College Football Playoff Bracketology 9/12/17

There was a few games that had College Football Playoff implications this weekend. The standings are all getting shaken up. Some teams have moved out in front, but even teams with a loss will have a chance to redeem themselves and make the College Football Playoff. Here are how the teams would and should rank through the committee’s eyes:

Playoff Teams:

1. Oklahoma Sooners

This may shock some people, but the committee really values big wins on the road. Last year Ohio State got in the CFP for beating Oklahoma in Norman. Now Oklahoma gets the same type of win in Columbus to bolster their resume.

While there first win against UTEP won’t do much, beating Ohio State on the road is the most impressive win this season. They may not be able to hold this spot for long. The Sooners are depending on Ohio State stepping up their game and winning some big games to make this win look really good for them.

The start to the season has been good for the Sooners and the schedule gets easier from here on out. Big games will come down the road against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, so for now they can’t lose any trap games.

This week: vs. Tulane Green Waves

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama moves down a spot as a result of Oklahoma’s big win, but is still in a great spot. This week they demolished a sub-par Fresno State team. That won’t do much to impress the committee, but are still carried by their win in week one.

The Crimson Tide had a very good win against Florida State in week one, but it was a neutral site game as opposed to a true road game. If they had won the game at Florida State they may have been able to stick in the top spot. Alabama will get their chance to move back up to the top spot.

It shouldn’t be too challenging for the Crimson Tide the next few weeks, as their schedule is back loaded.

This week: vs. Colorado State Rams

3. USC Trojans

College Football Bracketology 9/12/17

Sam Darnold (Photo by si.com)

In a weekend of big games, USC stepped up to beat Stanford, who was ranked number 14 at the time. Sam Darnold made some great throws and now the Trojans look like the favorite to win the Pac-12.

USC started off sluggishly against Western Michigan in week one, but the Broncos are still an ok team. The win over Stanford gives their case for the College Football Playoff the burst it needed. Not only did they beat Stanford, but they controlled the game and made it look relatively easy, which will impress the committee.

They don’t play any really good teams for a few weeks, but the Trojans need to play like they did against Stanford and not like they did against Western Michigan.

This week: vs. Texas

4. Clemson Tigers

No Deshaun Watson, no problem. The Tigers played Auburn, who had a lot of hype coming into this game. Clemson’s defense took over and won the game, while the offense really struggled. That will need to get better in the future, but for now Clemson has put them in the best position out of the entire ACC to make the College Football Playoff.

Clemson beat Kent State in week one and doesn’t do much for their resume. The win over Auburn is another one of the more impressive wins of this weekend that helped propel Clemson up the rankings. Even with an offense that didn’t play particularly well, Clemson looks like one of the best teams in the country.

How is Clemson rewarded for beating Auburn? They get to take on Louisville.

This week: at 14 Louisville

First four out:

5. Georgia Bulldogs

College Football Playoff Bracketology 9/12/17

Jake Fromm (Photo by onlineathens.com)

The Bulldogs have played two quality teams in the first two weeks of the season, which is more than just about anyone else. Georgia had an impressive showing in South Bend, escaping with a one point victory. They are one of the few teams that also have a big victory on the road this far in the season.

In week one the Bulldogs beat Appalachian State, who is one of the best group of five teams in the country. The circumstances around their week two victory means a lot too. Winning a game at Notre Dame with a quarterback in his first start is incredible. When the team gets Jacob Eason back from injury, they should really have things rolling.

They will have to wait a few weeks to really challenge themselves again, but the Bulldogs look like a runaway favorite in the SEC East.

This week: vs. Samford Bulldogs

6. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan did not play well this weekend against a below average Cincinnati team, but pulled away in the fourth quarter. While there is some cause for concern in the future, Michigan has taken care of business so far. If they keep winning they can stay in contention for the CFP.

The win over the Bearcats doesn’t help the Wolverines too much. Only time will tell how big their win over Florida will be. The Gators look sloppy so far, but if they can rebound, Michigan’s stock will go up. The Wolverines will need to clean up their turnovers or they will be in trouble in the future, but as of now their resume is solid.

The Wolverines will play a solid Air Force team this weekend and better bring their best. Their schedule is manageable for the next few weeks before they play Michigan State.

