but still give up just 12 points per game.

This will be a big early season win for either school and it might just be one that fans want to flip on when it’s nearing its end.

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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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Four things to watch in the “opening” weekend of college football

College football is finally back, sort of. The first day of games is August 26th, but it isn’t the great opening weekend we all want to see. Those games will take place from Thursday August 31st through Labor Day. While there aren’t any marquee matchups in the first slate of games, there are some big things to watch for.

1. How does Bryce Love fill in for McCaffrey?

College football opening weekend

Bryce Love (Photo by zimbio.com)

Christian McCaffrey is now on the Panthers, but Stanford has another potential star at running back. Bryce Love has averaged 7.2 yards per carry in his first two seasons at Stanford and now will be the workhorse running back in the offense. If he can somehow keep up that average, he will be in Heisman contention.

The Cardinal play Rice in Sydney, Australia. Love will be one of the Heisman front runners after this weekend regardless of how well he does because so few teams play this early. Against a rush defense that allowed 217 yards per game on the ground last season, Love will put on a show in Stanford’s first game.

Love has said that he will never be McCaffrey, but he has a chance to carve out his own legacy that starts with Stanford’s game against Rice.

2. USF’s quest to go unbeaten

college football opening weekend

Quinton Flowers (Photo by tampabay.com)

The Bulls went 11-2 last year and with an easy schedule, have a chance to go unbeaten and end up in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Charlie Strong will get the chance to improve the defense this season, while the offense can keep on humming and send them to an AAC Championship Game and beyond.

USF travels across the country to play at San Jose State. The Spartans aren’t that good of a team, but a cross-country trip can create some problems. Quinton Flowers will direct the offense from his quarterback position and help tear up the San Jose State defense on the ground. Flowers will also get a head start on the Heisman race by playing an early game against a bad opponent.

Ultimately this game won’t be that fun to watch, as USF should blow out SJSU, but if you want to watch the Bulls try to go undefeated from start to finish, the start is in San Jose.

3. Oregon State vs. Colorado State

College football opening weekend

Nick Stevens and Ryan Nall (Photo by collegefootballnews.com)

The first game of the college football season features Oregon State and Colorado State. While this may not be the most appealing game, it should be one of the most competitive of the day.

Oregon State went 4-8 last season and is trying to move their way to bowl eligibility for the first time under head coach Gary Anderson. Anderson is 6-18 in his time in Corvallis and a lose to Colorado State could be a bad omen for his future at Oregon State. If the Beavers have improved like they did from year one to year two than they will win this game and be in contention for a bowl.

Colorado State are a solid Mountain West team that is looking to have a great season. Going up against a Power 5 team will give them a chance to show what they can do. They went 7-6 last season, but get a lot of key players back. With quarterback Nick Stevens on the team, the offense will put up points, but the defense does need to improve.

The Rams get a home game in this one, which makes it more interesting, but Oregon State should be able to sneak out of Fort Collins with a close win.

4. Tanner Mangum’s start to the season

College football opening weekend

Tanner Mangum (photo by deseretnews.com)

Mangum is now the lead man for the Cougars after filling in for the often injured Taysom Hill the past few seasons. He has demonstrated his talent the past few seasons and even has a flare for the dramatic. Now he gets to lead BYU in Kalani Sitake’s second season as head coach.

BYU plays Portland State in its first game, which shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. So, why is it important to see how Mangum starts the season? The Cougars take on LSU on September 2. This is the definition of a tune-up game for BYU. If they play well and get some confidence they can beat LSU.

Against a team like LSU, Mangum is going to have to bring his dramatic tendencies with him because it’s going to take some magic to beat the Tigers, especially with their talented defense. The only way BYU has a shot in their second game is if Mangum is nearly perfect, so getting off to a good start this season is imperative.

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 20-16

The anticipation is growing for football. It starts this month and fans are excited to see what happens this season after a thrilling finish to the 2016 season. College football preseason polls have no impact on what happens during the season, but it is fun to speculate as to which teams will be doing well in the upcoming season.

This is the second edition of the preseason rankings. The first installment is here.

20. Texas Longhorns

College Football top 25

Shane Buechele (Photo by hookem.com)

Charlie Strong is out and Tom Herman is in. Herman will try to restore the Longhorns to glory after raising Houston’s program to new heights the last two seasons. Last season Texas won five games and returns 17 starters on offense and defense. With Herman and the players coming back, the Longhorns are supposed to take a step forward this season.

Shane Buechele showed flashes as a freshman of being the next great Texas quarterback, and will also be expected to step his game up this season. Eight of his 10 top receivers from last year return with the 6’6″ Collin Johnson being a dynamic player. He will burst onto the college football scene in 2017.

