College football top 10 predictions

The NFL Draft is over, now it’s time for college football to start back up again. As summer begins, teams prepare for camp and work their way towards having a good season for this upcoming year. As the countdown for college football begins, here are the top 10 teams that could make an impact in the 2018-2019 season.

1. Alabama

college football

Jalen Hurts stiff arms defender
(sec country)

Coming off of winning a National Title, the Alabama Crimson Tide might be able to go back for a fourth time. They still have leading junior quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who is a talented playmaker. He also has sophomore Tua Tagovailoa right behind him; he is also a very talented quarterback who is able to make plays. Even tho Bo Scarborough has moved on to the NFL, the Tide still has Damien Harris to run the ball past defenders on offense. On the defensive side, the Tide has the two good linebackers in Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson. They also have one of the most dangerous defensive linemen in the SEC with Raekwon Davis leading the herd.

2. Georgia

college football

Jake Fromm
(AI.com)

Georgia may have lost their starting linebackers and running backs, but this season still looks promising for the Bulldogs. During the spring game, there were some freshman that showed a lot of potential for the upcoming season. Sophomore, Monty Rice, was one of the linebackers in the spring game that showed out and could make an impact on the Bulldogs’ defense. Georgia still has a talented receiving core, including wide receivers Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta. Not only the Bulldogs have talented receivers, they have quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished his season out with 2,173 total passing yards and 21 touchdowns.

3. Clemson

Clemson is a young team that had an outstanding season last year. The question is, can they do it again? The Tigers have major key players on defense that are returning this season, including senior linebacker Kendall Joseph and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Clemson lost key receivers due to the NFL draft, and they are still predicting who is going to fill in these empty holes, and become a threat on offense.

4. Oklahoma

Without Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in the picture, the Sooners have questions about who will be the next quarterback. During the spring game, redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall proved that he is the man for the job. The Sooners are also waiting to see if redshirt junior Kyler Murray will play this year or play professional baseball.

5. Ohio State

college football

Urban Myer and his team prepare for the game
(Ohio State athletics)

The Buckeyes have put in a lot of work during the offseason. Even though they’ve lost a handful of key players on the defensive line due to the draft, head coach Urban Myer still contains talented players and incoming freshman lined up ready to play. Sophomore defensive end, Chase Young, showed that he was ready to be placed on the line during the spring ball game. This season, he may start alongside Dre’Mont Jones and Nick Bosa. Not only will the Buckeyes have a good defense, but they also have promising key players on offense as well, including sophomore J.K Dobbins, who ran for 1,364 yards last season, and junior wide receiver Parris Campbell.

6. UCF

college football

UCF
(the ringer.com)

The Knights had a perfect season last year, and they had one of their best linebackers, Shaquem Griffin, make it to the NFL draft. UCF also has an outstanding running back core led by Adrian Killins Jr. who rushed for 762 yards last season. That’s not all, the Knights have quarterback McKenzie Milton that can put the ball in any pocket to any receiver and can run the ball like a tailback. Last season, he threw for 4,037 yards and rushed for 497 yards. UCF may cause problems on offense with this duo next season.

7. Stanford

The Cardinals have had a pretty decent season in 2017, even though they lost in the Alamo Bowl to TCU. They also lost their star Heisman runner-up, Bryce Love due to a sprained ankle. He didn’t even participate in the spring, because he is still recovering. By this fall, Love should be able to return and take the Pac 12 by storm. Stanford’s defense will play a key factor for next season.

8. TCU

In replacement of Kenny Hill, sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson will lead the offense for next season. Their offensive line is fairly young, but the receivers are pretty talented including KaVontae Turpin and Jalen Reagor.

9. Miami

The Hurricanes had begun to rebuild a dynasty last season, until they were exposed to Pittsburgh. They can still have another shot in the College Football Playoff next season. They have key receivers, including sophomore Jeff Thomas, Ahmmon Richards and return running back Travis Homer. On the defensive side, safety Jaquan Johnson, and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman are returning and will lead the defense for next season.

10. Michigan State

The Spartans still have a majority of their starters coming back. Brian Lewerke will lead the offense; he is a gunslinger that threw for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. LJ Scott is in the backfield with him and he will cause a lot of damage in the Big Ten.

 

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Way too early 2018-19 college basketball rankings

The college basketball season has just ended, which means it is time to look ahead to next season. Who are the teams that will be looking to cut down the nets in the 2019 NCAA Tournament?

25. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

The Ramblers do lose Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson, but return a lot of key players. This includes their two leading scorers, Clayton Custer and Marques Townes. Custer won MWC Player of the Year and will be a frontrunner to win the award again next season. The Ramblers have also been able to keep their head coach Porter Moser for the time being, who should keep the ball rolling.

