Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Alabama had a thrilling comeback to win yet another title. It included putting in a freshman quarterback, who hadn’t played a meaningful snap all season long. The game just goes to show that college football is unique and great. While the 2017 season is now over it is time to look ahead to the 2018 season. Here is the early college football top 25 for the 2018 season:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

While they always lose talent to the NFL, Alabama can replace it. Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa will lead the offense alongside any of the talented running backs that decide to return to school. Najee Harris found some daylight in the title game and will also be back. The defense will lose a lot more talent to the NFL, but they always step up. A lot of players got experience this season due to injuries.

2. Clemson Tigers

Clemson made a third straight College Football Playoff and will compete for another next season. Kelly Bryant and the talented running backs will be back. Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow need to make their decisions still, but Clemson can replace them. The defense always reloads and will at the very least have stud defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence to build around.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

J.K. Dobbins (Photo by cleveland.com)

J.T. Barrett may be leaving, but Dwayne Haskins looked good in relief against Michigan. Add him with J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and the majority of the offensive line returning and it has the makings of a good offense. The defense will still have Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones, which will help make up a good defensive line.

4. Washington Huskies

The Huskies had a young team this season that saw them replace a lot of NFL talent on defense. Jake Browning should return to school to lead the team at quarterback. Myles Gaskin and Dante Pettis could both be lost to the NFL, but if Gaskin elects to return to school, the offense will be solid. The majority of the defense will return, but will have to fill holes left by Vita Vea and some very good linebackers.

5. Miami Hurricanes

Is Malik Rosier the answer at quarterback? Only time will tell. The Hurricanes should have him, Mark Walton and Ahmmon Richards back to make plays. They do lose a lot on the offensive line, but should be able to replace it. Miami should also get most of their defense back, which includes a great back seven of talented linebackers and a good secondary.

6. Michigan State Spartans

L.J. Scott decided to return to school, giving Michigan State almost all their starters back for next year. After winning ten games this season, they should be expected to compete even more next season. Brian Lewerke is a dual-threat that is expected to improve this offseason. The defense was very young and should also get a lot better next season.

7. Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs just played in the National Championship, but are going to lose a lot of talent, especially on their defense. They could lose up to nine or ten players from the defense, which will not be easy to replace. Georgia has some playmakers on offense returning in Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Riley Ridley. Most of their offensive line also returns.

8. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin got a huge win when linebacker T.J. Edwards said he was returning for his senior season. He will give the defense some stability, as they lose a lot this offseason. The offense will be expected to pick up the slack, as Jonathan Taylor had a fantastic freshman season and most of his offensive line will return. The question is: How well can Alex Hornibrook play?

9. Oklahoma Sooners

Lincoln Riley did a fantastic job in his first year as head coach, but now has to move on without Baker Mayfield. Kyler Murray was a highly-touted recruit that Riley can mold. Freshman running back Rodney Anderson also returns after having a great season and Rose Bowl. Add those two to wide receiver “Hollywood” Brown and the offense should be set. Defensively, some talent will move on, but the offense is the strength of the team.

10. Virginia Tech Hokies

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Josh Jackson (Photo by cjonline.com)

Josh Jackson had a fantastic freshman season that resulted in nine wins. His progression is what carries this ranking. Travon McMillan and Cam Phillips, his two offensive weapons at running back and wide receiver, are gone. Young receivers will need to step up and they will also need to replace a few offensive linemen. The Hokies will return about six or seven starters on defense, but will need to replace some NFL-level talent.

11. Penn State Nittany Lions 

Saquon Barkley is gone, but Trace McSorley is back again. He will now have to be the focal point of the offense with a new offensive coordinator. Most of the offensive line returns, but a lot of new faces will have to step up on defense, as they had a lot of seniors getting significant playing time.

12. Auburn Tigers

The Tigers had a great season that resulted with them playing in the Cotton Bowl. Auburn gets quarterback Jarrett Stidham back, while Kerryon Johnson is leaving for the NFL. They will lose some quality players on defense, but will get the majority back for 2018.

13. Stanford Cardinal

Bryce Love is likely going to the NFL. The good news for Stanford is they can seemingly plug in a lot of running backs into their system to be productive. K.J. Costello also showed some flashes of being a very good quarterback. They lose more than half of their defense to seniors, but the returning players are solid.

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Both Josh Adams and Equanimeous St. are trying to make it at the next level. Losing Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson deals a significant blow to the offense of Notre Dame. They still have some good offensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers who will step up next season. That only leaves the matter of quarterback. Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush will battle it out in the offseason for the starting role. The seniors leaving the defense will leave a mark, but a lot of players returning have gotten significant playing time due to injuries over the previous few seasons.

15. Boise State Broncos

Boise State has a chance to be in the national spotlight again this year, after fading in the past few seasons. Quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison return, which should help keep the offense rolling. Losing wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and some offensive linemen will hurt, but they will manage. The defense is young and pretty much all returning next season, meaning they should be dominant.

16. LSU Tigers

The Tigers will have to replace a lot of their offense, but they have some talented recruits waiting to take the team to the next level. Myles Brennan looks to take over at quarterback after seeing action in six games this season. He was a highly-touted recruit that should be able to make plays with another year under his belt. A lot of good players from LSU’s defense will be missing as well, so they’re recruits will need to step up.

17. Michigan Wolverines

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Shea Patterson (Photo by freep.com)

Michigan won the Shea Patterson sweepstakes and the quarterback transfer from Ole Miss. Brandon Peters also showed potential at the position this season. They’ll need skill position players to step up next season. Donovan Peoples-Jones is in store for a big year at wide receiver if the quarterback play is good enough. The defense returns most of its key players. A player to watch is linebacker Devin Bush, who is one of the best in the country.

18. USC Trojans

Sam Darnold helped lead USC back to prominence, but now he is gone. Gone too are running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Two offensive linemen also graduate, so they will have some big shoes to fill in Los Angeles. A lot of their players on the defensive side of the ball will be testing the NFL Draft waters, so sophomore corner Jack Jones will have to step up and be a leader.

