Five things we learned in week 4 of college football

There were a lot of good games this week in college football, which makes it look like this season is going to be crazy for its entirety. Some of the top teams survived, some dominated and some got upset. At some point all teams will be tested and have their challenges, so if teams struggle and get the win, it still goes a long way. With all that said, here are the things we learned from this weekend:

1. Saquon Barkley is in the thick of the Heisman race

Barkley didn’t get himself into the Heisman talk last season because he didn’t have huge games against solid opponents. This year, however, he stepped up big time in Penn State’s first prime time game of the season. The Nittany Lions played Iowa and Barkley had over 300 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

In addition to the stats he put up, Barkley had some highlight spin moves, jump cuts and broken tackles, along with some key plays in key moments. With the bright lights on, Barkley made his case to move in the front of the Heisman talk with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

It will be hard to catch Mayfield with his impressive start to the season, but Barkley will have a few more chances to prove what he is worth. The Nittany Lions still have to play Michigan and Ohio State, with the possibility of a Big Ten Championship at the end of the game.

2. Alabama is going to be hard to stop in the sec

Five things we learned college football week 4

Damien Harris (Photo by timesnewpress.com)

Alabama played a team with a tough defense in Vanderbilt, but they made it look like Vanderbilt was an FCS team, winning 59-0. They look like the clear dominant team, in the SEC West with their offense and defense both clicking. Without many legitimate challengers at the moment, Alabama needs to make sure they don’t beat themselves.

Part of this equation is how the rest of the SEC has looked. Auburn and LSU both have had their disappointments as possible contenders to Alabama. Mississippi State looked like a team that could challenge in the SEC West, but they stumbled pretty badly at Georgia.

At this point of the season it looks like Georgia could be the biggest threat to Alabama and they won’t even meet unless both teams make the SEC Championship. If you have some money to lay down, put it on Alabama to make the CFP.

3. Florida State isn’t the same without Francois

Five things we learned week 4 of college football

James Blackman (Photo by tomahawknation.com)

When Deondre Francois went down for the season against Alabama, most knew Florida State was at risk of not making the College Football Playoff or winning the ACC. Unfortunately for the Seminoles it looks like it might get worse than that. This weekend they lost at home to NC State.

The Wolfpack are a solid team, but Florida State has more talent. Now the Seminoles are 0-2 and go into  a tough stretch of play. They have games at Wake and Duke and home contests with Miami and Louisville in their four weeks. It is unlikely that they will win them all, leaving them with a tough mountain to climb to get to another 9-3 season.

In order to salvage the season (by Florida State’s standards) they need to get James Blackman to progress at the quarterback position quickly.

4. Oklahoma State needs a defense

Five things we learned week 4 of college football

Gary Patterson (Photo by sportsrants.com)

Oklahoma State had a chance to keep themselves in the top ten, but lost to TCU 44-31. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs were ready to play and showed a nice balance of good offense and defense, which was the difference in the game. Now the Cowboys are going to slide out of the top ten and TCU will likely slide in.

The Cowboys may be able to outscore most teams, but when they come up against another competitive team, the defense needs to step up. Their toughest opponent for the remainder of their schedule will be Oklahoma. If they lose that game they are in real danger of missing the Big 12 Championship Game.

Maybe the lesson here is to never doubt Patterson and TCU, but if the Cowboys want to do something serious this year, their defense needs to step up.

5. It’s going to get crazy

With the exception of Alabama, every team has shown visible flaws and had some close calls. Clemson (until the 4th quarter), Oklahoma, Penn State, USC, Michigan, Florida, San Diego State and LSU are all top 25 teams that had a hard time pulling away from unranked competition. With Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Florida State and Oregon all losing, the top 25 will be more of a revolving door than in years past.

There a lot more big games to come that will shake things up. Some of these games are coming up this week. Here are the ones worth noting: 2 Clemson at 12 Virginia Tech, Duke at 14 Miami, 5 USC at 16 Washington State, Northwestern at 10 Wisconsin, Vanderbilt at 21 Florida, 7 Georgia at Tennessee and 24 Mississippi State at 13 Auburn.