24. Clemson Tigers

Clemson outdid expectations this year to earn a five seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mark Donnal, Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham are headed out the door, but they were successful after Grantham went down with an injury. Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas will lead the team next season as seniors. Reed led the team in scoring and looks like he could break out next season.

23. Cincinnati Bearcats

Gary Clark and Kyle Washington are lost to graduation, but to add insult to injury Jacob Evans has declared for the draft and doesn’t plan on returning. The Bearcats still have talent and should be the favorites to win the AAC again. The backcourt play will be great with Jarron Cumberland, Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome returning. Cincinnati will have to find productive frontcourt players to really be a threat to great teams, but they are solid as is.

Way too early 2018-19 college basketball rankings

Mike Brey (photo by cbssports.com)

22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame seems to lose about two or three key players a year and do fine anyways. This year’s departing class will be a little harder to replace though, as the Fighting Irish lose point guard Matt Farrell and star Bonzie Colson. They do however have T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and Martinas Geben returning, along with a solid recruiting class, which should help them compete in the ACC.

21. TCU Horned Frogs

The guard play should be good for the Horned Frogs next season as Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher return. Their two leading scorers, Kenrich Williams and Vladimir Brodziansky, are both graduating and other players will need to step up to help make Jaime Dixon’s third year at TCU successful.

20. UCLA Bruins

Thomas Welsh graduates and Aaron Holiday has declared for the NBA draft. They do have a good incoming recruiting class, ranked third in the country by 247 sports, and some returning talent on the roster to work with. Holiday should be the only player who keeps his name in the NBA Draft, meaning Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands will be returning leaders.

19. LSU Tigers

Will Wade did an admirable job in his first season as LSU’s head coach. It was a program that wasn’t in the best shape and they finished with 18 wins. Tremont Waters and Skylar Myers will make the backcourt really good and they have the fourth best recruiting class (247sports). With two five-star big men coming in, they have a chance to compete again in the SEC.

18. Maryland Tigers

Maryland didn’t have their best season in 2017-2018 but have their top five leading scorers returning. This team will be headlined by Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando. Assuming they all return to school, Maryland can make some noise.

17. Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs had a nice run in the NIT and will return all key players from the team. To go with that, they have the ninth-best recruiting class, which should help push them into the NCAA Tournament. Ben Howland has plenty of experience of winning at UCLA and now has the players to do so at Mississippi State.

way too early college basketball rankings 2018-19

Terance Mann (Photo by news-press.org)

16. Florida State Seminoles

Leonard Hamilton led the Seminoles on a dream run to the Elite Eight. They used their length and athleticism well and created havoc. Phil Cofer and Braian Angola are moving on, but their best player, Terance Mann returns. With a lot of key players and length returning, the Seminoles should have a better regular season than this past season.

15. Virginia Tech Hokies

Justin Bibbs is gone, but the rest of the notable Hokies will return. Virginia Tech had a really good offense and should be able to fill the void left by Bibbs. Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. will be senior leaders who will be able to lead the team to a lot of wins after being two of the three top leading scorers from last season.

14. Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State surprised some by making the NCAA Tournament, then surprised everyone by making the Elite Eight. They don’t lose any key players either, which should lead them to compete in the Big 12, although it will be tough to beat out their in-state rival. Dean Wade and Barry Brown will be starring in the conference next season.

13. Oregon Ducks

Troy Brown is reportedly leaving for the NBA Draft. He could still return, but they will lose MiKyle McIntosh to graduation. Other than that the Ducks should return everyone from a 23 win team. They have the second-best recruiting class in the country, which includes a unique talent in Bol Bol, son of Manute Bol. Payton Pritchard took a huge step from year one to year two and should take another step forward in year three.

12. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers had a young team this year and will return everyone. Rick Barnes has done a fantastic job early in his tenure at Tennessee. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield will lead the team again with their great physical play. They are not expected to add anything special in the recruiting class because they aren’t losing anyone.

11. Michigan State Spartans

A lot has to be figured out with the situation at Michigan State, but as of now, they look like a good team heading into next season. Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are going to the NBA. Gavin Schilling and “Tum Tum” Nairn will graduate, but a lot of talent should be returning to East Lansing. Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford should all be returning to school and will work with the 11th best recruiting class.

way too early 2018-29 college basketball rankings

Caleb and Cody Martin (Photo by twitter.com)

10. Nevada Wolfpack 

Nevada has five of their six key players who could potentially be coming back for next season. Caleb and Cody Martin could leave for the NBA, but the smart decision would be to come back to school. With those two, head coach Eric Musselman and Jordan Caroline returning and teaming up with some new recruits should make the team even better next season.