19. West Virginia Mountaineers

Will Grier had a great season for West Virginia and has decided to return to school. With most of his weapons back, Grier should have the Mountaineers in good position to have one of the best offenses in the country once again. While the defense isn’t the strength of the team, a lot of returning players will be good to work with.

20. Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic hit a home run when they hired Lane Kiffin. He took a team that was supposed to be very bad and made them a conference championship team. Running back Devin Singletary was one of the most productive running backs in the country this season and will be back for his junior year. A young defense should also improve as a lot more people hop on the “Lane Train”.

21. Kansas State Wildcats

Bill Snyder is back for another season. They won nine games in 2016 and eight games this season with young teams. Now, with a bunch of veterans, the Wildcats are looking to compete more in the Big 12. Wide receiver Byron Pringle will be asked to do a lot for this team, but they will mainly try to run the football. If D.J. Reed decides to return at corner, it should be another solid year for the Wildcats.

22. Northwestern Wildcats

They won ten games this season and will be back for more next season. While their career leading rusher, Justin Jackson, is graduating, they seem to believe freshman Jeremy Larkin can be a workhorse back in his sophomore year. Quarterback Clayton Thorson is also back for next season, but is recovering from a torn ACL in the Music City Bowl. Freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher looks like he will be on of their all-time greats.

23. Florida State Seminoles

Early college football top 25 for the 2018 season

Deondre Francois (photo by gridironnow.com)

Willie Taggart did a good job of turning around Oregon in his one season in Eugene. He is a solid coach who will get some talent returning. With Deondre Francois back at quarterback, Cam Akers at running back and a lot of good receivers, they should be solid on offense. The offensive line has struggled in the last few years, they are young and shold improve. A lot might need to be replaced on defense, but they have recruited well.

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

If Nick Fitzgerald can recover from a gruesome leg injury, the Bulldogs have the makings of a good team. They get most of their team back, which is encouraging, but Dan Mullen left for Florida. Joe Moorehead will try to make Mississippi State’s offense a lot better, just like he did at Penn State.

25. Texas A&M Aggies

Jimbo Fisher is a great haul for Texas A&M. He will have to work with quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel, but they can be successful. Trayveon Willliams returns at running back, along with a lot of the offensive line, but they will have to replace Christian Kirk. A lot of their best defensive players will be playing on Sundays next year, so Fisher has a little bit of work cut out for him on that side of the ball.

 

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NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl

Northwestern and Kentucky will meet in the 2017 Music City Bowl. While these teams don’t usually produce good NFL talent on a consistent basis, there are some players to watch in this game. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl:

Kentucky Wildcats

Josh Allen, DE/LB

Allen has had two really good seasons at Kentucky. In his career he has 20.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. This season he has 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. NFL executives love his versatility, being that he can play both inside and outside linebacker.

He has good size at 6’5″ and 230. With that, and his production, Allen has even seen his name as high as the first round in some mock drafts. That might be a small stretch given the production this season, but he will be taken in the early rounds of the draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-3rd round

Derrick Baity, CB

Baity is only a junior, but may elect to leave for the NFL Draft. In his career he has 108 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions and 14 passes defended. He has tons of experience for Kentucky in the SEC, which has seen him go up against some pretty good receivers over the last three seasons.

His biggest asset is his size at 6’3″ and 182 pounds. The length is great for an NFL corner, but he will need to add some strength so that he isn’t pushed off the line of scrimmage.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

C.J. Conrad, TE

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl

C.J. Conrad (Photo by gridironnow.com)

Conrad is a good receiving tight end who doesn’t have the best production in his three seasons at Kentucky. That is partially because the last two seasons, Kentucky has emphasized the running game more than the passing game. This season is his best to date with 286 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

At 6’5″ and 245 pounds, Conrad has good size for an NFL tight end. While the lack of production does hurt, teams will look at the tape and see why. He could elect to come back to school for another year and help his draft stock.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

Matt Elam, DT

Elam is a former highly-touted prospect, who never really lived up to his potential. Some national pundits have blamed his work ethic or his weight, but the only thing that matters is that he hasn’t produced. In his career he has 50 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

The production is really bad, but his size is what will get him a chance with an NFL team. Elam is 6’7″ and 360 pounds. Those types of players don’t grow on trees and some NFL team will try to mold him into the player he can be.

Projected draft range: 6th round-undrafted free agent

Northwestern Wildcats

Clayton Thorson, QB

NFL Draft prospects in the 2017 Music City Bowl

Clayton Thorson (Photo by insidenu.com)

Thorson is another player that has seen his stock rise this season, but he hasn’t played particularly well. He has 2,809 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. One of the areas he has to work on is making better decisions, because that touchdown to interception ratio is way too close to one. He has completed over 60% of his passes this season.

He has the size to be an NFL quarterback at 6’4″ and 225 pounds. Thorson has some mobility, but has shown improved passing from the pocket, which will appeal to NFL teams.

Projected draft range: 3rd round-5th round

Godwin Igwebuike, S

Igwebuike is the senior leader on the Northwestern defense. He has 318 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, seven interceptions and 23 passes defended in his career. This season he has 72 total tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended.

At 6’0″ and 212 pounds, size won’t be an issue for Igwebuike. He will likely get drafted in the middle to late rounds of the NFL draft.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

Justin Jackson, RB

Jackson is 12th on the all-time rushing list for college football with 5,283 rushing yards. In addition to the great amount of rushing yards, Jackson has totaled 39 rushing touchdowns, 848 receiving yards and one receiving touchdowns. His production is unquestionable, especially against Big Ten competition.

He fits right in the mold of an NFL running back at 5’11” and 200 pounds. The fact that he can make plays catching the football bodes well for his draft stock and future playing time.