This week: vs. Air Force Falcons

7. Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies didn’t improve their resume this weekend by beating Delaware, but they got the win nonetheless. Finding Justin Jackson at quarterback has been huge for Virginia Tech. If he can continue his development, the Hokies can crash the CFP party.

Justin Fuente’s team is still being carried by their week one win over West Virginia, but will have more opportunities to play good teams down the road. They will have an easy time the next two weeks before their big game against Clemson, which they are fortunate enough to have at home.

This week: at East Carolina Pirates

8. Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State was able to win comfortably against Pitt this weekend. While we don’t know how good Pitt will be with a lot of turnover on their team, it was still a good win in a rivalry game. The offense is rolling with over 40 points per game and will be hard for most defenses to stop.

The Pitt got the Lions to 2-0 after they beat Akron in week one. That game doesn’t matter too much because Akron will struggle this season. Penn State has one more nonconference game before heading into the Big Ten schedule, which will be tough.

This week: vs. Georgia State Panthers

Next four out:

9. Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys have beat two FBS teams this season, which is more than some can say. Both these teams went to bowl games last season, making them ok wins. This week they beat South Alabama on the road, thrashing the Jaguars for 44 points.

The South Alabama win was good, but they also beat a ten win Tulsa team in week one. Tulsa had a ten win season last year and figure to be competitive again this season. The schedule is tougher in the next few weeks and the Oklahoma State defense will be challenged.

This week: at Pittsburgh Panters

10. Tennessee Volunteers

Another team on this list carried by one win over the other is Tennessee. This week they blew out Indiana State, who isn’t even a very good FCS team. This game did allow the Volunteers to get some more valuable experience for their young players who are stepping into new roles.

Tennessee’s in over Georgia Tech was a thriller and still a very good win. They will be tested more in the coming weeks including their big rivalry game with Florida, but their win in week one helps them get to this spot in the rankings.

This week: at 24 Florida Gators

11. LSU Tigers

LSU manhandled Chattanooga this weekend to improve their record to 2-0. The offense seems to be getting off on the right foot, but the Tigers haven’t been adequately challenged yet. The defense looks as good as ever with only ten points given up in the first two weeks.

While they are 2-0, with a good win over BYU, the win is looking less and less impressive. The Cougars are now 1-2 and will likely be 1-3 after this week. LSU will need to pick up some impressive wins to move up a lot on this list.

This week: at Mississippi State Bulldogs

12. Washington State Cougars

College Football Playoff Bracketology 9/12/17

Jamal Morrow (Photo by spokesman.com)

In the most thrilling game of week two, Washington State outlasted Boise State in an exciting three overtime game. Impressively Washington State had to come back from 21 points down with a backup quarterback. They are setting themselves up to be in the thick of the Pac-12 North race.

The first week of the season had the Cougars avoiding an FCS upset against Montana State. They start their Pac-12 schedule this week and with Stanford’s loss to USC, have a chance to get an early lead over contenders in the division.

This week: vs. Oregon State Beavers

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Week two college football recap

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

1. Clemson’s defensive line can carry the team

College football week two recap

Photo by sbnation.com

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

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

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

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

2. It’s ok being a great college quarterback

college football week two recap

Lamar Jackson (Photo by 1src.com)

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

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

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

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

3. Sam Darnold is for real

week two college football recap

Sam Darnold (Photo by ocregister.com)

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

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

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

4. Georgia fans travel

Week 2 college football recap

Photo by onefootdown.com

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

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

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

5. Never Give Up

Week two college football recap

Jamal Morrow (Photo by seattletimes.com)

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

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

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

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

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Five things to watch in week two of college football

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

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

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Bryce Love (Photo by zimbio.com)

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

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

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

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

2. Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State’s secondary

Five things to watch for in week two of college football

Baker Mayfield (Photo by newsok.com)

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

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

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

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

3. Jake Fromm vs. Notre Dame’s defense

five things to watch for in week two of college football

Jake Fromm (Photo by saturdaydownsouth.com)

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

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

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

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

4. Quarterback play in the battle of the Tigers

Five Things to watch in college football week two

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by reddit.com)

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

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

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

5. Boise State at 20 Washington State

Five things to watch in week two of college football

Luke Falk (Photo by usatoday.com)

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

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

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

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

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College football week two picks

Joe DiTullio and Rob Doerger of the DiTullio and Doerger College Sports Show make their picks for every FBS college football game. With a lot of good matchups in week two, let’s get to the picks.