Get locked in and ready, because the good games are still coming.

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 5-1

The college football season is about a week away and even the things that most fans take for granted can’t come soon enough. Good guard play, a gunslinger quarterback, hook and ladders and craziness are all things that need to happen sooner rather than later. The rest of the rankings are out and we are down to the top five teams, who will all be trying to make the college football playoff.

For the last installment of the rankings: click here.

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

College football top 25

Saquon Barkley (Photo by youtube.com)

Penn State surprised everyone by going 11-3 and making the Rose Bowl in James Franklin’s third season as the head coach. The good news for the Nittany lions is that they return 16 starters from that team and should be a force in the Big Ten again this season.

Saquon Barkley is one of the best players in college football and returns at running back. He totaled 1,496 rushing yards last year and will produce again this season. Four of his offensive linemen return to help pave the way for him. With that, Barkley should be in the thick of the Heisman race if he can have some big games against good competition.

The quarterback position is filled by Trace McSorley, who was a catalyst to taking their team to the Rose Bowl last season. He threw for 3,614 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2016, but will need to improve his efficiency. He also provides an extra running threat for Penn State. He has plenty of good targets returning in DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall and Mike Gesicki. Gesicki is one of the best tight ends in the country.

On defense, Penn State returns seven starters and brings a little experience back at every level of the defense. Two new starters will be needed at defensive end, but Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran return at defensive tackle. They will be tasked with stopping the run, which they did at an average rate last season.

Jason Cabinda thought about leaving for the NFL draft, but elected to return for his senior season. He is a great linebacker, who will lead the defense this season. Marcus Allen, a safety, also considered leaving early for the NFL, but came back and is the leading returning tackler. With Grant Haley and John Reid returning at the corners, Penn State’s defense should improve this season.

Penn State plays in one of the toughest divisions in all of college football, the Big Ten East, which results in a tough schedule. In all, their tough games will be against Pittsburgh, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska. While the schedule does have some tough opponents on it, the Nittany Lions should be able to get through the regular season with only a loss or two and put themselves in the conversation for the College Football Playoff.

4. Washington Huskies

College football top 25

Jake Browning (photo by si.com)

The third year at a school must provide some magic, because Chris Petersen took Washington to the College Football Playoff in just his third season as the head coach. Although they lost to Alabama, they have a lot of talent returning this season, which could result in them getting back to the College Football Playoff this season.

Jake Browning is back at quarterback and should have gotten more consideration for the Heisman last season. He threw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns. While John Ross is on to the NFL, Dante Pettis is a good receiver in his own right and will step up. The speedster Chico MClatcher also returns to provide a unique weapon for Browning.

Three offensive line starters return from last year’s team and should be a good unit. Behind them, Myles Gaskin was able to rush for 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns. He will produce again this season, making Washington’s offense multi-faceted and dynamic.

Only five starters return on defense, but a lot of these players have experience. Greg Gaines returns on the defensive front, while Vita Vea has the potential to be a star at nose tackle and had five sacks last season. Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria are both talented linebackers who are returning.

The “Death Row” secondary needs to be revamped with the departures of Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Budda Baker. JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp both have experience at safety, while Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller will need to play well at corner. Murphy was redshirted last season after being a solid recruit and should have the tools to be a lock-down corner.

Washington plays no one outside of the Pac-12 that is worth noting, but do play Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Colorado and Washington State in conference. All in all that is a pretty lousy schedule, which will allow the Huskies to escape with only a loss or two before likely heading to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

College football top 25

J.T. Barrett (Photo by sportingnews.com)

The Buckeyes were good enough to get to the College Football Playoff last season, but got blown out by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Urban Meyer continually loses talent to the NFL, but has 15 returning starters this season. The goal for Ohio State every season should be to get to the College Football Playoff.

J.T. Barrett is back for what seems like his tenth season at Ohio State. He’s a senior now and has completed 63% of his passes over his career for 6,381 passing yards. The problem is that the people he is throwing to don’t have too much experience. Parris Campbell and Marcus Baugh return, but need to step up their production, while others will need to succeed early in their careers.