Projected draft range: 4th round-6th round

 

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2017 Music City Bowl preview

The Big Ten and SEC will go at it in the 2017 Music City Bowl. Northwestern and Kentucky both had solid seasons and will be looking to cap it off with a win. Here is the 2017 Music City Bowl preview:

Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)

2017 Music City Bowl preview

Benny Snell (Photo by kykernel.com)

Kentucky got to bowl eligibility for the first time under Mark Stoops and beat three bowl eligible teams in the process. The Wildcats were able to beat Southern Miss, Missouri and South Carolina for solid wins. Stoops got the program going in the right direction and now has to sustain it.

The offense scores just 25.9 points per game and is built around the offensive line. Running back Benny Snell is one of the most overlooked players in the country, but produces a lot for Kentucky. He is the SEC’s second leading rusher and has 1,318 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Snell is a workhorse running back who has 256 carries on the season. Quarterback Stephen Johnson is the second leading rusher with 358 yards and three touchdowns.

Johnson leads the offense from the quarterback position with 2,048 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been great at protecting the football, which is important with a workhorse running back like Snell. Garrett Johnson is the leading receiver with 500 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Tight end C.J. Conrad is a great receiver as well with 286 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

The defense has been an enigma allowing 28.6 points per game. They rank 61st against the run and 112th against the pass. Linebacker Josh Allen has created some draft buzz around his name. The junior has 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks on the season.

21 Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)

2017 Music City Bowl preview

Justin Jackson (Photo by usatoday.com)

Northwestern started off the season with a 2-3 record, but haven’t lost since. They have beaten Iowa and Michigan State for some good wins and they have only lost to bowl eligible teams. A seven game win streak is nice, but getting to 10 wins would be better for the Northwestern program.

Offensively, the Wildcats score 29.7 points per game. They also have a quality running back in Justin Jackson, who ranks 12th on the all time rushing list. This season he has 1,154 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Freshman Jeremy Larkin provides relief with 391 rushing yards on the season.

Clayton Thorson has drawn the eye from NFL scouts and provides a pocket-passer who can run. He has 2,809 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He completes over 60% of his passes, but does need to make better decisions with the football. Bennet Skowronek is the leading receiver with 619 yards and five touchdowns.

The Wildcats’ defense is what has propelled this team to success and allows 19.3 points per game. They rank 10th against the run and 98th against the pass. Freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher looks like he may be one of the all time greats and already has 108 total tackles on the season.

Prediction

Northwestern’s defense will be the key to this game. They will key on stopping Snell and make Johnson beat them with his arm. While pass defense is a liability of the Northwestern defense, Johnson and his receivers haven’t proven to they can beat a team without a solid running game.

Northwestern Wildcats 29 Kentucky Wildcats 24

 

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College basketball preseason top 25: 20-16

It is the end of October so that means college basketball is right around the corner. What teams should be looked at as the best of the best? This is the second installment in the top 25 rundown. For teams 25-21 click here.

20. St. Mary’s Gaels

College basketball preseason top 25

Jock Landale (Photo by zimbio.com)

St. Mary’s made the big dance for the first time since 2013 last season. There run ended in the round of 32, but it was a big step just to get back to the dance. With most of their scoring returning, the Gaels should make it to the second consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Leading scorer Jock Landale returns after averaging 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He will receive serious consideration for WCC Player of the Year. Calvin Hermanson is the second leading returning scorer and plays on the wing. He lights up the scoreboard, which is a theme for this team.Evan Fitzner is another returning starter in the frontcourt, who will start at power forward, even though he only played 15 minutes a game. He can stretch the floor as a three point shooter. Kyle Clark and Tanner Krebs will provide experience and depth.

Emmett Naar will be the sole point guard this season and brings back a good all around game. Starting at the two guard will be Cullen Neal who is a senior transfer from Ole Miss.This is his third college team as he played for three seasons at New Mexico before becoming a Rebel He has over 1,000 career points already and brings a lot of experience. They aren’t very deep at the guard spots so Jordan Ford, Tommy Kuhse and Kristers Zoriks will need to step up.

The Gaels have a good enough team to beat Gonzaga in the WCC and also do some damage in March.

19. Minnesota Golden Gophers

College basketball preseason top 25

Nate Mason (Photo by kare11.com)

Last season Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball. They had eight wins two seasons ago and last year improved to 24 wins. They did end up losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but with a lot of players returning the Golden Gophers’ future looks bright.

Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch are two great inside players for Richard Pitino. Murphy is more of an inside scorer and rebounder, while Lynch is a great defender who blocks a lot of shots. Lynch was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season. Eric Curry played 19.9 minutes per game as a freshman and will have to eat up a lot of minutes again and be effective. Davonte Fitzgerald had a torn ACL last year, but is figuring to make impact this season.

The backcourt returns a lot of experience. The best player on the team is point guard Nate Mason. He averaged 15.2 points and five assists per game and is a great floor general. Amir Coffey is a lengthy wing who started all 33 games as a freshman and should improve in his second season. Dupree McBrayer is the best three point shooter on the team at 41.6% and played 27.8 minutes per game in his sophomore campaign last year. Not too many other guards play a lot of minutes so those three will need to stay out of foul trouble or the Golden Gophers will have to rely on freshmen.

While they likely won’t beat out Michigan State in the Big Ten, Minnesota will be a really solid team that will make another NCAA Tournament.

18. Louisville Cardinals

College basketball preseason top 25

David Padgett (Photo by thecardinalconnect.com)

Louisville got knocked out in the round of 32 last season, but a lot has happened since. Rick Pitino is out and they lost incoming star prospect Brian Bowen because of the Adidas scandal. The Cardinals still have a lot of good players returning, but David Padgett has a lot of work ahead of him coaching this team.

The Cardinals’ best player is Deng Adel, who is a good wing athlete. He does a little bit of everything for Louisville and will need to be the go to guy this season. Adel needs to improve his three point shooting and if he can, he will be one of the best players in the ACC. Anas Mahmoud and Raymond Spalding are the only returning interior player, who provide some experience, but they won’t wow anyone. They will be asked to defend, make open interior shots and rebound. For depth, their talented freshmen will need to step up. Malik Williams, Jordan Nwora and Lance Thomas need to provide an impact down low, while transfer Dwayne Sutton has to provide depth on the wing.