9. Auburn Tigers

The FBI investigation could have derailed Auburn’s season, but they outdid expectations. They return all key players and should have Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley returning at some point next season. If the FBI investigation doesn’t progress too much further Auburn is a contender to cut down the nets at the end of the season. Mustapha Heron and Bryce Brown will create a great backcourt.

*Heron has since declared for the NBA Draft and hired an agent.

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson are both graduating. If Killian Tillie returns, Gonzaga is in store for another successful season. Four of their top five leading scorers would return and Mark Few can get another top seed. Making the Final Four isn’t out of the picture again for Gonzaga.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels

Losing Joel Berry and Theo Pinson is going to be tough to deal with early in the season, but UNC has a lot of returning talent. Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams all averaged double figures and will have a chance to be leaders of the team next season. The Tar Heels will also have two five star recruits coming in with Nassir Little and Coby White.

6. Michigan Wolverines

This ranking depends on Moritz Wagner coming back to school. He isn’t projected to be a lottery pick and could go back to school as he loves playing for Coach Beilein. With Wagner, Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson back, they have the necessary pieces to be good again. Jordan Poole will take on a bigger role and the 16th best recruiting class is coming in.

5. Virginia Cavaliers

The sting of being the first one seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament will be there for a while, but they only lost three games all season. Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall leaving will hurt, but Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter should be able to lead Virginia to success.

4. Villanova Wildcats

Villanova is now a perennial contender and will be back next year. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will likely be in the NBA next season, but there is so much talent returning outside of them. Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman will be stars next season. They also have the 12th best-recruiting class in the country including a five-star point guard in Jahvon Quinerly, who should be able to take over point guard duties from Brunson.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

The majority of Kentucky’s team should be back next season after securing a five seed and reaching the Sweet 16. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox should probably go to the NBA but are reportedly torn on what to do. Even if they leave, the Wildcats will have a great team next season. They have the sixth-best recruiting class in the country to pair with the vast returning talent.

way too early 2018-19 college basketball rankings

R.J. Barrett (photo by espn.com)

2. Duke Blue Devils

While most, if not all, their starters leaving, Duke will have a lot to replace. Fortunately, they have the top three recruits in the class coming in. All three were highly coveted and hyped. R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish will have NBA scouts going to Cameron Indoor Stadium often. Five-star Tre Jones was also signed to play point guard. Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier and Alex O’Connell are the leading returning players and need to grow up fast.

1. Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas will feel some growing pains while trying to replace Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. If Malik Newman, Udoka Azabuike and/or Lagerald Vick decide to go pro, Kansas will fall down these rankings a bit. Assuming they all return, Kansas should be one of the best teams in the country. They have those key players returning and the fifth-best recruiting class. To add to it, they have the Lawson twins, who were highly productive at Memphis, transferring in.

 

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NCAA Tournament

Games to watch during the Sweet 16

Most people expected the number one, two and three seeds to make it all the way to the Sweet 16, maybe even into the Final Four. Some teams have punched their ticket in and some have been sent home and made people all over the United States very upset. Not to mention, everybody’s brackets are done for. There are new teams that have replaced the top seeds in the tournament, and they will go up against some really tough opponents this week. Here are some games you should watch during the Sweet 16.

Kansas State vs. Kentucky

NCAA Sweet 16 Kentucky

Kentucky basketball team
(UK athletics. aseaofblue.com)

The Kansas State Wildcats played an outstanding game on Sunday, beating UMBC 50-43. Everyone thought that UMBC would shock the nation by pulling another upset on Kansas State, since they’d beaten the University of Virginia in the first round. Well, not this time. The Wildcats came out on top after a hard fought game.

They had to play without their starting Forward, Dean Wade who was dealing with a foot injury. At first, the Wildcats were off to a bad start; they committed 18 turnovers and were 1-for-12 from the three-point line. They also couldn’t capitalize off of UMBC’s missed shots in the second half. Kansas State’s guard, Barry Brown, had 18 points. Xavier Sneed had the highlight reel of the night with a massive dunk off of a rebound. He finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats are now in the Sweet 16, playing against the number five seed, the University of Kentucky, a team loaded with talent. They have two, young, amazing point guards that are going to be a threat in this tournament.

Loyola-Chicago vs. Nevada

NCAA Sweet 16 Loyola Chicago

Loyola’s Clayton Cluster spinning off Tennessee defender. (the kansas city star)

No-one had expected for this team to make it into the Sweet 16 at all. Loyola survived both rounds, due to a buzzer beater against Miami and a bounce on the rim, into the hoop, against Tennessee. With three seconds left to spare, Clayton Custer made a jumper that was living on a prayer in order to beat the Volunteers, 63-62. The Ramblers are now facing the University of Nevada.