Four of five offensive linemen return and are a great unit. Billy Price is a good lineman could have gone pro, but decided to stay on for his senior season. Mike Weber will be a sophomore at running back and had a solid freshman season. He finished 2016 with 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns and will build on that this season.

The front four starters all return and features a lot of talent. Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa are all very good players and are fighting for playing time at the defensive end positions. Lewis led them in sacks with eight. Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill return at the tackle position.

Jerome Baker and Chris Worley both are back at linebacker. Baker had 83 tackles last season. The only returning starter in the secondary is Damon Webb at safety. The defense was the third best scoring defense in the country last season and will be great again this season.

Oklahoma, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan are all going to be tough games for the Buckeyes. With Urban Meyer as head coach and a talented roster returning, Ohio State should be able to get out of the regular season with at most two losses, but could go undefeated if they reach their potential.

2. Florida State Seminoles

College football top 25

Derwin James (Photo by zimbio.com)

Florida State finished last season at 10-3 and won a thrilling Orange Bowl against Michigan. Jimbo Fisher has a lot of returning talent including some of the best players in all of college football. They have a tough schedule, but should still be able to make the College Football Playoff.

Deondre Francois had a good freshman season, despite bad offensive line play in front of him. He threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns. Ryan Izzo returns as a starter at tight end, but no starters are back at wide receiver. Nyquan Murray did have 441 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year and will be the go-to-guy this season.

The offensive line only returns two starters, but that may not be such a bad thing given how poorly they played last season. The hope is that Fisher’s recruiting will pay off. Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers will split time in the backfield for the Seminoles. Patrick is a junior and Akers is one of the best freshman in the country.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seminoles have a lot of key players that should help them improve immensely. Josh Sweat, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas all return on the defensive line, but Brian Burns, who didn’t start last year, comes back with 9.5 sacks. Their front four will make plays all year. The linebackers aren’t as talented as in year’s past, but they do have experience with three starters back from last year’s team.

The secondary always produces NFL-level talent. Derwin James sat out most of last season with an injury, but is back this season. He not only is a great NFL Draft Prospect, but if healthy, could be the best defensive player in college football this season. Tarvarus McFadden returns at corner and will be a high draft pick himself.

Florida State should be a team that has the offense and defense take a small step forward from last season. Their schedule is brutal and will give them challenges. They have games against Alabama, Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Florida. The Seminoles should be able to get out of the regular season with only a loss or two, which should put them in the ACC Championship Game, if things fall their way.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

College football top 25

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by draftblaster.com)

Losing in the National Championship Game has left a sour taste in Alabama’s mouth. Nick Saban is ready to lead his team back to prominence again this season and they will have another great season.

Jalen Hurts led the team to the title game last season and will be attempting to throw the ball better this season. Saban has admitted that he should’ve let Hurts throw more last season and it may have cost them. He did manage to throw for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. O.J. Howard and ArDarius Stewart are gone, but Calvin Ridley returns. Other playmakers on the outside need to live up to their recruiting ranking this season.

The offensive line has three starters coming back and will be solid again with all the good recruiting Saban does. Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough return at running back to provide an elite one-two punch. Harris is shiftier, while Scarbrough runs with power. They create a great dynamic.

The defense has five starters that are returning for this season, but Alabama always has talented replacements waiting. Da’Ron Payne returns on the defensive line and will be flanked by Da’Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier. All of which will stop the run well. Shaun Dion Hamilton is back in the middle of the defense to patrol things as the next man in line to be Alabama’s top inside linebacker. Rashaan Evans had four sacks last season from his outside linebacker position.

Minkah Fitzpatrick can do anything in the secondary, but will line up safety this year. Ronnie Harrison will be at the other safety and is the leading returning tackler with 86. Anthony Averett and Trevon Diggs will be the corners and will need to prove to Saban, a former defensive backs coach, that they are up to par with previous Alabama secondary players.

Alabama too has a very tough schedule. Their tough games are against Florida State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. While predicting anyone to go undefeated in today’s college football is tough, Alabama should be able to get out of the season with a maximum of two losses and a minimum of none. Either way they will be in the SEC Championship Game and will be in contention for the College Football Playoff.