Quentin Snyder has been at Louisville for what seems like forever. He is the floor general that needs to be the leader of the team as they go through this difficult time. He averaged 12.4 points and 4.1 assists per game, which will need to improve this year. V.J. King was a great recruit who saw some minutes as a freshman, but will need to be a star for the Cardinals for the team to be successful. Depth will be a question as recruits need to step up and make a difference.

The Cardinals may not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament when the FBI investigation is all said and done, but Louisville has a talented roster that is deserving of being ranked.

17. Northwestern Wildcats

College basketball preseason top 25

Bryant McIntosh (photo by indystar.com)

Northwestern finally made the NCAA Tournament in 2017. They also got their first ever win and now are looking for more. The Wildcats return four players who averaged over 30 minutes per game last season and have good veteran leadership to rely on.

Dererk Pardon returns on the inside for Northwestern and with improvement can average a double double, even though he is a little undersized. Barret Benson will see an increased role this season after averaging eight minutes last season. Vic Law is a talented wing that can get to the basket and knock down threes. He also is the teams second leading rebounder. His defense is a game-changer. Gavin Skelly is a senior that will get minutes an help out more on the inside.

Senior point guard Bryant McIntosh can score and set up his teammates with 14.8 points and 5.2 assists per game. He will be flanked by shooting guard Scottie Lindsey. Lindsey will get to the basket and is the second leading returning scorer behind McIntosh. Isiah Brown will be asked to do more as a sophomore as the lone returning depth piece at the guard spot. Anthony Gaines is a freshman that will need to fill in some minutes for the Wildcats.

Back to back NCAA Tournaments is a probability for a team that took so long to get one appearance in the big dance.

16. Purdue Boilermakers

College basketball preseason top 25

Isaac Haas (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Purdue broke through to the Sweet 16 last season. They lost their double-double machine in Caleb Swanigan, but have a lot returning to help them be successful once again. The Boilermakers are coming off a big offseason of representing USA in the World University Games and came away with a silver medal.

The middle of the floor is anchored by Isaac Haas. He hasn’t been the prime time player yet in his Purdue career due to Swanigan and A.J. Hammons getting more minutes in years past. He will have to use his 7’2″ frame to score over shorter defenders and grab all the rebounds lost by the departure of Swanigan. At the four spot Vince Edwards is a very versatile player that can shoot the three and get to the basket. He is the perfect power forward for college basketball and averaged 12.6 points per game last season. Jacquil Taylor was redshirted last year due to injury and will need to provide depth.Matt Haarms is bigger than Haas and will back him up at center, while Eden Ewing and Aaron Wheeler will be asked to step in and provide depth.

Perimeter play is not something Purdue will be lacking. Carson Edwards, P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline all return. Carson Edwards is a great defender that had a good freshman season. Thompson, Mathias and Cline all knock down shots from deep. Mathias adds senior leadership and a good perimeter defender to the team. With these four players, the Boilermakers are in great hands.

The sky is the limit for this Purdue team even without Swanigan. Matt Painter will have this team ready for another run in March.

For teams 15-11: Click here.

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Five things to watch for in college football week 5

Last week the Alabama offense proved their dominance, Georgia’s defense shut down Nick Fitzgerald and Oklahoma State and TCU put on a show. This week there is more good football to be watched and here are things to focus in on:

1. Quarterback prospects dueling

Five things to watch in college football week 5

Sam Darnold (Photo by Tritontimes.com)

There is a big Pac-12 matchup between Washington State and USC this Friday. While this is a big game for the Pac-12 standings, it will also be a great showcase for some of the more highly-touted quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Sam Darnold has struggled so far this season and has thrown seven interceptions in just four games. He has the arm talent to make just about any throw required of him, but needs to demonstrate better decision-making. With Washington State not being particularly known for its defense, Darnold needs to protect the football. If he does so, the Trojans can pick up a big win on the road.

Washington State actually benched Luke Falk against Boise State, but that has seemingly lit a fire under him. Falk has been efficient with 77% completion 1,378 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and only one interception. While his team doesn’t have as much talent as USC, if Falk plays out of his mind, the Cougars have a chance to win and move up in the rankings.

2. Josh Jackson vs. Clemson’s defensive line

Five things to watch in college football week 5

Photo by sbnation.com

On Saturday, the big game will be Clemson visiting Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. This could end up being a preview of the ACC Championship Game. Both teams have extreme talent all over the field, but the key to the game will be how Josh Jackson handles Clemson’s defensive line.

One of the biggest stories of the young season is how well the Tigers’ defensive line has played. They have come up big time in every game that Clemson has played, but really helped them stave off Auburn, recording 11 sacks. Their pass rush will put fear into just about any quarterback on the college level, which is why they have made multiple appearances on these lists.

Virginia Tech needed to find a quarterback at the start of the season and now they have found their guy. Josh Jackson has thrown for 1,127 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception. He adds the threat of mobility to go with his arm. Clemson’s defensive line will pressure him often, so it is a key for him to not panic under pressure and make the right decisions.

3. SEC WEst Battle

Five things to watch for in college football week 5

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

While the SEC West looks like it will be dominated by Alabama, it is still early. One of the key games in the conference is coming this weekend. The Mississippi State Bulldogs are traveling to take on Auburn in a game of teams that are still finding their way.

Auburn lost a close game to Clemson, for their only loss on the season, but they have struggled to get their offense going. Jarrett Stidham has not lived up to the preseason hype yet as they are tied for 65th in the FBS in points scored. They rank 80th in passing yards and are tied for 45th in rushing yards. Their defense is good, but if they want to win this game and compete with Alabama, Stidham and the offense need to improve.

Mississippi State was playing well, but lost to Georgia 31-3 last week. They were able to stay in the rankings at 24, but have a lot of things left to prove. Nick Fitzgerald and the offense were completely shut down and are now playing another good defense in Auburn. If Fitzgerald can find his mojo again, the Bulldogs can win the game.