In order to beat the Wolf Pack, Loyola will have to play hard on defense. Nevada has an outstanding offense that makes at least around 40 percent of their three pointers. They rarely handed the ball over in the game against Cincinnati, during the first round of the tournament.

Michigan vs. Texas A&M

Jordan Poole NCAA Sweet 16

Jordan Poole (UM) goes crazy after buzzer beater
(ftw.usatoday.com)

The Michigan Wolverines were able to beat the Houston Cougars on Sunday. They played outstanding defense against the Cougars, having Rob Gray on lock down during the first half. Fouls were a major problem in the second half for both teams. Houston’s forward, Breaon Brady was seated for the rest of the game due to foul trouble. Freshman, Jordan Poole, pulled a clean buzzer beater that shocked everyone in the arena, ending the game, with the score 64-63. Now Michigan will advance to the Sweet 16 as a number three seed, facing Texas A&M.

The Aggies have been dealing with a lot of injuries and suspensions this season. The future didn’t look bright for them during this whole tournament, but they proved everybody wrong. They’d shut down Providence in the first round and embarrassed the defending national champions, North Carolina, by 21 points in the second. If Texas A&M continues to play like this, they will have a one way ticket to the Final Four.

Florida State vs. Gonzaga

NCAA Sweet 16 Florida State Basketball

Florida State (tomahawknation.com. Photo by Rob Cur)

Florida State was another team that wasn’t supposed to make it this far into the tournament. The Seminoles’ future didn’t look promising at all, since they only won four of their last 10 games before the tournament. Now, they ruined everyone’s brackets by defeating Xavier, 75-70. They were behind 32-34 in the first half, but then Florida State started a rally down 12 points, during the last minutes of the second half. Nobody expected for Xavier to be eliminated in the second round of the tournament at all. Florida State will play Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 tournament.

The Bulldogs are now seeking to return to the championship for a second time and are planning to win it all. Due from the loss in the championship last year to North Carolina, this year’s team looks more promising than ever and more disciplined.

Clemson vs. Kansas

For the first time in 20 years, the Tigers had finally clinched a spot in the Sweet 16. With their powerhouse defense, Clemson has been on a roll, dominating New Mexico State, 79-68, in the first round and crushing Auburn, 84-53, in the second. The Tigers will face Kansas University in the tournament. The Jayhawks have also played very well during the first two rounds of the tournament, with the help of star center, Udoka Azubuike and senior guard Devonte Graham.

 

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2018 ACC Tournament preview

The ACC Tournament has so many teams that are fighting for different things, whether that’s a number one seed or just a spot in the tournament. As always, it will be competitive and fun. Here is a preview of what will take place in Brooklyn this week.

Overview

Virginia won the ACC this season by four games this season, a feat that not many saw coming. They only have two losses on the season, to Virginia Tech and West Virginia. If they win this tournament, they will get the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Behind them Duke will be looking for a number one seed as well. Five of their six losses came in conference, but their defense has gotten better in recent weeks. They have also gotten healthier, as Marvin Bagley III has returned from his sprained knee.

North Carolina has a slight shot at a number one seed, but is likely looking at a two or three seed this season. With one of the best point guards in the country, Joel Berry, and a good inside-out player in Luke Maye, the Tar Heels can make a run and win this tournament.

Clemson, Miami, N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Florida State are all likely in the NCAA Tournamnet, barring disaster scenarios. Louisville, Notre Dame and Syracuse are both on the bubble and need to do some damage in the ACC Tournament to secure a spot in the big dance. Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh finished at the bottom of the conference and are playing for pride unless they can make a run to win the whole ACC Tournament to get an automatic bid.

All-Tournament Team and MVP

The All-Tournament team is very dependent on who goes deep in a tournament. Who will be the best players in the ACC Tournament?

Joel Berry, G, UNC

Kyle Guy, G, Virginia

Gary Trent Jr., G, Duke

Marvin Bagley III, F, Duke

Omer Yurtseven, F, N.C. State

MVP: Kyle Guy

Darkhorse: N.C. State Wolfpack

2018 ACC Tournament preview

Coach Kevin Keatts (Photo by sportingnews.com)

N.C. State will play Boston College, after the Eagles beat Georgia Tech in the first round. That shouldn’t be too tough of a game, as the Wolfpack already beat them this season, 82-66. After that they get Clemson, who is without one of their best players, Donte Grantham, who is injured. They split the season series with Clemson, but they had Grantham in both of those games. The Tigers have lost four of their last six games of the season and are clearly reeling without Grantham.