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Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: Running Backs

Running backs are a position that aren’t usually highly sought after in the NFL Draft, but in the 2017 NFL Draft eight were selected in the first three rounds. This upcoming class may not have as many stars as last year, but there are still some good NFL prospects who will be rushing through college defenses this fall.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State

There is a lot of hype around Penn State after last year’s great run to the Rose Bowl and it is in large part thanks to their best player, Saquon Barkley.

Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards in the Nittany Lions’ 14 games last season. He had a nose for the end zone as he scored 18 touchdowns on the ground. Not only did he do damage as a rusher, but also did well as a receiver, finishing the season with 402 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

He put up an impressive performance in the Rose Bowl and will look to carry that momentum into this upcoming season. Barkley has games against Pitt, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan to help increase his stock. He is an early front-runner to be the first running back selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Nick Chubb, Georgia

Nick Chubb (Photo by: macon.com)

Georgia seemingly always reloads at the running back position. Chubb is now a senior after an up and down career because of a major injury in 2015 against Tennessee. When healthy and 100%, Chubb is a dynamic playmaker. He played all 13 games last season and is looking to have an improved senior season to get his draft stock up.

Last season was Chubb’s worst in terms of yards per carry, as he finished with just 5.0 after having years of 7.1 and 8.1 in the previous two seasons. He still finished with 1,130 rushing yards to bring his career total up to 3,424. He isn’t a threat as a receiver, but when Jacob Eason hands him the rock this season, watch out.

The Bulldogs are trying to regain SEC East supremacy this season under Kirby Smart. Chubb has a chance to lead them to these heights and improve his draft stock. The key games for Chubb to show it all to NFL scouts are: at Notre Dame, at Tennessee, vs. Florida, at Auburn and at Georgia Tech.

Royce Freeman, Oregon

Freeman could have easily declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and been selected in the top three rounds. He dealt with knee injuries last year and is looking to have a healthy season in 2017.

The stats for Freeman are eye-popping with 4,148 rushing yards and 44 rushing touchdowns in his career. He has added 650 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Last year was his worst in terms of production, but that was due to his injury.

Oregon is under new leadership in Willie Taggart, who will be looking to keep up the numbers of a traditionally good offense. Freeman will be the key in this and will have these key games to impress NFL Scouts: Nebraska, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

Derrius Guice, LSU

Derrius Guice (Photo by: theadvocate.com)

Last year Leonard Fournette was injured and couldn’t play in every game, but this let the world see the potential that Guice had. He filled in well and is looking to have a great season as a featured back.

In his limited time behind Fournette, Guice finished with 1,387 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 7.6 yards per carry. His best game of last season was at Texas A&M, where he rushed for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He has a great combination of power, speed and vision that he used to his advantage and will continue to do so.

Teams will likely stack the box against Guice, with no quarterback threat on LSU’s roster. The Tigers will play big games against BYU, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

 

Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

Alabama split carries between multiple running backs, but Scarbrough came on late in the season to have some big games. He is a big physical runner, who looks like he is in the weight room 24/7.

His best performance was an 180 yard game against Washington. He finished the season with 812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Scarbrough will likely continue to share carries with a loaded Alabama backfield. His vision as a runner has to improve if he wants to play in the NFL, as he can’t run over NFL level talent.

The Crimson Tide have plenty of big games this season for Scarbrough to prove he is more consistent. Alabama plays Florida State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Against these good teams and some top level defenses, Scarbrough will get his chance to prove he is a good NFL Draft prospect.

 

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2018 NFL Mock Draft May 6

The 2017 NFL draft has just concluded, but it is never too early to look to next year. Draft picks are ordered by Super Bowl Odds.

1. San Francisco 49ers- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Brian Hoyer isn’t the long term answer for the 49ers and they reached on C.J. Beathard in the 2017 NFL Draft. Allen may be from a small school, but he has legitimate talent. He has the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 222 pounds. Allen will have to prove himself in his big games against Iowa, Oregon and Boise State in the 2017 season.

2. Cleveland Browns- Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Joe Haden is aging and the Browns did a great job of addressing the rest of their defense in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick has started since his freshman season and is a very versatile defensive back.