Away Home Location Rob Joe
Idaho State Utah State Romney Stadium, Logan, UT Utah St Utah St
#10 Oklahoma State South Alabama Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL OK St Ok St
Ohio Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN Purdue Purdue
Florida Atlantic #9 Wisconsin Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI Wisc Wisc
Cincinnati #11 Michigan Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Michigan
#16 Louisville North Carolina Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC Louisville Louisville
#19 South Florida Connecticut Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT USF USF
Charlotte #20 Kansas State Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS K State K State
East Carolina #22 West Virginia Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV WVU WVU
Northwestern Duke Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC NW NW
Buffalo Army Michie Stadium, West Point, NY Army Army
Towson Maryland Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD Maryland Maryland
Eastern Kentucky Kentucky Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY UK UK
UT Martin Ole Miss Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS Ole Miss Ole Miss
Iowa Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA Iowa St Iowa
Jacksonville State Georgia Tech Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA GT GT
Wake Forest Boston College Alumni Stadium , Chestnut Hill, MA Wake BC
Texas State Colorado Folsom Field, Boulder, CO Colorado Colorado
UAB Ball State Scheumann Stadium, Muncie, IN Ball St Ball St
Fresno State #1 Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL Bama Bama
Margin of Victory 37 43
Pittsburgh #6 Penn State Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA Penn St Penn St
#18 Miami Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Miami Miami
Delaware #21 Virginia Tech Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA VT Va Tech
San José State #23 Texas Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX Texas Texas
Tulane Navy Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD Navy Navy
Villanova Temple Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA Temple Temple
Savannah State Appalachian State Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC App St App St
Abilene Christian Colorado State CSU Stadium, Fort Collins, CO Col St Colorado St
Austin Peay Miami (OH) Yager Stadium, Oxford, OH Miami (OH) Miami (OH)
Eastern Illinois Northern Illinois Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, IL NIU NIU
Howard Kent State Dix Stadium, Kent, OH Kent St Kent State
Indiana Virginia Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA Indiana Indiana
Middle Tennessee Syracuse Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY MTSU MTSU
Old Dominion UMass Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst, MA Old Dom ODU
Western Michigan Michigan State Spartan Stadium , East Lansing, MI Mich St MSU
Eastern Michigan Rutgers High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ Rutgers Rutgers
TCU Arkansas Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR TCU Arkansas
Indiana State #25 Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Tenn Tenn
Central Michigan Kansas Memorial Stadium , Lawrence, KS Kansas Kansas
Alabama A&M Vanderbilt Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN Vandy Vandy
Gardner-Webb Wyoming War Memorial Stadium , Laramie, WY Wyoming Wyoming
Louisiana Tulsa Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK Tulsa Tulsa
Nebraska Oregon Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR Ducks Oregon
Hawai’i UCLA Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA UCLA UCLA
Weber State California Memorial Stadium , Berkeley, CA Cal Cal
Marshall NC State Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC NC State NC State
New Hampshire Georgia Southern Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, GA GSU GSU
Alabama State Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium , Troy, AL Troy Troy
South Dakota Bowling Green Doyt Perry Stadium, Bowling Green, OH BG BG
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Akron InfoCision Stadium, Akron, OH Akron Akron
Louisiana Monroe #3 Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL FSU FSU
#12 Auburn #5 Clemson Memorial Stadium , Clemson, SC Clemson Clemson
Toledo Nevada Mackay Stadium, Reno, NV Toledo Toledo
UNLV Idaho Kibbie Dome, Moscow, ID Idaho Idaho
North Texas SMU Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX SMU SMU
Southern Southern Mississippi M. M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS USM USM
South Carolina Missouri Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, MO SC South Carolina
Nicholls Texas A&M Kyle Field, College Station, TX A&M TAMU
#7 Oklahoma #2 Ohio State Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH Ohio St Ohio State
Chattanooga #13 LSU Tiger Stadium , Baton Rouge, LA LSU LSU
#15 Georgia Notre Dame Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN ND UGA
Northern Colorado #17 Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL Florida Florida
Mississippi State Louisiana Tech Joe Aillet Stadium, Ruston, LA Miss St Miss St
Alcorn State Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL FIU FIU
Montana #8 Washington Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA Wash Washington
Rice UTEP Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX Rice Rice
New Mexico State New Mexico Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque, NM New Mex NM
Memphis UCF Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, FL Memphis Memphis
UT San Antonio Baylor McLane Stadium, Waco, TX UTSA UTSA
Western Kentucky Illinois Memorial Stadium , Champaign, IL WKU Illinois
#14 Stanford #4 USC Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA USC Stanford
Minnesota Oregon State Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR Minnesota Minnesota
Utah BYU LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT Utah Utah
Boise State #24 Washington St Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA Boise Wazzu
Houston Arizona Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ Arizona Houston
San Diego State Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Arizona St ASU
Gameday Guest Picker (Columbus) Archie Griffin Nick Swisher