Picking up those two wins would give them some momentum. If the bracket holds to form, they would have to play Virginia and then Duke to win it all. While Virginia did beat the Wolfpack easily, N.C. State was able to beat Duke. That tournament run would be tough, but they should be able to get out of their first two games without too many problems.

Coach Kevin Keatts has done a fantastic job of putting a good team on the floor and getting the most out of them in his first year. They’ve got a good combination of inside players and guards. Omer Yutseven is a legitimate NBA prospect at center, who is tough to match up with. Lennard Freeman and Abdul-Malik Abu are good role players at forward, who have experience.

Markell Johnson runs the point well with 7.4 assists per game. Allerik Freeman, Torin Dorn and Braxton Beverley all give a good scoring punch to this team from the guard position, averaging over 10 points per game each. With so many different scoring options, the Wolfpack will be hard to stop this week.

Champion: Virginia Cavaliers

2018 ACC Tournament preview

Kyle Guy (Photo by accsports.com)

Virginia will have to play Louisville or Florida State in their first game, then likely have to go through N.C. State/Clemson and Duke to win the tournament. With just two losses on the season, they have beaten all of these teams. Florida State and Louisville created good games against the Cavaliers, but couldn’t come up with key plays at the end, giving Virginia victories. They are 3-0 against teams they’d meet in their first game.

For their likely second opponent of the tournament, they beat both N.C. State and Clemson without any problems. They held Clemson to 36 points, when Clemson still had Grantham. If they make the championship against Duke, they were able to beat them at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 65-63.

They are clearly the class of the ACC, with only one loss in conference. Their defense is what sets them apart, as they allow just 52.8 points per game. That would be hard to do in any conference, but they managed to do that in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, conferences in the country. The Cavaliers hold opponents to just 37.5% from the field and play the game at their pace.

Virginia’s best player is Kyle Guy, who averages just 13.9 points per game, but that’s because they run good offensive sets and milk the shot clock. He scores 17.5 points per game, which is probably what he would score if Virginia played at most teams’ paces. Devon Hall and Ty Jerome are also both solid guards who average over 10 points per game and defend well.

Outside of the three scorers, the Cavaliers have role players that don’t care about numbers and just focus on doing their jobs to secure victories. De’Andre Hunter, Isaiah Wilkins, Jack Salt, Mamadi Diakite and Nigel Johnson all fill significant roles and are capable of stepping up their games when called upon.

Tony Bennett will have his team ready to play in the ACC Tournament and is hoping that they can make the third Final Four in school history.

 

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology February 12

The NCAA selection committee released their top 16 seeds this Saturday to give a look into how they would seed the teams right now. This can officially put everyone in the mindset for March Madness. Here is the latest NCAA Tournament bracketology. Click to zoom.

 

First four out: SMU, Nebraska, St. Bonaventure, Utah

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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 2018 Sugar Bowl

The two best programs in college football the past two seasons are Alabama and Clemson. They produce great players and play in the biggest games. There are a lot of players from this game that will be stars in the NFL. Here are the top NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Sugar Bowl:

Alabama Crimson Tide

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB

Fitzpatrick has experience at both corner and safety for Alabama, but will fit in better as a safety in the NFL. He has gotten playing time since his freshman season at Alabama and is now a junior. In his three seasons he has 163 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, nine interceptions, 23 passes defended and one forced fumble.

At 6’1″ and 201 pounds, Fitzpatrick has good enough size for the NFL at either position he has played. He likely won’t have to wait long to hear his name called.

Projected draft range: 1st round

Calvin Ridley, WR

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Sugar Bowl

Calvin Ridley (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Ridley is one of the best receivers in the draft class, if not the best. He has continued to put up numbers, despite not always having the greatest quarterback play. At Alabama, he has 2,710 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. His best season was his freshman year with Blake Sims at quarterback.

He is 6’1″ and 190 pounds and will need to add some play strength to beat his man off the line of scrimmage. If he isn’t the first wide receiver drafted, Ridley will be shortly after.

Projected draft range: 1st round

Da’Ron Payne, DT

Payne doesn’t have the production of a lot of other prospects, but is asked to do something completely different for Alabama. He is a freakish athlete who takes on multiple blockers and helps stop the run well. He has 94 total tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks in his time at Alabama.