4. The Rashaad Penny Show

Five things to watch in college football week 5

Rashad Penny (Photo by zimbio.com)

While he isn’t a household name yet, Rashaad Penny is dominating so far this season. He has 716 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns in just four games. While he plays at San Diego State, two of his four games so far have come against Pac-12 teams. He has worked his way into some Heisman talks and has SDSU on its way to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

This week Penny and the Aztecs take on Northern Illinois. The Huskies were able to beat Nebraska on the road and are another decent challenge for SDSU. If Penny can keep on producing like he has, and he’s on pace for over 2,000 yards in just the regular season, he will be in New York for the Heisman Ceremony.

5. How successful can Wisconsin be?

Five things to watch college football week 5

Alex Hornibrook (Photo by madison.com)

Wisconsin has one of the easiest schedules in the Big Ten. The Big Ten West is weak and they only play Michigan from the Big Ten East. This game against Northwestern will be one of the toughest games they play all season. Some of the luster was taken out of this matchup because Northwestern lost to Duke, but Duke is still undefeated.

The Badgers have a lot left to show the world of college football. They haven’t played a decent team yet. Alex Hornibrook has to prove he is a good quarterback, Jonathan Taylor needs to prove he is the next great Wisconsin running back and the defense needs to play a good offense. There will still be some uncertainty about this team after this game, but this is their first test. It’s best to pay attention to them now, because they will likely be in the Big Ten Championship game.

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 25-21

The college football season is about a month and a half away and it can’t come soon enough. As rosters are finally completed with transfers (thank you Malik Zaire) and spring ball all wrapped up, it’s time to look forward to the fall. Who will be the top 25 teams in college football this season?

25. Kansas State Wildcats

Bill Snyder is back for another season as the head man of Kansas State. He had his youngest team ever last season and still finished 9-4. This year should show improvements for the Wildcats, but the record will likely be similar. They will grind out games in typical Snyder fashion.

College football preseason 2017 top 25: 25-21

Byron Pringle

Jesse Ertz will be back to lead the offense at quarterback with his dual-threat abilities. He led the Wildcats in both rushing and passing last year and looks like he will do the same this season.

A few running backs will get a chance to help him out on the ground, including Alex Barnes and Justin Silmon. Byron Pringle and Dominique Heath are good wide receivers on the outside, and will have to make the most of their opportunities, as Ertz only threw for 1,755 yards last season.

The bulk of the offensive line is back including center Reid Najvar and tackles Scott Frantz and Dalton Risner, which should help create more than the 32.2 points per game last year.

Defensively, the Wildcats will have to replace the pass-rushing ability of Jordan Willis, who is off to the NFL, but they do return the other three starters from the defensive line. They help make this defense great at stopping the run which ranked 11th in the country.

The linebackers will be all new starters this year, but keep an eye on Da’Quan Patton who was one of the best JUCO linebackers last season.

Three out of four starters from the secondary return to a unit that needs to improve from its 114th ranking against the pass a year ago.

With an easier non-conference schedule this season, the Wildcats should be undefeated heading into conference play. Their big games at home will be TCU, Oklahoma and West Virginia, while they will be on the road to face Texas and Oklahoma State. With these games posing problems, Kansas State should be able to get out of the regular season with a maximum of four losses by grinding out games and winning the turnover battle.

24. Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern had a solid 7-6 season last year that was capped off with a win over Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl. This season they return a lot of key players that should help them compete for the Big Ten West.

College football preseason 2017 top 25: 25-21

Justin Jackson (Photo by: Chicago Tribune)

The backfield is stacked with talent for the Wildcats, featuring three-year starter Clayton Thorson at quarterback and the man who will likely be the school’s all-time leading rusher at year’s end, Justin Jackson at running back. Both can run the ball really well and Thorson improved significantly as a passer from his freshman to his sophomore year. With his natural progression he can make Northwestern’s scoring offense one of the best in the Big Ten.

Four starters return on the offensive line, but they will need to replace Big Ten leading receiver Austin Carr from last year’s squad.

Defensively the Wildcats are best in the secondary, with Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Quiero, who are two of their best players and are paired with two other returning starters.

They lose Anthony Walker from their linebacking core, but feature a lot of capable replacements. There isn’t much depth on the defensive front, but their starters are solid. The defense lost its best player in Walker, but there is no reason why they should take a step back this year after ranking 24th in the country in scoring defense.

The schedule matches up favorably for Northwestern. They travel to Wisconsin and play Penn State at home in back to back games, but the rest of the games on their schedule should be manageable. The Wildcats will be going to a bowl game and expect at a very minimum eight wins.

23. Washington State Cougars

Winning the Holiday Bowl would have been a nice way to cap off the season, but the Cougars fell to Minnesota to finish with an 8-5 record. Mike Leach got the team rolling and won all eight games in a row, including seven of them being in conference. Washington State got the most important player to return to school for one more year, which will give them another solid season.

College football preseason 2017 top 25: 25-21

Luke Falk (Photo by: seattletimes.com)

Luke Falk could’ve gone to the NFL Draft, but elected to come back to Pullman for his senior season. Falk has two-straight 4,000-yard passing seasons and has a touchdown to interceptions ratio of over three to one. He will have another big year, even though he loses key receivers River Cracraft and Gabe Marks.

Multiple wide receivers are capable of stepping up, but Tavares Martin Jr. is the big play guy. Three returning starters on the offensive line will help protect Falk and the Cougars are also very deep at running back.

Last season, Washington State ranked in the top half of the country in scoring defense, and with that offense humming that’s all they really have to do to make the team successful.

The passing defense is awful and they lost Shalom Luani which hurts. They do return four starters from the secondary, two linebackers and two defensive linemen. Peyton Pelluer is a great linebacker who brings back a lot of experience with 233 career tackles. They will need the secondary and pass rush to get a lot better to be a successful defense.

Washington State has it’s fair share of tough games in 2017 including: Boise State, USC, Stanford and at Washington. Having three of those key games at home is a huge boost to the Cougars. They should be able to beat Boise State at the very least. Getting USC in the crossover game is tough, but Washington State could max out at 10 wins or bottom out with eight, assuming they don’t lose to an FCS opponent for the third year in a row.