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College Football Bracketology 9/6/17

The first week of the college football season is in the books and some teams made big impressions already. While there is still a lot of football left to be played, it is never to early to start looking at what teams are looking like contenders. These rankings will be heavily weighted on who the teams played and beat already, which takes precedence over preseason rankings or future schedule. Here are the rankings:

Playoff Teams:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

College football playoff bracketology september 6

Calvin Ridley (Photo by usatoday.com)

The Crimson Tide challenged themselves in week one and came away with a victory beating Florida State 24-7. While they didn’t necessarily blow out the Seminoles, Alabama controlled the game. They look like the team to beat in college football, but still have their fair share of things to clean up.

The offense had trouble in the game, albeit against a very good Florida State defense. Jalen Hurts threw for under 100 yards and the running game totaled 173 yards. In the future getting Hurts throwing the ball better will be imperative to the success of the offense.

Alabama’s defense performed really well with a lot of new faces on the field. In addition to that Calvin Ridley had a solid start against a very good secondary. Keeping him involved in the offense is going to make Alabama’s offense dynamic.

This Week: vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State played a trap game at Indiana on a Thursday night in one of the biggest games in Hoosier football history. They started slow, but finished strong. People who think that Indiana is the team of five years ago, won’t think the win is impressive, but they are a solid Big Ten team now that has made two straight bowl games.

The offense had a good ground game with J.K Dobbins rushing for 181 yards in his debut game. J.T. Barrett showed flashes of his former self, but ultimately his receivers let him down and there were some throws he should have made. Defensively, the run defense was great and the pass rush was unrelenting. The problem is their coverage, as they gave up over 400 yards through the air.

This Week: vs. 5 Oklahoma Sooners

3. Michigan Wolverines

And here is where your typical rankings differ from looking at teams from a College Football Playoff perspective. These rankings will fluctuate. Michigan scheduled tough in week one by playing Florida. Florida is still a solid team, even though they had a lot of players unavailable for this game.

Jim Harbaugh’s defense stepped up and didn’t allow an offensive touchdown, as Florida’s defense was the only unit to find the end zone for the Gators. Wilton Speight was pretty rusty, but doesn’t need to do much if the defense keeps performing and the running game stays potent. They rushed for 215 yards and will need to continue doing so.

This Week: vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

4. Virginia Tech Hokies

As everyone can see, the theme of these rankings is: who’s resume is better? Virginia Tech took center stage on Sunday night with a big win over West Virginia, who started off the year as a top 25 team and will likely end up back in the rankings at some point this season.

Josh Jackson had a great debut as quarterback of the Hokies with 336 total yards and two touchdowns. If he can continue producing it can be a great season for Virginia Tech. Cam Phillips looks like he is ready to be a playmaker with his 138 yards and touchdown in the first game of the season. The defense gave up a lot of yards, but took the bend and not break approach, as they allowed just 24 points.

This Week: vs. Delaware Blue Hens

First Four Out:

5. LSU Tigers

LSU was another team that was without a lot of their players due to suspension, but they still had a dominant performance against BYU in a “neutral site” game that was played in New Orleans. BYU is always a tough team, but did struggle against Portland State in their first game last week.

The Tiger defense looks to be elite as they allowed 97 total yards in the game, headlined by the fact that BYU had negative yards on the ground. Danny Etling looked sharp completing 14 of his 17 passes, but the running game took a lot of pressure off of him. Time will tell if the offense is really more dynamic than in years past.