The offensive line returns a lot of returning experience. Connor Williams is a junior left tackle that has been starting since he was a freshman. He will likely be a first round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The powerful Chris Warren III will take over full time as running back after averaging 6.3 yards per carry in his first two years as a Longhorn. The offense will be high-powered once again, especially with Herman’s blueprint.

Defensively, Texas has been disappointing in the Charlie Strong era. They do return a lot of talent, especially at the linebacker position, where three starters return. They are led by Malik Jefferson, who is extremely talented and one of the best linebackers in the country. In front of Jefferson, three defensive linemen return, with tackle Poona Ford being the most notable.

The secondary hasn’t been producing the NFL talent that they used to and it will likely be a problem for them again. They have four returning starters, but they allowed 258.5 yards per game, so improvements need to be made.

Texas has a decently tough schedule that features non-conference games against Maryland and USC. Games in conference against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia could also give them trouble. They will lose to USC and drop two to three other games in the tough conference stretch. The Longhorns are staring a 8-4 record if they win the games they are capable of.

19. Miami Hurricanes

College football top 25

Mark Walton (Photo by: miamiherald.com)

If Brad Kaaya had come back for one more season, Hurricane fans would be off the wall with excitement. They still have a solid team heading into Mark Richt’s second year. Miami was able to finish 9-4 in 2016 capped off with a win in the Russell Athletic Bowl against West Virginia. They have 14 returning starters that should help them compete for an ACC Coastal Division title.

Malik Rosier will likely take over the offense this season after having limited experience the last two seasons. He is a dual-threat quarterback. If he struggles freshman N’Kosi Perry is the only other viable option to play. If they can find a quarterback, this team can be successful. Ahmmon Richards is the best returning play-maker at wide receiver and should break out this season, as the rest of the receivers are unproven.

At running back Mark Walton ran for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, but will likely get more touches this season. He will need to take pressure off of the new quarterback. The offensive line returns four starters and should be able to protect the quarterbacks and clear holes for Walton.

The front seven of this team is going to be really good and they are going to need to be for the Hurricanes to be successful. They return all starters on last year’s front seven. Sophomores Joe Jackson and Shaquille Quarterman are players to watch, as Jackson has the most sacks of a returning player, while Quarterman has the most tackles returning.

The secondary is very inexperienced and will need to find guys who can make a difference. Miami had the 18th best scoring defense in 2016, but it will be hard to live up to that with such an inexperienced defensive backfield.

Games in the non-conference schedule aren’t too hard, but they do have a rematch with Notre Dame. Their tougher games in conference are: at Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and at Pittsburgh. Richt should be able to guide this team to at least an 8-4 record with good quarterback play.

18. South Florida Bulls

college football top 25

Quinton Flowers (Photo by orlandosentinel.com)

Charlie Strong goes to a team that will win more games than Texas, but in a worse conference. USF only lost two games last season and ended up beating South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. With 16 returning starters, the Bulls are looking to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

Quinton Flowers helped lead USF  to the fourth highest scoring offense in the country with his dual-threat abilities. He accounted for over 4,000 yards of offense and is the leading returning passer and rusher. His partner in crime in the backfield, Marlon Mack, has moved on to the NFL, but D’Ernest Johnson brings some experience at running back and is a pass catching threat out of the backfield.

Johnson is the leading returning receiver, but Marquez Valdez-Scantling will be asked to do a lot more this season. He is a big target at 6’5″ and will need to use his height to create separation. The Bulls return three starters on the offensive line and should have a good unit that allows the offense to thrive once again.

The Bulls return their leading tackler from last year, Auggie Sanchez, who has made 37 career starts already. He will man the middle of the defense at the linebacker position. All of the defensive lineman are returning starters and should help free up Sanchez to get to the ball.

Deatrick Nichols leads an experienced secondary and may have a chance to play in the NFL. The problem is that they give up way too many yards through the air and will need Strong to fix it. He couldn’t fix the defense at Texas, but he does have a lot of returning players to work with at USF.

USF is actually favored in all of their games. They will have tough games against Temple and Houston, but should be able to manage wins. The Bulls will at the very least go 10-2 and win the AAC East, but will likely do better than that. Don’t hold your breath for a College Football Playoff Berth if they go undefeated, because their schedule is really bad. They will be able to get the “Group of Five” bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.

17. Stanford Cardinal

College football top 25

Harrison Phillips (Photo by scout.com)

Two first round picks are gone in Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey, but the Cardinal will be good once again. In 2016 Stanford went 10-3 and beat North Carolina in the Sun Bowl in dramatic fashion. David Shaw has 14 returning starters who are ready to get back to the top of the Pac-12 North.