22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

There is no doubt that Brian Kelly’s seat is hot after finishing 4-8 last season. He brought in new coordinators so now the onus is totally on him. No Notre Dame team should ever go 4-8, especially given their schedule. A lot of players need to step up this season, but the talent is there.

College football preseason 2017 top 25: 25-21

Equanimeous St. Brown (Photo by: usatoday.com)

Notre Dame will be breaking in a new quarterback in Brandon Wimbush. He was a highly-touted recruit, but he didn’t play well in the spring game. The key for Wimbush’s development is the great offensive line he has in front of him. Four of the linemen are returning starters and two, Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, could have been drafted very early in the 2016 NFL Draft.

A lot of the wide receivers are inexperienced, but Equanimeous St. Brown (along with being one of the coolest names in college football) is blossoming into a star. Durham Smythe and Alize Mack (formerly Alize Jones), provide good targets at tight end.

Running the ball is a versatile player who is capable of running and catching out of the backfield, Josh Adams.

The Fighting Irish have been decimated with injuries the past few seasons on the defensive side of the ball and don’t return many starters. The good news is that a lot of players have gotten experience over the last few years. The bad news is they didn’t play particularly well.

This season they need to get better at stopping the run. Nose tackle Jerry Tillery and linebacker Nyles Morgan will do what they can, but will need help. The secondary and defensive lines are shaky overall, but the linebackers are talented and will have to lead the team.

As always, Notre Dame does have some marquee games this season. They host Georgia and USC and travel to Miami and Stanford. Other games on the schedule are tricky, but those are the bigger games. Their matchup with Georgia in week two will let everyone know if the Fighting Irish are bouncing back or not. Notre Dame should win eight games during the regular season and if they don’t Kelly likely won’t be on the sidelines anymore.

21. Virginia Tech Hokies

Justin Fuente rejuvenated the Hokies last year and got them a 10 win season after they defeated Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. They lost some key players, but with Fuente, Virginia Tech will be able to figure it out.

College football preseason 2017 top 25: 25-21

Tremaine Edmunds (Photo courtesy: athlonsports.com)

Jerod Evans surprisingly left for the NFL Draft and went undrafted, so the Hokies will likely turn to Josh Jackson, who has great playmaking ability. Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges also left school early, but Cam Phillips will be a great target for Jackson. Other receivers need to produce as well.

Travon McMillan saw his production slip during his sophomore season, but is a solid running back and should have a good junior season. Three returning offensive linemen will help the Hokies move the chains.

The defensive front has one starter returning in Viny Mihota, but the back seven brings back a lot of experience. Their secondary should be one of the best in the country with Terrell Edmunds, Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman. Tremaine Edmunds will stand out as the best linebacker in the ACC. Virginia Tech was good on defense last year, but should be able to take it to another level in 2017.

The schedule shouldn’t be too rough on the Hokies, but they do have a few big games. They play a neutral site game against West Virginia, Clemson at home, at Miami, at Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech should be able to win most of those games. The Hokies can win anywhere between nine and 11 games in the regular season and can get back to the ACC Championship Game.

 

Featured image: mysanantonio.com

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

National Signing Day 2017: Big Ten

The Big Ten was called the best conference by many in the regular season, but faltered in Bowl Season. They will look to pick back up their winning ways on signing day. Big Ten Signing Day should be eventful. This page will be updated as the day goes on. Here is how the Big Ten looks:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Signees: 21, 5*: 2, 4*: 17, 3*: 2, Other: 0

The Buckeyes had a good secondary last season, but some players have left for the NFL. They have two of the best secondary players in the country coming in as five-stars, with Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah. Their class is loaded with players that are top ten in their positions. The class can get even better as the day goes on, but is already elite.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Shaun Wade (5*), S Jeffrey Okudah (5*)

2. Michigan Wolverines

Commitments: 27, 5*: 0, 4*: 25, 3*: 2, Other: 0

Jim Harbaugh has totally revamped Michigan recruiting in his time in Ann Arbor. They don’t have a lot of play-makers that they desperately need, but they did sign a good receiver in Donovan Peoples-Jones. Quarterback Dylan McCaffrey should ring a bell for college football fans, as he is the brother of Christian, but is a good player himself. Michigan has a chance to move up if they can get some key signees today.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (4*), C Cesar Ruiz (4*)

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

Commitments: 19, 5*: 0, 4*: 9, 3*: 10, Other: 0

Penn State has followed up their Rose Bowl season with a good recruiting class. The class is balanced overall, but quarterback Sean Clifford is the best player in the class. He was the most accurate quarterback at the elite 11 camp last summer. Fellow four-star C.J. Thorpe will likely get a chance to play early, as Penn State’s offensive line was banged up a lot this season and isn’t the greatest anyways.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Sean Clifford (4*), OG C.J. Thorpe (4*)

4. Maryland Terrapins

Commitments: 22, 5*: 0, 4*: 7, 3*: 14, Other: 1

D.J. Durkin has put together a great class for Maryland to build on. His approach of targeting New Jersey and the D.C. area has worked. Markquese Bell is an athlete who will likely make an impact early in his career. Running back Anthony McFarland should also be a play-maker for the Terrapins in due time as well. Maryland should take a few steps forward in coming years.

Top Prospects Signed: ATH Markquese Bell (4*), RB Anthony McFarland (4*)

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Commitments: 16, 5*: 0, 4*: 7, 3*: 9, Other: 0

The Cornhuskers have a lot of good offensive prospects coming in this season. Two four-star wide receiver prospects, Tyjon Lindsey and Keyshawn Johnson Jr., and a four-star quarterback, Tristan Gebbia, are the best players for Nebraska so far. Johnson is son of former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson. Nebraska is building off of a good season in 2016.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Tyon Lindsey (4*), QB Tristan Gebbia (4*)

6. Iowa Hawkeyes

Commitments: 17, 5*: 0, 4*: 2, 3*: 15, Other: 0

Iowa has a great player in this class in A.J. Epenesa at the defensive end position. He can compete for a starting job immediately. Tristan Wirfs is also going to Iowa as a very good offensive tackle prospect. Iowa should be good in the trenches again for years to come.