3. Los Angeles Rams- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

If Jared Goff is going to be the long term quarterback, he needs more weapons. Ridley is a good option with 1,814 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in two years at Alabama. He can be a good outside receiver for the Rams, which is not something they currently have.

4. New York Jets- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold needs to improve his mechanics and have a strong second season as USC’s starting quarterback. If he does so, he will be a first rounder with no doubts. The Jets need to get a franchise signal caller and so far, this looks like a good quarterback class coming in.

5. Chicago Bears- Derwin James, S, Florida State

Derwin James NFL

Derwin James (Photo by: si.com)

Quintin Demps has had just one good season as a pro and that shouldn’t be expected to continue. James is an elite athlete at defensive back and will likely go in the top ten in the 2018 NFL Draft if he can stay healthy.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The USC-UCLA game will feature two great quarterbacks. Rosen has been a phenom since his freshman year at UCLA, but last year got his throwing shoulder hurt and even had some nerve damage. He needs to stay healthy and if he is able to, is capable of being the first quarterback selected. If the Jaguars are picking this high, Blake Bortles is out as the starting quarterback.

7. Buffalo Bills- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Wilkins is overlooked because of how many talented players were on Clemson last season, but with a lot of them gone, it is his time to shine. The Bills need to address the defensive line early in this draft. Two first round picks gives them some versatility in this draft.

8. Los Angeles Chargers- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Chargers doubled up on guards in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the tackles could be improved to protect the aging Phillip Rivers. McGlinchey would have gone first round in 2017, but elected to go back to school for one more year.

9. Detroit Lions- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk might end up being the best receiver in this class, but will likely see his stock slide if he doesn’t produce this season with a new quarterback. He is a little shorter than most teams like at 5’11”, but can play on the outside and be a difference maker. The Lions need to upgrade their receiving corps to give Matthew Stafford some more weapons.

10. New Orleans Saints- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

One thing that the Saints didn’t address in the 2017 NFL Draft was a pass rusher who could play opposite Cameron Jordan. Key is a great speed rusher, who elected to go back to school for another season. The Saints would love if they fell to them so they could get after Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan more often.

11. Washington Redskins- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Mason Rudolph NFL

Mason Rudolph (Photo by: ncaa.com)

The Washington front office doesn’t have a good relationship with Kirk Cousins. He will likely leave after the season due to being franchise tagged the last two seasons. Rudolph is another quarterback who has great size at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He only threw four interceptions last season, which shows how well he protects the ball.

12. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Interior offensive linemen usually don’t go this high, but Nelson would’ve been a first rounder in the 2017 draft had he come out. The Dolphins were able to address a lot of their needs this offseason, but they still need to get a guard because they are moving Laremy Tunsil out to tackle.

13. Cincinnati Bengals- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Cincinnati addressed all of their skill positions in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, but their offensive line is not good. Williams has a lot of experience at Texas and should upgrade the offensive line instantly.

14. Philadelphia Eagles- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley helped lead Penn State to a Big Ten Championship last year and was their best offensive player. He does a little bit of everything well and will be one of the first running backs off of the board. The Eagles drafted Donnell Pumphrey, but he isn’t an every down back in the NFL.

15. Tennessee Titans- Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

The Titans don’t have too many needs, but can improve the pass rush. He was a monster for the Boston College defense last year, finishing with 16.5 sacks. There were only two games were he didn’t register a sack, which bodes well for his NFL future.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

Donovan Smith hasn’t gotten his career off to a great start, meaning if he struggles again he will be replaced. Protecting Winston’s blindside has to be the number one priority for the Bucs.

17. Baltimore Ravens- Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

The Ravens haven’t had an effective running back in years. Guice showed flashes of what he could do when Leonard Fournette sat out with injury last season. He should have a breakout year for LSU.

18. Carolina Panthers- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Panthers continue to not address the offensive line well. They need to clear some holes for McCaffrey and protect Cam Newton. Brown is a big prospect, who is another good tackle prospect in this draft class.