The quarterback situation is the first thing that needs to be figured out. Keller Chryst was successful last year, but hurt his knee in the bowl game. If he is healthy he should be the starter. If not the job goes to Ryan Burns, who started the 2016 season as the signal-caller for Stanford, or K.J. Costello, a talented newcomer.

Bryce Love will fill the shoes of McCaffrey and be explosive. He is back after averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per rush in his first two seasons. Trenton Irwin and Dalton Schultz are the most experienced pass-catchers returning, but they don’t have the greatest production yet. With four returning starters on the offensive line and a good running back, the Cardinal will look to pound the rock once again in 2017.

Two out of three defensive linemen are returning starters and Harrison Phillips will have to raise his level of productivity from his tackle position. The Cardinal have a lot of experience back at linebacker which should help the scoring defense that ranked 18th last year be very good again.

In the secondary two starters are back. Quenton Meeks is a talented corner and Justin Reid is the leading tackler on the team from his safety position.

The non-conference slate includes games against Rice, San Diego State and Notre Dame, all of which they should be favored in. Their tough games in conference include games with USC, Utath, Oregon, Washington State and Washington. With the amount of talent coming back Stanford bottoms out with an 8-4 record, but could win as many as 10 games.

16. Michigan Wolverines

college football top 25

Mason Cole (Photo by mwolverine.com)

Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting will be put to the test this season as the team returns five starters in total. Their talented team last season finished 10-3 with a loss in the Orange Bowl to Florida State to finish off the season. There might be some growing pains with this Wolverine team, but they do have talent.

Wilton Speight returns at quarterback, but hasn’t played particularly well. Last season he threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns, but with only four other returning starters he will be expected to do more. His targets won’t have a lot of experience, but Eddie McDoom returns some experience running sweeps. Donovan Peoples-Jones is an extremely talented freshman, who will likely have to play a lot early in his career.

Two starters return on the offensive line, which includes Mason Cole, who uniquely can play either center or left tackle. They ranked 33rd in the country in rushing last season, but De’Veon Smith has graduated and now Chris Evans and Ty Isaac will both get shots to carry the football for Michigan.

The defense is what takes a huge hit, as they return just one starter. Mike McCray plays linebacker and has the only starting experience worth noting. The defensive line has talent, including former number one overall recruit Rashan Gary.

The secondary was great last season, which helped the Wolverines be the best defense against the pass, but now new players will be called upon. David Long is a talented corner and likely the best of the bunch. Defensive coordinator Dom Brown, a.k.a Dr. Blitz, has his work cut out for him.

Michigan has eight games that they should win this season. Their matchups with Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State will be tough challenges. With a floor of eight wins and the possibility to win one or two of their tougher games, Michigan will be among the top 25 teams in the country again in 2017.

 

Featured image by finebaumfan.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Branden Jackson’s winding journey to the NFL

Branden Jackson may be a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders now, but only because he wanted a free car in high school.

Well, maybe the free car his mom promised him is only part of why he’s now earning a living playing professional football, but it’s funny how things work sometimes.

It’s safe to say teenage Branden Jackson didn’t see himself being an NFL player down the road.

“In high school, it never crossed my mind,” Jackson said in an interview with The Game Haus. “I just wanted to get a free car.”

Jackson was promised a free car if he made it to college and got a free ride while doing it. That was the conception of Jackson’s motivation to being a football player.

In his family, football wasn’t the token sport. His family was known for being more successful on the basketball front.

College Teams Come Calling

When college programs began showing more interest in Jackson for his decorated young football career than his basketball talents, he figured it might be time to shift his time from the hardwood to the gridiron.

When offers from Texas Tech, Michigan State and 14 other Division I offers came in, Jackson knew playing big time college football was within his reach. However, an NFL career didn’t cross the four-star recruit’s mind.

Branden Jackson NFL

Branden Jackson was a standout for Texas Tech. (Photo: Mark Rogers/AJ Media)

Jackson committed to Texas Tech as a defensive hybrid with experience on the defensive line and at linebacker. Jackson also saw time at tight end in high school.

In Jackson’s redshirt-sophomore season, he had a breakout game on one of his biggest stages. Jackson said the game, the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State, was a springboard for the rest of his career.

“I had a good season and it was probably like my breakout game” Jackson said. “It was kinda what turned heads and jumpstarted the rest of my career.”

Jackson didn’t just put his name on the map for NFL scouts in the game. He also made his case to turn into the team’s best deep-threat.