This week: vs. Chattanooga Mocs

 

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football playoff bracketology september 6

Mason Rudolph (Photo by charlotteobserver.com)

The Cowboys got their offense rolling in their 59-24 victory over Tulsa. Tulsa isn’t a big name program, but has had two straight bowl appearances. They will likely be going bowling again and may approach nine wins on the season if they play up to their potential, making it a solid win for Oklahoma State.

Mason Rudolph, James Washington and Justice Hill all did their parts and the offense is going to be explosive all year. The defense, as always, is going to be the Achilles’s heel of Oklahoma State, as they allowed over 400 yards of offense. If the defense can get some key stops this season, the Cowboys may find themselves in the College Football Playoff.

This Week: at South Alabama Jaguars

7. Georgia Bulldogs

Some experts said to watch out for the Appalachian State Mountaineers to beat the Georgia Bulldogs in week one, but Georgia handled them. The problem is that they lost quarterback Jacob Eason to injury and he won’t be able to play for a while. They still played a good team and won and deserve this spot in the rankings.

Jake Fromm came in to replace Eason and played decently, but there is an obvious talent gap between the two. Both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel had nice starts to their seasons on the ground. The defense gave up fewer than 300 total yards and showed flashes of being dominant later on in the season.

This Week: at 24 Notre Dame

8. Maryland Terrapins

The question you have to ask is: How good is Texas? They have a lot of high expectations and good players to go with their new head coach Tom Herman, but they were a 5-7 team last season. It was still impressive that the Terrapins were able to beat the Longhorns in Austin.

Maryland may not be on many other rankings, but they have a big win on their one data point for the committee to look at so far. Tyrone Pigrome was solid in his first start, although he is now likely to miss the rest of the season,  and Maryland was able to get the running game going. The defense almost gave up 500 yards and will need some work, especially at stopping the pass.

This Week: vs. Towson Tigers

Next Four Out:

 

9. USC Trojans

It was sloppy at times, but USC came out with a win over Western Michigan. P.J. Fleck is gone, but there are still some talented players left in Kalamazoo for the Broncos. USC will need to step up their level of play, but they got the win, which is most important.

Sam Darnold and the passing game wasn’t good, while Ronald Jones was good in the running game. Jones had three touchdowns to lead the Trojans’ offense. Defensively, USC needs to stop the run better, as they allowed 263 rushing yards to Western Michigan and will be tested in that regard in the coming weeks.

This Week: vs. 14 Stanford Cardinal

10. Tennessee Volunteers

In one of the many thrilling games of the big weekend in college football, Tennessee’s comeback in their opener really finished the weekend out with bang. Beating Georgia Tech in Atlanta is no small feat, but now the Volunteers must keep this up in order to save this spot in the rankings.

While the Yellow Jackets are a good rushing team, Tennessee has some real holes to fill. They allowed 535 yards rushing to the Georgia Tech and over 650 total yards, not to mention 41 points. Offensively John Kelley and Quinten Dormady both did well in their first major action of their careers. If they can keep this going, it could help them compete for the SEC East.

This Week: vs. Indiana State

11. South Carolina Gamecocks

College Football Playoff Bracketology September 6

Deebo Samuel (Photo by charlotteobserver.com)

No this team isn’t even in the AP poll this week, but South Carolina had a good win over NC State in the opener and that is what this list is about: resume. Will South Carolina be moved off of this spot at this time next week? They most likely will, but as of now they have one of the best wins in college football.

While the offense or defense wasn’t dynamic one way or another, the Gamecocks made the most of their opportunity and came out with a victory. Deebo Samuel deserves a lot of credit with his three touchdowns, including one return touchdown. The running game was not viable in this matchup. The defense was much the same, good against the run, but needs a lot of work against the pass.

This Week: at Missouri

12. UCLA Bruins

What a comeback for the UCLA Bruins. Down by 34 points, the Bruins had to get something cooking and that is when Josh Rosen started heating up. It was a tale of two halves for UCLA, but they got a very impressive win over Texas A&M to open up their 2017 season.