At 6’2″ and 308 pounds, Payne has good size for an interior defensive lineman. He plays nose tackle in Alabama’s 3-4, but can also play defensive tackle in the 4-3 system.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Other notable Alabama prospects: RB Damien Harris (2nd round-4th round), RB Bo Scarbrough (4th round-6th round), G/C Ross Pierschbacher (3rd round-5th round), C Lester Cotton (5th round-7th round), C Bradley Bozeman (3rd round-5th round), DE Da’Shawn Hand (6th round-undrafted free agent), LB Rashaan Evans (3rd round-4th round), LB Shaun Dion Hamilton (3rd round-5th round), CB Anthony Averett (3rd round-5th round), CB Tony Brown (4th round-6th round), S Ronnie Harrison (1st round-2nd round)

Clemson Tigers

Clelin Ferrell, DE

NFL Draft prospects in the 2018 Sugar Bowl

Clelin Ferrell (Photo by independentmail.com)

Ferrell has been the leading sack-man on the Tigers’ defense this season. That is impressive due to how much talent they have on their roster. In his two years of playing time at Clemson, Ferrell has 106 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks.

At 6’5″ and 265 pounds which is good size for a defensive end in the NFL. He will have to battle some fellow teammates for positioning in the draft class.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Austin Bryant, DE

Bryant is the other half of a great sack tandem of defensive ends. He has 7.5 sacks on the season to make it tough on opposing quarterbacks. In his career, he has 82 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. He has some inconsistency, as some games he will have multiple sacks and some he will have none, but NFL teams can work with that.

He also has solid size at 6’4″ and 265 pounds. The junior could go back to Clemson and work on his consistency, but he already has enough tape to be drafted early in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Christian Wilkins, DT

Wilkins is a leader for Clemson and one of the best defensive tackles in the country. The junior was a big part of the National Championship team last year. He has 133 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in his career. Wilkins has shown the ability to rush the passer from the interior, which is appealing to NFL teams.

He is 6’4″ and 310 pounds, which makes his best fit as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Wilkins will be one of the first interior defensive linemen selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Projected draft range: 1st round-2nd round

Other notable Clemson prospects: WR Deon Cain (3rd round-5th round), WR Hunter Renfrow (5th round-7th round), OT Mitch Hyatt (2nd round-4th round), LB Kendall Joseph (3rd round-5th round), CB Mark Fields (2nd round-4th round), S Van Smith (4th round-6th round)

 

2018 Sugar Bowl preview

The Sugar Bowl features a rematch of the last two National Championship Games. Clemson and Alabama will be fighting for the right to go to a third straight National Championship. While some are upset this game isn’t happening for a title, it will be a great matchup of familiar foes. Here is the 2018 Sugar Bowl preview:

4 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

2018 Sugar Bowl preview

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by youtube.com)

Alabama lost one game to Auburn and had to watch the SEC Championship Game from home. They were still able to get into the College Football Playoff despite not playing in the final week. Their best wins are over Fresno State, LSU and Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide aren’t just happy to be here, they are in it to win it.

The offense scores 39.1 points per game and is based off of the running game. They rank eighth in the country with 265.3 rushing yards per game. Damien Harris is the leading running back with 110 carries for 906 yards and 11 touchdowns. His backup, Bo Scarbrough, has added 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is a dual-threat who has 768 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

Hurts isn’t the greatest passer, but has protected the football. He has thrown for 1,940 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception on the season. They have one receiver that produces a lot in Calvin Ridley. Ridley has 896 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.

They have the best scoring defense in the country that allows 11.5 points per game. They are first in rush defense and sixth in pass defense. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the best players in college football. He has 52 total tackles six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and six passes defended.

1 Clemson Tigers (12-1)

2018 Sugar Bowl preview

Kelly Bryant (Photo by ncaa.com)

The Tigers are the ACC Champions and number one seed in the College Football Playoff. They lost on the road to a bad Syracuse team, but didn’t have their quarterback, Kelly Bryant, for the entire game. Clemson beat nine bowl eligible teams with their best wins coming over Miami, Virginia Tech and Auburn.

Offensively, they scored 35.4 points per game. Their run offense isn’t as good as Alabama’s, but is still solid at 204.1 rushing yards per game. Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster have split carries and done well. Etienne has 744 rushing yards, while Feaser has 659. Bryant is also a threat to run from the quarterback position with 646 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Bryant is efficient in his passing at 67.4% completion. He has 2,678 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Three receivers do a lot of damage for the Tigers. Deon Cain leads the team 659 with receiving yards and six touchdowns. Hunter Renfrow leads the team with 55 catches and to go with it, has 571 yards. Ray-Ray McCloud has 502 receiving yards and one touchdown.

The Tigers have the second best scoring defense in the country at 12.8 points per game. They rank 12th against the run and seventh against the pass. Clemson has the most sacks per game at 3.38 this season and are led by the likes of Austin Bryant (7.5 sacks) and Clelin Ferrell (8.5 sacks).