Arizona State called a read option, and the exchange was fumbled. After making an attempt for the ball and missing, Jackson found himself way behind.

“I retrace and end up catching him about 20 or 30 yards down the field,” Jackson said. “I had ran past our starting safety and our starting corner. I tackled him and it kinda just showed how fast I am.”

Jackson didn’t let his impressive acceleration go unnoticed. The defensive hybrid pleaded with his coaches to give him some time on offense after the game.

“I kept telling my coach red zone is my game,” Jackson said. “I did it in high school. Put me in at tight end or receiver and in the red zone I guarantee a jump ball. You can throw it underhand if you want to, and I’ll go get it.”

That game caused Jackson to fall in love with the sport. He said that was when his visions of playing at the highest level first came.

Branden Jackson’s Draft Experience

Jackson’s dreams had to be put on hold after he was left untouched in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jackson was expecting to be taken around the sixth round.

Branden Jackson NFL

Branden Jackson was promoted to the active roster late in the season.(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

“When it didn’t come, I thought everyone doesn’t get drafted, that’s not my goal,” Jackson said. “I thought I would get a guaranteed priority free agent deal.”

Jackson received calls from multiple teams asking him to try out. He turned down five or six teams before reluctantly accepting gigs from Seattle and Oakland.

Although he was cut from the active roster during the preseason, Oakland struck a deal with the former Red Raider to join the practice squad.

Jackson remained on the practice squad for most of the season. Being on the opposite side of the country from his mother became emotionally taxing. The practice squad player continued to plug away with the Raiders and decided to fly his mother out to Oakland late in the year.

During that same week, Jackson got promoted to the 53-man active roster.

Branden Jackson on the Raiders’ Season

Oakland took the NFL by storm last season. A perennially underwhelming franchise since 2002, the Raiders found the NFL Playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.

The team had an elite quarterback, suitable offensive weapons, a good line and a solid defense across the board. Oakland finished 12-4, but lost Derek Carr for the rest of the season due to a broken leg in week 16.

Carr had dislocated his thumb earlier in the year, giving all of Raider Nation a scare. Carr sprinted into the locker room, got his thumb back to “normal” and entered the game quickly. Jackson and his teammates expected Carr’s leg injury to be small like that.

Jackson said he expected an inspiring speech in the locker room after the game from Carr. Instead, the team learned Carr’s fate.

Oakland entered the playoffs with a backup quarterback who was far from Carr’s caliber.

The Raiders lost an underwhelming game to the Houston Texans, a team that was known by many as the worst team in the playoffs.

Even so, Jackson considered the season to be a success, saying they won more games than most teams in the NFL.

The Move to Las Vegas

Branden Jackson

The Raiders’ proposed new stadium should bring many faces to Vegas.(Photo: Manica Architecture)

The Oakland Raiders franchise announced it would move to Las Vegas on March 27. Although Raiders fans in and around Oakland were baffled and enraged, Jackson doesn’t think the move is a big deal.

“I really didn’t put too much thought into it because Raider Nation is Raider Nation,” Jackson said. “When we go to Vegas, the fans will still be crazy.”

Jackson pointed to the true loyalty of Raider fans multiple times during the interview. Even though he’s been with the club for one year, he’s already felt the love Raider Nation has for its people. That said, he expects fans to continue to be tenacious with their support.

“It would be un-Raider like for our fans to not be the way they’ve always been,” Jackson said.

So, what’s with jackson’s car situation?

Because Jackson earned a free ride to Texas Tech, his mother followed through on her promise. Jackson received a Caprice Classic for about $1,500. He loved the car until death did them part.

“I drove it literally until it blew up,” Jackson said.

When Jackson became a starter at Texas Tech, his father gifted him a 1972 Lincoln Continental. Jackson continues to drive that car to this day.

Of course, Jackson’s love for the game has replaced his desire for material gifts to continue playing football. However, The Game Haus will keep you updated on any changes with his car driving status.

Oh, and we’ll update you on his football playing days as well.

Branden Jackson Scouting Report

Branden Jackson has good size at 6-foot-4, 268 pounds. He played as a 3-4 defensive end at Texas Tech, but now plays as a 4-3 defensive end for the Oakland Raiders. His versatility is a major asset.

He has good strength that he uses to shed blockers and get to ball carriers. For a defensive end, which is a position mostly reserved for good pass rushers, he is good against the run. His good gap discipline helps him be effective against the run and he can even take on double teams from opposing blockers.

His strength is his main asset when rushing the passer too, as he fends off blockers. Against scrambling quarterbacks, he is good at containing them in the pocket.

 

Tim Miller contributed the story portion of this article. Joe DiTullio provided the scouting report. 