Top Prospects Signed: DE A.J. Epenesa (4*), OT Mark Kallenberger (4*)

7. Michigan State Spartans

Commitments: 20, 5*:0, 4*: 5, 3*: 15, Other: 0

Wide receiver Hunter Rison is already enrolled in school and gives Michigan State a much needed play-maker although they do have some promising ones currently on the roster. Also committed to the Spartans is a good tight end prospect in Matt Dotson. Michigan State has a well-balanced class that should help them get back to the top of the Big Ten.

Top Prospects Signed: OG Kevin Jarvis (4*), LB Antjuan Simmons (4*)

8. Illinois Illini

Commitments: 23, 5*: 0, 4: 2, 3*: 18, Other: 3

Lovie Smith is doing a good job recruiting to build Illinois back up. They focused a lot on signing wide receivers and defense. Ricky Smalling is a good pass-catcher, but they have several other wide receiver commits if he doesn’t pan out. Kendrick Green is gonna help on the trenches of the defensive line at tackle.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Ricky Smalling (4*), OT Larry Boyd (4*)

9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Signees: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 3, 3*: 20, Other: 0

Rutgers might be in the bottom of the Big Ten standings a lot, but their recruiting is getting better. Micah Clark will be a good tackle, with the chance to earn early playing time. Bo Melton should be a good play-maker for the Scarlet Knights at wide receiver, who also could see the field early.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Micah Clark (4*), LB Tyshon Fogg (4*)

10. Wisconsin Badgers

Commitments: 18, 5*: 0, 4*: 4, 3*: 12, Other: 2

It’s not usual to see the Badgers this low in the rankings, but they do have some solid players to look out for. Offensive line is always important to Wisconsin and they have guard Kayden Lyles looking to be the next great lineman for them. Andrew Van Ginkel should help the pass rush as a defensive end down the road.

Top Prospects Signed: OG Kayden Lyles (4*), OT Taylor Breach (4*)

11. Northwestern Wildcats

Commitments: 20, 5*:0, 4*:2, 3*: 17, Other: 1

Northwestern has been a solid program in the Big Ten for the past couple of seasons under Pat Fitzgerald, but they don’t have the greatest recruiting class yet. Earnest Brown and Trevor Kent are a pair of defensive end prospects that should bolster depth on the defensive line immediately.

Top Prospects Signed: DE Earnest Brown (4*), S Austin Hiller (4*)

12. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Commitments: 25, 5*: 0, 4*: 0, 3*: 18, Other: 7

P.J. Fleck has his work cut out for him at Minnesota. They don’t have a lot to work with in this class, but can still add to it. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is the prized recruit at the moment and will love to work with Fleck. Tight end Jacob Paulson will be a nice target for Morgan down the road.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Neil McLaurin (3*), WR Chris Autman-Bell (3*)

13. Indiana Hoosiers

Commitments: 23, 5*: 0, 4*:1, 3*: 20, Other: 2

Indiana, like Minnesota, has a lot of turmoil in the program with Kevin Wilson being fired abruptly. They did not put together a great recruiting class. Despite the turmoil they have a balanced class of offensive and defensive prospects. Defensive tackle Juan Harris is already enrolled, which should help him see the field early. Linebacker Thomas Allen should help boost an unimpressive defense.

Top Prospects Signed: ATH Juwan Burgess (4*), S Bryant Fitzgerald (3*)

14. Purdue Boilermakers

Commitments: 21, 5*: 0, 4*:0, 3*: 19, Other: 2

Purdue doesn’t seem like they will be able to turn things around any time soon. Corner back T.J. Jallow was a huge win for Purdue and he may just be seen on Last Chance U season 2. They hit the JuCo trail hard and also got offensive tackle Ethan Smart, who also played JuCo ball in Mississippi.

Top Prospects Signed: CB T.J. Jallow (3*), ATH Tyler Hamilton (3*)

 

ACC Signing Day- Here

Big 12 Signing Day- Here

Pac 12 Signing Day- Here

SEC Signing Day- Here

 

Northwestern Wildcats Basketball on the Brink of History

The Northwestern Wildcats basketball team is attempting to relinquish one of the most infamous records in college basketball: Its record number of NCAA Tournament appearances. Standing at zero, they are the only power conference team to have never gone dancing.

The tournament consists of 68 teams and has included 64 since 1985.  With the number of Division I teams fluctuating every year near 340, that means approximately 19% of teams make the tournament every year. An overwhelming number of bids go to the power conference teams. Some of the big conferences have eight, nine, or even ten teams punch tickets in a given year. The Big East put in 11 teams in 2011, which is the current record. The fact of the matter is that there is a huge advantage for teams in a big conference.

Yet, even with all of this in their favor, the Wildcats have never made the tournament. Not winning a World Series for a century is bad, but when only one team completes the feat every year it pales in comparison to this. The men in purple have been close a few times but never able to get that signature win or finish the fight toward the end of the season.

Northwestern Wildcats Basketball

Chris Collins has the Wildcats moving in the right direction. (Photo courtesy of northwestern.edu)

Northwestern has not been ranked since the 2009-10 season and that was only a brief stint at the 25th spot. This year they are on the verge of entering the fray once again as they are receiving votes and continuing to win games.

Since Chris Collins took the helm in Evanston, the team has been trending upward. Last year the team finished with its best record since 2010-11 at 20-12. Their current record is 16-4 (5-2) after a close 74-72 win at Ohio State.

They are moving ever so much closer to solidifying a spot in the NCAA Tournament and also to the school record of 20 wins in a season.

With the Big Ten having a bit of a down year, there are not a lot of opportunities for Northwestern to get that statement win. Essentially, the rest of the year they will work to avoid a “fall from grace”. They are 38th in the RPI and have not lost any games to teams outside the top 50. They have a few more opportunities for good wins against teams like Maryland (21), twice against Purdue (27) and Wisconsin (24).