Prediction

While Alabama looks better statistically, Clemson has played the tougher schedule and has still gotten to the College Football Playoff as the number one seed. The defensive line will pressure Hurts and make it hard to throw the ball. Alabama will be one dimensional with the run game, which is easier to stop. Bryant is mobile and can throw, which has caused problems for Alabama’s defense in the past. With all this, Clemson should be able to edge out a win.

Clemson Tigers 34 Alabama Crimson Tide 29

College Football Playoff Bracketology 12/3/17

The season is over and all that is left is for the committee selecting the teams for the College Football Playoff (CFP). Here is how the committee should rank the teams in their final rankings of the season:

In the playoff:

1. Clemson Tigers (13-0)

The Tigers won the ACC yet again. This time they beat Miami to secure the ACC crown. They were ranked first last week by the committee and that shouldn’t change in the final rankings.

Clemson has a great resume and beat nine teams who are playing in bowls this winter. The loss to Syracuse happened when Kelly Bryant wasn’t healthy and didn’t play the full game. If the Tigers aren’t ranked first by the committee it would be a surprise.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (12-1)

Oklahoma locked up a spot in the CFP with their 41-17 win over TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Winning would’ve been enough, but they really put their stamp on this game and proved to the committee that they belong in the CFP.

The Sooners have the one blemish on their record that came at the hands of Iowa State. Their resume is great outside the loss. They beat Ohio State, Oklahoma State and TCU twice. With the second best strength of record at the completion of their game, Oklahoma doesn’t have much to worry about.

Can the Sooners’ defense step up in the College Football Playoff?

3. Georgia Bulldogs (12-1)

Georgia avenged their only loss of the season with a big win in the SEC Championship over Auburn. This was a play-in game for the CFP, so Georgia is in.

The Bulldogs tested themselves with a game at Notre Dame and passed the test. Adding that game to their wins over Mississipi State and Auburn, along with the fact that they are the SEC Champions, puts them in the CFP.

Georgia finally has the chance to play for a national title, but what can they do now that they have the chance?

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)

College Football Playoff Bracketology

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

Ohio State was able to hold on in the Big Ten Championship and beat Wisconsin 27-21. The Buckeyes will now be hoping their resume looks better to the committee than Alabama’s does.

The Buckeyes have a lot of solid wins, which puts them in the conversation to be in the CFP. They beat Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan. Three of these teams will be in or around the top 15 in the CFP committee’s final rankings. Alabama will have one team beat near the top 15, being LSU. I’ll take Ohio State beating three top 15 teams over, Albama’s possible one.

A Big Ten Championship is nice, but the Buckeyes feel they deserve to make the CFP.

First four out:

5. Auburn Tigers (10-3)

The Tigers lost in the SEC Championship Game. They would have been in had they won, but since they didn’t they will have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Auburn lost three games, all coming to good teams, but was the only team to beat Alabama. They also beat Mississippi State and Auburn in their first meeting. At the end of the day, Auburn was in the position they wanted to be in at the end of the season, but failed to execute.

6. Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1)

College football playoff bracketology

Nick Saban (Photo by usatoday.com)

Alabama was the only team with realistic CFP chances that was idle this weekend. The Crimson Tide will be hoping that their metrics and resume can get them into the playoff.

The strength of record was sixth in the country heading into the weekend, but likely will drop when all the metrics are updated. They beat LSU, Mississippi State and Fresno State for solid wins, but other than that their resume isn’t great. They failed to beat an elite team all season (unless LSU is considered elite) and are paying for it now.

Had Florida State been as good as expected the resume might have had the necessary boost to get Alabama in the CFP.

7. Wisconsin Badgers (12-1)

Wisconsin lost in the Big Ten Championship and lost their chance to play in the CFP. It was a well fought game, but they ultimately fell short.

The Badgers didn’t play a great schedule, which meant they had no room for error this year. Wins over Northwestern and Michigan are nice, but won’t get anyone in the playoff without a conference championship.

It isn’t what Wisconsin fans wanted, but the team will still get to play in a big time bowl game.

8. USC Trojans (11-2)

USC won the Pac-12 Championship over Stanford in a 31-28 win. It’s a too little too late for the Trojans, but they have secured a second straight New Year’s Six bowl.

The Trojans beat Stanford twice and Arizona for their best wins of the season. Their losses to Washington State and Notre Dame aren’t bad, but they haven’t beaten enough good teams to warrant a higher ranking than this.

Next four out:

9. Miami Hurricanes (10-2)

Miami got off to a slow start against Clemson and were never able to recover in the ACC Championship Game. They had a great season, but came up just short of the CFP. A New Year’s Six Bowl game is not a bad result for Mark Richt in his second season.

The Hurricanes successfully beat Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but were unable to accrue any other great victories. The loss at Pittsburgh, who didn’t qualify for a bowl game, really hurt Miami’s chances. If they were undefeated heading into the ACC Championship Game, they may have been able to afford a loss.