Josh Rosen started off looking like something was wrong with him and then went off. He threw for 491 yards and four touchdowns. He needed to do every last bit of that to get the win because the running game wasn’t working for them. On defense UCLA couldn’t stop the run, but were fortunate that Aggie quarterback Nick Starkel got hurt, because Kellen Mond was terrible. He completed three of 17 passes. All the credit to UCLA for making the plays to come back though.

This Week: vs. Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors.

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Ten best non-conference games for college football in 2017

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

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

Best Non-conference games

(Photo by manhattanhokies.com)

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

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

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

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

9. Notre Dame at 14 Stanford, nov. 25

Best Non-conference games

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

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

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

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

8. 15 Georgia at Notre Dame, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

7. 4 USC at Notre Dame, oct. 21

best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

6. 23 Texas at 4 USC, Sep. 16

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

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

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

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

Best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

3. 12 Auburn at 5 Clemson, Sep. 9

Best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best non-conference games

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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College football preseason 2017 top 25: 10-6

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

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

10. Georgia Bulldogs

College football top 25

Jacob Eason (Photo by 247sports.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Clemson Tigers

College football top 25

Christian Wilkins (Photo by si.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Oklahoma Sooners

College football top 25

Baker Mayfield (photo by usatoday.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys

College football top 25

Mason Rudolph (Photo by ncaa.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. USC Trojans

College football top 25

Sam Darnold (photo by dailynews.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image by usatoday.com.

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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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Dark Horse Candidates for the 2017 Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy is an award that has a lot of favorites every year, but usually the winner of the award is someone that is unexpected. Last year Lamar Jackson won the Heisman with 50/1 odds. For the 2017 season there a lot of players who can win the award that don’t have any listed odds (Baker Mayfield not listed for off the field issues). This year the race is wide open and these are the guys to look at that are under the radar:

 

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

Stidham has experience playing at Baylor two seasons ago. He filled in for the injured Seth Russell and played 10 games. In those 10 games Stidham completed 68.8% of his passes for 1,256 passing yards. He had 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. With Russell coming back and a lot of allegations going around the Baylor program, Stidham decided to transfer to Auburn.

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by: Gridironnow.com)

The past few seasons Auburn has had a talented team, but has been missing a quarterback. Enter Stidham. In Auburn’s offense, he has a chance to have a real impact. The running game, led by Kamryn Pettway, should open up the passing game for Stidham. Pettway rushed for 1,220 yards at 5.9 yards per carry last season. If teams try to stack the box, Stidham will hit the open receivers as a result.

Part of winning the Heisman is being on a good team. Auburn has a chance to compete for the SEC West and if they win some of their big games, can get Stidham in the Heisman talk.

Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia

Eason flashed his potential during his freshman season and now has room to improve on that. He threw for 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions, which will need to be increased.

Nick Chubb is listed highly on Heisman lists, but Eason could be the one getting all the attention if Georgia wins some big games. Chubb and the running game will help set up Eason. Eason will stretch the field with his great arm strength and make plays.

The Bulldogs had a bit of a down year by their standards, but in a weak SEC East, Georgia can pick up some easy wins. They do have big games for Eason to make his mark, including: Notre Dame, Auburn and Florida.

Brandon Wimbush/Josh Adams, Notre Dame

One of two players from Notre Dame could win the Heisman in 2017, depending on how the offense will run. Wimbush is the new quarterback, who was a good recruit, but struggled in the spring game. Adams has been sharing time in the Notre Dame backfield for two years and now will get his chance to shine. He has accounted for 2,006 total yards in two seasons and will have the rushing stats to pair with some decent receiving stats this year.

The key to both of these players winning the Heisman is an experienced and good offensive line. With Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson electing to return to school, despite being projected to get drafted highly, will make Notre Dame great in the trenches. Put them with a bunch of good recruits and the Fighting Irish will have a physical offensive line.

Notre Dame players will surely get the benefit of the doubt when entering the Heisman discussion, but there are some big games where these playmakers can make their mark. The Fighting Irish play USC, Stanford, Georgia, Miami and North Carolina, all games that should garner a lot of attention.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Freeman was limited by injuries last season, but still almost ran for 1,000 yards. He is an accomplished college running back with 4,148 rushing yards in his career. Had he not gotten injured he would have been in range to be the NCAA all time leading rusher.

Royce Freeman Heisman