19. Arizona Cardinals- Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

Luke Falk NFL

Luke Falk (Photo by: seattletimes.com)

This year’s quarterback class is going to be loaded, if everything happens the way most think it will. That paired with the fact that there are a lot of aging quarterbacks and as usual teams that are bad and need new ones, A lot might go in the first found in the 2018 NFL Draft. Falk is a system quarterback, but Patrick Mahommes overcame that to be the second quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. He will need to have an impressive senior season where he shows he can read defenses to maintain his spot in the first round.

20. Minnesota Vikings- Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah

The Shariff Floyd injury complicates things for the Vikings. Lotulelei is a big physical defensive tackle that can really plug up the running lanes.

21. Indianapolis Colts- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson has all the potential in the world and it should all come together for him this season for Texas. The Colts have started to revamp their defense, but it still needs a lot more work.

22. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Sutton was a fringe first rounder had he come out this year and will likely be one of the best wide receivers coming out next season. With Sammy Watkins possibly leaving in free agency, Sutton can be paired with current rookie Zay Jones.

23. New York Giants- Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

The Giants didn’t draft a tackle and now will need to get one next year. Fortunately for them, as it now stands, there are a lot of good tackles in this draft class.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers- Troy Fumagali, TE, Wisconsin

Troy Fumagali NFL

Troy Fumagali (Photo by: WXYZ.com)

If Jesse James doesn’t step up, the Steelers will need a new tight end. Fumagali made some incredible grabs in the Cotton Bowl and with a good season, will move himself into first round consideration.

25. Denver Broncos- Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Jamal Charles was just signed, but that isn’t a long term solution. Chubb could be the selection if the Broncos lose faith in Devontae Booker. He has some injuries, but when healthy Chubb is  a great running back.

26. Oakland Raiders- Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama

Hand has been burried on the depth chart at Alabama, but will get his chance this season. The Raiders have a terrible defensive line and need to start addressing it.

27. Cleveland Browns (via Hou)- Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

Whitehead can play a variety of positions in the secondary and can fit in next to Jabrill Peppers. The Browns’ luxury of a lot of picks, gives them a lot of options.

28. Atlanta Falcons- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

The Falcons need to get some players on the interior of the defensive line. Payne, like Hand, will get his chance to shine this season.

29. Seattle Seahawks- Martez Ivey, OL, Florida

Ivey could play guard or center for the Seahawks, but they need offensive line help so badly, it doesn’t matter. Protecting Russell Wilson hasn’t been a concern in the past for Seattle (even though it should have been), but it should be going into the future.

30. Green Bay Packers- Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

McFadden is a lengthy corner that can help the Packers stop the pass. They addressed the secondary this offseason, but if it doesn’t improve, they will target more secondary help.

31. Dallas Cowboys- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

Hubbard got to start in Joey Bosa’s place when Bosa was suspended, but made a name for himself. After a few more years of good play, he could go in round one. Dallas picked Taco Charlton in the first round in the 2017 NFL Draft, but could still use pass rushing help.

32. New England Patriots- Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

The Patriots have a glaring need at pass rusher and Lewis might be their guy. He has a lot of experience at Ohio State and New England can turn him into a star.

 

For more mock drafts go to: DC Pro Sports Report

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2017 Rose Bowl Preview

The Big Ten Champion, Penn State Nittany Lions, match-up with the USC Trojans in the 2017 Rose Bowl.

USC Trojans

USC is one of the hottest teams in the country right now after winning eight straight to end the season and finished at 9-3. Their losses were all to good teams. Despite their record, they have only won two games against bowl eligible teams on the season.

Rose Bowl

Adoree’ Jackson (Photo courtesy: ocregister.com)

The Trojans started winning games after Sam Darnold took over. He has thrown for 2,633 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Darnold has done all this while completing 68% of his passes. He adds some mobility with 236 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

JuJu Smith-Schuster and Dareus Rogers are the two best receivers for Darnold. Smith-Schuster is a good NFL prospect, but only has 781 receiving yards on the season. The good news is that he has nine touchdowns on the season. Rogers has 654 yards and three touchdowns.

Running back Ronald Jones has had a fantastic season with 1,027 yards rushing and 11 scores. Other running backs have helped the Trojans rush for a total of 2,487 yards, but Jones will see most of the carries.