Mark Richt has started to bring the “U” back, but they haven’t gotten all the way back.

10. UCF Golden Knights (12-0)

UCF completed the undefeated record heading into the bowl games. They beat Memphis in a double overtime thriller 62-55 to win the AAC Championship.

It’s a shame that UCF, isn’t getting more recognition for the CFP, but they did lock up a chance to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Their two wins over Memphis are great and they also beat a Power 5 conference team in Maryland. If their game against Georgia Tech wasn’t cancelled due to a hurricane, they would’ve gotten much more love from the committee.

Scott Frost is reportedly out, so how will UCF respond in their big bowl game?

11. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2)

Penn State did not play this weekend, but drop in the rankings as a result of other teams winning conference championships.

The Nittany Lions only have two solid wins, one over Michigan and one coming at the expense of Northwestern. They lost in both games in which they had a chance to really impress the committee. Had they beaten Ohio State and/or Michigan State, they would rightfully be in the CFP talk. They’ll have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl.

Might we see another Penn State vs. USC matchup?

12. Washington Huskies (10-2)

Like Penn State, the Huskies didn’t play anyone this week. They benefit from teams losing in conference championship games though.

The Huskies couldn’t put it all together this season against good competition. Their best wins were over Fresno State and Washington State, but had a horrid schedule outside of those games.

Washington will also have to settle for a New Year’s Six bowl game.

 

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Five things we learned from conference championship week

Teams are preparing for bowl season or for next season depending on how their season finished. Heading into bowl games, more coaching carousel drama, here is what we learned:

1. Oklahoma locks up CFP, Baker Mayfield locks up the Heisman

Conference Championship week

Baker Mayfield (usatoday.com)

Oklahoma dominated in the Big 12 Championship, beating TCU 41-17. The Sooners were ranked third in the most recent College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, so this win virtually locks up their CFP spot. With a record of 12-1 and a Big 12 Championship at hand, Oklahoma will be watching the selection show just to see who they are playing in the first round of the CFP.

On top of the Sooners winning the Big 12, their quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has cemented himself as the Heisman winner. In the Big 12 Championship Game, he threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns. With over 4,000 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns on the season, Mayfield is the obvious choice.

2. UCF has completed a great turnaround, but lose coach

Scott Frost was announced as the new head coach of the UCF Golden Knights after the 2015 season. UCF had just gone 0-12 and needed a lot of work. In his first season as head coach, Frost led the team to a 6-7 record, which included an appearance in the Cure Bowl. It was a great start to the turnaround, but Frost wasn’t done yet.

This season, UCF was not favored to win the conference, with teams like USF and Houston stealing the headlines. They were expected to take another step forward, however. They surprised everyone and ripped off 12 wins (one was cancelled due to a hurricane) and won the AAC Championship. The Golden Knights have earned the right to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl. The complete turnaround has been completed.

Unfortunately for UCF, Frost has reportedly taken the job at Nebraska. While it is a bittersweet moment for the Golden Knights, I don’t think they would trade the undefeated season and AAC Championship.

3. Georgia fans can relax….for now

Conference Championship week

D’Andre Swift (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

Georgia has been a team that looks like a contender early in the season, but nearly always blows it. The administration fired Mark Richt for his failures to compete at the highest levels. They hired Kirby Smart, who in his second season, has led the Bulldogs to a SEC Championship and the chance to win the whole thing.

The Bulldogs will be in the CFP and will be waiting to see how they play. They may have overcome the thought that they would choke, but they have to prepare for more big games if they want to win it all. Their wins over Auburn and at Notre Dame prove they can play with anyone in the country.

4. Clemson is battle tested

Clemson has put together another great season. They won the ACC Championship Game and are going to be in the CFP. Can the Tigers repeat as champs?

While the Tigers did lose to Syracuse, they beat a lot of good football teams this year. They won nine games against bowl eligible teams, including big wins over Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech and N.C. State. There were questions to start the season about Clemson, but they have answered most of those questions.

Does anyone want to play Clemson in the first round of the CFP?

5. J.T. Barrett is one of the toughest players of all time

J.T. Barrett re-aggravated a knee injury against Michigan and had to exit the game. Dwayne Haskins Jr. was able to take over and lead the team to victory. Barrett had surgery on his knee on the day after the Michigan game and was questionable to play in the Big Ten Championship.

He was able to start and play the whole game against Wisconsin. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but he once again got the job done and led the Buckeyes to victory. He had 271 total yards and three touchdowns while playing so banged up. While he may not go down as one of the greatest players in the history of Ohio State, he certainly is one of the toughest.

 

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