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Cleveland Browns 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Welcome to the first day and piece of this years TGH Draftmas! A merry time where we will be breaking down the draft profiles for every team for the next 32 days until draft day! So buckle up because we are starting with a fun one in the Cleveland Browns!

Summary

In case you were living under a rock, let me shock you by saying the Browns went 1-15 last year. Hue Jackson is a good coach that has been given a team that needs a lot of work. One can only hope that he will be able to stick around long enough to see his project all the way through to the end. The Browns have trade away many players and traded for (Brock Osweiler) draft picks in order to stock pile them to try and get the best values they can from young players. They are doing what teams like the 76ers and Cubs have done most recently in the NBA and MLB respectively.

For the first time in many years the Browns have been very active in trying to grab Free Agents that they value. This includes Kenny Britt, Kevin Zietler, JC Tretter and more. These are major improvements for a team that has struggled for a long time, but they are starting in the right spots. Grabbing a deep threat in Britt was much needed with the departure of last years biggest surprise in Terrelle Pryor. Also building in the trenches at guard and center with Zietler and Tretter are the start to what should be a solid line for the Browns.

Alas, their biggest problem is they have no one to captain the ship at Quarterback. While Cody Kessler showed flashes many do not believe he is a franchise Quarterback. They also trade for Brock Osweiler. The rumor has been that they are trying to flip him, I honestly do not know if he has even flown up to Cleveland yet or ever plans to.

The defense also has seen improvements in their recent draft picks. Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib were all nice pieces added in recent years. Also do not forget about Jamie Collins. Joe Hayden is slowing down but is still solid.

Picks and Needs

Next we will look into the 11 draft picks the Browns have stock piled.

First round: (2) No. 1, No. 12

Second round: (2) No. 33, No. 52

Third round: (1) No. 65

Fourth round: (1) No. 108.

Fifth round: (3) No. 145, No. 175 No. 181

Sixth round: (2) No. 185, No. 188

Seventh round: No picks.

As one can see, they have a lot of picks in the first 5 rounds, 8 to be exact. This is generally a good sign for rebuilding teams, IF, they are able to hit on their picks.

In my opinion there are many needs for the team overall but, definitely less than last year. I will start with the Offense.

I see the major needs in no particular order as:

Quarterback

Wide Receiver (Preferably one with great hands)

Tackle

Tight End

Now on to the Defense:

Edge Rusher at Defensive End or Linebacker

Linebackers in General (Specifically Outside)

Cornerback

Both Safety Positions 

Targets and Thoughts

I will pick who I believe the Browns will be targeting in their first three rounds. This will be without trades since they are so unpredictable although, I will say that I think the Browns trade the first overall pick.

First Round:

Pick #1: Myles Garrett DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett (Photo courtesy: 12thman.com)

If they do make this pick I believe it will be Garrett along with basically everyone else. Do you really need me to go into why? Everyone else has so I will spare you.

Pick #12: Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State

While I do think they will end up picking a Quarterback in the real draft, I personally would pick Lattimore if he’s still available. He is an explosive athlete and in a passing league I believe the Browns need to target DB’s early and often in this draft. I also am not a huge fan of this Quarterback class and believe that the Browns are much more than a Quarterback away from contending.

Second Round:

Pick #33: JuJu Smith-Schuster WR, USC

While Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman are great options they can be a little inconsistent. Terrelle Pryor was a major contributor to the team last year due to his size and play-making ability. JuJu is a similar player. He will body up smaller DBs and make them work to make a play on the ball. He may not be the flashiest pick but, at 33 I think hes the best WR still available.

Pick #52: Josh Jones SS, NC State

Safety was another position the Browns got little production out of last season. They need an upgrade and Jones should be a solid answer for that. He is a tough kid with great closing speed and can tackle well in the open field.

Third Round:

Pick #65: Brad Kaaya QB, Miami (FL)

Yes, I am finally addressing the elephant in the room. Again I am not a huge fan of any of the Quarterbacks in this class mostly due to their draft value. I do not believe any of them can start day one. I believe this is true of Kaaya but, Kessler will need a back up and at this point I think Kaaya might be worth it. He has the arm and is the all-time passing leader at a storied program like Miami. He has things to work on but, if given time (which the Browns have) I believe he could develop into something special.

Conclusion

The Browns have an opportunity to really have an incredible draft. This is one that they can pass on the Quarterbacks and get great value in their first two rounds of picks. I believe that this team is on the up and drafting for the best talent at positions they desperately need it at is the smartest decision.

Thank you for joining us on our first day of Draftmas! Please make sure to check back tomorrow for our look at the San Francisco 49ers!

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