The Trojans gives up an average amount of passing yards per game at 225. The rush defense is good and gives up 134 yards per game.

Adoree’ Jackson is one of the best athletes in college football and has four interceptions this year. He won’t just have an impact on defense as he is great at returning kicks and punts, as well as lining up on offense occasionally.

Penn State Nittany Lions

The Nittany Lions are also on a hot streak and have won nine straight games to sit at 11-2 for the Rose Bowl. Their losses came to Michigan and Pittsburgh. They have key wins over Ohio State, Temple, Minnesota, Maryland, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Rose Bowl

Saquon Barkley (Photo courtesy: mcall.com)

Trace McSorley’s emergence has been amazing and has led to Penn State being good. McSorley has thrown for 3,360 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season. He has only thrown five interceptions on the season. His completion percentage of 58% isn’t great, but it doesn’t hurt as bad as turning the ball over would.

There are a lot of receivers that McSorley can go to, but Chris Godwin is his best target. Godwin has 795 yards receiving and nine touchdowns this season. They have a lot of big play threats with nine receivers with a long reception of 40 yards of above.

At running back, Penn State has one of the best players in the country Saquon Barkley. He has 1,302 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. At 5.3 yards per carry Penn State can lean on him to pick up tough yards.

Penn State has an above average rush defense that allows 154 rushing yards per game. The pass defense is good and gives up just 199 passing yards per game.

Linebacker Brandon Bell has fought injury this season, but has stepped up when healthy. He had 18 total tackles twice this season, once coming in their big game against Ohio State.

Prediction

USC has too many play-makers on both sides of the ball. Adoree’ Jackson will make plays on defense and in the return game to help the Troans get the win.

 

USC Trojans 34 Penn State Nittany Lions 25

 

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It’s the Year of the Running Back in the Big Ten

Saquon Barkley hurdles Illinois defender V’angelo Bentley in a game in 2015. From CBS Sports.

Two Big Ten 1,200 yard rushers (Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard) have forgone their final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. Two more runners of at least 950 yards, Jordan Canzeri and Brandon Ross, have exhausted their eligibility in addition.

But for the reason of these eight rushers, 2016 will be the year of the running back in the Big Ten conference. Why eight you ask? Well, because it’s my second favorite number. No other significance. If you don’t like it you can shove it, because this is my article.

Joking aside, here are the eight backs in the Big Ten poised for a great season, in order of who I think will be the most productive.

  1. Markell Jones, Purdue Sophomore

Markell Jones in a game against Virginia Tech. Courtesy of Getty Images.

This home-town product for the Boilermakers came in his freshman year and earned the role of primary runner for Purdue by his second game against Illinois, when he picked up 84 yards on just 14 carries. Averaging a high total per attempt turned out to be a theme for Jones in fact, as he gained 5.2 yards per carry in his true freshman season to finish with a total of 875 yards with ten scores on the ground.

Hindering Jones’ efforts, however, may be a historically ineffective Purdue attack. The Boilermakers do have over 30 started games on their front line returning, but what good are starts for a squad that ranked 109th last season in rushing offense with only 131.3 yards per game, and 95th in total offense with 368.6 yards a game? There was a reason the Boilers went 2-10 last year and haven’t won more than three games in a season since 2012.

  1. De’Veon Smith, Michigan Senior

De’Veon Smith stiff-arms a defender. Courtesy of touch-the-banner.com

In his second year in Ann Arbor, Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines revamped and poised for another 10+ win season.  It would be the first time they have had back-to-back double digits in the win column since 2002 and 2003.  

A big reason for the position they sit in is their returning rushing leader, De’Veon Smith. The fit of a downhill and through-contact runner like Smith in Harbaugh’s pro-style offense is glove-like, and while his production as a junior was gaining just 4.2 yards a carry to total 753 yards, he’s got the work ethic to break free this final season.

Mlive.com quoted Jim Harbaugh as saying, “De’Veon Smith is the clearcut starting tailback. But he’s the first one in there no matter what drill we’re doing. If it’s a live drill, he doesn’t shy away. If we’re tackling, he’s in there.”