If the Wildcats take a must-win against Rutgers (130) and three others they will be guaranteed a .500 record in the Big 10. That should be enough to push them into the field, but another win or two would push them over the top. Obviously, winning the conference tournament would do the trick as well, but they have never accomplished this either.

An additional factor in their favor is that down the stretch they will not have to do a lot of traveling.  Seven of their last 11 games are at home. This includes two of their best opportunities for key wins against Purdue and Maryland.

A lot of things are in the Wildcats favor. They are currently in the field for many bracketologists including The Game Haus’ Joe DiTullio. DiTullio has them at a nine seed in his most current edition. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi agrees with their current placement in the field.

Northwestern has very little standing in their way at this point.  They just need to take care of business and finish the job. It is about time the program lift this weight from its shoulders.

 

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NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl

The New Era Pinstripe Bowl pits the Northwestern Wildcats versus the Pittsburgh Panthers. This game will feature several NFL prospects, but they will mostly be watched when Pittsburgh has the ball and Northwestern is on defense. Here are the prospects to watch in this bowl game:

Northwestern Wildcats

Anthony Walker, LB

Projected Draft Range: second round-fourth round

Pinstripe Bowl

Anthony Walker (Photo courtesy: omaha.com)

Walker entered the season as one of the best linebackers in the country. He may have been passed on some big boards by some other linebackers, but Walker is still a great player. Walker had 120 total tackles last season and added 98 this season. His greatest strength is his speed, as he closes down on ball carriers quickly. He is also pretty good in coverage, which means he can play every down at the NFL level.

Pittsburgh Panthers

James Conner, RB

Projected Draft Range: fourth round-sixth round

If teams want a running back with power, Conner is their man. He has a tremendous stiff arm and runs through multiple arm tackles before being brought down. At six foot two and 235 pounds, Conner is a load for defenders to bring down. Toughness is his greatest quality on the field, as he takes blow after blow and continues to run hard. He has beaten cancer and a torn ACL, so toughness is something he carries off the field as well. He has added the ability to catch out of the backfield this season, which will only help his draft value.

Adam Bisnowaty, OT

Projected Draft Range: second round-fourth round

Pinstripe Bowl

Adam Bisnowaty (Photo courtesy: youtube.com)

Bisnowaty is a player that can shoot up draft boards before draft day. There aren’t many great tackles in this class, but teams love taking offensive linemen early in the draft. He has good size at six feet six inches and 305 pounds. His run blocking has been great for Conner, but there is a bit to be desired in pass blocking. He hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t pass blocked as well as other top prospects.

Dorian Johnson, OG

Projected Draft Range: first round-third round

Johnson, like Bisnowaty, has great size at six feet five inches and 315 pounds. Also like Bisnowaty, Johnson has shown to be a good run blocker to help open up holes for Conner. He will need to show necessary mobility to pull on run plays and pick up pass rushers on pass plays, but he should have the strength to handle most players after he engages them. Johnson is one of the best guards in the class, but guards don’t usually get drafted as highly as tackles.

 

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2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl Preview

The ACC and Big Ten match-up in the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl with the Pittsburgh Panthers taking on the Northwestern Wildcats.

Pittsburgh Panthers

The Panthers had a fantastic season and finished at 8-4. Their good wins include two teams who will be playing in the New Year’s Six Bowl Games. In the beginning of the season they beat Penn State and at the end Clemson. Their only losses were defeats suffered to bowl eligible teams.

Quarterback Nathan Peterman had a great senior season for the Panthers. He lost his favorite receiver Tyler Boyd to the NFL, but still played well. Peterman threw for 2,602 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 60% completion percentage isn’t efficient. In this game Peterman will need to protect the football and help move the chains, while not worrying about creating big plays.

Jester Welsh is the best receiver for the Broncos with 795 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Peterman can spread the ball around, with 14 receivers having caught a pass (including him).

Pinstripe Bowl

James Conner (Photo courtesy: nflmocks.com)

Running Back James Conner has been one of the best stories of the college football season. He has beaten cancer and recovered from a torn ACL. After all of that, hes still rushed for 1,060 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He is a great power back and uses a stiff arm well to fend off would-be tacklers.

Pittsburgh’s run defense is why they have been so good this season. They allow just 109 rushing yards per game which ranks ninth in the nation. The problem is their pass defense is atrocious. They give up the second most passing yards in the country, 343 yards per game.

Ejuan Price has been one of the best pass rushers in the country with 12 sacks on the season. Jordan Hood has been a good help in the secondary with 46 solo tackles.

Northwestern Wildcats

The Wildcats were thought to be a contender for the Big Ten West title, but ended up disappointing. They started at 0-2 which included a loss to FCS Illinois State. They bounced back to finish at 6-4. Their other losses were all to bowl eligible FBS teams. Northwestern had only one win over a bowl eligible team, which came when they defeated Iowa.

Clayton Thorson was one of the most improved players in all of college football this season. The quarterback threw 2,968 yards and 21 touchdowns, while only throwing eight interception. That’s not too bad for a quarterback that was supposed to be more of the running variety. He hasn’t added many rushing yards this season, but is still a danger on the ground.

Pinstripe Bowl

Anthony Walker Jr. (Photo courtesy: si.com)

Wide receiver Austin Carr was the best receiver in the Big Ten this season. He finished the season with 1,196 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. They don’t throw the ball down field a lot, but the Wildcats make the most of a lot of short throws.

Justin Jackson has had a fantastic season, rushing for 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averages 4.9 yards per carry, but has the capability to rip off long runs and change field position.

Giving up 137 rushing yards per game, the Wildcats are good at stopping the run. The pass defense has been awful allowing 265 yards per game.

Anthony Walker is the best player on the Northwestern defense. He finished the season with 93 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Walker is also decent in coverage and will be playing on Sundays soon.

Prediction

The Pitt run defense will shut down Jackson and Thorson in the run game. After they are shut down, Peterman will protect the football and Conner will chew the clock to get Pitt the win.

 

Pittsburgh Panthers 27 Northwestern Wildcats 17

 

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