  1. Devine Redding, Indiana Junior

Devine Redding tightropes a sideline against Ohio State. Provided by zimbio.com.

Indiana has had 1,200-yard rushers in back-to-back seasons now, a rare bright spot in the otherwise gloomy combined 12-15 past two years there. Devine Redding will look to continue that trend, coming off a season of over 1,000 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. The only thing that could subtract from Redding’s numbers is fellow junior Camion Patrick, who was described as the best player on the team by Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson. But after sitting in the shadow of Tevin Coleman and then Jordan Howard, I look for Redding to win the starting role for the Hoosiers and make it three straight years for Indiana with a 1,200 yard back.

  1. L.J. Scott, Michigan State Sophomore

lansingstatejournal.com’s photo of Scott breaking free on a run last season.

As a talented freshman from Ohio, L.J. Scott was a rare first-year contributor in a back-by-committee system last year for the Spartans that also included fellow freshman Madre London and sophomore Gerald Holmes. Those other two also return for 2016, but L.J. has the talent and heart to excel above to the featured back role on a team coming off three straight eleven win seasons and Big Ten titles in both 2013 and 2015. It’s not for nothing that Ohio State and Alabama also offered him coming out of high school.

I would not be surprised at all to see L.J. double the 699 yards he gained last year. From the things I’ve read, he’s that good.

  1. Corey Clement, Wisconsin Senior

Picture from badgerofhonor.com shows Clement hitting a whip following a touchdown.

Wisconsin is known for big offensive lines and top running backs in recent history; backs like Melvin Gordon III, Montee Ball and John Clay.

This year is no exception on the big offensive line part, as the average projected Badger in the trenches is 305 pounds, including two big men over 315. Clement, who ran for over 900 yards behind Melvin Gordon in 2014, was poised last year to take on the role as the next great Wisconsin running back. But an injury in 2015 left him only four games played, and Wisconsin’s converted cornerback Dare Ogunbowale would have to take over.  

Now back from surgery to repair a sports hernia, Clement is ready to enjoy the success he was supposed to have last year when he was a preseason Heisman trophy candidate.

  1. Justin Jackson, Northwestern Junior

Justin Jackson comes into 2016 off back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons. Photo from Big Ten Network.

Justin Jackson is the most productive Big Ten back returning from last year, with 1,418 yards

It’s not often that Northwestern reels in a four-star recruit. That’s probably why Jackson was a day one starter in 2014. Now in 2016, he will again be the featured back for a team that quietly went 10-3 and finished 23rd in the AP poll last year.

Of course, it took him 312 carries to get the yards he got (4.5 yards a carry) and with only five touchdowns, he wasn’t racking up many points. However, he’s a quick-footed runner who will look to improve on his totals from last year, which would mean 1,500 yards.

  1. Mike Weber, Ohio State Freshman (RS)

Mike Weber is poised for a break-out season. Courtesy of elevenwarriors.com.

This prediction is a little more bold, but I think the running back rumored to be Carlos Hyde 2.0 down in Columbus could bust out a huge season this year. He’s got a line composed of almost entirely former four stars in front of him, and the buckeyes have been a top 11 rushing offense each of Urban Meyer’s four years coaching.

Weber received rave reviews coming out of fall camp last year. In fact, the only thing that kept him from being Ezekiel Elliott’s back-up as a true freshman was a torn meniscus, and after the time he missed the coaching staff decided to redshirt him.

  1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State Sophomore

One hurdle already featured at the top of the page, here is another. Source: onwardstate.com.

Barkley defines the phrase “freak of nature.” Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell said he was better than Derrick Henry, and Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin said of him that “He’s pretty rare, pretty special. I haven’t been around too many guys like him.”

Coming off a season where he made the freshman All-american team with 1,076 yards rushing, Barkley will go as far this year as his offensive line will take him. An offensive line that has had problems staying healthy the past couple of seasons. New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead will look to revamp the scheme and try to improve play up front, and a new detail-focused approach to a unit that allowed 3.0 sacks per game last year — tied for 111th worst in the country.